Once well-meaning but blundering after being pulled from his high-school life to accompany Louise as her familiar in Halkeginia, this fourth and final season of Familiar of Zero sees Saito Hiraga maturing into his role as the fateful hero. He wears his new lordship well, when he isn’t flip-flopping between ogling and raucous embarrassment in any woman’s presence, and though the petty jealousies, beatings and boob envy are all present, the ecchi has mostly been set aside in favour of letting relationships blossom.
He and Louise are at the heart of this flourishing, as Saito comes good on his promise to stay by her side in a fairytale ending. But as ever, the love story isn’t without its obstacles, and these are erratic in terms of maturity. Tabitha has suffered the worst of the shortcuts, losing her quiet grace to selfishness and insolence when called upon to take over the Gallian throne, wrestling for Saito’s affection as a temporary flight from her responsibilities. As she doubts her own place in the world and in the hero’s life, the half-elf Tiffania is in a similar bind. Freshly discovered as a Void user, when she calls for her own familiar she ends up in a triangular tangle with His Lordship and Louise. But this connection sends him Super Saito all in good time, as under the suggested terror campaigns an ancient beastie waits to strike.
In the shadow of the final battle, new possibilities are awakened that can only be mourned as the thrilling ecchi fantasy that could have been. Saito’s maid Siesta makes an unexpected move towards likeability as he and Louise set off to face their potential doom. Her sweet words reflect a truly titillating dimension that would have livened up the otherwise ero-blandness. If they had been living together as lovers, rather than on an envious battleground, the theme of true love might have been explored in a more complex and beautiful way.
The character models tend to look scrappy against the backgrounds’ pastoral majesty, and much of the European semi-historic fantasy is inept compared to, say, Maria the Virgin Witch and its exploration of true and mythical demons. But you can forget about this in later episodes, especially when synth sounds cut through the sweetness of the sparkly string-and-voice score. Laced in darkness, they bring a realisation that you want these characters to win, and after dredging through the repeating jokes, the show leaves you keen to see more in its final minutes. Still, at its best, Familiar of Zero deserved that last moment of satisfaction, and it makes it even better that it’s tender enough to shed a tear or two.
Extras: Trailers and clean opening/closing animation