I recently finished rewatching Familiar of Zero for the first time. Here are my thoughts.
I remember first watching Familiar of Zero in I want to say 2017. It took me a while to get around to it because I was in a phase where if it wasn’t dubbed, I didn’t want anything to do with the show. Eventually, I did decide to bite the bullet and watch the show, and man, am I glad I did. Familiar of Zero is not the best romance anime of all time. There’s shows like Tsuki ga Kirei and Kaguya-sama that have it beat. But I’d argue that this show is the most emotionally satisfying in terms of giving the audience what they want. What other show can you name that not only has the main couple kiss over a dozen times, but comfort one another to cheer the other up? It is not only a rarity in romance animes, but it’s a rarity in animes involving tsunderes, as so often do you see a tsundere character bottle up their feelings and you just want to give them a massive hug to let them know everything is gonna be alright.
It was about 8 months ago that I purchased a Louise figure. It was her in her wedding dress, a truly blessed sight. Mind you, the wedding dress is bigger looking than in the anime, but that’s besides the point. I still have not gotten that figure, meaning it probably got lost in the mail. As I type this, I plan on rebuying the figure, and I mention this all to say I only have 5 figures already in my collection: a figure of Azuki from Nekopara, a Nino figure from Quintessential Quintuplets, a Kaguya figure from Kaguya-sama, a Taiga figure, and of course a Spice and Wolf figure of Holo. If I’m not really that much of a collector of figures and yet I not only bought a figure of Louise but I ordered another one in place of it, then she truly must mean something special to me.
So rarely do we see anime give the audience what they crave. It’s all about getting the audience to spend money for the tease of their cravings being satisfied. I really, truly appreciate Familiar of Zero because it not only knows who its intended audience is, it gives them what they want on a regular basis. In a world filled with shows where it’s all about the tease, Familiar of Zero rewards us with a main course filled with drama, intrigue, lighthearted moments, and a ton of heart that can’t be touched. It may not be perfect, but just like Louise, there is perfection even in being flawed.
This rewatch made me remember why I love this show so much. The first two seasons have like the perfect balance of comedy and drama. It is never too comedic, and it’s never too overly dramatic. It is balanced excellently. The third season kinda abandons that philosophy by focusing more on the harem hijinks at the beginning, which looking back is probably why the third season is my least favorite. But they course correct that and go back to the way it was the previous seasons, and they continue this throughout the rest of the series.
The first season I think is all about Saito learning to get adjusted to his surroundings while also developing the relationship between Saito and Louise. The second season is all about the war and the consequences war has and what it means to die in battle. The third season was about the harem stuff while also what it means to be in love with someone when you don’t love yourself. And lastly, the fourth season is about Louise and Saito working together and finally being a couple and what that entails with the rest of the world, which continues to stir up trouble. The second season is my favorite because I thought it had the best episodes, the fourth season is my favorite because I love seeing Saito and Louise be lovey dovey, the first season is my third favorite because it’s really setting the stage for everything, and the third season is my least favorite because we spent the first half of the season on goofy relationship drama, even though the latter half of the season is really good.
My expectations for the series was that it was kinda be trashy like Rent A Girlfriend. Everybody talks trash about Familiar of Zero, so I always thought it was gonna be a guilty pleasure. I actually now think having rewatched it that it is legitimately good, no cap. The drama really does a lot to add weight to everything and make it come off as more than just a generic harem. This series deserves more respect than it gets, because there’s actually a lot of compelling things about it.
Favorite episode is probably the Flame Snake reveal episode. Great action sequences, an intense reveal, the emotional conflict of Colbert trying to defend Agnes as she tries to kill him, it’s really well done.
Favorite moment is probably Saito’s death and the aftermath with Louise lamenting him. Up at that point, that was really the culmination of Louise’s character. To go from yelling at Saito for being an idiot to being in hysterics that he is dead, it really showed how far she came. And the voice acting performance by Rie, my goodness. It is just incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scene with as good of a performance as this one. And though it ended with Saito getting revived by some ass pull, deux ex machina BS, it doesn’t undo how phenomenal that whole moment is.
I think I prefer the drama more than the comedy. It turns the series into more than just a mindless show with no consequences. However, I’d argue that you can’t have the drama without the comedy. Both aspects and the way they are able to balance it is ultimately what makes the show so good.
Louise is an interesting person to discuss. I’d argue she’s probably the most interesting of all the show’s cast of colorful characters. To answer an earlier question, Louise is my favorite character in the show. I knew this after watching this show for the first time because I love complex characters who are deeply flawed and to me, she’s just the best at it, so to speak. The question I had was how was she gonna hold up?
Everybody I knew kept talking about how awful Louise was. It felt like the more years passed, the more people lambasted her character. On top of that, I am probably the biggest, most diehard tsundere fan in the world. If there’s a tsundere, I’m probably gonna like them. With so, how much does my enjoyment for Louise come from her being a well-written character Vs me just being a sucker for tsunderes? That was the question that was weighing heavily on my mind before this rewatch started. I now see it as Louise, as awful as she can be, being a lot better than people give her credit for. Dare I say, even sympathetic a lot of times.
Louise’s behavior is very much the result of a lack of nurturing growing up. It was all about living up to expectations and not being a failure in the eyes of her parents and society. In the beginning, falling in love with Saito was probably the worst thing that could ever happen to her. How could she, an aristocrat, fall in love with a plebeian who happens to have wandering eyes elsewhere? It doesn’t make sense. I think both these factors, plus also her considering herself a failure for being the laughingstock of her academy, is why Louise was the way she was, and her true self really came in the last season. A part of me doesn’t really consider Louise in the first three seasons as being the real Louise. That was a Louise that was emotionally stunted and bogged down by the pressure of the world riding on her shoulders. When Saito came around and was like “Screw all that, what do YOU want”, that’s when the real Louise truly came to the surface. And I love we were there for that journey. This show is ultimately about Louise becoming more comfortable in her own skin and growing to not care what labels she was put under. As amazing as Louise was in season 4, you can’t have it without all the stuff we had in the previous three seasons, because it was like it continue to build upon itself. Your enjoyment of this show really depends on how much you tolerate Louise’s antics. Do you think she’s a bitch, or just someone who got in her own way a lot of times due to the insurmountable pressure that came with being an aristocrat? I think not only the latter, but I think it makes the show intriguing to watch as a result.
I don’t know where I’d put Louise as my favorite tsunderes of all time. I will say, though, before this rewatch I would’ve said she’s not even in the conversation. Now, I definitely think a case could be made she’s a top 10 tsundere of all time. Just the way she’s written and how it’s played out, she’s like a more volatile version of Catra from Princesses of Power. And both are just so wonderful to watch. I really can’t imagine this show with Louise. It’s like without her being how she is, we wouldn’t have a reason for Saito to want to protect her so much. It’s like he wants to protect her not just from the harsh clutches of society, but from herself. The enjoyment from this show ultimately lies on what you think of Louise as a character, and for me, she is so, so good. I just love her so much, and I’m so glad she got the happy ending she deserved after everything she went through.
I love Louise and Saito’s relationship. To me, you can’t have Louise’s progression without it. As for best couples of all time, I think they’re probably top 5 for me because of everything they’ve been through and how they’re very affectionate with each other, which is something we rarely see in anime. The only ones I think come close or are better is Holo and Lawrence, Taiga and Ryuuji, and Okabe and Kurisu.
And yeah, I would definitely rewatch this anime again. It’s so good that I think it would be a mistake not to. I don’t know if I will do another rewatch of it next year, because it is quite the time-consuming watch, but I definitely will probably do something in 2026 for the show’s 20th anniversary. If I were to rewatching something that’s 4 seasons long and is 50 episodes if you include the OVA, I probably wouldn’t want it to be any show other than this one. It is so good, and I definitely plan on revisiting it in the near future.
So, where do I rank this ending in terms of best anime endings of all time?
I think I should first qualify this by saying I don’t think happy endings essentially mean they’re good. Cowboy Bebop’s ending is very sad, but I think a case could be made it’s probably the best anime ending of all time in terms of fitting within the overarching story. That being said, I don’t think it can be discounted that we don’t get happy endings as happy as this one. The only one that really comes close in my estimation is Endo and Kobayashi.
I will say this: my two favorite animes of all time are Toradora and Spice and Wolf, in that order. I’ll throw Clannad: After Story in there as well since it’s probably my third favorite and it fits my overall point. As much as I love those shows, Familiar of Zero’s ending blows those endings out of the water. You very rarely see a relationship in anime not only develop over the course of multiple seasons, but end in a wedding. Anime couples, they can barely get to the kissing part. It is so satisfying to see this because we know what Saito and Louise were like in the beginning of the series. It was almost like they were oil and water, or in Louise’s case, nitroglycerin and a nonstabilizer. To go from that, to them both walking down the aisle so that they can exchange wedding vows? It just soothes the soul.
Yes, there are a ton of LNs not adapted. Yes, this ending is anime original. At least in terms of how the LN ended. But I honestly can’t imagine a more perfect ending for this series than this one right here. It’s like the most perfect way to complete Saito and Louise’s character arc. It sucks that the author of Familiar of Zero never got a chance to finish the story before he passed away. It was completed, but it was written by other people under notes he left behind. But at the very least, I can take solace in the fact not only did he get to see the anime end where the two main leads are hand in hand in holy matrimony, he got to see it be adored by millions of fans. He was our master, and we were the familiars.
In conclusion, I make no bones in saying this show isn’t perfect. It doesn’t have stellar writing a lot of times, some of the comedy can be a bit repetitive, and some of Louise’s behavior can be annoying to put it mildly. But this show has so much charm to it that I can’t get enough of it. It is just fun, plain and simple. This show, for all its faults, makes up for it with endless replay value and a ton of personality. It is a show I wouldn’t mind rewatching again over and over into perpetuity, for the wacky antics of Saito, Louise, and the rest of the cast never fail to leave me smiling.
Go with me!