The Familiar of Zero is an anime that is unremarkable at a glance, however thanks to its four seasons it’s one that I can happily recommend. Thanks to its length the plot is wrapped up and the characters get a complete development curve.
The plot follows a rather cliche start, in another world (which resembles Eastern Europe, with a France, a flying England, a Germany and a Germany/Spain/Italy hybrid) where magic users are nobility one of the girls in a magic school summons a human from our reality and they end up in all sorts of trouble. The girl in question is Zero, a derogatory nickname she has been given because of her ability to use 0 of the four elements in the pentagon of magic, and on the day where they are asked to summon a familiar she ends up summoning Saito from Japan. To her classmates this is another failure, because her familiar ends up being a human plebeian who can’t use magic and doesn’t speak their language…unable to try again she binds a contract with the boy, not realising the impressive feat she accomplished in summoning someone from another world. Later in an attempt to cast a spell to shut up his gibberish japanese shouting she accidentally miscasts and ends up casting a translation magic, finally enabling them to communicate. Due to the cultural disparity of their two origins though, he finds himself in the center of conflict immediately in his new world. Being the familiar of the greatest failure in magic doesn’t make things much easier, however not everything is as it seems and he discovers he’s not the first thing to pass between the two worlds.
Each of the four seasons completes its own self contained arc, while still developing the greater overall story. The characters each go through some development or another, while it may be small changes in each season they are very different by the end from their introduction. However several small references to events happening in the background indicates that there was the possibility of an arc for a fifth season, probably due to the ending of the fourth it closes off nicely without the need to continue, and thus sadly there is no fifth.
In a brief overview the major characters in the series are essentially.
Louise-Also known as Zero, is the ridiculed student that ends up summoning Saito during an attempt to summon an animal familiar. Her inability to cast spells of any of the four elements is the source of her mockery.
Saito-An average Japanese boy, who on the way home from collecting is laptop ends up being pulled through a portal into another world.
Kirche-A fire based magic user with a strong passion for boys, due to her ancestry she takes great joy in mocking Louise however takes interest in Saito.
Tabitha-Tabitha is a reserved bookworm and studious friend of Kirche that specialises in wind magic, though can also use water. Her familiar is considered the most impressive, however she does not see herself above Louise.
Guiche-He starts out as your stereotypical noble playboy, however he does have a deep rooted affection for one girl. He also ridicules Louise however is forced to respect her when Saito puts him in his place publicly. He specialises in earth magic and is initially displeased with his familiar.
Plot and characters aside, this is also a harem anime but also a romance, so there is closure on how it goes. The connective story makes this something worth watching in a row. And I believe there’s even a nice little reference in Cat Planet Cuties. In terms of themes the best anime that I can recommend is Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, though that is tedious at best. In terms of plot and characters Save Me! Lollipop comes close but in reverse, with magic users coming to Japan from another world.
It’s also one of the rare animes that can make you feel bad about a sword getting broken.
“Although so much has happened, it seems to me that your relationship is developing quite well. But how long will this type of relationship last?”