Saito Hiraga – once an ordinary high schooler in Japan – has been spirited away by magic to the country of Tristain and is now the familiar of Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière. This spirited young lady is studying to become a mage at the Academy of Magic (only nobles can wield magic in her world) but is still not very skilled (her nickname was Zero Louise). What’s worse, Tristain is about to be dragged into war with neighbouring Albion and Louise’s friend, Princess Henriette, now the reigning monarch, is going to need all the magical help she can muster to protect her country. To complicate matters, Aniesse Chevalier de Milan, the Captain of the Musketeers, is on the trail of the man who ordered the destruction by fire of her village. Just a little child at the time, she was the only survivor – and the documents she needs to identify the miscreant may be hidden deep below the Academy. Could there be a link between the conspiracies and plots threatening Queen Henrietta, Aniesse’s tragic past, and the conflict in Albion? And why is Saito constantly finding himself in compromising situations with all these lovely young ladies – and usually just as Louise walks in?
Like so many anime based on light novels (and the four Familiar of Zero TV series are all based on the work of Noboru Yamaguchi) Knight of the Twin Moons (2007) steers a slightly bumpy course between fan service fantasy hi-jinks and high drama involving plots, spells, dragons and talking swords. You don’t have to have watched the first series to enjoy this one (even though it could be a little confusing as it opens with the two main characters in a twentieth century warplane). There’s a curiously old-fashioned feel (dated might be too harsh a word) to the storytelling and the look of the series, from the character designs to the backgrounds. Having said that, it has an ongoing plot and – if you don’t mind the fan service (the many young ladies have a habit of flinging themselves at our hero Saito in various states of undress) – the main story is decently and seriously told. This is probably down to the fact that the director, Yuu Kou, came fresh from Loveless and Chrono Crusade, and has since gone on to direct the first two Uta no Prince-sama series.
However, Knight of the Twin Moons is also burdened with genre clichés:
(1) A tsundere heroine with very little in the way of what Dud and Pete called ‘busty substances’ (for those of you old enough to remember) who secretly falls for (but won’t admit it) …
(2) The everyday good-natured guy transported to a magic world as (1)’s sidekick/’dog’/familiar who can’t help drooling over…
(3) Busty maids/friends/female relations of (1) who distract our weak-willed hero with their not inconsiderable assets, causing…
(1) Heroine to chastise (2) hero constantly, both physically and verbally, meaning…
IT MUST BE TRUE LOVE!
Unlike Season 1, there is no US dub, giving the viewer the chance to enjoy the original Japanese voice cast. Rie Kugimiya plays the feisty Louise with just the right blend of fire and pathos and Satoshi Hino makes a good foil as her ‘dog’ Saito. Add in a little competition for Louise’s affections in the form of a good-looking dragon-riding priest from Romalia, Giulio Cesare, suavely played by the versatile Daisuke Hirakawa, and you won’t mind too much that the subtitles sometimes spell names differently from one line to the next, but that’s a minor annoyance.
The music by Shinkichi Mitsumune (Rozen Maiden, Revolutionary Girl Utena) veers between serviceable, bland, and inappropriate (jazzy saxophones…) The Opening Theme “I SAY YES” by ICHIKO is a strikingly bold ballad (a little reminiscent in spirit of “Reason” from Gundam Seed Destiny) and the cutesy Ending Theme “Suki!? Kirai!? Suki!!!” is sung by Rie Kugimiya (Louise). The only extras are textless Opening and Ending Themes and three trailers.
A sad footnote is that Noboru Yamaguchi died in 2013, aged only 41. The author of the Strike Witches light novels left the Familiar of Zero series (2004-11) unfinished at his death.
(An extra footnote for those – like myself – of a geeky disposition, who noticed that there are Musketeers, albeit female ones. And these European – mostly French – names: Princess Henriette; Louise de la Vallière; de Guiche; Mazarin; Colbert; la Fère; Scarron etc. Where did author Noboru Yamaguchi find them? Et voila! Alexandre Dumas’s Musketeer novels. And there, sadly, the debt ends; the names have nothing to do with the source material.)
If you can tolerate the hectic harem fan service, you’ll discover a watchable fantasy adventure tale at the heart of Familiar of Zero: Knight of the Twin Moons.