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The Familiar of Zero: “Rondo” of Princesses is the third season of fantasy anime The Familiar of Zero. Picking up where “Knight of the Two Moons” left off “Rondo” of Princesses is a more meandering offering, yet an entertaining enough series.
The war with Albion is over after eight months and the male students returned to The Institute of Magic. The enchantment that bonds Saito to Louise is fading and the nation of Tristian is broke. Queen Henrietta assigned Saito and Louise the mission to find the elf who saved Saito’s life. Despite the war being over, nefarious forces are still at play and want Louise for her void magic.
Compared to Knight of the Two Moons the third season has less of a narrative focus. The season starts with Saito and Louise finding Tiffania “Tiffa” Westwood the half-elf, then seeing Tiffa adjust to life in the Institute of Magic before Louise, Saito and their friends have to stop the evil King Joseph and his henchwoman Sheffield. This season has more filler episodes that do not advance the overall plot or offer much character development. The worst offenders are the fifth and sixth episodes “The Alluring Women’s Bath” and “Forbidden Magic Drug”. The plot of these episodes have to do with the male students making a peephole into the girls’ bathroom and Siesta the maid trying to give Saito love powder to make him fall in love with her for the day, but ends up infecting the whole school.
Some of these episodes felt more like chapters in a Harry Potter book. One example is the fourth episode where Tiffa is enrolled into the Institute of Magic, becoming the focus of attention at the school because of her impressive bosom and a rich, popular girl (who may as well be called Malfoy) becomes jealous of Tiffa’s new found popularity. These are diversions to see the wider world of the school.
The main thrust of the plot is a standard Harry Potter affair, bad guys trying to convince Louise to join their side and use void magic to awaken some sort of ancient evil. The male students become a corp of knights under Saito’s command and one of Louise and Saito’s friends is under threat of joining the dark side because of her own personal connections. The plot is briefly touched on in the first six episodes but it does not get going until the seventh episode where one of the students joins the bad guys and her fellow students set out to rescue her – even if it goes against the wishes of the Queen. This was when the series was at its most exciting – having big stakes as the students are willing to give up their titles, defying their beloved queen to achieve this and having to stop Joseph’s grand scheme. The friend who betrays the school does not do it because of ideological reasons, she does it because of familial and feudal reasons – making her reasoning and loyalties much more complicated.
Fans of fantasy action will get their fix from this season. The students have a more prominent role than they did in Knight of the Two Moons so there is more magic based action – the mages’ magic is based on the elements, using a variety of fire, water, ice and rock spells. There is a particular battle where the young mages have to fight a powerful elf who uses powerful ancient magic – a tough opponent for all the students. The showrunners Yoshiaki Iwasaki and Takao Yoshioka must have been slightly influenced by the classic Hayao Miyazaki movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – there is a giant airship that is a wonderful steampunk creation and the creature, the Jormungand, that the villains are awakening is like the Giant Warrior, a vainy, pulsing being in its early states.
The finale of Knight of the Two Moons had more emotional heart because Louise and Saito got married and Saito sacrificed himself to cover the Kingdom of Tristain’s retreat – the finale for “Rondo” of Princesses was more satisfying from an action standpoint as young mages battle a giant knight. It was a fine final battle to the series.
The previous season of The Familiar of Zero was filled with sex jokes based on Louise and Saito’s relationship and Saito gets a beating for his lustful behavior or some misunderstanding. It got grating after a while. The sex jokes were better because the beatings Saito and the other boys suffer were more deserved – Saito is caught touching Tiffa’s large breast which understandably annoys Louise and the boys are punished by the girls for making a peephole. Or maybe I am just suffering from comedy Stockholm Syndrome. Other jokes do fail to land, including the girls dressing up belly dancing and shaking their breasts and the love powder episode which borders on date-rape. When the love powder affects the girls it makes them all attracted to each other and kiss – it’s just fan service to horny boys.
The season ends with the OVA episode “Seductive Beach” – an inconsequential episode where the students of the Institute of Magic go on a summer vacation. It was a comedic episode but extremely creepy because of the male students – Saito and the principal plot, to get the young women – including the Queen and her bodyguard into skimpy swimsuits. I repeat the plot of this episode involves the principal of educational institution wanting to perv over his students. It was the worst clichés of anime concentrated into one episode – over-sexualized art and plotting and features a bit of tentacle porn. I felt dirty just watching it.
Saito’s relationships are a major subplot in the season, showing him to be the most desirable man in this world. There is his relationship with Louise as the girl doubts whether her family still wants her. Saito also has a complex relationship with Queen who wants the boy from another world and Siesta the maid also wanting Saito – resulting in her trying to give him love powder. “Rondo” of the Princesses adds Tiffa to the mix who is drawn to Saito after saving his life. Despite her love for Saito being platonic, it does not stop Louise and Siesta forming an alliance against Tiffa.
“Rondo” of Princesses is a slight step down from Knight of the Two Moons because of its reliance on filler episodes and questionable plots for comedy. It is still a fun series that supplies plenty of Harry Potter style fantasy, action and storylines.