Rating: 3.5/5 – A Harem Manga with a Bit of a Difference
With any harem manga, there are things you tend to expect. Obviously it starts with one boy, beset upon by a gang of lovely ladies, each with eyes on possessing him. You can expect a number of comedy-of-error type setups, from a jealous misinterpretation of an eavesdropped discussion to the hero simply accepting the “wrong” gift from one of his potential future girlfriends. You’re also bound to find a good bit of fanservice, particularly when you have your setting in a high school. Once you’ve read enough of these types of manga, you come to accept that these will be part of your experience.
So how do you differentiate one harem manga from another?
Mostly it comes down to setting and character. Zero’s Familiar has a fairly unique approach to the traditional harem manga tropes. At a school of magic (not named Hogwarts), Louise Francoise Le Blanc de La Valliere is known as “Louise the Zero” because she has zero talent at working magic, despite her noble lineage. During an attempt to summon her “familiar” – a creature or pet that serves her – she wrests poor Japanese teenager Saito from his humdrum existence on our earth into hers. Saito must now serve her while trying to find his way back.
Of course Saito is a curiosity to the other women at Louise’s school, and there’s plenty of potential for mayhem when Saito shows little to no interest in serving Louise. There’s plenty of side stories that help build what starts out as a simple world into something much larger. Saito might be the reincarnation of a great magical warrior. There’s a society bent on destroying the magic-wielding nobles, possibly from one of their own number. And of course, how will Saito and Louise eventually fall in love when all Saito has eyes for is the busty, lusty fire-wielding sorceress Kirche?
Zero’s Familiar all comes down to what kind of setting you like your harem manga to have. If you like fantasy and high school settings, this will be an easy fit. If you’re looking from something else, there are other settings out there to please you. I found this book to be a fun take on many of the tropes I expected to find. Louise definitely isn’t throwing herself at Saito, but you can see the feelings are beginning to take hold. There’s plenty of action and mystery as well.
Caveat Emptor: This series is based on a larger series of light novels by Noboru Yamaguchi. Sadly, Yamaguchi died in April of this year before delivering the final two volumes of the series. There is certainly enough material here to entertain any manga fan, but it does not seem likely that the series will have a definite ending.
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