Now after four seasons spanning nearly six years, Zero no Tsukaima has finally come to an end, though I would hesitate to say that it has come full-circle. And to keep things timely, I’ll spare the nostalgic reflection and delve right into the analysis. As far as the final battle against the Ancient Dragon is concerned, it was all executed fairly well considering the quantity of agonizing twists, close calls and fateful encounters. With that said, it notably lacked that well-advanced, grandiose element that would be expected in the conclusion of a long-standing series. What’s more, Zero no Tsukaima boasts a number of “epic” battles within it’s previous three seasons, in which the fate of Halkeginia was left hanging in the balance. Unfortunately in comparison, the battle with a giant stone villain with big attitude and a taste for void mages sadly felt outshone.
Above most other qualms regarding the final battle, the one that seemed most ineffective and certainly out-of-place was the removal of Saito from the picture just before the confrontation scene in the final episode, which ended up seeming like more of an half-considered addition than a interwoven component. I’m not sure I understand what the reasoning behind such a move was, especially considering that the familiar paramount sequences of the former seasons involved both Louise and Saito working inseparably together—which again contributed to the sense of unoriginality at the end of the final season, as the very same thing was done (arguably better) in the prior seasons. There were quite a few parallels to the first season as well, including Saito and Louise flying together in a plane and even battle-Henrietta—you can never get enough battle-queen Henrietta. Even having Louise and Saito mysteriously transported to Japan by an opponent figure only to make a comeback in a race against time might have been a more sensible direction to take. In the end, the stakes simply didn’t feel high enough, and also remember that this particular threat only surfaced a few episodes ago without much foreshadowing and build-up, like with Joseph’s final assault.
Along those same lines, there were also a number of events that, like many of the lightning-fast developments from about episode six on, merited an eye roll. Firstly, Saito managed to commandeer an armed fighter jet, with no apparent resistance; his extremely convenient eclipse plan was successful, despite there never being any hint that magic even exists on Earth; and Saito’s Lifdrasil powers were completely drained with no ill-effects, even after the talk of certain death beforehand. It’s all reminiscent of an anime original ending wasn’t adequately planned for, giving us the end result that it did. Yet, I do believe J.C.Staff deserves some slack in this regard; they intended to have all of the light novels to include and refer to, but unfortunately, author Yamaguchi Noboru was diagnosed with cancer during the process, which is certainly an understandable reason for not making your deadlines.
Lastly (and I promise these are my final particulars!), there were some overarching mood/tone problems. Where most shows involving some sort of climactic end suffice to either a) deliver a recap and follow up with a final run of the powerful, dramatic OP to accentuate the mood and bring things full-circle or b) simply leave it out to avoid a conflicting tone, J.C.Staff left in the peppy OP, extinguishing any tension built up in the first moments of the show. Likewise, they also kept the twinkling screen sweep, which hardly felt appropriate for a battle sequence, in addition to the softer, fanservice-type music that accompanied Saito’s entrance (as much as I enjoy the OST). And let’s not forget the insert music. While I still enjoyed the subtle ties back to season 1, it also came across as a peppy, harem-comedy type of song, versus the stronger, tension-building tracks that were needed here. Most of these smaller problems have been around since season 1, thus is wasn’t necessarily surprising to see the trend continue, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have slightly higher expectations for the final season.
Taking all into final account, however, the finale employed a decent amount of positive sequences, with the paramount undoubtably being the protagonists working together. It certainly felt good to see the students of the Magical Academy fighting alongside the Elemental Siblings, for the many nations of Halkegenia to unite under the command of the battle-ready Henrietta’s command, and even for the Elves to lend a hand in the nick of time. Whatever the ambiguities, it still felt good to see Delf return (thought it took me a minute to register who was talking due to his blade-less, front-facing appearance), for Saito to come flying in to the rescue, and for the enemy to be vanquished. Above all, it felt great to watch the marriage of Saito and Louise. Whatever you feelings may have been towards their relationship and Louise’s characteristic ‘dere’ tendencies, it was still consistently clear throughout the show that the two loved each other.
I always love a good romantic-comedy—add harem and a hint of ecchi and I’m sold—but I was a tad disappointed to 1) see the series end on such an abrupt note, when, like TORADORA!, they could have ran with the post-marriage theme for a while and 2) feel that, for an ecchi genre, this season was particularly less ecchi-prone. Sure there were scattered moments of nostalgic “baka inu!”-worthy greatness, and even newer skits involving onsens and premiscuous princesses, but sadly the consistency of Zero no Tsukaima’s characteristic charm felt lacking in the end. I can’t help but feel like there was some lost potential there, but whatever its faults, I enjoyed seeing this series finally come to a close. And while the ceremony was a bit rushed, the final moment of “d’awww” was certainly enough to settle my particularities and get me feeling all mushy in time for the smolder when Saito and Louise going back to Japan so that Saito can introduce her to his parents, tying off the show with a perfectly-suited epilogue. Zero no Tsukaima will definitely be a series I remember enjoying. Though it may not have lived up to all of my expectations (mostly just in this final season), but there were some great laughs, some good fights, and most importantly, plenty of oppai—even if they weren’t Louise’s :). And considering that the point of the latter seasons is to draw attention back to the first, I’m very pleased overall, and isn’t that the point?