Mahou Shoujo and Nekomimi-san
- Episodes : 12
- Genre : Action, Fantasy, Drama
- Airing Date : April 2017 - June 2017
- Studios : White Fox
Zero Kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho (Grimoire of Zero) Introduction and Story (Spoilers)
Set in a medieval fantasy world rife with social upheaval, Grimoire of Zero focuses on two of the most unlikely allies. The stern, quick tempered Mercenary, a Beastfallen who was born with the brute strength of a white tiger, is an outcast wherever he travels. For his whole life, he has contended with hatred from humans who wish to kill him and rid themselves of a threat, or sell his corpse to witches for a fortune. On the run from one such witch attempting to kill him, he happens upon a beautiful young girl. Her name is Zero, and she happens to be a witch herself. Initially wary of her, as he has been hunted by her kind his entire life, she sympathizes with him, and promises to remove the beast soul from his body, turning him into a human. In exchange, he must protect her on her quest to find one of her coven. A man named Thirteen, who, like her, is in pursuit of the grimoire that she wrote. If they prove unable to retrieve the grimoire of Zero, in the wrong hands it would spell disaster for the entire world.
What We Liked About Zero Kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho (Grimoire of Zero)
Mercenary with his endless skepticism, and Zero with her boundless curiosity make for a charming pair. In a role reversal, it’s up to Mercenary to often act stern and tsundere when beset by Zero’s affection. He is the first person she met outside of her witch coven, and ironically, the only person capable of seeing his true human soul and not being frightened by his appearance. The combination is always entertaining, to the degree that no matter how much screen time the two get, it never feels like it’s enough.
While both are present in Grimoire of Zero, fans of Mahou Shoujo and Nekomimi probably won’t get what they’re looking for. Fans of Spice and Wolf may reminisce about the last time they witnessed an inhuman pairing in a fantasy setting, and this show is certainly evocative of that.
At Grimoire of Zero’s core lies a very human conflict. One stemming from society’s fear and uncertainty, but instead of economics and greed it is highlighted by war and death. The star duo of the show is charismatic and entertaining throughout, making it a very pleasant watch, if not a bit hollow.
1. The Pair Shines
I haven’t quite seen a fantasy with a mixed pair like this since Spice and Wolf. The dialogue between the two is really moving and funny, and reveals much about their backgrounds and personalities. Zero and Mercenary are entirely different from their thought processes, abilities and most certainly appearances. Zero bears an interesting dichotomy as a character. While she herself is small and cute, her personality is bold and mature. Her one failing is that she is naive in the ways of the world, but her near boundless magical ability protects her.
2. The Conflict Is Human
There are several factions at play in this story of rebellion and hatred. The humans ruled by the king feel threatened by the sudden power the witches have displayed armed with the Grimoire of Zero. There witches who make up the Cult of Zero, an order which strives to protect witches and avenge the death of Sorena, a notable witch who was burnt at the stake which sparked this conflict. Finally the pair of protagonists, Zero and Mercenary, along with their allies, wish to settle this conflict with minimal bloodshed.
Despite the supernatural elements, the conflict is caused by human nature. The object of everyone’s focus is the grimoire, but even as the main antagonist Thirteen reveals, things were always headed to this point, he was just the catalyst. There’s no unstoppable evil about to return and destroy the world this time around. It’s just the same human flaws that have stopped progress for generations rearing their ugly heads once more. It’s an interest point that casual observers might miss, but the show does implement it well.
1. Slow Pacing and Dead Spot
The first four episodes of the show really don’t cover very much distance or substance at all. It feels like some of the events could have been condensed or removed entirely with the same effect. Doing research, it appears that the twelve episode season only adapted one volume of the light novel, and that does seem to have been stretched rather thin. It’s hard to tell exactly what could have been changed without reading the source material, but as a viewer it felt exceedingly weightless.
When Zero and Mercenary are separated after a disagreement in episode 6, her scenes afterwards are the least interesting. On their own, Mercenary is the more entertaining of the pair. Her personality and character type doesn’t lend itself to the show’s strength when she is alone. Separated from her, however, Mercenary’s character still has a chance to grow and change as he is reminded of the difficulties of having no one to rely on or relate with. Both are deeply wounded, both physically and emotionally from their separation, but Mercenary is the better overall protagonist. It feels like an eternity until their inevitable reunion 4 episodes later, and the show definitely suffers for it.
2. A Villain In Name Only
As mentioned previously, the real antagonist is human nature. The show’s main villain, Thirteen, who has played the humans and witches against each other, isn’t really as malicious a figure as he appears. This makes the plot a bit unpredictable, but also anticlimactic. The final confrontation is anything but, and both parties go their separate ways with having bygones be bygones. It leaves a bit of a vacuum in the show, especially when it boils down to everything that has transpired having been a misunderstanding between Zero and Thirteen. While this sequence of events would have been fine for a four episode opener, to stretch it out for an entire 12 episode season feels a bit much.
3. Weak Side Characters and Poor World Building
I hate to add a third point to the negative section as it makes it seem like they detract from the positives. The issue with the main pair being so good together is that when they are apart or not the focus on screen, the show is boring. Albus and Holdem, another witch and Beastfallen pair who are reunited after many years, just can’t carry the show with their scenes. Through the Mercenary and his understanding of how the world treats him, we get a glimpse of how this fantasy society operates, but only a small taste. For a dramatic play, it feels more like we’re staring at the curtain for the entirety versus having it drawn back.
As a character-driven fantasy, Grimoire of Zero is an enjoyable, interesting ride. It gives you a taste of the world, and a deep connection to the main characters. However before it can develop further, it’s over. As for world building, it seems exceedingly light. Still, the good aspects outweigh the negatives. Hopefully we’re given a chance to revisit this world and its characters in the future. Only then would it truly be satisfying.