The Familiar of Zero (ゼロの使い魔, Zero no Tsukaima) is a fantasy and comedy-oriented series of Japanese light novels written by Noboru Yamaguchi, with illustrations by Eiji Usatsuka. Media Factory published 20 volumes between June 2004 and February 2011. The series was left unfinished due to the author's death on April 4, 2013, but was later concluded in two volumes released in February 2016 and February 2017 with a different author, making use of notes left behind by Yamaguchi. The story features several characters from the second year class of a magic academy in a fictional magical world with the main characters being the inept mage Louise and her familiar from Earth, Saito Hiraga.
Between 2006 and 2012, the series was adapted by J.C.Staff into four anime television series and an additional original video animation episode. The first anime series was licensed by Geneon Entertainment in English, but the license expired in 2011. Sentai Filmworks has since re-licensed and re-released the first series and released the other three series in North America. A manga version drawn by Nana Mochizuki was serialized in Media Factory's manga magazine Monthly Comic Alive between August 2006 and October 2009. The manga was released by Seven Seas Entertainment in North America. Three additional spin-off manga were also created, as were three visual novels.
Louise is a noble girl who is terrible at magic, as her attempts usually result in an explosion. She is nicknamed "Louise the Zero" by her classmates, due to the inability to use any of the four magic elements. Early in the school year at the Tristain Academy of Magic, the second year students perform a special ritual where they summon their familiar, which serves as their eternal protector and partner, and is usually some sort of magical creature. But Louise summons Saito Hiraga, an ordinary teenage boy from Japan, leaving her totally humiliated.
Due to the sacredness of the ritual, Louise reluctantly accepts Saito as her familiar, but proceeds to treat Saito as any other familiar, only worse, making him wash her clothes, sleep on a bed of hay, and whipping him with a riding crop when he upsets her. The Familiar of Zero follows the adventures of Louise and Saito as they help their classmates and friends, while occasionally blundering into situations where they risk their lives to save one another. Saito tries to find a way to get back to Japan, but he also has a mysterious power that allows him to wield swords and other weapons to perform heroic feats. They also eventually learn the truth behind Louise's magic inabilities. As Saito's and Louise's friendship grows and they start to work together, they ultimately fall in love with each other.
The Familiar of Zero began as a series of light novels written by Noboru Yamaguchi and illustrated by Eiji Usatsuka under the original title Zero no Tsukaima. Media Factory published 20 volumes in Japan between June 25, 2004 and February 25, 2011. Further publication was threatened by Yamaguchi's advanced cancer, which he succumbed to on April 4, 2013, leaving the series unfinished. Yamaguchi had planned the series to end with 22 volumes. However, it was later decided by the publisher to continue the series in the author's absence, due in part to calls from fans to continue the series, as well as Yamaguchi's family wanting to see it completed. Yamaguchi had dictated the remaining plot of the series, including its ending, and entrusted it to the editors. Media Factory released volume 21 on February 25, 2016 and the final volume 22 on February 24, 2017. Seven Seas Entertainment licensed the series in 2007 under the title Zero's Familiar, but later cancelled the release of the novels.
A side-story, Zero no Tsukaima Gaiden: Tabatha no Bōken, initially available as a mobile phone online serial, was released in three volumes between October 25, 2006 and March 25, 2009. It centers on the adventures of the character Tabitha, Louise's classmate. Another side story, Kaze no Kishihime, was released in two volumes on October 23, 2009 and March 25, 2010. It is a prequel about Louise's mother youth. A companion volume, Zero no Tsukaima Memorial Book, was released on June 24, 2017. It collected various short stories and illustrations previously unpublished in book format, as well as character designs and other information, such as outlines for volumes 21 and 22 left behind by Yamaguchi. It also revealed that the last two volumes of the series were written by Yū Shimizu, author of Bladedance of Elementalers, using Yamaguchi's notes.
The Familiar of Zero has been adapted into an anime series running for four seasons by the animation studio J.C.Staff. The first season aired in Japan between July 3 and September 25, 2006, and contained thirteen episodes. In April 2007 at Anime Boston, Geneon announced that they had picked up the English dubbing rights of the first season of the anime series under the title The Familiar of Zero. In July 2008, Geneon Entertainment and Funimation Entertainment announced an agreement to distribute select titles in North America. While Geneon Entertainment still retained the license, Funimation Entertainment assumed exclusive rights to the manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution of select titles. The Familiar of Zero was one of several titles involved in the deal. Funimation released a complete box set of the series on November 4, 2008. Funimation reported their rights to the series expired in August 2011. Sentai Filmworks re-licensed the first series in North America in 2013 and released it digitally. Sentai released the Geneon English-language version on Blu-ray and DVD on April 8, 2014.
The second season under the extended title Zero no Tsukaima: Futatsuki no Kishi (ゼロの使い魔 ～双月の騎士～, lit. The Familiar of Zero: Knight of the Twin Moons) aired in Japan between July 9 and September 24, 2007, containing twelve episodes. Sentai Filmworks licensed the second season (under the name The Familiar of Zero: Knight of the Twin Moons) in North America and released it on March 10, 2015 on Blu-ray and DVD.
The third season, also containing twelve episodes, entitled Zero no Tsukaima: Princesse no Rondo (ゼロの使い魔～三美姫の輪舞(プリンセッセのロンド)～), aired on Japan's Chiba TV between July 6 and September 21, 2008, and Arts Central in Singapore between July 10 and September 24, 2008. An original video animation episode for the third season was released on December 24, 2008. Sentai Filmworks licensed the third season with the OVA (under the name The Familiar of Zero: Rondo of Princesses) in North America and released them on May 12, 2015 on Blu-ray and DVD.
The fourth and final season titled Zero no Tsukaima F aired twelve episodes between January 7 and March 24, 2012. In 2012, Sentai Filmworks licensed the fourth season (under the name The Familiar of Zero: F) in North America and released it on July 14, 2015 on Blu-ray and DVD.
A manga series illustrated by Nana Mochizuki was serialized in the Japanese seinen manga magazine Monthly Comic Alive between the August 2006 and October 2009 issues, published by Media Factory. Seven tankōbon volumes were released by Media Factory under their MF Comics imprint. The manga was licensed in North America by Seven Seas Entertainment under the title Zero's Familiar, and released in three omnibus volumes. The manga was also licensed by Elex Media Komputindo in Indonesia and released up to volume three in English under the title The Familiar of Zero, and in the Czech Republic by Zoner Press.
A spin-off series, illustrated by Higa Yukari and titled as Zero no Tsukaima Chevalier, was serialized between the March 2010 and May 2013 issues of Comic Alive and later compiled in four volumes. It was also released in North America by Seven Seas Entertainment under the name Zero's Familiar Chevalier. Two other spin-offs were serialized in Comic Alive: Zero no Tsukaima Gaiden: Tabatha no Bōken by Takuto Kon, which was serialized between December 2007 and August 2010 issues and compiled in five volumes, and Zero no Chukaima: Yōchien nano! by Takamura Masaya, serialized between September 2009 and March 2012 and compiled in three volumes.
Three visual novels for the PlayStation 2 were developed by Marvelous Interactive in which the player assumes the role of Saito Hiraga. The first, Zero no Tsukaima: Koakuma to Harukaze Concerto (ゼロの使い魔 小悪魔と春風の協奏曲, lit. The Familiar of Zero: Goblins and the Spring Breeze Concerto), was released in limited and regular editions on February 15, 2007 in Japan. This was followed by Zero no Tsukaima: Muma ga Tsumugu Yokaze no Fantasy (ゼロの使い魔 夢魔が紡ぐ夜風の幻想曲) on November 29, 2007 and Zero no Tsukaima: Maigo no Period to Ikusen no Symphony (ゼロの使い魔 迷子の終止符と幾千の交響曲) on November 6, 2008