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 the first volume in June 2004 and 20 volumes have been released as of February 2011. 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. 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 is licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment for release 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 for little or no reason. 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.
Halkeginia (ハルケギニア Harukeginia?) is the continent that the story of The Familiar of Zero takes place on. Halkeginia's social structure is similar to the feudal class systems of Europe in the Middle Ages, with magic-users being considered nobles. The continent itself is vaguely reminiscent in shape of western Europe, with many of the countries carrying ancient and Roman names.
Tristain (トリステイン Torisutein?, also "Tristein") is the nation in which the majority of the story takes place. It is a small monarchal country located in the northwest of Halkeginia. It is under threat from Albion. Tristain is home to a highly acclaimed magical academy which attracts students from nearby countries known as the Tristain Academy of Magic.
Militarily, the country is weak, with only a small permanent force, which forces it to make marriage alliances with other countries. The capital city is Tristania (トリスタニア Torisutania?).
Germania (ゲルマニア Gerumania?) is the largest kingdom in Halkeginia, and is also regarded as the strongest in terms of military might. It is regarded as a more barbaric and down-to-earth type of country, with its men considered to be brutish. Germania is located to the northeast of Tristain. Germania is the ancient Roman for the region that is now Germany, the natives were at the time considered by the Romans to be barbarians.
Gallia (ガリア Garia?, also "Galia") is another kingdom in Halkeginia, located to the southeast of Tristania. Germania is on its eastern border, in the Alden Forest. It is the second largest country in Halkeginia. Within the Gallia Royal Family, murders and assassination attempts have led to an unstable royalty. There is a city named La Rochelle in the mountains, which is a major port. Gallia is reminiscent of modern day France, which in the Roman era was called Gaul.
Albion (アルビオン Arubion?), nicknamed the white country, is a floating island nation which is in a period of political strife. According to the storyline, a group of nobles known as Reconquista initiated a coup d'etat against the royalty, and over the course of the story, succeed in killing the entire Albion Royal Family. Cromwell, the leader of the Albion rebellion, seeks to spread his power elsewhere, and begins by attacking Tristain. Albion is the ancient Greek name for the main island of Great Britain upon which are the modern nations England, Wales, and Scotland.
Cromwell is named after the leader of the Roundheads during the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, who successfully ousted the Monarchy, and establishing a brief reign as Lord Protector until the return of Charles II.
Romalia (ロマリア Romaria?) is a holy empire, located to the south of Gallia. Reminiscent of Italy, and specifically the Holy Roman Empire (and the Vatican City, it is mentioned, that they have a pope and officials who are bound to celibacy), which once formed northern Italy and much of central Europe.