Otaku USA Magazine
The Book of Magic

Grimoire of Zero develops complicated relationships in the heat of a witchcraft clash for the ages.

For the Kingdom of Wenias, the threat of magic is actually a fairly recent phenomenon. Despite the fact that witches have been a contentious presence for some time, it wasn’t until the introduction of a book called the Grimoire of Zero that their powers became even more accessible and easily pliable. An even greater menace looms on the horizon, though, and this very tome lies at the heart of a pivotal event that could change the dynamic of the entire land … for better or for worse.

The world of the Grimoire of Zero anime presents a complex dynamic right from the start. Humans hate witches, witches hate humans, sorcerers hate witches, and pretty much everyone hates the involuntarily transformed creatures known as Beastfallen. That’s why one of our key protagonists, a nameless Mercenary cursed with this savage affliction, has to take a measured approach to pretty much every aspect of his life. Your average witch would love to lop his head off and use it as part of a substantial sacrifice, but it takes a very special witch to help him see all sides of a conflict that’s about to come to an explosive head.

Beast of Burden

We’ve all heard the story before: A muscle-bound Beastfallen mercenary meets a Mud-Black Witch in the most improbable of places. They exchange greetings, fall in love, and live happily ever after as the ultimate odd couple, right? If only life in Wenias were so simple. Instead, our merc ends up bumping into this mysterious witch while on the run from, you guessed it, other witches. This one turns out to be an unlikely defender, though, protecting him from their attacks and introducing herself as a cute, child-like witch named Zero.

Don’t let the ageless appearance and sudden act of kindness fool you, though. Zero is tremendously skilled in both sorcery and magic, and she’s on the hunt for the highly coveted tome known as the Grimoire of Zero. Within those pages lie countless incantations; the beating heart of the burgeoning art of magic, which nixes time-consuming symbols and turns witchcraft into something any student of the arts can use on the fly. If the name of this tome sounds familiar, it’s because Zero literally wrote the book on magic, and she wants to reclaim what she created.

Thus, through necessity and a hurried blood oath, the mercenary turns into her somewhat reluctant servant. His pact with Zero is put in place with the promise that she’ll turn him back into a human once the Grimoire of Zero is in her hands. They soon run into another young witch named Albus who would much rather take the typical witch path and claim the mercenary’s head for use in a power-boosting ritual. Zero is there to make sure this doesn’t happen, though, and she has the overwhelming power to keep both Albus and the mercenary in check.

Though the three don’t waste too much time before embarking on this grand adventure together, there are still so many questions lurking in the shadows. Can a half-beast mercenary really trust a witch to hold up her end of the bargain? Can the wounds between humans and witches ever be mended enough to pave the way for peace? Most troubling of all: Who is truly to blame for the increasing tensions between rogue witches and sorcerers, and can anything be done to put this genie called magic back in its bottle for good? Zero may have developed magic with pie-in-the-sky dreams that it might actually change the world for the better, but good intentions aren’t worth much in the face of chaos and calamity.

Starting From Zero

Grimoire of Zero may not be your average light novel—it doesn’t even involve someone from our world leaping into a land of fantasy!—but the production house behind it definitely has related experience. White Fox (Matoi the Sacred Slayer, Steins;Gate) previously handled animation production for a little series known as Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, and they continue to show how adept they are at bringing these unfamiliar, medieval-style worlds to life in their latest work. The connection between these two shows starts and ends at the setting and the word Zero, though, because Grimoire is its own beast entirely.

The staff behind that beast has director Tetsuo Hirakawa at the helm. Outside of directing episodes of shows like Noragami, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, and Occult Academy, Hirakawa only has a couple show director credits on his résumé: The Kawa no Hikari special and the Hori-san to Miyamura-kun OVA. He also wrote a handful of Grimoire of Zero episodes along with the likes of Tatsuya Takahashi (The IDOLM@STER, Juni Taisen: Zodiac War) and Eiji Umehara (Lagrange—The Flower of Rin-ne), all based on the groundwork laid by Kakeru Kobashiri’s original light novel series.

The sum of White Fox’s work ended up being one of the most enjoyable shows of the spring 2017 anime season. Throw in a voice cast that includes the likes of Tsuyoshi Koyama—aka the gruff voice behind characters like Mai Mai Miracle’s Tatara and Gangsta.’s Miles Mayer—and you have a witchcraft warfare fantasy worth savoring.

Grimoire of Zero is licensed by Sentai Filmworks, and is currently available to stream on Amazon.

This story appears in the June 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.