Image source: 「ゼロから始める魔法の書」アニメ公式 on Twitter

The first few moments of Grimoire of Zero (Zero kara Hajimeru Mahō no Sho) do a better job of establishing a world of fantasy than most other series do across multiple episodes. Two things are made clear immediately: Witches in this world are detested by pretty much everyone and the Church is the “almighty” side for the righteous. This is a world full of intolerant people and unfair prejudices—it grips you from the very beginning.

Grimoire of Zero does an absolutely excellent job at worldbuilding in this manner, so much that I can’t help but draw comparisons to a series that’s a lot like it: Berserk. It manages to set up a living, breathing world in a matter of minutes that’s perfectly conveyed by the rabble in town, the religious groups, and the common enemy everyone seems to be against: witches.

Witches are the culprit for everything, from murders to drownings, with the Church looking to exterminate anyone the people deem guilty of witchcraft. They’re executed publicly with no regard for them as human beings. This is hammered home nearly immediately while the show is still building out who we should root for, but a few key scenes establish pretty much everything we need to know about what kind of world this really is and who’s really in charge.

But witches aren’t the only members of society who are treated unfairly. There are creatures known as “beastfallen,” or half-human, half-beast beings who are accused of being the familiars and minions of witches or catalysts for witchcraft. They travel the world with a huge bounty on their heads and a target on their backs even as they try to earn a normal living.

Image source: 「ゼロから始める魔法の書」アニメ公式 on Twitter

“Mercenary,” one of our heroes, with the nickname “Black Beast of Death,” is more akin to a “Cat Guts” than anything else and it’s clear he’s had a terrible past having grown up as a beastfallen. The society in this world has those who would hunt beastfallen for sport and out of cruelty. And while things like prostitution and other normally socially unacceptable things are hinted at being accepted in the show, somehow half-human, half-beast individuals are treated like scum.

But the scum doesn’t even get along with the scum, at least not usually. Mercenary himself hates witches, though he finds himself at the mercy of one so he can finally have his body turned into a normal human one. All he wants is to be human so he can escape the unfair treatment he receives from the rest of humanity.

The odd witch, Zero, offers to change him if he’ll become her bodyguard as she searches for a special tome with boundless knowledge pertaining to the magical world. It’s called the “Grimoire of Zero” — Zero wrote it, and she wants it back.

The clandestine meeting between Zero and Mercenary takes place in the forest, hidden away from the rest of society, because neither of them are beings who could intermingle anywhere but outside the confines of the villages and larger population centers.

There admittedly isn’t a lot that goes on in the first episode of the series, but you learn everything you need to know about this world, their likes and dislikes, the way people operate, and the writing on the wall for their prejudices and hangups.

Image source: 「ゼロから始める魔法の書」アニメ公式 on Twitter

You don’t need to ask why Mercenary is the way he is, or why Zero finds the need to creep about in a cloak. All of these things are expertly woven into the background as each scene unfolds without unnecessary reveals via dialogue.

It’s anime worldbuilding at its finest, and even if you only ever watch the first episode, you’ll be thinking about this fantasy world and its inhabitants for days to come. That’s the mark of a great series, and I can’t wait to see more out of it beyond its first few episodes.

Grimoire of Zero can be viewed with English subtitles on Amazon Anime Strike and AnimeLab (AU/NZ).

Comments (3)
  1. For anyone interested (I was, so I used my magical index of all knowledge Google) you can find Grimoire of Zero airing on Anime Strike, that new Amazon anime pool.

    Subscription to it is looking far more appealing now, with two shows, (this and Re:Creators) looking interesting.

    • We try to make sure there are streaming links at the end of each article, but this time it slipped through the cracks. Sorry about that. The article has been updated.

      • No worries! I wasn’t sure if maybe the show had been watched in the Native Japan and it may have only appeared on Anime Strike recently.

        Thanks for the great viewpoints on new shows coming out. I appreciate Brittany’s take!

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