Hitsugi no Chaika – 01

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Well, here it is: my favorite first episode of the Spring so far, slightly edging out Mahouka. It sneaked up on me, too; I had no idea what I’d be getting into, but I didn’t think it would be so stylish, plucky, vibrant, and witty—words with which I’d also describe myself. From the first scene where Chaika pops out of the bushes, surprising the plant-foraging Tooru, who though she was a rabbit—I was almost immediately on board.

I will note that people may find Chaika Trabant’s clipped, concise manner of speaking will charm some and vex others, but I fall into the latter category; she’s cute without being too cloying, and as someone who uses so few words, she chooses and arranges them with that much more care, often to humorous effect. There’s also a wealth of physical comedy inherent in the enormous coffin she lugs around.

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I also liked being introduced to Tooru and Chaika as apparent models of incompetence, only to see them exhibit exemplary competence (and badassery) in taking down a very unpleasant-looking unicorn, which mutters in a strange language and gallops through the air upon magic circles. There’s a hefty Final Fantasy vibe to the world that really drew me in, yet still exuded an original and novel feel; a new twist, rather than a ripoff. That’s hard to pull off.

Like FF, everyone’s donning super-chic garb and have specific “jobs”: Tooru and his cool, acerbic sis Akari are quick, deadly thieves/saboteurs while Chaika is a gun mage, requiring her to stay still as she prepares her magic, making her and Tooru a good pair in the unicorn battle, during which some pretty awesome boss music plays; I thought the music excelled in general.

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Akari’s violent introduction in the town tavern was, for me, the comedic centerpiece that also managed to provide a lot of exposition; we learn that Tooru hasn’t been pulling his weight of late, and the sight of him chowing down with Chaika sends her on a hammer(mace?)-swinging rampage. It has the look and feel of a far more serious confrontation, and yet not only does Tooru dodge every blow, but the bystanders take Akari’s side to a man.

He’s clearly a capable fellow (like Akari) but lacks motivation, and has to be threatened with taxidermy to agree to help Chaika steal an article from a lord’s palace. Chaika is apparently the wandering daughter of the land’s defeated emperor. When the lord does a double take at the sight of her when he catches them in his palace. While her ultimate goals remain unknown, her chances of success will surely rise with the two Acura siblings at her side, and I’m looking forward to following their journey.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 12 (Fin)

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We were a bit weary that this last episode would be another nightmare of poor animation and cut corners, but thankfully there was enough gas in the tank for a respectable-looking finale. We even get a shot of Cecil talking next to a reflective sculpture; a nice effect. Ironically, while this was a far better episode in terms of production values, we thought the previous episode had a better story.

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That’s because the resolution to the Makusu trial left us a bit cold. We will say that it hardly made sense for him to suddenly cooperate with Cecil after carefully planning the ritual only to fail to summon Lucifer, so it makes sense that come trial time, he double-crosses his counsel and even accuses her of murdering Shizumu. It’s the word of the former Chief Justice against an excitable teenager with a history of getting into magical trouble, and he spins a good yarn for the court.

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While his betrayal made sense and we were on the whole glad to see the last episode return to its legal procedural roots, we found the trial itself a bit clumsy and random. Part of that was the fact the prosecution seems more on Makusu’s side than his defense. But Cecil suddenly pulling Grimoire 365 out of the talisman Shizumu returned to her, combined with the surprise trump witness (why didn’t Makusu make sure he was dead?); those were were plot conveniences that gave Cecil victory without actually having to do any sleuthing, hence the leaving us cold.

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We will say, however, that on the whole, the series didn’t leave us cold. We really enjoyed watching Cecil befriend her colorful colleagues, defend lots of people who tried to kill her. She didn’t so much uncover the conspiracy as Makusu made numerous tactical errors, most important the fact that Tento Moyo was already Lucifer’s vessel…we think. So while the show stumbled with its ending, placing it just below Witch Craft Works on the Big Board, it was still a refreshing dark horse we’re not sorry we looked into.

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Cumulative Average Rating: 6.917
MAL Score: 6.45