Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 06

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The secret island was a satisfying action-packed adventure, but it turns out it was just a brief detour; a checkpoint to stop by and gather more information about the sheer scale of Gaz’s machinations pre-and-post death. The Main Event is in the Principality of Hartgen, and it was always going to be. The guy simply has everyone: Chaika twins, a Dark Acura, a Dark Gillette…even, seemingly, the inscrutable Guy.

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A case in point for the relative triviality of the island: the Gillette Corps arrive way late, but learn everything they need to to carry on in less than five minutes of conversation with Kiril and Ursula. But then again, they’re after Chaikas, not the answers to what they are and why they exist. Gillette Corps and Vivi in particular are quite sure of the latter: they’re to preserve the peace – albeit a peace their former Captain — Vivi’s former flame — is no longer a part of.

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One nice thing that came from the island was that it made it quite easy for Tooru and Chaika to repair their bond, though again, that kinda happened last week. Tooru is committed to sticking with Chaika, whatever she decides to do: for now, continuing to search for remains. And Akari follows where Tooru leads, and also hastens to put herself physically between the two. Akari likes Chaika…but her brother is hers.

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There’s a “Martial Arts Tournament” being held by Hartgen at the ridiculously huge Goeranson Castle, which is essentially a huge walled battleground surrounding the main keep. There, contestants from all over the six nations pour in and fight to the death for the grand prize: knighthood and Gaz’s remains. The first people we know to arrive and enter are Red Chaika, Selma and David.

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Not far off is Gillette, who take three different tacks: Zita and Matteus go the diplomatic route with Hartgen (which goes nowhere), Leo sneaks around and takes attendance, and Nikolai and Vivi, well…Vivi’s In It To Win It:

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Yes her new outfit is super-gaudy, but that’s what a fantasy swordmaiden character is supposed to be, damnit!  And hey, it’s clearly very easy to move around in. Her hair may have turned white, but she hasn’t lost a step.

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Guy, who’s been pulling the strings for all the Chaikas, reveals that he was the one who saved Alberic, by making dozens of men pile themselves on top of him to serve as shields. The thing is, Guy’s reasons for why he did it — something about him “seeing the hate in his heart” and knowing “he wasn’t made to live in a world of peace” are kinda flimsy. I get that Alberic’s a great warrior and all, but wasn’t his attempt to save Vivi and Zita an act of love (for them), not hate (for the army he tried to stop)?

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Far clearer are the present, if fleeting, purposes of Red Chaika and Vivi: get Chaika (Trabant), who just had Niva Lada snatched away by Guy. Hey! Give her back [shakes fist]… I’m sure if Vivi could see what’s become of her beloved Alberic, she wouldn’t be happy. I’m sure she will come across him sooner rather than later, as he’s one of Hartgen’s trusty bodyguards. Goeranson Castle is the place to be, and everyone is here. Still, this had a feeling of table-setting and warm-up about it. Not un-entertaining, but not particularly outstanding, and at times, repetitive/redundant.

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 03

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It’s so weird. I could have sworn the trio had been to the ocean before, but now that I look back, they never actually had, and are legitimately awed and stoked to see and stand in it for the first time. I like stuff like this; it reminded me of a roommate from Hawaii who’d never seen snow before.

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Akari really wants to see Tooru naked

We see, and learn of, many things this week, along with Chaika and the siblings. And like Chaika, the more we learn, the more we want to learn. At this point, there’s no satisfying her until she knows everything, and she thinks the island and Gaz’s fortune are the best way to get there. Tooru, well, doesn’t agree, like at all…more on that later.

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First, the reason they’re at the seaside city is to pay a visit to the next hero on Claudia’s list, one Clay Morgan. All Akari knows at first is that he wields a spear. And to his credit, the man still wields it pretty well, considering how long he hangs in there against Tooru. I imagine long-reach foe would be annoying to a saboteur who likes close-quarters combat.

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Clay is kind of a joke: unlike other heroes who either fought or challenged the Acuras, the mere sight of Chaika (he saw her head roll) sends Clay fleeing his tacky mansion in terror. When they finally pin the big guy down (Pro: Drydock Fight! Con: Boat not accidentally launched), he agrees to give them whatever they want if they promise never to show their faces near him again. I can’t say I can blame Clay; he obviously has a bit of PTSD, and when the guy you’re helping to kill merely stares at you smiling like your an insect, well, that’s a rough day right there.

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Oh, those are your twin DAUGHTERS…(Sighs, very relieved)

While Morgan’s a relative pushover, their next target, Stephan Hartgen, has the makings of a villain with staying power. When we meet him, he’s sitting on a throne with two of his “daughters” who look just like Chaika, who both want very much to see what happens when all the remains are gathered, which is why he’s luring Chaikas to him via rumors. Is he an ally of Gaz? Does he want the remains for the power?

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Whuuuuh? (left) and WHUUUUUH? (right) look on

Another clear sign this guy means serious business: he has two equally serious guys under his employ: one is from Acura and may well be Tooru and Akari’s big brother, who is looking forward to fighting them. The other is AAAAAUGH, a G-G-G-GHOST! J/K, it’s just Dark Albéric, who didn’t die in that Flying Castle attack after all. Or maybe he did die, and Hartgen brought him back to do his bidding.

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“Alright, I’ll talk to her. JEEZ.”

Back to the Chaika Crew, Tooru is furious that Chaika ran off wihout Fredrica, and repeats his believe that going after secret islands and fortunes is a fool’s errand, and retrieving the remains should be the priority. But Chaika’s at the point where she’s learned too much to be patient. That knowledge is a splinter in the mind in the head that was supposedly separated from her body years ago. Even if she has to go alone, she’s going to the island, period. Miffed, Tooru takes her to mean she’s firing him, so he storms off, and Akari, his dutiful sister, follows.

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Was totally expecting a fight…but not mad we didn’t get one

It was sad to see the happy family break up, even if the split was very temporary. Still, in her haste to find the island and answers, Chaika begs Fredrica to fly her to the island, which, in hindsight, should have been an option from the start, unless Tooru assumed Fredrica would refuse because she refuses to help all the time. This time, however, she smells a lark and agrees.

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Not a fan of Fredrica’s Dragoon design, but it looks pretty cool from this angle, topped by a Gundo-wielding Chaika

Realizing what she did, Tooru and Akari hurry to chase her down, “borrowing” Morgan’s cargo ship for the journey. Red Chaika, David, and Selma stow aboard, but before a fight can break out, a freaking kraken wastes the boat, tossing them all in the sea. Not good! Then Fredrica has her wings sliced off and Chaika falls. Also Not Good! Things are getting very tense and hazardous in a hurry, which is a good thing, as there’s just seven more episodes. No one ever said learning everything was going to be easy!

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 09

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Chaika has been so swept up in the quest for her father’s remains (and in getting hoodwinked and/or kidnapped), that in spite of how long she’s been with the Acura siblings, she still knows very little about them, besides the fact they’re fierce fighters and loyal friends. That’s rectified this week, in a quiet, reflective episode focused on memories, and how they make us who we are and set us on our paths.

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Chaika first brings memories up as a potential source of magic fuel when all the shops are out as a result of the End of War Anniversary festivities. Having watched Valvrave with Hannah, I knew all too well what could become of using one’s memories as a fuel that is merely consumed but not replenished, and Tooru is quick to dismiss the idea as a last resort, suspecting that in more desperate times (or against her will) Chaika had done so in the past, leading to her present memory gap.

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When they come across a wagon train of peddlers, Tooru remembers the ones who used to visit the village of Acura where he and Akari grew up and trained to become saboteurs under the tutelage of their mentor, Shin. Of those times Tooru has both happy and painful memories. Happy because he and Akari had so much fun together, but sad because one group of peddlers—including a woman named Hasumin whose praise he desperately desired but never got—were attacked by bandits.

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He watched her die, and all of Shin’s talk about him not being cut out for the cutthroat world of sabotage rang in his ear when he couldn’t protect her. It’s a painful memory; one Tooru often clings to, and wishes he could turn into magic fuel. Elsewhere, an impoverished ex-soldier steals from a rich woman, while the keeper of the last shop on their list happens to be the one with fuel in stock, because he doesn’t feel like celebrating the end of the war, which claimed his wife and children.

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Not to quote Captain Kirk, but he was right that we shouldn’t want our pain taken away; we need our pain; both good and bad memories define who we are. Hasumin didn’t really die in vain, because the Tooru that pain shaped would go on to meet Chaika in that forest and save her, from not only that evil unicorn, but most likely from using up the rest of her memories as fuel. Now that Chaika has friends and memories to cherish, she won’t be as cavalier with them.

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Stray Observations:

  • “‘Fireworks?’ What are ‘fireworks?’ We only got ‘pyrospheres’ in these parts!”
  • I loved Chaika’s wordless exchange of faces with the shopkeeper’s spawn. GET TO BED, WASTREL.
  • It was definitely fun to see Lil’ Tooru and Lil’-er Akari dashing around in the past. Akari was just as devoted to him back then. It’s funny to see how little she’s changed, even if she tries to hide it in deadpan.
  • I actually didn’t mind Alberic and Vivi’s scene at the market, which boiled down to the notion that “justice doesn’t fill stomachs”. Their cookie fortunes were a bit on-the-nose, however.
  • I was less interested in the other Gillette guys shootin’ the breeze. I feel like it would have been better if the entire GIllette Corps was just Alberic and Vivi. The rest still feel extraneous to this time-strapped show (even if a second season is in the pipeline).
  • Looks like there’s a sky fortress in our future…those are the best kind!

Hitsugi no Chaika – 08

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Everyone wants to have a goal, or at least have a goal dropped into their laps, but the conditions encountered while attempting to achieve it can often serve to muddle or change that goal. Take the “New Gaz Empire”, a ragtag band the likes of which Chaika and the Acuras have not yet encountered on their travels. They want to restore the empire they were once a part of, but in the meantime they’re living as thieves and con artists to get by.

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As soon as their way is barred, Tooru saw that they were trouble, as did we, but they turned out to be far less trouble than we thought, as their attempts to double-cross the Acura siblings fails spectacularly. Still, had naive Ol’ Chaika been alone she would have been robbed blind and possibly worse, demonstrating yet again that she’s lucky to have the others backing her up, not to mention leaving us curious how she managed to survive up to the point she met the Acuras.

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For what it’s worth, I like the idea of the New Gaz Empire, and not just because they have an awesome name, but because they’re such a realistic example of how the best laid plans go awry, that noble intentions can be corrupted by the realization that ‘Hey, we’ve got numbers and weapons and mobility; let’s go to town!’ Through their complex encounter, Chaika & Co. show them that it’s not a path they can continue on forever; they need to get back on the high road.

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For one thing, the thieves are easily defeated when they threaten Tooru and Akari, and they’re lucky the siblings are the forgiving type who stay their blades. Their own “Princess Chaika”, AKA Julia (with Horie Yui Sadohara Kaori at the mic), also jumps right into a trap and incarcerated after tricking Chaika into staying the night so they can rob her. Despite being wronged, Chaika doesn’t hesitate in the least in ordering the Acuras to rescue her, even contributing a crucial assist with her silencing magic.

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In this, Chaika’s behavior seems less like naivete and more like kindness, decency, and forgiveness, all qualities that can be as powerful as hammers and swords in the right situation. Those qualities may have convinced the New Gaz Empire to realign their goals. As such, Chaika isn’t just an inert variable passing through the countryside in blind pursuit of her own goal; she’s enacting tangible change, one ragtag band at a time. Note that this is supposedly the mission of Alberic’s squad, though all they’ve done is chase Chaika around.

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Stray Observations:

  • The scenes with Gillette & Co. seemed even more pointless than usual. All they established was that Alberic isn’t going to give up on pursuing Chaika (I already knew that), and that Vivi likes him (I really don’t care).
  • Akari’s super-happy, friendly act in the back of the wagon had me wondering if it was Frederica in disguise again.
  • Tooru, Akari, Chaika and Frederica show that they could made a legitimately good travelling performance troupe. Now they just need to do a J-pop video, Kyoukai-style. Yes, I would watch that.
  • I understand the practical (and comedic) reasons for having the siblings quickly beat up all the thieves off-camera, but I still felt a bit cheated by the lack of on-screen action.

Hitsugi no Chaika – 07

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The quest for Chaika’s fathers remains continues, as Guy helpfully materializes in the night to point them towards the next hero, one Simon Scania of the Koenigsegg Empire (both Scania and Koenigsegg are Swedish automakers…perhaps the writer is a petrolhead?), last seen four years ago in the town of Rademio. Unfortunately for them, the Alberic Corps has decided to defy the Council of Six after all and keep up their pursuit, confronting them on the outskirts of Rademio.

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When Tooru says he’s going to have trouble with an opponent, he has our full attention, and indeed, they run into trouble fast against Alberic, Nikolai, Vivi and Leo. They only end up escaping serious trouble thanks to their trump card Dominica, who luckily happens to be in the mood to transform into a dragoon (which could be cooler-looking, IMO) and carry the trio to safety. Just like that, we’re done with the Alberic Corps in the first eight minutes. This was fine with me; I don’t mind a little bit of them like we got here, but I don’t like it when they steal too much screen time from the core trio…er, quartet.

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While Tooru, Akari and Chaika owe their skins to Dominica, her fickle nature leads to their next dilemma, as she refuses to fly them around over the dangerous “Valley of No Return.” Not hanging about, Chaika starts climbing down, with the other three following, including Dominica in human form, strangely enough. The rocks they cling to end up crumbling, sending them falling. Then things get weird: Tooru wakes up, leaning against an unfamiliar stone wall, with Chaika leaning against him. When she awakes, she starts talking…normally.

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Illusion fog is nothing new, but I appreciated the sneakiness of dropping us in a strange situation and delaying the explanation, if only for a time. It’s also an opportunity for some comedy that isn’t just superfluous fluff: as Tooru falls more and more for the normal-talking Fantasy Chaika, he gets more and more lost in the fog. When Chaika betrays him, hopping on horseback with Alberic, who announces their marriage, and handing her Gaz’s decaying arm like a bouquet, Tooru is devastated, but just as convinced it’s reality.

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The episode could have just as easily placed the others in fantasy worlds (Akari and Chaika’s Fantasy Toorus could have been pretty funny), I like the decision to have Dominica save them and for the three of them to be protected from the fog with a magic barrier. This also means they have to watch Tooru’s fantasy, which is why when he draws close enough for them to grab him and pull him in the barrier, Akari slaps him into coherence a bit harder than she probably needed to, and Dominica gets some pretty good punches…’cause why not?

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After some nifty utilization of Chaika’s Gundo (interestingly, there’s no mention of her low magic fuel level), they destroy the source of the magic fog, revealing the hermit Simon Scania, a bitter, somewhat manic shell of his former self. Unlike previous heroes, he doesn’t give a hoot about the remains in his possession; he’d been spending the last few years stewing over his friends betraying them by having the fog create the same situations for intruders, the bones of which litter the area.

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The guys grab Gaz’s leg and wisely slink away from the wretchedness. In the more lighthearted parting scene, in which Chaika starts to mention how she didn’t mind Tooru’s fantasies of her (before the betrayal part, which she’d never do), but she gets angry when Tooru laughs it off, while Akari peeks her head out to dispute his claim she’s “out of the question” for him. It’s not so much he’s unaware both girls like him; he’s just fine with things as they are.

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 06

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There are battles in which the hero is over-leveled against an adversary and carves through it like a cake, and battles in which the hero is under-leveled and has their ass handed to them. Then there are instances where the two sides are so equal in talent and skill, the battles always end in a draw. This episode explores that fertile middle ground, by having Tooru, and Akari, and Chaika repeatedly challenged by Chaika Bogdan’s companions.

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They both try to get the upper hand on one another in the first hostage exchange, but it’s broken up by Gillette’s Matthäus and Leonardo, sending a flock of vicious Cockatrices into the basin. David and Tooru protect their hostages as if they were their own Chaikas, and when Tooru gives Bogdan her sword, she uses it to fight off the beasts, and doesn’t escape or turn on him. There’s some great combat on display here.

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Chaika Bogdan is sufficiently impressed with Tooru’s prowess that she asks if he’ll switch sides, and then she comes up against his honor (saboteurs are for hire, but once hired, don’t betray the client). When a fresh exchange is arranged, Bogdan demands an explanation for why he won’t come with her, even though it could potentially mean more fighting, which is what he wants. It’s here where I’m starting to understand Tooru’s thinking.

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He’s not just interested in serving the person who will pay him the most money or let him see the most action. He’s come to care about White Chaika in his own way, and she needs protecting a lot more than the far less naive badass that is Red Chaika. I liked how Dominica was treated throughout this episode too: she could have probably easily overpowered David and Selma with her Dragoon magic, but she stays above the fray, except when she impersonates Akari, which actually surprised us.

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That levels the playing field between the two “Chaika groups”, which makes things more interesting. The Gillettes, meanwhile, are ordered to cease their pursuit of the Chaikas—just when they had gotten so close—by their superiors, who answer to the Council of Six Nations, who I instantly hate, not just because they recalled Gillette, but because they’re one of those Circles of Bickering Old Men. In fact, now I’m kinda rooting for the Chaika’s to bring Arthur Goz back; he can’t be any worse than those cats!

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But most gratifying about this episode is that once the exchange is made and the two groups go their merry way with their own Chaikas. Bogdan’s group attacks them almost immediately after. The Acuras are able to repel them again (like I said, they’re pretty evenly matched), but it underscores how the rest of their journey isn’t going to be a cakewalk. Which is fine with me!

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 05

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I like how the show has been spending a little time with the chummy members of the Gillette Corps to show that they’re not villains, nor does their leader really see his target as villains to be defeated. Alberic even envies Toru’s group a bit, for moving forward along a sure path, something he can’t yet see for himself.

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What he shouldn’t envy about the Acura siblings is their responsibility to watch Chaika like a hawk, lest she get snatched up by low-level thugs. Though after making a brief appearance as a dragon and then a cat, Fredrika bows out for most of the episode. No sooner is she absent than the others must cross an abandoned city and get ambushed.

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It isn’t Gillette that ambushes them, but the Bizarro version of their trio. The two trios end up abducting each other’s Chaikas. They’re remarkably similar, though not identical; Chaika Bogdan is older (and shapelier), and she dons another very cool-looking piece of fantasy RPGarb. I also enjoyed the two groups’ respective “torture” sessions, consisting of mostly harmless teasing.

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Here’s the rub: their goals aren’t entirely identical either. While Trabant the White wants simply to give her pops a proper burial and be on her way, Bogdan the Red seeks revenge against all who wronged him. We’re talking a lot of vengeance murders, but both the look in her eye and the nifty snake sword in her hand (a slenderer version of Renji Abarai’s Zabimaru) suggest she’s committed to this goal.

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She also insists Trabant is a fake, but as Tooru says, they could both be fake. Or real. Maybe the emperor made a whole batch of clone twins and scattered them around the world, all implanted with the same goal to avenge him should he fall, or even bring him back to life, which is well within the realm of possibility. In any case, the plot is building to a lovely velvety thickness.

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 03

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The show’s Final Fantasy-like vibe continues as the trio of Chaika, Tooru and Akari arrive in the next town, where they gather info from “NPCs’ and a very secretive informant named “Guy.” The city’s ruler, a mysterious “dragoon cavalier” Dominica Scoda, is in possession of some of Chaika’s dad’s remains, so they have to seek her out, negotiate, and if she refuses to give it up, negotiate more aggressively.

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In the meantime, the Gillette Corps is hot on the trio’s trail. They’re a colorful bunch who wouldn’t be out of place as the protagonists in a side-story. While Vivi is angry that the trio defied her beloved Gillette, the rest aren’t really after them for any particular personal gain; they’re merely doing their jobs; working to the unthinkable—Gaz rising again. That they’re merely after our trio doesn’t make them villains. I also dig their messenger owl…I want one of those.

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The Corps also has something in common with the Acura siblings, Chaika herself, and us, the audience: they don’t know the whole picture, only bits and pieces from other sources. That they’re being so closely pursued is a dead giveaway that Chaika is a very “popular” individual, but she herself has gaps in her memory from around the end of the war. And their pursuers have captured “false Chaikas” in the past, none of whom gave up any useful info on the real one.

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All this mystery, and the still-disticnt possibility that Chaika is unknowingly acting as her late father’s pawn, floats over an episode in which not a whole lot happens but much is revealed. There’s also a fair amount of something that’s definitely a rarity, especially in recent Final Fantasy, and that’s subtle, effective comedy to break up all the stodgy seriousness.

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Chaika remains thoroughly endearing throughout this episode, going full tourist in town, fixing and operating a big truck, and blowing up a chicken in an ill-advised attempt at cooking. Akari’s deadpan sniping on her big brother also continue to amuse, and her “ghost stories” were great. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a tense encounter with vicious dog-like Orthros, culminating in Tooru accidentally meeting the very person they came to see: Dominica, a consummate onna-kishi, gleaming in the moonlight.

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 02

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In addition to serving up a delectable buffet of thief/ninja/saboteur action, acerbic brother-sister banter, and giant steampunk tanks during the severed hand heist and the escape that followed, this episode provided us with more context about Chaika and the world, as well as trigger the commencement of the grand journey that lies ahead, to which I for one am very much looking forward.

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Contrasting viewpoints were as numerous as backflips herein: Abarth may be a hero to many, but the Acura siblings see him for what he is: selfish, arrogant, vindictive, and a would-be murderer of children. The un-murdered child in question, Chaika, is seen as a threat to peace in Verbist, for the simple reason that she’s the daughter of the “Taboo” Emperor Gaz.

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Gillette’s team of valiant badasses (who nonetheless get schooled by the saboteurs) seek to apprehend Chaika and the hand to preserve the peace they’ve won, but we learn the only reason Chaika is after her father’s remains is so she can give him a proper burial. But as simple as that task may seem, the nature of the man she seeks to make whole, and the sheer scale of outside opposition to her actions, means it won’t be an easy task to complete.

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In fact, it probably would have been impossible for Chaika alone. I like the equitability in the Acuras siding with her: she’s getting much-needed support in her quest, while they’re escaping the boredom of their postwar existence. They are what they are—sleek, intelligent, efficient weapons. Tooru is tired of hanging on the wall getting dull and rusty.

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With the arrival of Chaika in his and Akari’s lives, they’re suddenly useful again. These are all motivations I can get behind, and I’m on board with the burial goal, but as they collect(read: steal) more parts of Gaz, we’ll see if Abarth and Gilette turn out to be right. Even if Chaika has the best of intentions, it’s possible Gaz conditioned her to unwittingly aid his eventual resurrection…which I’m guessing wouldn’t be good.

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