Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 04

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The island that Chaika, Fredrica, Tooru, Akari, Red Chaika, Selma, and David land/wash up on may as well be called the Island of Answers. But Chaika should’ve been careful what she wished for: she got a lot of answers on this island, but none of them good.

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Obviously, we knew from its magic camouflage that this was no ordinary island, a point driven home by rampant Fayla of many kinds, as well as a force of “demi-human” soldiers serving as the island’s guard. Among the people who arrived here, Chaika is probably the weakest on her own (and gets captured almost immediately), but even Akari needs to be bailed out by our favorite “Do whatever the plot requires” character, Fredrica.

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Tooru finds the underground compound where Chaika is being held and springs her, and the two put behind their very brief falling-out. They sneak past the demi-human guards and when the way in is blocked by guards, they look for an alternate way out, and that’s when things get weird…and very expository!

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You see, this island is the top secret facility of the Gaz Empire Institute of Magic, presently being run by Viktor Izhmash. Looks like the Chaikas were far from the last remnant of Gaz’s empire; much of his ambition is still alive, well, and still very much in the game right here. And wouldn’t you know it, Chaika comes upon a dying captive kraken who agrees to answer her questions. What he doesn’t do is promise she’ll like the answers.

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Those answers include the fact that everything Chaika and the other Chaikas have done so far has been solely because they were engineered to do it. She and they have acted with a directive implanted in their brains, along with false memories of being Gaz’s daughter (turns out he never even had a daughter!) to give them the emotional connection needed to want to gather his remains.

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Some Chaikas are collecting remains, like Trabant and Bogdan. Others, like Layla, cast away that purpose and chose a new one, though her story didn’t have a happy ending either. And others, like Vivi, were never fully formed. But now a lot of what we’ve seen from the Chaikas makes sense. They’re not clones; they’re genetically and mentally modified orphan girls, spread out across the land, tasked with facilitating Gaz’s return.

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It’s all pretty darn ghastly, isn’t it? Here was Chaika, just trying to gather her father’s body so she could give it a proper funeral, being told that not only was her urge to gather remains merely a front for a far more sinister grand plan, but she’s not even related to the guy!

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Yes, everyone is Izhmash’s prisoner and he plans on labotomizing the Chaikas and probably using the others for experiments or Fayla food or the-gods-only-know what else, but that’s almost beside the point, since Akari and Fredrica are still very much free and Izhmash isn’t aware of their presence on the island. So it’s a good bet our friends will be rescued, but to what end? Chaika has just had it confirmed that her entire existence to this point has been a lie. Where does she go from here?

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 02

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The first hero Tooru, Akari and Chaika encounter this season kinda spoiled them, and us as well. It isnt often an adversary comes around who isn’t really an adversary at all, but dwells within the same nuanced gray area of reality as everyone else. Claudia killed many people back in the day with her colleagues. But that was then. Now she makes wine.

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She’s not interested in stopping the daughter of Gaz, nor is she interested in holding on to his heart, given to her as a badge of honor but never used for its fuel, despite the temptation. It’s just a trinket, and she said if she ever met Chaika and came to like her, she’d hand the remains right over. That being said, she has to see what Chaika’s made of first, hence the challenge.

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Even though the trio only has to land one blow on her, Claudia doesn’t make it easy: her Gundo skills and experience outweigh everyone else’s. Fredrica ends up serving as the wild card as she always does, distracting Claudia just long enough for Chaika to finish her incantation of “The Slugger” and winning the day. We say they’re spoiled because afterwards Claudia not only gives them the remains, but tea and cakes as well. Something tells me their next target won’t be so hospitable.

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That is, if there is a next target: we check in with Chaika Bogdan and her own two supporters, having just acquired Gaz’s forearm, and Guy (who talks to all the Chaikas but doesn’t tell them what the others are doing) informs her not only of the next hero to pay a visit to, but of the existence of an island where she’ll find “something pleasing.”

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Meanwhile, Steinmetz’s lieutenant Curren shows Vivi some of Alberic’s articles, including his journal, where she also learns of something on an island called “Gaz’s Fortune.” Seeing this stuff snaps Vivi out of her funk, and she swaps out her white tunic for her battle garb, ready to get back on the Chaika case and complete Alberic’s work. It seems she’s found, or rather reconnected, with her purpose, post-Alberic. Yet at the end of the day, however she came upon the intel, she is heading to that island, just as the other two are.

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Our Chaika learns of the island because Claudia tells her one of Gaz’s officials told the punitive force about it before they executed him, like they executed everyone in the palace that day. After they leave the vineyard, Chaika has a disturbing dream about being beheaded in the throne room, which she says is a false memory…and yet we’ve seen the scar that circumnavigates her neck. So which is it?

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I guess we’ll find out. TIll then, we know at least three Chaikas are headed to that island, and you could say all of them are going there because they want to find out more about themselves. Chaika can’t simply continue the mission to find her remains anymore; not until she’s gotten answers. This marks the first time she’s changing the objective she originally hired Tooru and Akari to assist her with, changing their own purposes in the process. That’s not likely all that’s going to change.

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Finally, while Fredrica assisted in their victory over Claudia, Chaika still had to get off a good shot with her Gundo, which she was only able to do once she had summoned emotions of the necessary type and potency. She did that by fearing Tooru was going to die, suggesting to Claudia that she cares for Tooru very much indeed; something we already know. Of course, there can’t really be any progress in that area until Chaika determines who and what she is. I look forward to the shift from a hunt for remains to a journey of self-discovery.

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 01

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I believe this is the first time we see Gaz clearly.

Ah, it’s good to be easing back into the warm, tingly bath that is Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle. The show picks up pretty much where it left off, with the hunt for Gaz’s remains continuing. The heroes they’ve had to face have varied wildly on the moral spectrum, but their latest opponent, Lady Claudia, is possibly the nicest out of all of them, and is willing to give Chaika Gaz’s heart as long as she’s just giving him a funeral—but only if they can defeat her.

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Chaika has always been a show about finding a purpose. Chaika’s purpose is to bury her father. Tooru and Akari’s are to help her. After executing Gaz and paving the way for the Six Nations and peace, Lady Claudia became a different kind of hero: a Lady Eboshi-type of entrepreneurial woman who provides good jobs to veterans with nothing else to do. Her bucolic vineyard and winery is a kind of microcosm of the ideal world that was meant to be after Gaz was dealt with, and even if it isn’t quite that, it’s at least far better than the bloodshed and chaos that went on for three hundred years.

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Speaking of purpose, that of the Gilette Corps endures, even after its namesake has been slain. Even if our Chaika doesn’t intend to build a weapon that will end the peace and restore Gaz to power, we’re still not exactly sure that’s not exactly what she’s unwittingly doing, and in any case there are many other Chaikas out there who want to. It’s up to Gillette and its new Captain Nikolai to see to it that doesn’t happen.

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Which is why it’s so tricky that Vivi is, without a shadow of doubt, one of said Chaikas. Even if she denies is, the fact of the matter is, if that spectral dandy Guy pays you a visit, you’re a Chaika, The End. He’s there to make sure Chaikas carry out Gaz’s directives. Still, Vivi is still shaken to the core by the death of her love, and it doesn’t look like she’ll so easily be able to return to the live she lived before Alberic was killed.

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But back to the winery: when their first attempt to fight Claudia ends in a draw, she offers them the swanky hospitality of her establishment, plus a second chance, on the condition the three of them are able to score a victory between tomorrow’s breakfast and tea. Like Chaika, she’s a Gundo wizard, but far more skilled and experienced. Six months of hiatus have not dulled Akari’s extra-dry wit a bit, but even an all-nighter can’t improve Chaik’s incantation speed.

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I really enjoyed the decency and chivalry of Lady Claudia; it’s not every day you get such an understanding and accommodating adversary. When the hour of battle is upon them, they march out to some more awesome Final Fantasy boss music; the show’s soundtrack remains a delight in general. Tooru assures Chaika if they can’t beat her they’ll just steal it, but Chaika isn’t a saboteur, or a thief. She wants to honor Claudia’s terms if she can. Judging from the start of the battle, I wonder if the Acuras would even be able to take the heart without Claudia’s leave; she’s quite formidable.

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 12 (Fin)

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The bad guys Ricky, Layla, and Grad have a pretty firm hold on the situation at the beginning of this episode, and have the benefit of the commander of the opposing flying fortress being an absolute clod (“Advance! Fire!…Keep Firing!” Really?), but as battles rage both within and without the fortresses, that hold grows more and more tenuous as the good guys regroup and persevere.

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But here’s the thing: at no point do the bad guys ever consider changing their course. They’ve chosen their purposes and paths in life, and they’re sticking with them, even if they lead death…which they ultimately do. This only represents the midpoint of Chaika’s journey, which I’m glad about, and not just because there’s a lot more remains to find, but because the Mad Trio worked far better as a midpoint villain than a final villain.

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But while this wasn’t the end of the show, it was the end of a great many things. It was the end of Chaika being the helpless damsel-in-distress, as she takes it upon herself to take out Layla and rescue Tooru all by herself. When he protests he’s only her tool and she shouldn’t be saving him, she’s as upfront as she’s ever been to that point with her real feelings for him. They even almost get a kiss in before Akari and the others show up (they kissed a few moments previously, but it was more about the delivery of precious oxygen than romance).

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It was also the end of the Mad Trio’s Big Scheme to plunge the world back into the chaos where they once thrived. They were undone by failing to realize that there are others just as determined, and even a little more capable than they are. Take Grad, who didn’t think the opposing commander would launch a suicide attack, even though that’s what Layla just suggested they do when they reach the city.

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Layla too underestimated Chaika’s desire to escape and continue, in Layla’s words, being a tool of Gaz and his ilk. Layla cast away the purpose programmed into her and forged her own, and I can’t be entirely without sympathy considering the life she’s lived when it finally ends. As for the hellspawn Ricardo, whom she pledged the balance of her life? In the end he comes off as less a monster and more a sheltered, pitiable wretch.

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Something else ends: the life of Alberic Gilette. It’s a very quick, almost unremarkable death, but it’s a death that happens when he too is absolutely determined to stop war, even if he has to do it with his bare hands. The way the scene is shot, it almost looks like Leonardo and not Alberic is going to be the one hit by the laser. When Vivi hears he’s gone, she transforms into a Chaika. I wasn’t expecting that!

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That transformation holds a lot of promise come second season airs, because Vivi suddenly became something else. Frederica can change form and even molt into “Minifred”, but she stays Frederica. I’m not sure what the Vivi-Chaika will be like, but it looks like one more way in which Gaz and his followers set up a diverse array of tools. I also hope the budding romance between Chaika and Tooru is explored further (though I’m probably in the minority).

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Until then, we leave a tool who knows she’s a tool but is going to keep tooling around anyhow, along with her tools who know they’re tools but she’s told them they’re more than that, along with the dragoon who still needs to kill Tooru, a Vivi who’s lost her love and her…Vivi-ness, and half a Gaz body—including his head!—left to find. It’s a full plate; one I look forward to scarfing down this October.

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Final Cumulative Rating: 7.92
MAL Score: 7.62

Hitsugi no Chaika – 11

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Hitsugi no Chaika has chosen to close with an epic three-part finale, of which this is the middle part. Middle parts are tricky, as it’s hard to have two episodes in a row with no concrete resolutions (it just kind of…ended), while putting that much more pressure on the third part to deliver. Even so, I think this middle part performed admirably, providing a nice balance of action and fresh insights, some of which confirm/reinforce my ideas about the Chaikas.

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Our heroes remain at the mercy of their enemies, two of whom, Ricardo and Grad, we met last week and got a cursory idea about what makes them tick. The third girl, Layla, only revealed her duplicity at the very end, but when I saw her for the first time with her hood concealing her face, I was pretty darn sure she was another Chaika. Like our Chaika and the Red Chaika we met previously, she too is driven to collect Emperor Gaz’s remains. The difference is how they all go about it.

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Red Chaika is a warrior. Our Chaika is a damsel in distress. And Layla is, or rather, was, a seductress, using her body, wiles, and drugs to acquire remains. Once she learned she was only one of many tools with diverse talents created for the sole purpose of re-appropriating Gaz’s remains; that her heart and soul and emotions and memories were all essentially manufactured for that purpose, she quit being Chaika, joined forces with Ricardo and Grad, and now lives for her own purpose: to help them start a new war.

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War, you see, is when those two felt most content, and, more importantly, most useful. Ricardo’s bloodlust and Grad’s desire to dominate could find true and enduring expression. They’re really more over-the-top versions of Tooru and Akari, saboteurs who had nothing left to sabotage after the war. The atrocities this trio has committed condemns them to villainhood to be sure, but on one point we can feel for Layla: wanting revenge against those orchestrated this whole dastardly plot. Why should she let it continue?

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But our Chaika isn’t like her…at least, not yet. Not only is she still committed to gathering her “father’s” remains even after all Layla has said, but in doing so she’s given the Acuras a new purpose. With their flying fortress packed with magical fuel-giving corpses and drug-manipulated soldiers, Ricardo, Grad, and Layla aren’t going to be satisfied with a grand adventure. They want to set the world back on fire and dance in the flames. And by episode’s end, they’re very close to achieving that goal.

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It would seem that as tough-as-nails as Akari is, her older brother would seem to have a slight edge over her in combat ability. I say that because he manages to evade and withdraw from her attacks on numerous occasions while consciously trying not to kill her, while she’s most definitely trying to kill him. I’m also on board with Tooru teaming up with Zito and Vivi when they cross paths, saving each others’ lives in the process.

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Perhaps the best feint of the episode was the heroic arrival of Fredrica, who seemed poised to rescue Chaika when a creepy-ass human-like spider thing snuck up behind her and stabbed her in the brain. It continues the trend of the show using her sparingly; if she were always around to save the day, things would be pretty boring. It was also a promising sign that this mess won’t get wrapped up by a last-seond deus ex machina, but hard-earned with with blood, sweat, tears, and wits.

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Hitsugi no Chaika – 10

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“Fortress in the Sky”—no ambiguity in that title. It’s what we were promised, and it’s what we got, and then some. Things start out as previous episodes have: new town, buying fuel; but it’s quickly apparent that this won’t be the usual get-in-get-out smash-and-grab operation. The fortress, and the Triumvirate of Evil running it, pose the greatest threat yet to Chaika’s quest, as well as to her life and those of her retinue.

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First of all, though, the fortress: It’s pretty cool-looking, and definitely calls to mind a few of its brethren from other fantasy anime or video games, while fitting snugly into the world of Chaika, and in that world, it’s also a big deal. It’s enough to put a serious drain on magical fuel, thoroughly wilting what looked like a once-proud and prosperous city in its massive shadow.

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Then there’s the fact all the city’s young women are rounded up by the Duke’s army, building him up as some kind of old, fat, mustache-twirling pervert adding to his sky harem. But we never see that Duke, and it turns out he doesn’t even exist. Well, he might have, but his son Ricardo murdered him a while ago, along with his mother, brother and sister.

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Ricardo’s a sadistic piece of work, who is held back from dissecting a captured Akari by his wizard adviser Grad Lancia, who keeps the fortress floating. Grad’s a piece of work too, employing invasive mind manipulation magic on Akari, and, we’re pretty sure, all the other girls too, who now wear armor and fight as their army.

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The third member of this happy family of villains is Layla, who successfully plays innocent until Chaika is in her clutches, and then Grad sics the re-educated Akari on her own brother, a real “oh, shit” moment in the episode. Did we mention Fredrica, the only one who can fly the others out of there, was run through with a longsword and tossed into a pit?

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Yeah, there’s a lot going on here, and none of it good for our heroes. And hey, the show even manages to fit the Gillette Corps into this puzzle somewhat organically: Vivi and Zita had infiltrated the fortress before Tooru & Co. to gather intelligence, but their mission is quickly countermanded by the decision of the six allied nations to attack Duke Gavarni’s fortress.

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What’s better than a flying fortress? That’s right: TWO flying fortresses. I thought, for a brief time, that this would be good for Tooru & Co: in the midst of the chaos of the battling fortresses, they’ can snatch the remains and be on their way. But several factors conspire to make that easy route all but impossible.

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Chaika and Akari’s mind are in the enemy’s hands. Fredrica’s fate is unknown. And most importantly, these three villains are no pushovers, and they’re actually glad the other Fortress is headed their way, which can’t be good. Everything is going the bad guys’ way. How long can they keep it up?

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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 – 04

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A fourth member unexpectedly joins the group at the end of this episode, but before the trio becomes a quartet, they’re saved by Dominica Scola, who invites them to her manor, and everything there is a bit…off. First of all, the place is run down and deserted, save a cat, and completely filled with statues and paintings of Scoda.

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When Tooru executes Plan A—simply asking for Goz’s remains—it’s no surprise the warrior ruler refuses; judging from the state of her existence, she’s longed for a good fight for some time. But I like how he’ll do this each time: after all, the goal isn’t to get into fights, but to fulfill the wishes of the master, i.e. Chaika.

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The twist is that the ruler they meant to take the remains from died herself years ago, having fulfilled her purpose: defeating Goz wih the other seven. That left her dragoon alone and without a purpose, or rather to find a new purpose. It’s the dragoon they fight, not Dominica, and she can take many forms, from her master to a metal dragon to a cat to what must be her “default” form, a girl called Fredrika.

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Having a defined purpose in life is a recurring theme here, with Chaika’s purpose seemingly to gather her father’s remains. By hiring Tooru, she gave him a fresh purpose suited to his nature. Interestingly, Akari, who seems to hold a legitimate flame for him, wasn’t able to do this, but could only stand by as he “rotted on the vine” while she adapted to a quiet domestic life.

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By allowing (or at least tolerating) Fredrika to accompany them, they’re gaining a powerful temporary ally, and she’s gaining a new purpose: to follow Tooru and eventually kill him, presumably for his transgressions. As for us, we get to hear Saito Chiwa show off her vocal range.

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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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