Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 10 (Fin)

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Hey, endings are tough; no doubt. But there’s nothing worse than an ending that has you constantly thinking ‘Gee, this really feels like they just realized this is the last episode, and they’re rushing as fast as they can to end it.’ That’s even more disappointing considering Chaika got a second season, albeit a shortened one, to craft a satisfying, well-paced ending.

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Well, it failed. That thought above, that’s something that takes you right out of the fantasy world and into the harsh realities of anime production. I can’t imagine why the producers decided to throw all this stuff into one breathlessly-hasty, plot-stuffed episode, with practically no time to spare for characters, beyond the basic idea that Tooru and Chaika kinda like each other maybe, and that’s why they fight.

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Meanwhile, you have the same huge amount of side characters milling around, needing something to fight, so Gaz has Black Chaika, the Twins, and the other Chaika Dolls deal with Akari, Red Chaika, Vivi, etc. These battles are meaningless and over so quickly they inspire only a faint shrug. Same goes with Tooru’s sudden decision to contract with Fedrica and defeat Shin; it all happens so much there’s no time to care.

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But, yes, in case you were still unaware, Black Chaika has a nice body. Most egregious, however, is the treatment of Gaz, who is a villain so aloof and emotionless it’s easy to forget how powerful he was built up to be. He’s also so wooden in his half-assed monologues about anger, hate and love driving humanity that even Tooru tells him more than once, “Just shut up already, nobody’s listening!”

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Yup, after five hundred years and all the trouble he went through to use the Chaikas to resurrect himself and rebuild his empire, it takes less than five minutes to eliminate him, far shorter a time than Layla and her compatriots last year, who at least had some personality and edge to them. I’m really not surprised Niva abruptly abandons Gaz and flies over to Chaika so she can use her to kill him. The last we see of the Great and Powerful Gaz is him going “Huh? What?” as his Gundo splits. He can’t even muster a loud outburst.

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The ‘cost’ of defeating Gaz is kind of artificially created when Chaika uses all of her ammo randomly shooting at Gaz’s castle, even after Tooru was allowed access. Because of this, Niva has to draw from Chaika’s memories for magical fuel.

This means it’s her turn to make funny noises, then is rendered unconscious and feared dead (or worse, a vegetable) by the time Tooru gets to her, but again, there’s no time for anything to sink in; we’re shoved right into the epilogue starting with a final scene of the GIllette Corps that’s as dull as ever. And no, Vivi doesn’t get a chance to say anything to Gillette.

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The show apparently does have time for one last ‘Akari love loves her Brother’ joke, and we both her and Red Chaika in peacetime garb. As for Chaika…she’s fine…I guess? A bit weak, and she doesn’t call Tooru by name, but not dead. How much of her memory was lost? We’re not really told enough. Doesn’t Fredrica want to fight Tooru to the death? Ah, never mind.

They just stare at a blooming tree and the show cuts to the same ol’ credits as the previous nine episodes. There isn’t even so much as a ‘Thanks for Watching!’ card. I’m almost sorry I did. This was not a good ending.

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 09

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Things are a little more focused this week (though there was no way it was going to be as jumbled as last week’s), as we finally build up to the great culmination of all of Arthur Gaz’s designs: his resurrection by Black Chaika, using the parts collected by the others.

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It’s a scene the show’s been building towards for two seasons. So why did it feel a little…flat? Why was I only half-invested in all of this? ‘Chaika Fatigue’, perhaps. Also, Penultimate Episode Syndrome, where the second-to-last episode is either better or worse than the last. As our heroes mostly stand around and gawk at the mustache-twirling bad guys as the shit hits the fan, it seems like the latter.

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That’s not to say this episode was a failure on all counts. For one thing, it succeeded greatly in destroying pretty much all hope of White Chaika performing a funeral for her father, and not just because he’s not her father and he’s no longer dead. There’s also something so very wrong about Black Chaika birthing the reincarnation of her father beneath her skirts while making moaning and wailing in apparent…arousal.

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Final Fantasy-style final chapter cutscenes are notorious for the rambling speeches and grotesque transformations of the Big Bad(s) as the good guys stew in the corner with clenched fists. In that regard, this episode succeeds admirably. Before you start fighting the final boss, the game wants to make sure you hate him as much as possible, but also learn his twisted worldview. And the simple reveal of Young Gaz — who looks a lot like Guy, not accidentally — had an understated awe about it.

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Speaking of awe, Neo-Gaz wastes no time killing Hartgen (with a casual but lethal one-word incantation — “Pierce”). Harty was just a pawn, after all, whose power, clout, and charisma were used to gather both the Chaikas and the masses of bloodthirsty warriors. War only appeals to Gaz in that it is the state of civilization that nets him the most powerful emotions and memories which make the magic he feasts upon. He’s less a megalomaniac and more a force of nature at this point: an all-consuming storm.

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And Chaika? Not only was she never his daughter (he has none), but “Chaika” is merely the term for the magical technique he used to resurrect himself. Pawn, tool, technique, doormat — however Chaika wishes to call it, as far as Gaz is concerned her task is complete.

After destroying the flying fortress Red Herring with his personal Gundo Niva Lada, he uses her to activate a heretofore dormant fortress in orbit. Space Fortress. Now we’re talking. Where the heck to the good guys go from here? I don’t know, but the fact Gaz and his underlings are too arrogant to bother killing them all immediately proves they have a chance.

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 08

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How fitting that on the eve of a holiday centered around stuffing yourself,  we get perhaps the most overstuffed episode of Chaika ever. Seriously, there was a lot going on, and while the episode made an admirable attempt to keep everything interesting, it couldn’t keep some parts from feeling like padding.

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Compared to, say, Akame ga Kill!, which has been progressively killing off characters so it can focus on fewer and fewer, Chaika has kept everyone alive with just two episodes left, and so has to find a place for them, just as one has to find a place for every thanksgiving dish on the table. Its one major death – Gillette’s – was a fake-out causing more of a “huh” than a “wow”.

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Not to mention it chooses this time to finally reveal who the “Head Chaika” is, as Zita, Leo, and Matthaus interview one of Hartgen’s retainers. It seems like Gaz had reason to smile after Hartgen killed him, because henceforth Hartgen started acting just like Gaz, as if he was a man possessed.

Hartgen isn’t exactly Gaz re-incarnate, as he needs Head Chaika to show up (the evil Chaika’s are always the most scantily clad) and give him the idea for the martial arts tournament. Killing Gaz did something to Hartgen to change him into a pliable, warmongering pawn for Head Chaika to manipulate.

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Hartgen wants to be Gaz II, and so uses the tournament as (flimsy) cover to raise an army, hoping the Six Nations will react too slowly. Two ministers do deploy the Flying Fortress Cima to Hartgen; it’s sure to play a role in the near future.

In the mean time, Akari and Fredrica find a room with dozens if not hundreds of coffins just like Chaika’s…and then they’re ambushed by Chaika Puppet Ninjas. Yes, that is a thing that was in this episode, because everything in creation was in this episode.

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Meanwhile, the guards arrest the various pairs one by one and send them into a subterranean arena, where Black Chaika and her twin sisters sit and watch their own mini-tournament, betting on who will come out the victor.

First, Vivi and Nikolai are forced to fight Dark Gillette, something that’s initially very hard for Vivi to do because she loves the guy and has no idea what’s going on. But in the end, when Gillette prepares to kill Nikolai, she takes GIllette’s sword hand off with Niko’s greatsword, in a pretty badass display.

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The shock of his injury apparently brings Gillette’s memories back, and it seems he’ll keep living, though why is anyone’s guess. Next, Akari and War Maiden Mode- Fredrica are stopped by Shin, then Fred’s locked in a magical barrier and riddled with arrows, continuing the tradition of neutralizing the overpowered ally in crunch time (though serves them right for not looking up).

White Chaika and Tooru are up next, forced to fight Red Chaika and David (and winning pretty dang easily, when all’s said and done. When David is wounded, Chaika forfeits the fight and runs off in tears, rather than let her comrade come to further harm.

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Of course, they’re only Tooru’s appetizer; the entree is Shin, who shows up with the captured Akari and Fredrica. White Chaika is jumped by guards, forcing Tooru to fight Shin alone, and he gets schooled by his mentor. With that, the episode kinda fizzles out, without showing us what’s for dessert.

There were a couple cool moments, and I liked the arena format for the gauntlet of boss battles, but at the end of the day this episode had way too much squeezed into it, and strained and groaned under the weight of it all.

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 07

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This episode had a workmanlike quality to it, like the buildup to the final act of a JRPG-style fantasy/adventure story that it is. One does not simply skip to the final boss (whom I presume is Hartgen) without first carving through a considerable number of dungeon grunts.

That being said, Tooru and Akari actually do try to skip ahead, but encounter the mini-boss Shin, someone they’re not prepared to fight just yet. In a refreshing twist on the “students must face their mentor” trope, they don’t particularly care about having to fight him eventually, because they’re saboteurs, and are mentally prepared to fight former friends or allies if they’re working under different clients…that’s what the job requires.

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It’s also confirmed what King Hartgen is after: basically, he’s tired of the tedious peace, and regrets ever killing Gaz. He wants to return the continent to a state of war where he can have a Purpose again. One could say “Hey man, you do have a purpose…preserving the peace you fought for!” but he’s a warrior first and foremost, and a warrior needs war.

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To that end, he has gathered tens of thousands of like-minded warriors without a war to his principality to fight in his tournament. Perhaps the competition is to thin the herd and net him only the fiercest fighters for his army of continental conquest, but there seems to be more to it than that, and that has a lot to do with the fact three…no, two and-a-half Chaikas are among those assembled.

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I will give Hartgen this: he already has the hearts of those he’s invited. Even though many if not most of them will fall in the course of the battle royale, they’re still gratified for the chance to prove themselves and do what they were born and trained to do. Back in his castle, Guy presents him with Gaz’s Fortune: Niva Lada, and we learn that the Black Chaika twins have a third Chaika sister who seems to have more power than them. She instructs the guards to capture the Chaikas who have come, hoping to stage a little Chaika battle royale of her own parallel to the battle proper.

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Inevitably, two of the rival parties were going to cross paths, and that turns out to be Harley Quinn Vivi/Nikolai and Chaika/Tooru. The former warns the latter that they’re going to be arrested when they’re done their business here, but for this brief scene the two groups are at a truce and exchange information.

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O HAI, Grown-up Fredrica! Haven’t seen her in a while; she’s pretty cool looking. She and Akari are responsible for finding a way to get to Hartgen’s share of remains and stealing them. But let’s be honest here: Fredrica’s true mission is not to get stabbed in the head this time!

As the battle goes on, the other Six-Nation rulers squabble over how to proceed. One faction is eager to fall right into Hartgen’s trap and start a war so he doesn’t have to, but cooler heads deferring to Gillette Squad’s findings prevail for the time being. Frankly, I don’t know how a war is going to be prevented at this point…but that’s what the last three episodes are for!

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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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