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!
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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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