Kokkoku – 07

Shouko’s brother Yosuke is alive after all, if profoundly malnourished. Shouko is overjoyed, and watching her embrace her long-dormant kin leads Juri to embrace Makoto just as tightly when he’s released. Mr. Eyelash Spots, AKA Sako, wants to join the Yukawas as an ally, if they’ll have him. I guess he’s had his fill of all this Stasis shit. He’s not alone.

For once, “Great Lord” Sugawa and the Yukawas have something in common: they want to seal the Stasis spell. However, Sugawa, who had the sacred manuscripts of the Genuine Love Society researched, determining that they were all written by the same person over 500 years, wants to follow the founder’s path and live a much longer time.

While Sugawa discusses his plans to let the outsider Shiomi succeed him as Great Lord, one of his disciples—a true believer—is eavesdropping, and is so often the case with these kind of organizations, a leader like Sugawa must always beware of those so committed they’ll put the Cause before its leader.

There are only four true believers left, plus one hired muscle, Shiomi, and Sugawa. They are all who remain to oppose the Yukawas. Once Juri changes into some new duds (which she’s also now wearing in the OP) the plan is laid out: she’ll expel the seven remaining opponents, leave Stasis and seal the spell.

Takafumi is the one member of the Yukawas who doesn’t want the spell sealed, and thinks the others are fools for wanting to do so. But the Master Stone ends up in the hands of the disciple who believes Sugawa betrayed them, and the handover is tense.

Sugawa tries to smooth things over by saying Shiomi will only be a temporary arrangement, but his disciple knows what he heard and has already made his choice and draws his blade. Sugawa then gives his “last sermon”, asking what it’s like to be completely controlled by a specter.

I imagine he’s going to be able to proceed even if his disciples try to interfere. It will fall to the Yukawas to stop him and reclaim their lives.

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Kokkoku – 06

Damn, this was going to be my “last chance” episode that would decide whether I would drop Kokkoku, and what do you know, the story finally shows some signs of life! Granted, it does so in an episode full of death, starting with the guy Tsubasa is fighting. Tsubasa basically suffocates him as he struggles.

It’s an ugly, nasty business that makes Tsubasa, who can’t find Makoto after killing someone, start to despair. Thankfully Juri, Gramps and Takafumi encounter him before he turns into a Handler, and Juri’s expulsion of the jellyfish/specter stops the transformation.

So Tsubasa is fine, but now Stalled. Then Majima appears, saying she has the kid (who is with the crotchety guy who amusingly hates kids) and wants to deal. When Juri hears Majima’s terms, she wonders why she didn’t just come and talk to them rather than causing so much chaos.

Majima doesn’t have a good reason, beyond perhaps wanting at the time to give the Yukawas a taste of revenge for what they did to her family. Juri will help her try to retrieve her family, but she won’t forgive her for doing things the way she did.

Majima’s plan is to summon three Heralds, but she can’t summon the necessary murderous intent to do so. The summoning falls to Takafumi, who is just experimenting whether he can do so on a whim, and can. Talk about coming through with a hidden power in the clutch!

In any case, the Herald/Handler appears, and Gramps works overtime transporting himself and Takafumi out of its deadly reach, while Juri jumps onto it from above and begins expelling the three jellyfish within the body.

This makes for decent, novel action, with parts of the Handler sloughing off into clouds of wood, sand, and dust, but those clouds eventually freezing along with the rest of Stasis.

Unfortunately, while Juri released the jellyfish from Majima’s parents and brother, she can’t bring them back to life; only their semi-mummified bodies remain. Majima solemnly takes them into her arms and dusts off their faces.

So what’s next for this bunch of misfits? Will Majima honor the agreement and return Makoto? What about Sugawa? And how many underlings could possibly still be running around to serve him?

Kokkoku – 05

At last we see Majima Shouko’s side of the story of the time she and Juri last crossed paths. She was riding in a car with her mother, father, and brother (the latter two being violent dicks) when the Yukawas activate Stasis.

Overwhelmed by despair at their sudden predicament, one by one her family is surrounded by tentacles and dust and floats away, leaving her alone. She finally meets another moving soul in young Juri, who is so upset about her dog dying she expels Shouko on sight.

Juri’s goal, which is different from Sagawa’s, is to retrieve her family from Stasis, if she can. She believes Juri’s ability may be the only way to do that, and manages to get one of Sagawa’s men to side with her in exchange for sex at a later date. Suddenly Juri teleports in and expels that guy, leaving Shouko with just one guy.

There’s a fleeting opportunity for Shouko and Juri to talk, woman to woman, but it doesn’t happen, because there’s no trust on either side. So Shouko and the eye-spot dude go to Sagawa, who again uses a sacrifice in order to summon not one or two but three separate Heralds, which Shouko believes to be her lost family members.

Shouko seems to refine her goal on the spot to simply recover her family’s bones, not get them back alive, which while noble, is simply not as pressing or compelling as the situation of the Yukawa’s, who are all still alive and haven’t given in to despair.

Juri and Gramps manage to rescue Takafumi, despite his resisting when they come to get them (Sagawa apparently set him up outside like bait with a big tin of chocolate). The bickering Yukawas are immediately surrounded, and Gramps teleports them away, but it’s going to be another chase. Yippee.

Finally, Tsubasa and Makoto make it home, but their tail gets there first and takes the note Juri left for her brother. Thankfully, Tsubasa can sense something isn’t right just in timeto save Makoto from getting stabbed.

Somebody ends up stabbed in the end, but as the fabric the knife goes through is the color of the towel Tsubasa was using as a shield, we don’t know who yet.

While it’s good to know more about Shouko’s motivations, things continue to move at a snail’s pace, while the cat-and-mouse game through the drab, lifeless Stasis has long since grown stale.

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 – 05

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Early on, this episode threatened to deep six itself by freeing the good guys almost immediately thanks to appallingly bad guards, who are basically just like fuzzy stormtroopers in terms of effectiveness. It also cut too often to the horrendously dull, genetic evil Izhmash who orders executions like I order cheese fries and is constantly berating his staff, though considering how poorly they perform, he’s not outside his rights to do so.

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However, releasing the Chaikas, and Tooru, early, is a blessing in disguise. First of all, we can justify it with the simple fact that as tough as these mass-produced demi-humans and Fayla are, our heroes are pretty damn tough too. They’ve been through their share of toughs spots before. While it doesn’t quite excuse how lame Izhmash isI can buy that a highly isolated and reclusive research facility would overestimate the power of their heretofore untested creations against a battle-hardened group of prisoners.

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But back to our friends’ early release: it forces Red Chaika to work with White (White probably doesn’t have a problem working with Red) to escape. This results in some priceless dialogue between the two, both of them speaking weirdly like they do. White Chaika also frees the doll-like Niva Lada from her restrains and brings her along, which proves crucial later in the episode. (Fun note: Trabant, Bogdan, and Lada Niva are all brands Eastern European cars. Not to mention the Acura siblings…)

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It also gives Chaika the opportunity to really let its hair down and play with all the pieces it’s set up the last couple episodes, all RPG-style. The allies are all separate at first, but gradually unite into a mega-party of Tooru, Akari, Chaika, Red Chaika, Niva Lada, David, Selma, Kiril and Ursula (the two scorned demi-human guards). It’s like a big party on the secret island with past enmities being put aside so they can all focus on their common goal: surviving.

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But as ineffectual as the mass-produced Fayla and demi-human troops are, there’s still a crapton of them, and the group starts to get fatigued from fighting off wave after wave of them. That’s where we’re force to introduce another Star Wars similie. All the beasts they’re fighting are being controlled form one central location: a tower that is essentially a giant Gundo. Take out the tower, and the droid Fayla army will shut down.

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When Chaika’s own Gundo can’t penetrate the tower’s defensive magic, Niva Lada assesses the situation and reveals her true form: a gigantic, awesome-looking uber-Gundo that blasts the lame villain to smithereens. Obviously, Izhmash was not prepared for this level of resistance…which explains why the island was concealed from the outside world by magic!

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One thing I didn’t like: when asked about what will become of all the freed Fayla and demi-humans, Kiril just says they’ll eventually just die. Why can’t the beasts just live out peaceful lives on the island, no longer chained by the big Gundo tower? Well, because they were born and bred to be hunters and killers, and I guess they’re not capable of evolving beyond that narrow purpose.

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Chaika, on the other hand, is, even if she’s confused and doesn’t know what to do next. In this, she and Red Chaika differ: Red (at least outwardly) refuses to believe Izhmash’s lies; but even if he was telling her his truth, that truth is worthless to her; she’ll find her own truth. She’ll determine her own purpose. And so must our Chaika. Like Red, she’s not alone, and has friends (and a powerful new weapon in Niva) that give her far more options than base Fayla.

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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 – 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: 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 – 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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