Hitsugi no Chaika – 05/06 Review
Well, ain’t that a Samaritan way of thinking. He sure must love being on the losing side with such great principles.
I haven’t been the biggest fan of Hitsugi no Chaika so far. One thing is definitely that those characters at the center of the story are way too young in my opinion to deliver melancholic tirades about being left without a purpose after a war. And another thing was that the story was keeping its cards too close to its chest refusing to reveal too much about the story thereby making it impossible for any real stakes to appear. Well, that is… until now. And it definitely paid off.
No, not the movie from 1988 with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. I mean, if one would use that definition of ‘twins’ basically everybody is each other’s twin. No, I’m talking about the kind that makes you see double. Yep, turns out Chaika does have more family left after the death of her evil dad – and they are all just like her. They are even all called Chaika and have the same moe-blob affliction. That evil emperor sure knows how to fuck up naming his children. And they all look alike! I mean, talk about lack of imagination, right?
Anyway, turns out not everybody is sees eye-to-eye in Chaika’s family. Well, the eyes of her father are in some glass-jar so nobody really sees eye-to-eye with those. But as for the rest, apparently being a moe-blob doesn’t stop you from being a murderous asshole. And this Chaika even loves red while the more innocent Chaika loves white. Guess subtlety doesn’t run in the family.
So, there’s the Chaika who wants another war on one side and the dopey moron on the other. The red Chaika really makes a strong case for the improvements a new war would bring to the job-market but seems like Saboteur-boy likes protecting damsels more than just running around slaying dragons.
Nothing screams competence more than the panicked cry for military force, doesn’t it?
Fantasy offers the chance to create a world where the supernatural is real, the kind of world a little or very different from our own or a past version of it. This may sound obvious but especially animes often don’t fully make use of the weird, unusual and/or unthinkable. There’s always the concern of being removed too far from our reality while also feeling the need to make sense. In a time where science is the most dominant “religion” we have ‘So, there’s this dude with a beard up in the sky doing shit.’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. The audience will want an explanation that makes sense to them. That doesn’t mean it would make sense in our world but just like science there needs to be some sort of proof that things work in a certain way that can be explained. And that’s okay, one can still have a great fantastical world while keeping it within reasonable limits. Brandon Sanderson’s novels with their complicated magic-systems come to mind for example or even simple stuff like Harry Potter’s array of various spells that work in certain ways.
But even with stuff like that, there are certain stereotypes at this point. Probably 60% (or even more) of the fantasy-novels from last year were Tolkien-esque in some way. Stereotypes exist for stuff that should be unthinkable in our reality. It certainly shows how established the Fantasy-Genre (or Sci-Fi for that matter) is in the world of literature at this point. But it also means that stuff like magic, dragons, elves and such has become stale in some ways. Nobody who has read his share of Fantasy-novels will gasp in wonder at the mere mention of a flying carpet or a giant. So, fantastical plot-twists aren’t really that easy to write without trying to reintroduce this element of the unthinkable. Sure, there’s also the other solution with making stuff grittier like Joe Abercrombie and George R.R. Martin do for example in their novels but most animes don’t go into that direction anyway, so for now whatever. The point is that Hitsugi no Chaika has finally started to get its story going for real. And it’s all thanks to a really good fantastical plottwist.
The plottwist had actually already been telegraphed in the 4th episode when Prince Shiny-Hair and his loyal servants had talked about the futile efforts to catch Chaika. In fact they had apprehended someone claiming to be Chaika multiple times since the end of the war but in every case it was concluded that that person was not the real Chaika. And the conclusion at that point was that Chaika must be a pretty elusive individual. And here comes the unthinkable part of the supernatural into play because with Fantasy there’s of course another explanation: That they all have been Chaika. I had my suspicions that they were clones but what I didn’t expect was for those clones to also have different abilities and different personalities. Maybe it’s due to external influences they experienced since their activation or maybe all those Chaikas represent different ways of accomplishing the mission due to their different thinking. The only part left to explore is of course how exactly the dead Emperor (who I guess the mastermind is)made sure all his remains would end up with one Chaika in the same place instead of many Chaikas trying to hold onto their remains while keeping them from the other Chaikas. Well, anyway, it was a good plottwist and it finally brought some momentum and impact to the story.
And for the first time the tiresome tune of “I need a purpose.” made sense to be there in the story with the 5th and 6th episode actually delivering quite a good thematic coherence all across the board. The whole existential debate of what purpose these ex-soldiers have now has become an actual conflict and not just another whiny tirade more suited for old drunken soldiers (although I still think older characters would’ve sold that theme better). The two episodes deal foremost with the two Saboteur-siblings and White Chaika encountering Red Chaika and her two guardians. And it turns out that Red Chaika is on quite the revenge-trip and seems way more competent, mentally and physically, than White Chaika. Well, naturally Red Chaika is still sort-of a moe-blob. But the point is that the issue isn’t whining about not having a purpose anymore, the real question becomes now what purpose is the right one. And it also helps that the theme is coherently used with all the elements of the story as Prince Shiny-Hair has this talk with one of his lackeys about what he wants to do. And Shiny-Hair wonders whether a return of the war would be so bad, after all he would’ve a purpose again but his lackey argues that settling down and raising a family is just as good a purpose, maybe even a better one. Sure, it’s not anything you need to torture your brain over to know who’s supposed to be the good guy in this argument but it shows that the series has a theme and knows how to weave it into the story giving it more impetus beyond simply saving the world and kicking evil’s ass.
What he’s actually saying here is that White Chaika is too stupid to do anything else but that.
The action-scenes are still very entertaining with some thought put into them. It’s not just flashy effects turning a serious conflict into a fireworks-exhibition, there’s a nice emphasis on teamwork and showing the interaction between the combatants and the environment they are in. Another thing that’s quite important and sometimes gets ignored by crappier series is making sure that when fighting happens it’s clear where each character is in relation to the others. Space is a really important thing in battle-scenes that’s there to bring some structure into these often-times frantic scenes.
I still don’t like the way Dragoon-girl is behaving now. It’s completely different from when she was looking like her dead master and I definitely preferred her as the stoic warrior she was before she became this little girl but luckily she’s not too annoying. In fact, it’s good to see that most of the characters in these two episodes found ways to be useful depending on their objectives. Especially battle-scenes can rely on team-work as mentioned but it’s also about no character hogging the spotlight outside of battle. There’s actual dialogue going on between the characters that isn’t relying on one of them being right and correcting those who are wrong (I mean Mahouka with that, of course…). Also great is that when Saboteur-boy is having second thoughts about which Chaika to support he’s not going into some sort of angsty catatonic state because he can’t handle doubt. He questions himself, thinks about it and reaches a decision. And the story made sure to show the train of thought, the doubts and what his ultimate decision is. That’s enough! There’s really no need to turn into a drama-queen over ever conflicted decision à la Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Another great characterization-choice was to emphasize that the guardians of Red Chaika, while willing to threaten White Chaika and her guardians, aren’t just evil monsters. They’re more like an alternative version of the Saboteur-siblings but not in any way that makes them just some lazily constructed mirror-images of the Saboteur-siblings. They’re very much individual characters but with a different point of view on which Chaika is right.
I’m still not quite sure what the point of Prince Shiny-Hair and his entourage is supposed to be… except to join and support the White Chaika at some point in the future, I assume. They didn’t really do that much of importance until now except to deliver exposition and offer chances for thematically relevant dialogues. For example, that romantic sub-plot of that one tsundere…? Don’t give a shit. It’s obvious where this is going and it’s really better to just get it over with. That way the series can do something more interesting with that than showing her attempts to confess foiled by her shyness and random stupid accidents. Maybe Prince Shiny-Hair is supposed to take over the throne? I mean, watching this scene of the Council of Six Realms (or whatever it was called), there was a king-figure there who was just snoring through the whole debate. And really, whenever there’s an incompetent king on the throne, you can bet that most of the time some bastard or rightful heir is close by to be the better king, which he becomes with the heroes’ help of course.
Delivering a thematically coherent arc relying on a really good plot-twist the series reaches a high-point story-wise. And thanks to the still very good action-scenes there is hardly a boring moment in those last two episodes.
Episodes-Rating: 5th Episode: 8.0/10 6th Episode: 8.0/10