Hitsugi no Chaika – 07-12 Review
That, technically, still makes Toru a murderer by trade, I think.
There are a LOT of series these series that will get a second season later on. Well, or just a second half if you want to be nitpicky. These days a second season in the anime-industry just means a certain animation-studio couldn’t be bothered to invest enough money into a project to finance a 2-cour-series. And Hitsugi no Chaika certainly would’ve been one of those series that would’ve been better without a season-long break before its ‘second season’ would start. Also, no series should turn girl-characters into moe-blobs just for shits and giggles. White Chaika didn’t need to talk like that and after 12 episodes the series STILL hasn’t found a way to explain to me why the hell it would portray a female character like that without taking such a thing REALLY serious!
Giving a story an overarching theme is a great way to create cohesion. Real life offers often an unkind reminder that most of what we do isn’t some worldchanging act towards a personal triumph. It’s all too easy to look at the world and find oneself despairing over the futility to find personal relevance measured by such a large scale. Fiction offers an easy escape for such existential fears but there’s a cheap way of dealing with this and there’s an elegant way. It’s all too easy to just create a protagonist who is relevant, powerful and knows to navigate life in a way we would all like to do. But that would be nothing more than a cheap illusion. The far more elegant way is to give a story a theme that gives meaning to events. Instead of abandoning reality for some cheap wish-fulfillment, a story should find a way to create a reality that makes sense. While science despairs over the issue of making sure that nothing in reality ‘just happens’ and drowns us with answers that always come closer to the whole truth while getting more complicated at the same time, it’s only in fiction where a theme can give you a simple answer to why anything happens.
The series’ theme of having a purpose is possibly the biggest concern of its storytelling. Every episode tries to make sure to somewhat talk about this theme in some fashion or have the characters talks about it. You don’t need to look much further than with the two Toru and Akari, the two Saboteur-siblings. Their whole motivation seems to be having a purpose. It’s strange how this series when it comes to finding a purpose doesn’t seem to be primarily concerned with doing the right thing. Rather than leaving the war behind in order to find something better to do, this series believes that everyone who did something in the war wouldn’t know what to do with themselves after the war. It’s a weird way to look at the effects of war, that’s for sure. Therefore everyone except Chaika is scrambling around in search for just anything that’s worth working for. Life is treated like a labyrinth that can only be traversed with a direction to go towards and having a purpose is that direction.
Technically that ‘duke’ could’ve used any living being as a resource, but sure… let’s victimize ONLY women and girls once more. Females are just more appropriate as victims who get dehumanized as fuel for a flying fortress…
But it’s strange how often that purpose is found externally rather than it being simply an independent decision. There’s an episode of bandits pretending to be a rebellious faction calling itself the “Neo Gaz Empire”. Them getting by as bandits was them being lost, though and the episode ultimately ends with Chaika somewhat convincing them to be more serious about rebuilding the Gaz Empire (naturally in a more peaceful way). The important thing to note here is the way it needed this external catalyst for these characters to find this purpose. That way, the search for a purpose also strangely implies a certain need for guidance. A real purpose is doing something in the service of something greater or at least something that’s perceived as very important, the series seems to think.
Toru often, for example, states how he won’t betray his master. There’s a sense of absoluteness to how purposes are approached once they’re found. On the other hand you have that chevalier Gilette who hasn’t found a purpose and struggles to commit to a cohesive plan of action. He neither hunts White Chaika down no matter what it takes nor will he openly support them. In his case he’s just following orders without actively pursuing them. And the way he deals with the sightings of Chaika is always characterized by uncertainty.
The Council of Six Nations is also marred by a lack of purpose now that the war against the Gaz Empire has ended. And there’s a strange volatile atmosphere in these council-sessions as if everyone is just waiting for a new conflict to erupt that they can turn their attention to. At that point, it does start to feel like the series is kinda belaboring the point of its theme a bit too much. Every character seems to be obsessed about having a purpose and when there isn’t one that character will behave like an idiot or a douchebag.
But things get interesting again when one looks at Chaika. Now here’s a character who really doesn’t need to obsess about the whole purpose-shtick because she already has a very solid purpose. And except White Chaika nobody’s really happy about that purpose. Chaika is the character who instead of lacking a purpose, got one forced on her and all the different Chaikas show off different ways how one could respond to that. Also, what’s interesting to note here: that purpose originated from an external source once again.
The characters are fine overall, though. Frederica could’ve been a whole lot worse and there’s a general sense of modesty. Well, at least compared to how annoying and hypermoe the characters could’ve turned out to be, I guess. White Chaika’s speaking disability certainly makes it hard for her to engage in dramatic dialogues with other characters. I know, it would’ve been cheesy if the story had found some way to restore her speaking ability already but her moe-blob-talk is too much of a hindrance at this point. It’s all fine and dandy for episodic adventures where she just has to utter some throw-away-lines that get the necessary message across, but the more serious the story and plot get, the more out-of-place is her speaking-disability. And if they had committed to making her a mentally disabled person who, in order to defend herself with her magic, had to basically lobotomize herself at some point, then White Chaika could’ve become a very tragic, compelling character. Instead, though, the disability is more of an annoying gimmick. Also, this emerging romance between Toru and Chaika doesn’t make that moe-blob-stuff any easier to stomach.
Gilette’s troupe of talking-heads was kinda weird, though, I have to admit. The whole first season treated Gilette and his underlings like this group of characters that’s somehow very important to the story and the plot, each episode would have at least one scene with those guys. But for most of the season they only dispensed exposition, talked over story-details the audience was already aware of and occasionally popped up in the White-Chaika-plot-line as inessential side-characters. Gilette also had a problem with finding a purpose, of course, but this first season considered them SO important, it’s strange to look back on the season and realize that they were more a plot-device than an assembly of characters I could actually give a shit about. Their role within the story definitely needs to change drastically in the second season.
Yeah, hunger… that’s a really sneaky fella, right? It’s not like your body would noisily remind you if you haven’t been eating anything for a dozen hours or so.
Also, this first season, shows off a remarkable ability to stage action-sequences. Rather than just throwing flashy turds at the audience to dazzle them, this series takes its time to create a very strong sense of place for the action-scenes. And by using flying fortresses, jungles, waterfalls and whatnot as locations and have characters with various abilities present, there’s a great deal of variation to these action-scenes as well.
At some point, the question becomes, though: Is having a purpose good or bad? After this first season it really doesn’t seem like the series has an answer ready for this question. But it was all the series could think about with its story and plot so the series ends on a rather sour, unresolved note theme-wise.
It gets even worse once it becomes clear that there really isn’t that much to the plot of this first season except to belabor the point of its theme. The way this series obsesses over its theme it becomes almost introspective in the way it reflects on its own plot, trying to find the answer to the question its theme poses. All the while the plot stagnates and seems unable to move on in a dramatic sense. And because of that, it’s difficult to summarize what exactly has been achieved by the Gilette’s troupe and White Chaika at this point. It all ends up looking like a lot of tedious plotting with an unknown destination.
- I feel like the final arc of this first season was weirdly unaware of how horrible the shown events were. For fuck’s sake! Someone had powered a flying fortress by kidnapping a couple hundred young women and keeping them barely alive enough to feel the pain of their torture! And during the final conflict a stray shot from the two flying fortresses obliterated a whole battalion of soldiers! It really felt like the series didn’t have an appropriate response ready for those events.
- Romantic subplots are more of a nuisance than anything else in most cases… and Hitsugi no Chaika is no exception. Apparently Toru is REALLY in love with White Chaika. The whole embarrassing hallucination-fog-sequence was hardly subtle, I would say. And seriously, fuck this! There’s NOTHING romantic about the relationship between Toru and Chaika.
- I simply hazard a guess here and say that the lady-love of Gilette turns out to be a Chaika as well…? The series wasn’t clear about it but it certainly seemed like that. If that’s the case… it’s a really stupid plot-development. Really? The point of the Chaikas has been made! I don’t give a shit whatever emo-drama starts the career as a ‘Chaika’.
- Also, Frederica’s behavior within the flying fortress was VERY close to being useless. Seriously, I don’t give a fuck whether she’s practically immortal! Why the hell would ANYONE just stay around and be (more or less) sneakily killed TWICE within the same fucking arc?! Okay, I get it, that nothing of this has really threatened her, but that doesn’t mean she should just stand around and let herself be killed a couple times!