So our hero Toru Acura hasn’t had a job in quite some time. Well, big shocker there. Joblessness seems to be all the rage right now in anime. And like most jobless youths in anime, our protagonist is hardly useless. He used to be a Saboteur — whatever that means — and his Iron-Blood Transformation ability imbues him with great combat prowess. How a young man like that is incapable of finding even a simple laborer’s job is beyond me, but maybe he feels as though he’s just too good for them. At one point in the episode, his attitude seems to suggest this: “Well, I haven’t worked in years… Springing this on me now is kinda…” Luckily, ouer hero manages to stumble across Chaika while he was looking for edible fruit on a mountain. Not only that, this little girl seems to have plenty of money to throw his way. All he has to do is gain her trust.
Chaika looks as though she’s been designed by committee. Diminutive? Check. In a gothic lolita-esque get-up? Check. Carries a big-ass gun to contrast her tiny size? Check. Can only communicate in quirky, staccato sentences? Check. The mysterious heir of a late emperor? Double-check. She’s even completely grayscale–… ah, but except for when she blushes. Which means making the little girl blush in this anime is even more important than ever! But hey, at least Chaika has a job for our hero. She’s looking to steal something in Count Abarth’s possession, though what that something is, she doesn’t even know. Rather, she’ll know when she gets there. Uh-huh. We, as the audience, know that she’s looking for a severed hand, but our main characters get to remain in the dark for now. So by extension, therefore, the severed hand is just a prop in the meantime. Despite its ghastly appearance, without any context, its significant is meaningless to the viewers.
Toru and Chaika will not, however, be invading Count Abarth’s estate all by their lonesome. Toru’s sister Akari will be tagging along. Oh good, a sister in an anime. You know what this means: “You have me, and yet you’re eating breakfast with an innocent little girl like her?” Then as if Toru’s food-induced silence is tantamount to an admission of guilt, Akari proceeds to smash up the restaurant in a rage. Afterwards, everyone blames Toru for his sister’s outrageously abusive behavior. The restaurant owner lectures, “…once a no-good brother, always a no-good brother. You forget about your younger sister waiting for breakfast and eat your fill without her.” Yes, he made her go nuts on him in public and destroy someone else’s property. What the fuck am I watching?
That’s the thing: I haven’t a damn clue what I’m watching any way you slice it. Chaika is the heir of the late Emperor Gaz, a.k.a. “the taboo emperor.” What does this mean? Shrug. At the same time, Chaika is “the one who will decide fate.” Right. But according to Count Abarth, who once helped lead an army against Emperor Gaz, Chaika is supposed to be dead. And what’s the importance of the severed hand? Is our diminutive loli on some quest to gather her father’s body parts or something? Beats me. Alberic Gillette of the apparently infamous Kliemann Organization is also after the same severed hand because peace of the entire continent somehow hinges upon it! Not only that, some monk under Alberic’s employ has been tailing Chaika for quite some time, but we don’t know why.
The pacing in Hitsugi no Chaika‘s first episode is fairly brisk, and the audience is never left wanting for action. Even if one of those action scenes is an irrational burst of rage from Toru’s sister. As usual, the animation in a Bones’ show is more than competent, and the aesthetics are nothing to turn one’s nose at. Even if Chaika herself is rather uninspired as a character. So y’know, I can’t say that I hate the show… buuuuuuut I can’t say that the first episode leaves me very excited for the next one either. It’s just missing something. It’s missing the glue to keep all of these elements together. Many first episodes overdo it with the exposition. By being completely devoid of it, Hitsugi no Chaika shows us that the other end of the spectrum isn’t necessarily the solution either.