Hitsugi no Chaika Ep. 2: The one hand to rule them all

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For sure, this is a pretty action-packed episode. Our trio goes from defeating Count Abarth, to escaping his estate, to escaping Alberic Gillete through the streets of some town, and finally, this all comes to a head in a duel between Toru and Nikolai, one of Gillette’s henchmen. In terms of a climax to the just the action itself, the confrontation between Toru and Nikolai is definitely impressive. Bones knows its way around the choreography of a fight, which is something we could even see in an anime like Noragami if only in the last couple of episodes. More specifically, the studio does a good job of making the episode’s climactic fight visually comprehensible. In lazier anime, two characters will go to battle and then eventually one of them will get the upper hand and win. You can’t really tell how this actually happens though. The good guy just tends to get his ass kicked around until the moment of truth comes. Then out of nowhere, he turns the fight around completely and wins.

In the duel between Toru and Nikolai, however, you can see clearly that our two combatants have very different fighting styles. Toru uses his quickness and agility whereas Nikolai relies on his brute strength. This isn’t just visually conveyed through their sizes differences, though. The actual choreography of the fight itself does its part in getting this information across to the audience. Unlike in lazier shows, both characters aren’t fast and both characters aren’t strong. In other shows, you can never really tell who’s faster or stronger than the other person without the anime flat out telling us. In this duel, however, the audience can come to their own conclusion by watching the way Toru jumps and flips around the bigger opponent or how Nikolai uses his strength advantage to fling our hero across the bridge with one grab. In essence, our fighters aren’t just visually distinctive in their character designs, but their moves are visually distinctive. That, to me, is the one impressive thing about Hitsugi no Chaika.

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What brings the episode down is when the characters pause to talk. The story itself still isn’t very exciting. The way the action built up to the confrontation between Toru and Alberic, you’d think that the latter would have something mind-blowing to tell the audience. Like finally, someone’s going to give all of this action some context so that we can understand our characters’ motivations! Don’t get me wrong. I like action. I’m more than happy to not sit through a bunch of boring, world-building episodes in which the characters drone on and on about the boring details of distant people and distant places. But nevertheless, you still need a bit of context to grease the wheel, so to speak. Action for action sake doesn’t work unless we’re talking about some Crank level of stupid exhilaration. But unfortunately, Alberic doesn’t really tell us anything that we either didn’t really know or couldn’t have guessed beforehand.

Case in point, Alberic makes a big deal out of the fact that Chaika is the daughter of the late Emperor Gaz, a.k.a. “the taboo emperor.” Sure, this is technically new information to our hero, but it’s hardly new information for the audience. We already knew this to be the case right from the very start of the series. Alberic goes on to say that there are still supporters of the late taboo emperor, and they might want to use Chaika to revive the old regime. This, on the other hand, is technically new information for both the audience and Toru, but as I’ve said above, it’s not exactly something we couldn’t have guessed at. Emperor Gaz’s severed hand is a source of great magical power? Well, sure, I’d imagine that such an artifact could and would potentially disturb the peace. After more than fifteen minutes of straight action, I guess I just expected the story to build up to something major.

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Still, I think the biggest problem currently for the anime is our characters’ lack of compelling motivations. After being told that war may come about as a result of him aiding Chaika, Toru’s only words are “That suits me fine. Bring war again, huh? That sounds good.” Sure, the guy hasn’t had a job in a while. Sure, he probably wants to side with the cute, pale loli over a bunch of hostile strangers. But then again, he hardly knows Chaika all that well either. So for a guy to just embroil himself in the middle of a serious conflict like this — a conflict that may bring about war, no less — I don’t know, his simple motivations seem like a head-scratcher to me. I can’t imagine our hero is serious in wanting to bring war back, so like Chaika, he’s continuing to play things close to the chest. But where does he intend to go with this? What does he intend to accomplish? What exactly are his goals?

Akari’s motivations are even less fathomable. Since Toru will help Chaika out indefinitely, she’ll tag along with him too for no other reason than that they’re related. I guess it’s just hard for me to imagine that two supposed individuals would have nothing more to their lives that they can just drop it all like a rock one day in order to help out a strange girl they’ve only just met. In fact, the level of trust that they have in Chaika in such a short amount of time is so remarkable that it may as well border on naivete. Maybe we can’t trust Alberic and the Kliemann Organization, but why would we able trust Chaika either? After all, she was rather mum about the fact that she’s related to the late taboo emperor. And c’mon, who just accepts the idea that the girl only wants to give her father a proper burial?

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To make things clear, I’m not saying that Chaika is for sure lying, but there’s no reason to be this trustful with the girl. We’ve even seen from the first episode that she is somehow “the one who will decide fate.” I would not believe the girl’s words at face value. Even if I imagine myself to be in Toru’s shoes, I’d still think the girl is playing things rather close to her chest, and as a result, I’d be quite wary about being under her employ. Unless, of course, she has promised the siblings riches, but we don’t see any such agreement being made. In fact, all Chaika ever carries around on her is a small pouch of money. Compared to Toru and Akari, I’m sure she’s quite well off, but I can’t imagine that a wandering deposed princess has a lot of capital to burn here.

I think the show is a decent time waster for now; the visuals and the fight scenes are worth a second look. But like with the first episode, I’m still not too terribly excited to watch Hitsugi no Chaika every week. After two viewings, it just hasn’t quite hit the mark. I’ll grant that we haven’t hit the 3-episode smell test, but hey, we’re fast approaching it.

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17 thoughts on “Hitsugi no Chaika Ep. 2: The one hand to rule them all

  1. Chakraborty

    I’m digging this show. Toru isn’t your standard issue “must protect everyone!” protagonist and he can, believably, hold his own in a fight. That hand to hand combat sequence was excellent and the coup-de-grace shot to the bad guy’s head was brilliant. I’m not entirely attached to the Coffin Girl character yet, but the affinity between the trio seems to be growing. One more episode and if that goes well, plot wise, I might watch this show throughout.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Toru isn’t your standard issue “must protect everyone!” protagonist

      I’m not saying he has to be.

      Reply
  2. Mocha

    Chaika would be well worth watching if it maintained this standard of action and directing. It’d be time-wasting entertainment, to be sure, but you’d have a lot of fun with it.

    Reply
  3. Nick

    I just hope BONES hasn’t blown all their budget already on this fight. And it really was a good fight.

    I thought the motivation was fine. These aren’t exactly nice people, they are disaffected veterans who lust for a cause to throw themselves into. Besides, the saboteur siblings had already burnt all their bridges in that town, breaking into a mansion without even wearing masks to disguise themselves. Why not go whole hog?

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      they are disaffected veterans who lust for a cause to throw themselves into

      If this is the case, then it’s underdeveloped. Less jealous sister nonsense please, and more postwar angst.

      Reply
  4. Dave Baranyi

    Potentially here, the story may be commenting on the problem with “child soldiers” and what happens to them after their war is done. Toru was in his early teens during the war and so instead of being brought up in some semblance of normal society he matured in an environment of violence and death. He hasn’t learned or been trained to fit into normal, peacetime society. This isn’t too different from the problems that much of Africa has been dealing with over the past couple of decades where generations of teens are matured into being fighters and then are suddenly expected to stop and be “good and productive” citizens.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      This is the first interesting angle I’ve heard, but the anime is going to have to do a lot to develop it over the course of the next few episodes, because right now, all we’ve got work off of is 1) He doesn’t like regular jobs and 2) He doesn’t mind war.

      Reply
  5. lesterf1020

    I think your love of complex characters and motivations is getting in the way here. These are simple characters and their motivations are likewise equally simple. Chaika wants to give her dad a proper burial. Toru is having a hard time living in a world where his warrior skills are useless and then he gets hired as a mercenary to do a dangerous job that perfectly suits his skills. His sister is completely loyal and devoted to him. Therefore where he goes she goes. I don’t think Toru really cares what his client is really up to in the same way most mercenaries don’t really care what their client is really doing as long as they get paid and get to use their skills.

    I suspect that any complexity the show will have to offer will come from those who interact with the trio and/or try to manipulate them.

    Really, what is so unfathomable about wanting to give a relative a proper burial or accepting a dangerous job if you are a mercenary or following the one you are loyal to? Is it simple? yes. Unfathomable? I don’t think so.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Really, what is so unfathomable about wanting to give a relative a proper burial or accepting a dangerous job if you are a mercenary or following the one you are loyal to? Is it simple? yes. Unfathomable? I don’t think so.

      Well, it’s unfathomably boring: “I’ll risk my life and everyone’s lives just to give my dad a proper burial.” “I’m loyal to you because I met you first.” “I’m devoted to you so I’m going to follow you no questions asked.”

      Reply
      1. Boytitan

        My brother is like that towards my parents and it is mind blowing how illogical thinking like that is but people are capable of it.

        Reply
      2. lesterf1020

        I really don’t see the problem here. Maybe you are watching the wrong anime. Is it really so mind blowing that if someone you love was killed and cut up into pieces which are kept as trophies in someones home that you would not be willing to risk a lot to retrieve them and give them a proper burial? “I’m devoted to you so I’m going to follow you no questions asked.” Isn’t this a regular thing in war and religion? Isn’t this normal in anime? I can’t count how many henchmen and secondary characters I have seen that decided to blindly trust and follow their leader even when they know they are wrong. I even know a few marriages like that.

        I am thinking you should drop this anime. Scrapped Princess had equally simple main characters with very simple motivations. What complexity that story had came from everyone else and the ramifications of their situation.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Maybe you are watching the wrong anime.

          It’s not about watching the right or wrong anime. I’m simply watching and writing down my reactions to whatever I see. By that same logic, I could say you’re reading the wrong blog.

          Is it really so mind blowing that if someone you love was killed and cut up into pieces which are kept as trophies in someones home that you would not be willing to risk a lot to retrieve them and give them a proper burial?

          Yes.

          Isn’t this normal in anime?

          I even know a few marriages like that.

          I don’t care how normal it is. I don’t care if there are examples of these characters in real life. If I think their motivations are flimsy, I’m going to say so. And those people in real life have flimsy motivations too.

          I am thinking you should drop this anime.

          Nah. I don’t care if you disagree with me, but this whole “You’re watching the wrong anime” is pretty stupid.

        2. lesterf1020

          “It’s not about watching the right or wrong anime. I’m simply watching and writing down my reactions to whatever I see. By that same logic, I could say you’re reading the wrong blog. ”

          Nah. I love your blog. its one of my favorites.

          “I don’t care if you disagree with me, but this whole “You’re watching the wrong anime” is pretty stupid.”

          You’re right. Sorry about that. I got you mixed up in one of my pet peeves that I am paranoid about. I still can’t believe you find their motivations flimsy. Simple yes but flimsy is not how I see it. Anyway keep on trucking.

        3. E Minor Post author

          Nothing I say about the anime I watch is more than personal. This blog is just my way of understanding why I feel the way that I do about these cartoons from Japan. And when I watch Hitsugi no Chaika, I feel vaguely dissatisfied. That’s just the honest truth. I’m not making shit up just to complain about it. I only complain after realizing I don’t like something. So when I sit down and try to determine why I don’t like Hitsugi no Chaika as much as I should, I can’t help but pinpoint my dissatisfaction in the show’s characters. I don’t feel they’re carrying the show. You clearly do. Still, we can argue till we’re blue in the face about this, but it won’t change the fact that something bothers me about the show. It’s fine if you think I’m wrong, but don’t think I’m on some quest to prove that this anime objectively sucks or anything. This is just a personal blog with personal reactions. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m not trying to be the next great anime reviewer nor have I ever wanted to be.

        4. lesterf1020

          This is weird. I agree that the main characters aren’t carrying the show. The main plot hasn’t wowed me either but I just don’t think the problem is their motivations.

  6. ChaosCallMe

    “Still, I think the biggest problem currently for the anime is our characters’ lack of compelling motivations.”

    Be careful. You probably just jinxed us all and summoned in the army of lolis / childhood friends for the next episode.

    Reply

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