Hitsugi no Chaika Ep. 9: Vague doubts about justice

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During a stroll through a city’s market ward, Alveric and Vivi encounter a robbery in action. Our would-be thief is actually a former soldier, and he’s trying to steal money from a rather contemptuous noblewoman. This is somewhat ironic as preparations for the anniversary of the end of the war are currently underway. In what is supposed to be a time of celebration and merriment, the former-soldier-turned-thief is a reminder that the end of the war has not exactly been sunshine and rainbows for everyone. Like Toru, the man has been lost and jobless since the overthrow of the late Emperor Gaz. And perhaps also like Toru, the powers-that-be are of little help to the former soldier: “…there’s no decent work for a has-been soldier!”  Of course, we must be mindful of the conclusions we draw from this scene. The former soldier’s situation is lamentable, certainly, but this hardly suggests that a return to war is, well, a good thing.

After all, a shopkeeper near the end of the episode has an equally lamentable situation: he lost everything in the war, including the lives of his wife and children were taken by the war. War is a boon to some, but more often than not, it is also a tragedy to others. Perhaps the former soldier is no different from Toru in that he had been born and raised to fight. Even so, that hardly justifies war. Rather, everyone needs to take some responsibility upon themselves. Those like Toru seem to adopt a fatalistic attitude that all they can ever do in life is to fight. With that sort of attitude, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Sure, his inability to get a job during peacetime isn’t entirely his fault, but he is not completely blameless either. At the same time, however, the government could do more to help former soldiers out as well. But like the real world, there seems to be this inability to help veterans transition themselves into the civilian life.

Alveric’s men describe him as a simple and straightforward person. And thanks to this very same nature, he has garnered the respect of his followers. Nevertheless, unerringly following the letter of the law is hardly upholding justice. Alveric’s character development is interesting at the moment, because he is clearly grappling with a couple moral dilemmas right now. After all, he’s no longer sure if pursuing Chaika at all costs is the right course of action anymore. As for the robbery in this week’s episode, how can he see what is unfolding before him and ignore it? Alveric returns the stolen wallet to the contemptuous noblewomen, but he has to ask himself if justice has truly been served. Certainly, two wrongs do not make a right. Even if we grant that the nobles are exploiting the poor, it does not mean that we now suddenly have the moral imperative to steal from the rich. Nevertheless, the former soldier is still starving, and if he isn’t lying about his current predicament, he is receiving no help whatsoever from anyone. So again, has justice been served? Perhaps only in a very simple and straightforward way, the same sort of way that Alveric is familiar with. But this is hardly the ideal way, and that might be what our cavalier is hoping to change.

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Although Alveric’s sense of justice will have to be refined, at least he doesn’t have the sort of justice that allows him to parrot moral platitudes and thus feel morally superior to his fellow man: “Your backtalk and excuses are pathetic! Before you curse your own fate, try searching for the path you should follow.” It’s as if Vivi didn’t hear a single word the man has said. Is the former soldier lying about the exploitation of the poor by the rich? Is he lying about the fact that the Guild hasn’t helped him found a job? Maybe. Maybe he’s telling the truth, and maybe he’s just feeding them lies. Nevertheless, no one is actually listening. No one wants to discuss what they can do to help and protect the commoners. For those like Vivi, she is even more simple-minded in her conception of justice than Alveric. Whereas Alveric is the classic lawful archetype, you get the feeling Vivi only spoke up during this scene because the former soldier had dared to insult her beloved. When you take that into consideration, the fact that she publicly lectures and thus humiliates the former soldier is just pathetic and hypocritical.

Anyway, there’s some talk about the nature of memories. In desperate times, magicians like Chaika can apparently use their memories as a source of magic fuel. Toru thus wonders if this is why Chaika is missing some of her memories. Maybe. But maybe she never had those memories in the first place. After all, there are multiple Chaikas, so it’s hard for us to imagine that the late emperor had fathered all of these similarly-aged and similar-looking girls. When you also consider the scar on her neck, everything seems to suggest that perhaps Chaika is man-made and unnatural. Of course, this doesn’t mean that she’s an abomination or anything like that. We’re merely debating whether or not she even has memories to lose in the first place. But anyway, since she can’t seem to recall much of her past, she turns her attention to her friends’ memories instead. As a result, we delve a bit into Toru’s childhood, and how he had trained to be a saboteur from an early age.

There’s a moment where Toru opens up about a personal tragedy of his own. As a child, he seemingly had an attachment to Hasumin, some traveling merchant who would stop by his village every now and then. Although Toru would try his best to impress the woman, she never praised him: “She just watched me with a sad look.” That’s not really too surprising, though, is it? After all, who can look upon a child being trained to kill and not feel a pang of sadness? At one point, child Toru even said, “I want to get on the battlefield and kill enemies as soon as I can, too!” That’s a rather fucked-up thing for anyone to say, much less a child. But of course, since a child did say it, it was perhaps easier for most people to wave off as just immature words from an immature kid. But I bet this is what Hasumin could sense even though Toru had never said those words to her. She probably sensed that there was something not right about Toru being raised to kill, but unfortunately, it was not her place to say anything.

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Anyway, one day, bandits attacked the traveling merchants, and Hasumin ended up losing her life. Toru also tells Chaika that the villagers had gotten their revenge on the bandits, “but… slaughtering the bandits didn’t make [him] feel better.” At some point, Toru’s journey with Chaika will have to end. The girl will either succeed or fail in retrieving her father’s remains. Either way, this chapter will eventually come to a close, and Toru will have to make a hard decision. He can continue to chase the battlefield and live to do nothing but fight, but will this leave him fulfilled? If he’s lucky enough to not die in combat, will he look back on such a life and feel good about it? Chaika tries to twist our hero’s bad memories of Hasumin around into a good thing. The girl wants to suggest that Toru’s painful memories of the woman he couldn’t defend is what allowed him to find the strength to defend Chaika at the start of the series. But perhaps Toru’s painful memories of Hasumin can tell him something else. Perhaps the true takeaway from Hasumin’s death and the subsequent avenging of her death is that Toru should find a new calling in life. Whether it’s with his sister (ugh) or with Chaika (meh), it doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that you can’t fight forever.

Stray observations:

— Is that Guy listening in on Alveric?

— Leo is a demi-human, and that’s obvious enough. After all, he’s got cat ears and shit. We also learn that he and his kind have been created for war and war alone. The same theme keeps cropping up. Toru has been trained from an early age to fight, whereas Leo was literally created to fight. What’s even worse for Leo, however, is that demi-humans are apparently used as nothing more than sacrificial lambs. Still, I can’t shake how similar is story is to the cat people in Fire Emblem. It seems to be an all-too-common trope.

— Those are some rather bizarre fortunes in those fortune cookies. All I get is some stupid shit like “You’ll meet the love of your life today!” and a bunch of lotto numbers on the back.

— Welp, Akari was creepy as a kid too.

— Speaking of Akari, her jokes are a miss this week.

— I like how the shopkeeper also mentions the locations of the late emperor’s remains. Wow, magic fuel and important quest information all in one! That’s why you talk to every NPC, kids!

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9 thoughts on “Hitsugi no Chaika Ep. 9: Vague doubts about justice”

  1. – Maybe Emperor Gaz used his Chaikas “daughters” as magic fuel too?

    – I got the feeling that maybe child Toru’s trainer didn’t want him to become a warrior, so he insisted that Toru wasn’t good enough.

    – I almost thought that the shopkeeper was someone in disguise there to help Chaika. But I don’t think so, it would not make sense at this point.

    1. About Toru’s trainer, I would like to learn more about him. As for now, I just see him as a bad trainer which is not able to provide neither good advices nor options to his trainees. Maybe, providing options is not his responsability in regards to Toru but then what is left for a child that only knows one way of living?

    2. – I got the feeling that maybe child Toru’s trainer didn’t want him to become a warrior, so he insisted that Toru wasn’t good enough.

      I don’t see why he wouldn’t just flat out refuse to train the kid.

      1. What if he could not refuse? What if he himself wasn’t certain about this?

        Well, all this is, as you say in another comment, just speculation. I can’t help but to extract a good bunch of my entertainment from stories speculating about them. What type of reader that makes me? I really wonder…

        1. The average reader, I’d imagine. Most people are happy to speculate on the lives of their favorite characters outside of what they are given. I personally dislike doing it, but to each his own.

  2. Vivi is just a bitch in love, she can’t possibly think about difficult stuffs such as what is justice to begin with, and if they have been serving the right people all these time, unlike the rest of Gilette’s crew.
    You think the fortune cookies give useless messages, but this is an RPG, right? They might really mean something. I don’t know which fansub that you watch, but the one I watched:
    -Gilette’s message is something like “the sword that you unsheath at night can’t be sheathed back”. This might a warning for him not to do something that can’t be taken back, probably in a near future.
    -Vivi’s message states that ‘your love will save your beloved’, which means that she is important to the livelihood of Gilette in an incoming crisis?

    1. Vivi is just a bitch in love, she can’t possibly think about difficult stuffs such as what is justice to begin with,

      Yeah, that’s no excuse.

      You think the fortune cookies give useless messages

      I never said this. I was only making a light-hearted comparison. Of course the messages are meaningful in the anime. It’s fucking Chekhov’s fortune cookies.

  3. Which will be the ideal justice? I think that’s a hard question in any society. Reflecting on that is a good thing, though.
    I wonder if, in order to provide an ideal justice, one should be capable of sympathize with the affected parties. After all, Alveric was accused to not be able to understand the situation of the former soldier. Anyway, if I stole a purse then I should be punished but society should also reflect on under which circumstances I committed a crime and provide mechanisms to avoid that to happen again.

    Alveric is reflecting on himself and what he has been educated about justice. I feel something similar is happening for Toru but his development is slower. I think the difference between Toru and Alveric is that Toru is insecure while Alveric it is not.
    Toru has been trained to be a soldier and for some reason his trainer always scolded him and told him that he was not good enough. For me, as a child, scolding never worked, it made me more insecure. Now for Toru what other options were left for him. He is destined to be a soldier and he is been told that he is not good enough. I think that made him insecure, and while he is capable, he doesn’t feel that he can find a different path. “My whole life I have been trained to be something and I am not good at it? Then what are my odds at succeeding in something else?”
    Definitely this journey is an experience that will help Toru to change his mindset about his path and decide whether he wants to keep fighting or do something else.

    Finally; I disagree with Toru about keeping only good memories. All memories including bad ones are an important part of my current self. I wouldn’t sacrifice any memory, I would feel incomplete.

    1. Anyway, if I stole a purse then I should be punished but society should also reflect on under which circumstances I committed a crime and provide mechanisms to avoid that to happen again.

      What I have always seen is that retributive justice is not as effective as restorative justice. They have returned the wallet to its rightful owner, but they have done nothing except to reprimand the offender. In the end, nobody feels as though justice has been fulfilled and it’s not hard to see why.

      I think that made him insecure, and while he is capable, he doesn’t feel that he can find a different path. “My whole life I have been trained to be something and I am not good at it? Then what are my odds at succeeding in something else?”

      While this is an interesting idea, we know so relatively little of Toru’s life before he met Chaika. How hard did he really try to find a job before she came along? I feel it’s all just speculation.

      Finally; I disagree with Toru about keeping only good memories. All memories including bad ones are an important part of my current self. I wouldn’t sacrifice any memory, I would feel incomplete.

      I think this is easy to say in theory, but in practice, some memories are very painful. That’s not to say we should repress them, but retaining them is not all that necessary either. After all, we’ve just seen an episode in which Simon, a former hero, has gone mad because he is fixated upon his wife and his best friend’s betrayal. It’s hard to say that this memory is important to Simon’s character unless we admit that some people are meant to go crazy.

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