I want to like Hitsugi no Chaika and I sort of do, but there just isn’t quite enough here to close the sale yet. To be honest I found this episode to be a bit on the boring side, though there were some nice moments (especially comedically). And I like the general old-school, RPG-fantasy vibe the series creates. I’ll take this sort of straightforward material any day over self-satisfied and pretentious shows that simply don’t have the ammunition to justify any of that, but at some point a show has to win you over on simple entertainment value and I’m not there yet. There’s nothing else on Wednesdays (as usual the dead zone for an anime schedule) but I really want a better reason to blog a series than that.
Individually, the components are pretty strong. I like Tooru as a main character – smart, competent, borderline a grown-up and dealing with realistic ex-soldier problems. Miraculously, Chaika’s act is still wearing well for me (mostly – there are a few moments…). Akari is pretty much a cipher but at least she’s not especially annoying in any way. And I find Gilette’s crew borderline hilarious for some reason – they’re such a motley crew seemingly for no good reason but comic effect. Catboy? Check. Owl messengers? Check, Gryffindor. Megane-girl in microshorts? Check. Goth girl? Check.
The premise is fine, too. It’s following a very textbook epic fantasy track so far, with the heroes leaving town on their strange quest with the bad guys who may not be bad in pursuit. We get the requisite visit to the small village, gossip about powerful and mysterious leaders with “dragoons” (apparently, magical creatures in this mythos are called “Fayla” – obviously inspired be Fae – and all chant to themselves as the unicorn did), the search for transport… This is fairly amusing too, as we get to see the trio try and be inconspicuous when one of their number is carrying a coffin on her back – and Tooru’s wry response to the effort.
Adding a little more mystery to the mix is Guy, who turns out to be Chaika’s “informant” and is seemingly a magical creature of some sort. In truth I have zero idea if Guy is supposed to be a boy, a very flat girl or neither – but Guy does provide the heroes with some useful information on the identity of the Dragoon ruler who supposedly has some of Gaz’ remains, and where to find a vehicle (which in this world are powered not by fossil fuels, but magic). Chaika gasses it up with mojo, and off we go through the woods – until a pack of Fayla dogs called Orthos attack, and Tooru stays behind to fight them off. That doesn’t go so well but the aforementioned ruler shows up in the nick of time – Dominica Skoda.
There are several other hints dropped in this episode that all is not as it seems – perhaps most significantly that there may be a mess of “fake” Chaikas running around out there (several of whom have killed themselves rather than answer questions). Add that to the fact that Chaika has no memories before the last year, and it’s hard not to assume she’s not what she seems. It’s not a bad setup by any means, and the players are better than average on the whole. Right now though, the whole is not quite equal to the sum of the parts for me yet. I’m still squarely on the fence with Hitsugi no Chaika for at least one more week.