Second Impressions – Hitsugi no Chaika

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If you care to join me on the fence with this one, I’ll happily slide over.

I’m certainly not seeing brilliance in Hitsugi no Chaika after two episodes, but it is a pretty interesting series.  This is not a glamour production for BONES – it seems pretty clear that it and Soul Eater Not are working with the budget constraints and Captain Earth is the headliner.  But there are still some nice visual touches – nice choreography balancing out the frame rates in the action scenes, pretty backdrops, subtle visual gags (like Chaika’s reaction when she bumps her coffin on the door frame – speaking of which, if you were one of the ones complaining that she was carrying a coffin just for effect…).  More importantly, there’s enough substance here to keep me engaged, at least for now.

It seems as if there are manga adaptations that feel like light-novels when you watch them – Witch Craft Works comes to mind.  If so there must be LN adaptations that play like manga, and this is one of them (Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi is another).  The setup here is positively quaint, like something out of a fantasy novel (or manga) or RPG from 20 years ago.  But it makes an interesting counterpoint in a season where three of the shows making the biggest noise are LN adaptations that suffer from the ills that plague the medium – Mahouka, Black Bullet and No Game No Life.  The path to commercial success in LNs seems to be to substitute a complex “system” and pretentious dialogue for actual plot and character development.  Those shows are not all equal – I find Black Bullet to be offensively stupid and pandering and Mahouka to be a flat-out bore, while NGNL at least has the merit of being flashy and stylish, even if it’s utterly soulless.

In contrast to that, Hitsugi no Chaika – while not free of cliche by any means – does at least offer a genuine premise and characters with a real story behind them.  I confess I didn’t make the connection until my memory was triggered when it went viral in discussions of this episode, but there are strong echoes of the “Vecna” (just hearing the name brings flashbacks of my friend David’s coffee table, Tombstone pizza and 20-sided die) story from Dungeons and Dragons – yes, the original old-school one, “Greyhawk” for you hard-core geeks.  Here we have a 500-year ruling wizard-emperor named Gaz, feared, worshiped and reviled by millions, who was finally deposed and dismembered five years before this story’s present.  Of course it’s his hand in the Count’s magical safe, and Chaika is after it because she’s his daughter.  She says she just wants to give it a proper burial, but the bishie Gilette’s group – after both the hand and the daughter – say that putting the two together is a major threat to world peace.

Maybe my expectations are too low, but I like the fact that we have an actual story here and it’s one that’s not buried in reams of rules and statistics, but one you can easily wrap your head around.  An evil wizard influencing things from beyond the grave, the daughter who may or may not be a tool of evil, and a disillusioned ex-soldier who’s given up on making it in peacetime caught in the middle.  Hitsugi no Chaika is just a straightforward, unpretentious fantasy being adapted in straightforward and unpretentious fashion.  I don’t see any hope for greatness here, but it’s certainly refreshing, and it shows signs that it could be spinning a pretty good yarn.

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  1. S

    I really enjoyed this 2nd episode. I think that we also got a glimpse of an interesting world as well. Often the problem after a long drawn out conflict is what the hell do you do with all these trained soldiers, and it can be a HUGE problem. It also looks like the power vacuum created after deposing the dictator is causing major problems. It all makes sense and I like it.

    Also really liked the soundtrack, or more particularly the sound effects.

  2. t

    pretty much agree with you.

    I had some expectations for it. and I admit Hitsugi no Chaika(HnC) isn't such a great series and I don't expect it to be. but, more importantly, it didn't disappoint me so far. it's enjoyable, funny in times..and I am OK with it even if it's in low-bar of the season's doing the job.

    I like fantasy world/stories especially when the author puts a lot of thinking into it and develop it step by step, making it really lovely toward the reader/viewer. I also like how the characters has some of their own nature. and I get that from HnC.
    cliche? maybe. yes. but it's not like everything in anime/books/manga is so..brilliant new idea. so who cares as long as execution is good enough. and that's the case for me.

    BONES production also pretty good in this series despite having another 2 parallel series this season. sure, it's less flashy than captain earth and it doesn't bring reminiscence of old series like soul-eater-not, still it's..satisfying to reasonable extent.

  3. w

    "If so there must be LN adaptations that play like manga, and this is one of them."

    Probably not coincidentally, also easily my favorite of the LN adaptions you mentioned above. You've pretty much nailed my thoughts on all of them so far, though i'm really enjoying this one. I like the way they don't bend over backwards here to explain everything to us, it makes it a much better watch than the other series which seem to get bogged down showing off their intricate rules rather than telling us a story.

    I think most LNs start with a concept; a setting with rules and terms (which isn't that difficult to do). The story is then basically an excuse plot based around explaining the rules of the world, and the characters are used to advance the plot and show off the cool things one can accomplish within the proposed concept. And of course to spout of cool sounding dialogue to make them seem appealing. Which is the exact opposite of how to make a good story. Probably why LNs are so saturated with cliche is because the authors aren't actually interested in developing anything beyond their own world, so they just use the popular standards when it comes to inhabitants.

    Hitsugi no Chaika actually seems to have character and story come before world, and while not groundbreaking is definitely better because of that. I know there's not as lavish a budget here as others but I really enjoyed the action, I thought the animation was great regardless and the fights pretty creative. Though I tend to prefer these acrobatic knife fights over giant robots duking it out so I may be a little biased in its favor. There's magic here, but it's not overwhemling so there's plenty of room for outmatched duels to be won via quick wits and clever ploys. Oh and the simplicity means there's no need to stop and explain the characters actions which helps with the immersiveness.

  4. O

    I tend to really dig dark-ish fantasies, and this one fits the bill. I can't remember the last time I was treated to one, so I'm in for the long run.

  5. m

    Once again focusing on story makes up for lack of other areas. Yeah, it isn't the best anime or even close, but it's definitely one of the more entertaining of the season, and certainly much better than its weird child loving counterparts.

  6. M

    Don't forget about the nice action scenes too. I really like how Toru uses viable fighting tactics and cooperates with Akari in order to get the job done. It's nice that their power isn't anything overpowered either so they can't entirely rely on it.

    Skill & strategy over mega-super-duper-huge-extra-extreme-flashy-whatever magic attacks? I'll definitely say yes to that.

  7. s

    I definitely agree; I think the combat the combat in this series (specifically this ep) is well-done, opting for more fighting tactics rather than characters throwing super powers at each other (which is quite a surprise considering magic is a central part of this series). Animation is also quite competent, considering the other shows BONES is working on and it does what it can to make up for some hiccups (which dont show up that much). Id say one of the strengths of this series so far is how its handling its tone

  8. G

    That was a marked improvement over the premiere. I like what I'm seeing here – lots of old school charm. Can I also point out that we actually get a male protagonist who uses his brain quite a bit in combats? I'm pleasantly surprised by the amount of wit he's displaying here. He threw that hand at his component knowing it would temporarily incapacitate him. I call that quick thinking.
    Anyways, agree with Enzo here, it may not be the best dish on the table, but it certainly leaves a good taste in the mouth.

  9. j

    Eh, don't get complacent guys. I know there is a 3 episode rule and everything, but if it's not really that good why bother watching it at all? Personally, if I sense an inkling of mediocrity in a show (Art wise, I'm more lenient), I usually just drop it.

  10. H

    If the show looked more like the third screen shot, I'd bite.

  11. R

    I have pretty much made my judgement based on the premier this season…I have dropped this show. I did try — because of your review — but couldn't finish the first episode. I don't like the female character when she was introduced. I know that making a snap judgement may cause me missing out on the hidden gems, but I want to save the time on shows that I really enjoy watching and come back here as much as I can.

  12. F

    Totally hear you there. I am down to my "final cuts" stage and there are just some that I have set aside because they don't interest me quite enough to invest in following them on a weekly basis.

    That being said, for me Chaika is not one of these series. This ep kinda sealed the deal for me and also inspired me to read through the available manga chs.

    And reading through those lemme tell ya, the first two eps could have been a lot worse. There is adaptation and rearrangement and leaving things out, but thus far I feel they have done a pretty good job.

  13. R

    Hmmm….it's long weekend here…maybe I will give this show another try.

  14. G

    I agree…Bones really trimmed down the content quite a bit and an excellent decision I have to say. The tropes are A LOT more mild comparing to the manga and the LN.

  15. A

    Yep, the second episode is where the show worked for me. I like the setting, and now we know where the story's going it seems like one of those good old-fashioned action adventure shows with some interesting grey areas when it comes to characters.

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