Given the last few seconds of last week’s otherwise solid episode of Hitsugi no Chaika, I was seriously worried about where the series might be headed (much as I am about Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii and Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, and for much the same reasons). But there was delightfully little of “Frederica” – almost none in moeblob form, and not much more in dragon or neko form. In fact she was mysteriously absent for much of the episode, with no explanation – after she cat-scratched Tohru in the first few minutes, we never saw her again. As a dragon or a cat, she’s welcome back any time.
There’s something about this show, in fact, that lets it go places that would normally be quite problematical for me and come off relatively unscathed. To my astonishment I still find Chaika #1 more endearing than annoying, and Chaika #2 isn’t bad either. That’s “Red” Chaika, Chaika Bogdan (Zougo Saeko). She stops our heroes’ vehicle brigand-style, obviously after the remains inside, and engages Tohru is a pretty vigorous and well-choreographed fight with her “snake blade” before he’s able to subdue her. Meanwhile, the pair who seem to be her allies attack the car and manage to snag White Chaika, though not her coffin.
So just who is this new Chaika? Facially identical, seemingly the same age (though she could just be a bit older – though it might be her personality that gives that impression) with the same scar on her neck. A clone, perhaps of the magical variety? There’s a vibe of heads being stitched onto interchangeable bodies Re-Animator style here, bur who knows. What’s clear is that she speaks in the same clipped Japanese, has a polar opposite personality from White Chaika and like her, seems to be traveling with two escorts.
After some pretty amusing hijinks featuring the respective Chaikas in captivity (again, I’m surprised I enjoyed these as much as I did) a swap is agreed to, which leads to the two Chaikas laying eyes on each other for the first time. Also certain to dip their wick here is the Gillette faction, who thanks to shorty-shorts catboy Leo’s detective skills (which are better than his art skills – not a great likeness on the wanted poster, but good enough) have tracked both sets of fugitive Imperial daughters and know when and where the meeting is going to take place. And that would hardly be a surprising time for Frederica to make her reappearance, either.
I think that gap I mentioned last week is closing, because even if I still don’t enjoy the parts of Hitsugi no Chaika that I should like as much as I should enjoy them, I’m not as turned off as I should be by the parts that should turn me off. Somehow the series just knows how far to push the moe and otaku humor and almost always manages to pull back in time, and the characters are all pretty appealing. I find Gillette’s team full of needlessly stylized oddities perplexingly amusing, and the main trio has a nice chemistry. As always it’s backed up by a very classic fantasy plotline that isn’t exactly thrilling, but manages to provide a reassuringly steady infrastructure for the show as a whole. I’m still not completely sold, but my doubts are gradually subsiding.