It’s fair to say that I was probably one more mediocre episode away from dropping Hitsugi no Chaika or at least putting it on hiatus. It’s also fair to say that this episode wasn’t mediocre – it was a clear step up from the last couple. But no less fair to say that for me at least, it wasn’t go strong that it unequivocally brought me on-board again. It was just better enough to keep my ass squarely planted on this fence, and it’s not very comfortable.
So there you have it – the best I can give you (or myself) is a “we’ll see”. I feel a peculiar sort of affection for Hitsugi no Chaika that I can’t fully explain, one that’s probably greater than my opinion of the narrative itself would justify. Maybe it’s the old-school RPG feel of the thing, or the way it gamely refuses to be fully drawn into the world of LN cliches, or the growing sense that as much as anything it represents an anti-war fairy tale. But it just can’t quite engage my fully in the story, either – the spark plugs aren’t firing. It’s as classic a tweener series as I’ve seen in a while.
In any event, I did like this episode better than the last two by a fair margin, for several reasons. It was rather dignified and focused in comparison, and lacked the sense of time-wasting detours and underdeveloped side plots. I liked the way the show continued to slowly fill in the blanks with Gillette’s team, this time sharing the information that catboy Leo was a “demi-human” bred for the purposes of sparing humans the really difficult jobs in warfare. The reasons for his loyalty to Gillette further cement the impression that it’s only a matter of time before the good people in the story team up to take on the greater evil that’s obviously out there.
I liked the focus on memories here too, especially the rather clever way it was presented. Chaika revealed that she can use hers for fuel when the magical fuel runs out, and Tooru was appropriately disturbed and concerned by this. This revelation spins into a nicely-spun flashback from Tooru and Akari’s childhood, where he grew in in a “village of saboteurs” being trained by a mentor named Shin (Sakurai Takahiro). It’s no coincidence that Tooru’s background and Leo’s seem so similar, when they’re both discussed in the same episode, and the scenes between the child Tooru and Akari were appropriately cute. Similarly dignified was the magic seller who presents a contrasting view on the war, whose end the rest of the village is celebrating – all he thinks of is the wife and sons it took from him. The whole episode had that sort of feel to it, and it certainly marked a contrast to the rather disjointed and silly misfires of the last two weeks. Here’s hoping it’s a sign of things to come.