Approximately a month ago, I sparked a conversation with a friend of mine of how tired I was with the “high school” setting situation that’s more or less prevalent in anything that’s airing. While it is a familiar setting and puts aside exposition, I lamented the fact that we don’t have too many shows where it doesn’t have to involve students. I might be cherrypicking but look at series like Dragonar Academy, Akuma no Riddle, and Mahouka. Why does taming dragons, assassinations, and atomic bombs all have to involve a high school setting? Case in point: I wanted something adventurous again. Something around the likes of Slayers. I’m not asking for anything as grand as scale as that but something that involved constantly changing settings and the likes.
My friend replied to me with that a show like that breaking the norms would be liked by the few while shows that continue the ongoing trend of highschool and absolute moe rake in easy cash. Simply put: Why potentially waste good money when we got a completely secure way of getting the most out of an investment?
Then this series showed up.
Plus I seriously regret not covering this.
For the sake of the review, I might as well clarify the title. Steel Ball Run in a nutshell is focused on finding the parts of Jesus Christ that gives an individual supernatural abilities. Slayers is THE adventure fantasy with some light heartedness compared to say, Beserk. The game Overlord is where you, the titular Overlord awake from your slumber and pillage the towns and cities while hunting down the 7 heroes that slayed your predecessor.
Hitsugi no Chaika drops us off 5 years after a devastating war against the tyrant known as Arthur Gaz. Akin to fantasy RPG’s, 8 legendary heroes slay Arthur Gaz to bring peace to the kingdom. Toru Acura is a Saboteur, essentially a mercenary for hire who has trained all his life to partake in the great war but has now lost his vigor now that the war ended. He spends his days lounging around in his home while his sister Akari, a fellow Saboteur, gets with the times and works to provide for the both of them. Akari loses her patience one day and demands her brother to go forage in the woods and bring back some edible plants before she brings him to a taxidermist. On that fateful working day, Toru encounters Chaika Trabant, a mysterious girl carrying a coffin who has spent the last few days trying to navigate the mountain. Their conversation is cut short when they encounter a Unicorn and the two work together to kill it. Toru exchanges information for some food and is eventually hired Chaika on her quest. The trio infiltrate the house of a local lord who was one of the 8 heroes in the war and steal a wrist of some sort. They encounter a post-war peace group who tries to stop them reveal to Toru that Chaika is in fact the daughter of Emperor Gaz.
Only now do I realize how long it takes for the true story to pick up.
I will say right now that the characters were the high selling point of this series. Coupled that with the niche setting nowdays, it won me over pretty easily.
- Toru Acura is the 20-year old ex-saboteur who, until he met Chaika, did nothing but contemplate his existence and laze around. Hailing from a hidden village that trained Saboteurs, his single goal in life was to “make his mark” on the world by killing (in his own words) heaps of people. Upon hearing that Chaika’s quest might bring certain war again, he revels in the fact that he will fight again and live his life. Toru was the perfect balance of strong but not completely overpowered. He prioritized his objectives, stayed extremely pragmatic, and was very effective in combat and strategizing. Probably one of my favorite main characters to show up for a while.
- Akari Acura is the unstable, adoptive younger sister of Toru who joins him on the quest to retrieve the many parts of Emperor Gaz. Like her brother, she’s an ex-saboteur and is skilled in combat and reconnaissance. She’s generally smart in regular dealings of everyday life but has an extremely notable attraction to her brother and vows to follow him until he dies and get him to the taxidermist. The bluntness of her line delivery and genuine seriousness of the love toward her brother would be creepy if it wasn’t played for laughs. The interaction between the two siblings was extremely entertaining.
- Chaika is the mysterious instigator of the story that inspires Toru to return to work. While many think she wishes to restore the empire, she merely wants to give a proper funeral to her father after reassembling his body. Chaika speaks in broken sentences and is a very naive girl who trusts others and shows great affection to her benefactors. She’s also the party’s wizard who drives their vehicle while assisting from long range. Chaika was adorablely pure and also full of fun emotional reactions that really make it hard to not like her. It also helps that she’s not completely useless since her magical ability is needed for a lot of the crew’s exploits. The mysterious lad named Guy is shady enough for me to speak nothing of him since we really know nothing.
- Frederika acts as the ace in hole for the crew if things go horribly wrong. Originally the partner to one of the 8 Heroes, Frederika became obbessed over the image of her most valued comrade and masqueraded as her for the years. When her ideals change after fighting the crew, she decides to tag along. Since she is completely broken in an actual fight, she’s usually relegated to doing whatever she wants or being taken out of the big picture. I found her eccentric yet comically bloodthirsty nature funny but she’s somewhat irrelevant most of the times.
- Red Chaika and her crew provided a significant roadblock but also added a mystery to the identity of “Chaika”. It seems that there are multiple Chaika’s going around the continent gathering the pieces of Gaz. Each with their own abilities, colors, smaller motivations, and a load of cash to supply them with. Red Chaika also helped put Toru’s perspective in his ideals. While he does like fighting, he prioritizes helping the hapless White Chaika than joining the goal-oriented and strong Red Chaika.
- The peacemaker squad comprises of Gilette, Vivi, Zita, Matheus, Leo, and Nikolai. It’s quite a band of heroes but they aren’t really fleshed out other than their different attributes that make their team. The characters most focused here and Gilette and Vivi, and this is shown through romantic comedy amongst the group. Gilette’s mysterious fate changes Vivi at the end.
- Blue Chaika and co. served as the psychopathic villains who want to instigate war again. They weren’t likable by any means and Blue Chaika isn’t as endearing as the others. She did however confirm that all Chaika’s are fakes and were given the directive to collect the remains.
At first, I ignored the series since the synopsis only happened to cover the three main characters extremely lightly and I didn’t really get into it until really late in the season. Either way, now I can’t get enough from the series. The videogame-esque quest to retrieve corpse parts of someone extremely also remind me of Jojo too. I missed settings like these in all honesty. It was the proverbial “breath of fresh air” that I needed from the animes that gets churned out every season.
The characters described above only enhanced the experience of the fantasy-journey setting. Everyone had their role to play in fights and nobody was useless so it was nice to see everyone get the spotlight every now and then. Their motivations are also interesting to see since they’re not the run of the mill sort of people. Toru wants to leave his mark, Akari literally has nothing to do but follow her brother, while Chaika’s wish drives the story.
The one thing I do have to mention is that a lot of things were cut out from the Light novels. Usually, an adaptation of a light novel follows a format of 3 episodes making 1 volume. On average, most LN adaptations go through 3-4 volumes in the 12 episode span. Chaika however not only cut out a few scenes but also happened to cover 6 volumes. So while it was rushed, the sense of pacing however was kept fairly well and I was surprised that we covered 6 volumes that quick.
To satisfy my urge and to enlighten others, allow me to elaborate on some of the stuff that were missing. Akari fights Toru 1 vs 1 before Chaika formally hires them. Count Abarth was from a prestigious knight family but got his arm injured during training and became a laughing stock. He vowed to become a mage but lacked the natural talent. When he assisted in the final battle, the corpse part of Gaz turned him into the person he wanted to be all his life. Him losing the corpse part crushed his life and dreams. Frederika’s character doesn’t undergo much in the anime but it is much more fleshed out in the novels. The form she takes is actually Lucie, Dominica’s sister. Dominica went to war against Gaz and when she came back, Lucie was found dead when the villagers of her area try to take advantage of Dominica’s absence to take some of their wealth. Lucie dies and Dominica returns to her dead sister and flies into rage and kills the townsfolk. She eventually loses her purpose and dies of an illness. Frederika’s name is also suggested by Toru instead of the dragoon naming herself that way. Simon Scania’s character with the betrayal fog machine was dead in the light novels. Light note: The markings on Toru’s palms match with the markings on his blades. This is prevent anyone else from using them.
Toru’s backstory is given late in the anime while he unveils it to Chaika before they raid Abarth’s home. Jasmine died and gave her dead baby to Toru, trying to deny the fact. She had once told him that her mark on the world would be the relationship she has built with others and that her child would be the ultimate “mark of life”. It would be Toru and the other trainee saboteurs who hunt down the killers and hang them. Gilette’s assumed death was not by a misfired laser as in the light novels, he is simply overrun by soldiers. Also, the final fight with Ricardo had him morph into the strange spider guard dogs that the tower was filled with near the end as well.
Season 2 has been already planned to air in the Fall and the novels I think reached its 9th volume. I think the author is also working with the production crew to end the anime with S2 since the novels won’t go on for too long as well. Illustrations prove at least 3 more Chaikas for us to get acquainted to. I will say that the manga of the series hasn’t cut things out (while having the small liberty of adding some scenes and is where i got the information for above 2 paragraps). The only problem is that it updates bi-monthly, but more supplementary material adds to the series.
With everything considered, consider this one of my favorites from this year. Good plot, refreshing setting, fantastic characters, and smooth fights. More special mentions to the lead male Toru for being the most capable main character I’ve seen in long time. All this talk of good main characters this season also point me toward Ping Pong which I might actually just watch. Anyways, the series was a fun ride and it deserves a 8.5/10 if numerical scores do anything for you.
Season 2 will definitely be covered in the Fall. See you then Saboteurs