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AKA: 棺姫のチャイカ (Hitsugi no Chaika)
Genre: Fantasy adventure.
Length: Television series, 22 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks, but also available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Content Rating: R-17 (Strong violence, deaths.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Sunday Without God, Scrapped Princess.
Notes: Based on the light novel series by Ichirō Sakaki and illustrated by Namaniku, published by Fujimi Shobo.

The review covers both seasons, which is basically the whole show from beginning to end.
Rating:

Chaika ~the Coffin Princess~

Synopsis

Ever since the war ended, saboteur member Toru Acura and his orphan sister Akari kind of drifts through life without a goal. So when Toru meets peculiar girl Chaika Trabant, who's on the lookout for the deceased Emperor Gaz's body parts, the two accept a job as her bodyguards and travelmates.


Review

I have to give Chaika - The Coffin Princess credit for one thing; it pulled off one hell of an opening act. One that included unicorns as an antagonistic force, even, which is one nice turnaround that the show just kind of runs with.

Well.... OK, I can give it more credits than that.

Being a show that merges middle-age surroundings with magic-driven technology that seems more advanced than our real-life counterpart, Chaika had everything it really needed to succeed; a good group of characters with clear motivations and goals, travelling around a fairly complex world with its own idiosyncracies, one of which being recouping from a war. The show also looks nice, with some decent animation to go with the various action scenes. Whether the characters in the show are fighting or sneaking around, there was nothing I could really pick apart as animation flaws. Even the CG, mostly used for magical attacks and effects, but also vehicles, are among the better representations I've seen in TV series.

Toru Acura -- no relation to the car type, I'm sure, and there is a lot of car brand names going around in this show -- is a bit of a layabout. Granted, when your chosen profession is dependant on war happening, peacetime kind of limits one's options. Despite this, even his fellow saboteur sister (the show kind of pronounces it as "sabatar") is getting tired of his aimless crap, so when an opportunity for work passes the two by, she almost literally throws him at it... after smashing an inn's dining area into so much wooden shrapnel. The title of "saboteur" is kind of an odd choice, mostly because his work has little to do with actual sabotage; instead, both he and his sister adhere more to the standard RPG warrior mentality, Toru being a swift ninja-like type and Akari being more of a tank character armed with a huge battle hammer which she uses to impressive effect. And I gotta say; they have this battle mode transformation activated by a short, poetic chant that looks all kinds of cool.

I wasn't sure what to think of their employer at first, though; her supremely gothic clothes aside, Chaika comes with a rather typical cutesy speech impediment, yet she spent her first scene dealing with a rather immediate and dangerous peril -- together with Toru, granted, but there was no doubt that she was pulling her own weight. Eventually, I got used to her speech impediment -- basically picking out just enough words out of each sentence to be understood, which strikes me as an odd way of settling things. At least it's original, I guess? She's a young girl with a very honest and straightforward personality, which is... not quite so original as characterisations go, but in the show's context, it's not particularly problematic either.

It is through Chaika that we gets most of the backstory. Not too long ago, eight heroes fought and killed Emperor Gaz, a man who made some amazing technological advances and created kind of an utopia. Yet, his powers were feared to the point where countries got together for the sake of ending his reign, and his body parts were divided amongst the heroes, each a tool of major magical powers in their own right. As such, there are other people seeking the big prize, including, curiously enough, more girls who call themselves Chaika -- a not entirely unreasonable reveal, as the two Chaikas not only share the same weird-ass speech impediment, but also a few facial traits. Plus hair color, the clearest giveaway.

The team is eventually joined by Frederica, a dragon of sorts. She's another relic of the warring days, and spends most of her time among the current group in the form of a blonde girl or a cat, depending on her mood. She's a bit of a curiosity in that she's really gung-ho about fighting, and only joined because she wants to fight Toru. She's pretty much almost indestructible, which makes her too much of a "get out of jail free" card at times, and also kind of becomes an arrow in the knee whenever they're trying to make us believe she has actually been killed in a fight. It does take away from the tension of her scenes, so the show compensates with making sure she can't interfer too often, which is... eeeh.

The show can get a bit meandering at times, mostly between Chaika and the siblings. Chaika herself is young, but old enough that there is a vague bond forming between Chaika and Toru that doesn't grow iffy because of her age. On the flipside, while Akari and Toru aren't technically blood siblings, Akari has nevertheless formed a rather... unsettling fixation on Toru, and her jealous outbursts form what I consider to be one of the downsides of this show, mostly because they're played for comedy. If you plan on laughing, I hope you like mildly creepy behavior.

There is also a secondary group of main character in the form of the Gillett Squad, a sorta-millitary unit that works under the Kliemann Agency, which are tasked with sorting out various problematic situations as a post-war reconstruction act. Named after the captain of the team, Alveric Gillett, the division is basically made up of various members of... a pretty benevolent group, actually. They're introduced while hunting Chaika, and naturally, that means coming into conflict with Chaika, Toru and Akari. Yet, instead of blindly following orders, they analyze the situation, question their information and reports back with updates to their superior. In fact, all of the members of the Gillette squad are unusually calm and collected for a fighting group, even big guy Nikolai. The sole exception being Vivi Holopainen, who carries some haughty airs and a rather obvious crush on Gillett himself.

The main story -- Chaika's mission to gather body parts -- is split up into several arcs, which spreads over various amounts of episodes, mostly having to do with finding one of the body parts, or dealing with others who are doing the same. The show is straightforward enough that things never really get confusing, and thankfully pulls all of this off without overexplaining things or generally insulting the audience's intelligence. The main mystery; the Chaikas themselves, are eventually explained. However, until that time, you'll have to endure quite a lot of them, some of which come from unexpected sources. Aside from Red Chaika -- and yes, they are basically all color-coded -- we meet Red Chaika, Blue Chaika, Black Chaika, Indigo Chaika and, neither last nor least, our main female lead; White Chaika. I did eventually find the onslaught of Chaikas to be a little ridiculous given how hard people are looking for them, but then the show just ended and that was that.

And so, we come to the elephant in the room: the way the show chose to end. For all its internal politics, the show eventually ends on an RPG final boss confrontation and a right out of nowhere happily ever after, sorta. The show collects its tools and then sets up its pieces and... well, it's really, really, REALLY underwhelming. It feels so rushed and dependant on various events just happening so that everything can fall into place, and while I wouldn't say the ending completely ruins the show, you're still left thinking "So... that was it?" I earlier thought that it was a rushed ending made to prematurely end a still going light novel, but as it turns out, that's not entirely true; the novel ended pretty shortly after the anime did, hopefully a little better. And yeah, that's pretty much all you got. I hope you like 'em brief.

Had the potential to be one of the better fantasy shows out there if not for its bleh ending.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: The show gets curiously graphic with some of its violence, but only occasionally straying into the realm of the somewhat nasty with some psychotic personalities professing their love for blood and torture. Now, I've seen worse -- good God have I seen worse -- but this still makes the show clearly not for children.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (22/22)
Chaika ~the Coffin Princess~ © 2014 BONES, Hitsugi No Chaika Partners
 
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