Chaika – The Coffin Princess: Avenging Battle Review

chaika-2-001Studio: Bones
Length: 10 Episodes x 25 Minutes
Season: Autumn 2014
Release: Crunchyroll

After 300 years of war, eight legendary heroes brought down the Gaz Empire, finally killing its tyrannical emperor, who passed away with no regret knowing his secret project, codename Chaika, was already in place. Ignorant of the emperor’s ultimate plan, each hero took a piece of his body before heading their separate ways.

Years later, the appearance of multiple girls going by the name of Chaika claiming to be the emperor’s daughter threaten to plunge the land into conflict once again, as different groups attempt to hunt down and utilise the emperor’s remains as a massive source of magical energy.

After the fall of the magical floating fortress Soara, our familiar white Chaika, Chaika Trabant, and her rag-tag trio of companions (a pair of ninja-like saboteurs and a transforming metal dragon) stand as the holders of the most remains. With their goal close to fulfilment, the small group continue their quest unknowing of the fact that their adventures put the world on the brink of war.

Studio Bones returns to produce this second half of the adaptation of Ichirō Sakaki’s light novel series, seeking to answer the myriad of questions that have arisen thus far. There’s a specific set of revelations that need to occur before we can understand the bigger picture, and a good amount of screen time is spent in exploring each one. Two whole episodes explain the origins of the Chaikas as the three main core parties, Chaika Trabant’s group, Chaika Bohdan’s group and the Gillette Corps, all converge on a Gaz Empire laboratory placed on an island hidden by magic. There’s a subplot involving an imperial superweapon that becomes important later, but the core focus is on explaining where the Chaikas originated and hinting at what their final purpose may be. While one aspect of this is fairly obvious, the other is a surprise, particularly in how dark it is; and in consideration it is a disappointment how it is done disservice by the way it is brushed off by the cast – saboteurs Toru and Akari remain emotionless, while Chaika cannot seem to understand, in what may be straight denial of, the simple truth.chaika-2-002

With the first half being noted for its mixture of action and stealth, it’s good to see the pattern continue, with the saboteurs creeping through dense woodland and infiltrating enemy bases, although the path to action feels faster and the stealth given less importance than before. There may be no less in the way of assassin-like moves, but frequently enemies are portrayed as significantly weaker than the protagonists, in which they could be beaten in a straight-out fight. When there is no real penalty to being seen, what is the purpose of being stealthy?

The choreography is particularly well done when it involves the saboteurs, with a tactical thought to both survival and objective put into a lot of the moves. When attacked by one of the former heroes, Toru intelligently uses the environment to hold down a raging idiot, rather than cut him down. This display of intelligence and technique sadly does not extend to the rest of the cast – sword fighters perform the same set of static swings, while several of the different magic spells all seem to have the same function in knocking enemies to the ground. A greater variety in moves, particularly on the magical side, would have added some needed flair to some straight-up fights.

It all moves rather fast though, with the pacing of the animation working well, remaining fluid enough to keep up. This is particularly evident in the action-oriented episodes that follow as the King of the Principality of Hartgen throws down a kill-or-be-killed tournament with the prize being Emperor Gaz’s head. Here the story turns towards a frankly typical, uninteresting and short climax; with a bunch of stereotypical villains and Chaika yo-yoing between heroine and damsel in distress as she is once again captured by the enemy. Positively, there’s a lot more emotion reflecting the amount of peril involved, which is a refreshing contrast to the early episodes – Toru actually shows grave concern and desperation for losing Chaika and is willing to take extreme measures to save her; seemingly she is no longer a bothersome child that is followed by obligation through contract. However, for a global threat there’s a lack of global response with only the three main parties defending the entirety of six allied nations, with a single floating fortress of allied soldiers quickly falling to the aforementioned superweapon.chaika-2-003

While we get all the answers to our questions, it all ends too conveniently for any of those core ideas to be appreciated. It is a fear that budget restraints potentially robbed us of a fearsome final clash that would have seen Chaika confront her reason for existence, which when this idea has been at the core of the series leaves a bittersweet taste of victory.

Chaika – The Coffin Princess: Avenging Battle therefore comes so close to being a worthy conclusion, with its core ideas, action and fluidity being its greatest strengths; but faltering to a close before it can truly fulfil itself. While it never set out to achieve anything great, it is still a high flying tale of fantasy and adventure which is more refreshing than most anime that share this type of setting and style.

7/10 – Good