Chaika - The Coffin Princess (Hitsugi no Chaika), a fun fantasy adventure from Studio Bones, the studio that brought us such classics as Fullmetal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.
Hitsugi no Chaika is set in a fantasy world where a mysterious white haired girl named Chaika is on a mission to collect the remains of her father, the evil Emperor Gaz. Gaz who ruled over the land for 200 years until eight powerful warriors, known as the Eight Heroes, killed him. Since the Emperor's remains contain powerful magic, the eight heroes divided his remains amongst themselves. In the first episode, Chaika encounters Toru Acura, and his sister Akari, both of whom are warriors known as Saboteurs, who are then hired by Chaika to recover the Emperor's remains so that she can give her father a proper burial. What ensues is a fantasy adventure as Chaika and her companions try to recover the remains from the Eight Heroes.
Even though the plot summary might sound like a typical shounen, Chaika is a different type of shounen series. Instead of the usual clichéd wacky humor, exaggerated animation, and themes of friendship, the series is more of a classic fantasy adventure like Tolkien's The Hobbit, except with a world featuring heavy sci-fi elements along with the fantasy. The series is split into two seasons, with season one titled "Chaika - The Coffin Princess" and season two "Chaika - The Coffin Princess: Avenging Battle," consisting of 22 episodes in total.
The Good: Lovable characters, Superb voice cast, Appealing character designs, Well placed humor, Studio Bones' quality animation, Chaika is adorable, Tolkien-esque fantasy adventure,
The Bad: Characters are sidelined in the last six episodes, Rushed conclusion,
Plot: 6.7/10- Chaika's plot is relatively simple, at least in the first season, and the beginning of the second.
For the first 14 episodes or so, it s a character driven story with the MacGuffin being the Emperor's remains. What makes this premise work is that story progresses because of the characters actions. On their journey, the characters encounter different parts of the world, and try to take back the Emperor's remains. Along the way, some plot twists are thrown in, which makes you question the original goal. Season two gets off to a strong as it unravels the mystery behind Chaika's origins and forgotten past. Unfortunately, by the halfway mark, the series shifts to a plot driven narrative as it charges towards the rushed finale. As far as rushed finales go, Chaika's is far from the worst, but its lack of focus on the characters is disappointing considering that the characters are the best aspect. Due to said ending, it really soured my initially positive opinion of the series.
Unfortunately, season two sidelined the characters in favor of a rushed conclusion. The early episodes of the season still contained the lovable character dynamic, but the second half mostly focused on the story. On the plus side, at least the story received a conclusion. All too many anime leave the audience without a proper conclusion, and Chaika at least delivered that. It may not have been satisfying, but at least we got one.
Characterization: 8.0/10- What makes The Coffin Princess so much fun are the characters. Chaika is an adorable young girl, who does not know why she must find her father's remains, but is nevertheless driven to give him a proper burial. She also talks in adorably broken Japanese, and she has an innocence about her that you cannot help but love. However, she is given enough character development to prevent her from being a moe-blob, and she is almost never used for fanservice.
Even though Chaika is the titular character that steals the spotlight, Toru Acura is technically the main protagonist. What makes Toru different than a typical shounen protagonist is that he, despite his age, is already an experienced warrior, so he is a soldier without a war to fight, which is the driving force behind his servitude to Chaika.
Akari Acura, Toru's adopted sister, and Fredrika are two likable supporting characters, who are often the comedic relief in a deadpan type manner, round out the quartet of heroes in this fantasy adventure.
What makes the main four characters so likable is the banter between them. Each one has a distinct personality that works brilliantly to create an entertaining dynamic.
Even though the final antagonist is disappointingly shallow, the antagonists of the first season, and part of the second seasons, are well rounded characters.
Action: 8.2/10- Chaika's action is not the most spectacular work from Studio Bones; however, it features many well animated and choreographed action sequences, which utilize the unique fantasy and sci-fi elements.
Acting: 8.6/10- The cast is very distinct with Chika Anzai being the most notable member of the cast as Chaika. Her delivery of adorably broken Japanese really brings the character to life. The rest of the cast all do a fine job in their roles, bolstered by an always noteworthy performance by Chiwa Saito.
Animation: 7.9/10- Studio Bones' continue to excel at action anime with Chaika being a highlight. While the animation is not on par with their other work from the year like Noragami or Captain Earth, it was still top notch work. The character designs in particular should be commended.
Soundtrack: 6.5/10- Seikou Nagaoka's score is the type that is rarely noticeable, but never detracts from the experience, so it did its job for the most part.
Humor: 8.4/10- In typical Bones' fashion, Chaika has a perfect blend of humor and adventure. Unlike their previous works, the humor never uses the over exaggerated shounen expressions and animation to portray the humor with most of it coming from the banter between the characters.
Opening and Ending: 7.5/10- Each opening and ending have great songs and generally strong animation that make them worth watching several times.
Non-Otaku Appeal: Even though there is has a similar tone to the Hobbit, there are other superior anime that newcomers to the medium should watch first, like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Entertainment Value: 7.9/10- Until the final six episodes, the series was always a pleasure to watch.
Season 1: 8.0/10_Season 2: 7.2/110 = Overall: 7.7/10- Ultimately, Chaika - The Coffin Princess is a tale of two seasons. Season one is a fun fantasy adventure with the type of lovable characters and fantasy adventure that is reminiscent of Bones' past work. On the other hand, season two is an unfortunately rushed conclusion to the story, even though it still contains a few of the highlights of the first season.
Closing comments: Even though the disappointing finale left me a bit bitter, as an overall adventure, Chaika - The Coffin Princess is one that is mostly certainly worth your time if you want to watch a good fantasy, providing you have already seen the superior Rage of Bahamut (review here).
Recommended for: Action fans, Fantasy fans, Shounen fans,
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