Chaika - The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle
by Paul Jensen,
It sounds counter-intuitive, but one of the best indicators of an action series' quality is how interesting it can be when the bullets and fireballs stop flying. Without the spectacle of a major battle scene to hold the viewer's attention, the writing is forced to stand on its own. Chaika The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle has never been a slouch in the writing department, and this episode does a respectable job of remaining compelling without any big fights to lean on.
As the red and white Chaika groups converge on the mysterious island, we finally get some answers. It was always likely that Emperor Gaz didn't have noble intentions with the Chaika project, and the facts we get from his scientists confirm that suspicion. These revelations don't sit well with the protagonists either, and there's probably one heck of an action sequence in the show's immediate future.
This episode dumps a lot of information on the audience at once, but thankfully stops short of providing backstory for backstory's sake. The captive Kraken's monologue is a bit cryptic and rambling, but serves to drive home the notion that no good will come of following the Emperor's plan. Chaika's need for a goal to pursue kept her collecting Gaz's remains, but now that goal has been called into serious question. With her origins explained in crushing detail, it will be interesting to see where Chaika chooses to go from here. It's surprising to see the plot moving this quickly so early in the season, but the change of pace is welcome after a relatively slow start from the first three episodes.
As fun as it is to watch the story's gears turn, this is ultimately not the best episode in the franchise. A lot of the show's charm, especially the banter between recurring characters, is put on the back burner to make room for all that information. It makes for compelling viewing as it pays off all the curiosity built up by previous episodes, but there's not a lot of what makes this series stand out from the crowd here. It's also worrisome that the island's scientists aren't the most interesting bad guys out there. Hopefully their demi-human soldiers will be able to pick up some of the slack. The prospect of Toru meeting his match in a knife fight is exciting at least.
Beyond these new revelations, it's the characters' ability to think on their own that saves this episode. We're used to seeing Chaika and the Acura siblings act as a group, so it's encouraging to see that they're still interesting when they split up. Chaika seems to know exactly what she's doing when she attempts to find common ground with her captors, and it's always fun to see Toru and Akari use their heads instead of just clobbering the bad guys.
Ultimately, what we have a perfectly competent setup episode. Necessary information is presented and the foundation for fresh conflict is laid, all without boring the audience. It looks like we'll get to enjoy the red and white Chaikas trying to work together next week, which should bring the show's charm back in a big way.
Chaika - The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Paul Jensen also covers anime and manga at SharkPuppet.com.
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