Chaika - The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle
by Paul Jensen,
There's an art to stalling for time. You need to keep your audience excited for the big reveal, but distract them enough that they don't start wondering what's taking so long. Chaika The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle still has the first part down, but it's starting to slip up on the distraction front. The show struggles to fill its screen time this week, and I can't help but wonder why this plot arc isn't moving any faster.
Hartgen's fighting tournament kicks off in this episode, though the action scenes feel more like the opening act than the main event. The main characters steamroll their way through a generous supply of generic baddies, gathering red armbands to qualify for the next round. In the meantime, Hartgen reveals part of his plan and the other nations continue arguing over what to do about it. The whole episode functions as a slow but steady transition from intrigue to action.
The biggest issue here is that most information that gets “revealed” this week has been stated or implied already. We know that the Gillette Squad found the laboratory island, so it's not necessary to show their superiors receiving a report about it. We know that the various nations can't agree over what to do about Hartgen's tournament, so it's OK to skip the round table arguments and go right to the shadowy side deals. It feels as though the series is starting to repeat itself while it tries to think of a way to resolve all the storylines it's come up with.
Hartgen makes for a decent villain, but the whole premise of this plot arc bears an odd similarity to the end of the show's first season. A person in power gets bored with peace and decides to use some of the Emperor's remains to kick off a new war, all while an evil Chaika pulls strings from the shadows. Niva has replaced the floating fortress and the new Chaika wears black instead of blue, but that's about it for major differences. I'm all for the sustainable use of natural resources, but that doesn't mean we need to start recycling fictional scenarios.
On the plus side, there's still plenty to enjoy here. The opening scene of Toru and Akari sneaking into the castle has a classic James Bond vibe to it, and their brief clash with Shin should allow for an impressive rematch later on. Fredrica's cheerful approach to combat never fails to entertain, and I half expect her to start whistling as she mows down expendable bad guys. Even as things grow increasingly serious, it's encouraging to see that the show hasn't forgotten its sense of fun.
The encounter between Chaika and Vivi is interesting, even if they spend most of the scene exchanging old information. There's an obvious tension between them that sets the tone for any future interactions between them. Vivi seems ready to impale anyone who compares her to Chaika, but also understands that they have some dangerous mutual enemies. If the time comes when there aren't any villains in her way to thwart, Vivi may still try to apprehend Chaika. That mess of conflicting emotions makes for a very compelling dynamic between the two of them.
For all its good points, the series is in danger of taking it too slow for too long. Sooner or later, all those well-developed heroes and villains need to get around to fighting one another face to face. The actors are all in place, and it's well past time to start the show.
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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