Chaika - The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle
by Paul Jensen,
In a medium that's filled to the brim with ambitious story ideas and novel visual styles, there's something to be said for getting the simple things right. Even in the absence of an original premise, good writing and solid animation will consistently produce something worth watching. If there's one show this season that embodies execution over novelty, it's Chaika - The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle. The concept may feel familiar, but the content remains fresh and compelling.
The new season picks up where the first left off: Chaika and the Acura siblings continue their search for Emperor Gaz's remains while the Gillette Squad struggles to come to terms with their recent losses. We get some additional information on what Gaz was up to before his demise, but only just enough to keep things interesting. Red Chaika and her followers are still on their own hunt for the remains, and Guy is still a condescending jerk. There isn't much of an attempt to recap past events, so any newcomers would be well advised to start from the beginning.
What elevates this series above other “collect all the magic trinkets” shows is the amount of thought that goes into the plot and character development. Chaika has gradually evolved from a quirky girl with a comically large rifle into a genuinely fascinating person. Her decision to press on with the mission in spite of recent revelations is a compelling mix of strength and weakness. It shows both her determination to move forward and her desperate need for a reason to exist, which is far more complexity than one might expect from an adorable anime heroine.
That depth of personality extends throughout the supporting cast. Toru and Akari are a frequent source of entertaining banter, but their past as saboteurs continues to affect their decisions. Even in the absence of their morally conflicted leader, the members of the Gillette Squad remain more than just a group of soldiers who chase the protagonists around. After Vivi of all people has taken on a Chaika-like form, we should be in for some emotionally intense side stories.
The fight sequences continue to look quite good, although we've yet to see the sort of intense showdowns that made last season so exciting. That's not necessarily the fault of the animation, which remains consistently strong. The fact is, Chaika's most recent adversaries haven't been all that dangerous. With Red Chaika back in the picture and an island full of enemies on display in the preview for episode four, that issue looks to be a temporary one.
Perhaps the best news is that this new season hasn't forgotten the sense of fun that we've come to expect from this series. An action series without a sense of humor can quickly become exhausting to watch, so it's nice to see that the show can still laugh at itself. Along with its many immediately funny moments, there are also some more clever setups where the humor takes a minute to sink in. (There is something deeply amusing about a girl who speaks in incomplete sentences having trouble trimming the unnecessary words out of her magical incantations.)
Chaika - The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle may not rewrite the anime playbook, but it does show what good execution can do for a familiar concept. It's an accessible show that should appeal to a broad audience. As long as it continues to play to its strengths, there's no reason this season won't be as entertaining as the first. If you're not on board already, now's the time to catch up.
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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