Hitsugi no Chaika Review

This is review number two hundred and eighty three. This anime is part of the Spring 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is this show called Chaika the Coffin Princess or “Hitsugi no Chaika”. It’s a twelve episode anime about a girl trying to collect dead body parts…because she’s a freak or something. No, she’s not. Also, this is the third light novel anime I’ll be reviewing. What is up with people and LN anime? I’ve seen two subpar ones. Is this one subpar as well? Let’s read on.

Story

This anime is about a girl named Chaika. One day, she was lost in the woods and she happens to bump into a guy named Toru. After surviving an ordeal with a rouge monster, Chaika asked Toru’s help to retrieve some special items for her. After the war, a guy like Toru that was skilled to fight at the battlefield has no choice but to accept the job. It turns out though that Chaika is actually the daughter of Emperor Gaz, the main aggressor in the war. She wants to collect her father’s scattered remains and hold a funeral for him. The daughter of the guy that sparked the war now wants to collect his scattered body parts and she wants Toru to help her. With the tensions of the war far from subsiding, Chaika’s harmless little quest could actually spark another war in a world that just had one five years ago.

Taking the Pants Off

Ok, so my review poll is broken. I let people decide on what show I’ll review next and I also encouraged them to spam the hell out of the votes to outweigh the scales. For some odd reason though, all you f*ckers decided to group the light novel adapted anime in one area of the polls. This is now my third light novel adapted show that I’ll be reviewing. This happened at the last poll as well. All the less than five minute shows are grouped at the bottom. I guess this just shows you that most people don’t venture out of genres they are not accustomed to. As TPAB, I am whole heartedly saying that you’re not experiencing everything anime has to give. I used to randomly choose the shows I watch so I guess I’m just a bit surprised that most people watch anime like herded sheep. Then again, I’m the weird one for watching anime blindly. I just hope the review polls to come become more diverse. C’mon people, TPAB wants this to be a Russian roulette and you’re given the choice to load a bullet on all the chambers. Anyways, I wasn’t that excited with Chaika the Coffin Princess. It’s the third convoluted and dialogue heavy show I’ve seen so I didn’t have that much enthusiasm going into it. I was honestly ready to rule it as another subpar show like Black Bullet and No Game No Life. If Madhouse can screw it up then I can also assume that Bones would fail hard at this one. Here’s the funny thing though. This show is actually really good. Dear readers, Chaika the Coffin Princess is what a light novel adapted anime should be like. It’s paced well. It establishes the story and the characters smartly. A few episodes in, it wasn’t really all that remarkable but the show perfectly captured the appeal of the original source and makes it look easy. Let’s just say that by the time I saw the last episode, I was so glued to my screen and I literally wanted more of it. This is coming from a guy that has seen 280 plus anime. The patient storytelling coupled by the balanced action sequences and the well rounded characters makes Chaika The Coffin Princess definitely one of the most satisfying show for Spring 2014.

The show started out actually pretty interesting. Toru and Chaika meet in the woods and were immediately attacked by a unicorn. The first sight of the anime destined to be awesome was when we saw the unicorn literally split in half. Right off the bat, this is your typical standard light novel affair. We have a world with a rich background, overwhelming terms the audience has no context about like saboteur and gundo, one dimensional characters that look cool at first glance and a subtle attempt at a harem. For this show, I actually don’t mind staring at Chaika all day because she is pretty damn cute. Anyways, the show had a bit of a rocky start and I admit that it was a bit uninteresting. The show just feels a bit disjointed because the story feels too similar and the characters are a bit stiff. I think it was on purpose because Toru is supposed to be the cool “I don’t care” type. It just didn’t quite meld together that decently though. The only thing that made me keep on watching is the promise of another unicorn being split in half in a graphic manner. It was the action that really drew me in. It cuts through all the dialogue heavy scenes and the rather dull moments of the show. As it progresses though, things become a lot more satisfying and there is actually a wonderful payoff for all the boring scenes if you keep on watching. The story builds up, the characters intensify and the action becomes grander. It just had a bumpy first half but, I assure you, the second half picks it back up pretty awesomely.

This show had three plot points. They’re all nicely weaved together as it makes up the really compelling aspects of the story. The first one is about Chaika and Toru trying to collect the scattered body parts of Emperor Gaz. It’s a pretty simple set up. The two of them, along with Toru’s sister, travels from one town to another trying to look for the body parts. It is said that the eight heroes that defeated Gaz all took possession of one body part. With Gaz possessing incredible magical powers, it is believed that the body parts can be used as magic fuel to power up any machine. It can also be used to make someone insanely strong. So the story is mostly about Chaika and Toru visiting a town and then discovering that something iffy is going on around there. This usually leads them to a body part being used by a dubious person for dubious reasons. Anyways, they charge head on to retrieve the item and this usually spells trouble for the team because you’ll never know what the body parts are being used for. It can power up a strong machine, it can be used to create chaos or it can be used for something more evil. Still, Chaika is a stubborn person that would do anything to retrieve her father’s dead body and unfortunately, a saboteur (it’s like a mercenary but more ninja like) like Toru can’t disobey his employer’s orders.

Things get a bit more complicated when Chaika and Toru is become wanted people accused of trying to start another war. A group of people that is part of the Postwar Reconstruction Implementation Agency called the Kilemann Agency is now trying to apprehend the team. The one tasked to chase them down is this guy named Gillette who commands the Gillette Corps. Their job is to stop anyone that wants to threaten the peace and they believe that Chaika is doing just that. So wherever Chaika goes, the Gillette Corps is always right behind their tail waiting for a chance to catch them. Toru’s job is now becomes more complicated. He has to fend off the Gillette Corps while also charging head on to clear danger trying to collect the body parts. It is a pretty cool concept with Chaika just stealing things and Gillette going insane as he is unable to capture his adversaries. The approach is quite different though. There is an equal focus on both Toru’s team and Gillette’s team. It was clear that both of them are important characters trying to be developed. The problem is that it all feels a bit questionable at first. The story is that of a cat and mouse chase yet all the dialogue heavy scenes robs us of a chance to see that. It keeps on making us care for Gillette and the Postwar Reconstruction people as they are being overwhelmed by their higher ups. I wanted another unicorn split in half but all I’m getting is talk and it can get pretty boring. Of course, the decision to put dialogue over action is paid off handsomely once you realize the eventual role Gillette plays at the later parts of the anime.

The whole concept of travelling from one town to another is also a bit iffy at first. The concept works because it reminds me of an RPG game where you travel from one town to another. The problem is that one episode would consist of the characters moving to a new town. The story for that episode is often established first and it has additional dialogue heavy scenes and full out exposition that feels a bit daunting to keep going. As I said before, the show rewards you with tremendous and satisfying action but I must also admit that I fell asleep at episode 3 and 4 because I just found them boring. The interesting angle about the situations of the towns feels a bit hollow because you’ll eventually see another one on the next episode. It’s not as fun when you consider how much work is needed to enjoy the show. The first plot point eventually becomes more interesting though when the second plot point is established and the focus is now more on why the body parts are being collected rather than focusing on how Toru will collect them.

The second plot point is about Chaika herself. Emperor Gaz is actually a mysterious individual. There aren’t a lot of people that know him that well. Books and reports about him are actually pretty rare if they can even be deemed useful. There isn’t any information about him that clearly defines who the guy is. So when the question of Emperor Gaz having a daughter in the first place was brought up, things kind of got a whole lot more interesting. The second plot point is about Chaika’s identity. Is she really the daughter of the most powerful magician in the world? To make matters worse, Chaika has no recollection of how she came to be. Her memories are only those of a year ago and she basically just woke up realizing she needed to collect her father’s body parts. She carries a large coffin to put the parts in and just had an idea to travel so she can collect them. This now casts doubts on Chaika’s intention. Is she really trying to collect the body parts so she can bury it? Or is she really trying to ignite another war? Who the hell is she anyways? Can she even be trusted? I love the second plot point because it adds some depth to the simple story. A cat and mouse chase now turns into something more complicated. For Toru though, it’s all black and white. He doesn’t care what Chaika really wants as long as he obeys her. At this point, it is possible that his loyalty is beyond that of an employee trusting an employer. As this plot point progresses, it becomes a lot more exciting. More characters are introduced that blew the story beyond proportions. Towards the end of the first half, the straightforward cat and mouse story soon turns into a well-rounded one with a compelling mystery on the side. After this plot point is established, the third plot point is then introduced.

The last plot point is about the war. The world achieved peace five years ago but a lot of people are not happy by this. It was actually scattered all throughout the first half of the show. Toru did not care if a war broke out because, as a saboteur, his skills are more in demand if the world enters a war. The eight heroes they encounter, the ones that supposedly killed Emperor Gaz, are all messed up in their own way. The war stirred something bad inside of them and the title of “hero” seems a bit laughable to them now. Gillette is showing disdain for the higher ups as they do not value the importance of the Postwar Committee and even dreams to be as wild as Toru, and lastly, a bunch of jobless people has been eagerly itching for some sort of calamity to ensue. It’s pretty chilling how this plot point was established. It covered every possible aspects and it created really stunning narrative that completes the show. While the last plot point was mentioned briefly from the start, it only took form when a man named Duke Gavarni has refused to stop flying his floating fortress. The focus is then shifted to the council of six nations that is trying to find a way to deal with Duke Gavarni. Some of them immediately want war and you see the poor Postwar Committee trying to keep things together. Unfortunately, things are being pulled at the seams and it feels like bloodshed is unavoidable at this point.

The third plot point really made this show worthwhile. All the boring dialogue heavy scenes finally make sense because of the last plot point. All the boring scenes culminated in a satisfying narrative that smartly utilized all the characters and all the notable events leading up to the last plot point. I love how everything that felt disjointed at first now becomes so much clearer because of this last plot point. It was able to give me a really wonderful anime experience that is worth sitting through an unremarkable first half. It’s so incredibly structured that I can’t stop giving praise to it. Far too anime has gone ham fisted with their light novel adaptation that it feels really satisfying to see one that takes time to lay the groundwork, achieve a balance of action with narrative, and also flesh out the characters. It’s rare to see something as well done as Chaika the Coffin Princess.

The characters made this show pretty special. At first, they were a bit forced. It was part of the disjointed first half. The characters weren’t as properly appreciated starting out. In fact, Toru didn’t feel that impressive. After seeing two more light novel about cool male characters, Toru just felt like a cardboard cutout. His personality is minimal and it seemed out of place next to Chaika. A skilled mercenary who can turn superhuman after chanting a spell does sound like a cool character but it’s sandwiched between the boring story and the dialogue heavy scenes. Toru does grow on you though like a lot of the characters. He soon becomes the dependable guy that saves the day. His shameless morals feels friendly next to Chaika’s overly trusting nature and his growing fondness for the girl makes him a lot more interesting to watch. As the show progresses, he is thoroughly fleshed out to the point where you really want to see more of the heroic stuff Toru does. I personally just want to see him next to Chaika. She is an annoying character when you first meet her. She talks in short breathes. Like this. More annoying. But just like this. Shocking truth! It’s as stupid as that visual novel craze where characters go “wafu” at the end of their sentences. At first, I really only liked Chaika because she is cute. Her character design is awesome and I was easily mesmerized by it. Everything she does is cute and she soon becomes some sort of comic relief for the show. It’s an overly serious anime with all the dialogues but Chaika and her weird talking is a welcomed change of pace. With the introduction of the second plot point, she becomes a lot more desirable to see. Her growing relationship with Toru is really fun to watch and her slow character development is really amazing. She keeps her trusting nature but I also admire how Toru was able to change her into so much more. As the show progresses, seeing these two develop a cute relationship is also a nice icing on top of the cake.

There are a lot of side characters in this show. They all add something unique to the story and I love how the anime utilized the large cast. Much like the two main characters, the side characters didn’t feel all that impressive starting out. They were pretty bland but they developed wonderfully as the story gradually takes form. One of the recurring side characters includes Toru’s sister. Her name is Akari and she is the kuudere type. She doesn’t show a lot of emotion and she is serious most of the time. She waves around a pretty awesome hammer and she is as skilled in combat as Toru. The two siblings have a very cold relationship. They don’t really act like siblings but they do look out for each other. It is an odd mix of two serious characters and someone like Chaika to be together. You can tell things were muddled starting out. Eventually, Akari does learn to lighten up and she presents her comedic side from time to time but never really showing what she really feels. As the show progresses, any fight scene really isn’t complete without Akari waving around her cool hammer. You often anticipate the exciting sequences the sibling saboteur is about to participate in.

Another important side character is Gillette. I hated this guy in the first half. He walks up to Toru and demanded the body parts then uses his military rank to make the other guy obey. He is arrogant and he rolls around in a giant tank as if he owns the place. He just rubs me the wrong way, I guess. The idea that Toru outmatches him does make me feel happy though. Along the line though, Gillette is someone you’ll familiarize with. He belongs in the Postwar Restoration group and they are given nagging problems but treated as if nuisance for important political people. Gillette’s job is basically accepting to be bent over a table and screwed countless time. His growing frustrations are one of the best build up I’ve seen in any anime. His loyalty slowly wavers and he is often questioning if his role serves that much benefit. The cat and mouse story between his team and Toru’s soon faded because you can no longer identify an antagonist. Gillette’s group does make certain dilemmas more daunting for Toru but it’s nothing the guy can’t crawl out of. After each confrontation, I think it’s hard not to like Gillette and all of his self-doubt and pitying. The rest of his team also serves an important role in the story. They all have their quirks but they mostly act as one. They are all worried for Gillette and they want to do their best to capture Toru’s team so their leader won’t have it so hard anymore. It’s a diverse group of talented people. From magicians to highly skilled mercenaries, the group has a nice interaction between them that actually helped them look less antagonistic. I also think the team has a bigger role in the second season because they were intricately built up just like Gillette as if preparing them for a bigger role down the line. I am actually feeling excited at the endless possibilities the show will do for the characters.

There are a lot of minor characters. From the eight heroes that defeated Emperor Gaz to the other people after his body parts, the anime was able to introduce a lot of important characters and I think they all contribute something important to the story somewhere down the line. This show mostly serve as groundwork for the rest of the story so most episodes just introduce minor characters that are posed to reappear later down the line. With the way the story set it up, it was pretty amazing how the characters were able to look awesome in the short time they were introduced. One good example of this is the members of Council of the six nations. They were introduced as a round table with a king residing over them. In the small and short appearances of the council, it was already established that the members are stupidly political, hot headed and they clamor for bloodshed much like the shady people trying to reignite the war. They were barely focused at but thanks to the boring dialogue heavy scenes, context was established to fully appreciate the characters. The anime is so well structured that even minor characters can develop an important role. It’s pretty freaking amazing.

At the end of the last episode, Chaika the Coffin Princess season 2 is already announced. With the way the story ended, I am actually glad that a second season is already coming. All the boring dialogue heavy scenes will now be replaced by a really exciting story that is worth waiting till Fall 2014. I haven’t been excited in a long time. Seriously, TPAB rarely see any good anime nowadays yet Chaika the Coffin Princess even went as far as to deliver a plot twist he did not see coming. I really appreciate how Bones handled this adaptation. It’s not like most light novel anime that just stuff as many volume as it wants to. They actually took the time to set the story up and that kind of approach is actually pretty rare nowadays. I think they understood how amazing the story is and that kind of respect to the original source should be taught to every other f*cking studio that would dare attempt a light novel adaptation. It’s funny that Soichi Masui directed this anime. He also directed Scrapped Princess and that’s almost identical to the concept behind Chaika the Coffin Princess. I haven’t actually seen Scrapped Princess to make more comparisons. It aired on a local channel back when I was in high school along with DNAngel and Fruits Basket but I was mostly invested in the other two shows that Scrapped Princess. Soichi mostly did a lot of storyboarding in his career. Storyboarding is basically writing the flow of the story before animating it. I think his years storyboarding great shows made him realize that a good story equals a great anime. I cannot wait for the second season. As long as it does not f*ck it as badly as Kakumeiki Valverave did then I think it’s safe to say that the second season is going to be pretty amazing. Anything below an eight out of ten is absurd with how rich the story has become.

Sight and Sound

coffin1

Namaniku ATK is an amazing artist. He mostly does superbly perverted artwork but you cannot deny how amazing his detail work is. Right off the bat, I think Chaika’s design is pretty amazing. I love the all-white design. The long white dress with the long hair looks good with the way Namaniku spins it. His approach is often making sure the face is as striking as the rest of the artwork. Notice the red blush on Chaika’s face as it is accentuated by the all-white design. You’ll then notice the long thick eye brows and soon see her face that looks innocent yet strangely fierce. This was done on purpose because Chaika’s look is flexible. I won’t spoil much. Let’s just say she can be slutty if she wants to and the character design can easily make that happen. The all-white design doesn’t stop on the clothes. Her skin is beautiful as well. Seeing her half naked often makes me want to create a GIF of her just opening her legs. Gawd, I’m creepy. For the anime though, the thick black outline distracted me at first. I think more subtle lines suited Namaniku’s design because the bold outlines overpower the design sometimes but that problem eventually fades when you’re entranced by the story. The rest of the characters are also greatly designed. The outfits are the biggest standout. Toru’s all-black outfit matches well with his serious face and blue hair. The detail work is pretty insane sometimes. The anime wasn’t able to make it as fancy as it could be but the accessories dangling off the characters sometimes really complete them. I love the ones adorned on Gillette and his team. It captures their military background but never wandering off the RPG appeal the anime does.

I also love the design on the mechanical elements of the show. From the magical powered guns to the vehicles, it had the RPG appeal that easily draws you the rich world the show is set in. It has some CG but the basic design of having a magic user run it is pretty impressive. I think the stand out mechanic design of all would have to be the floating fortress. Both the outside and the inside are insanely detailed. It looks menacing on the outside and the long corridors on the inside make it a pretty impressive fort. It is highly detailed and it just adds more to the colorful narrative the anime has. The monsters are also pretty decent. Again, RPG inspired but still looks pretty awesome. From the dragons to the wolves to even the creepy human monster hybrids, the show has a lot of monsters that the characters beat up. Their design is decent and it really establishes the RPG element of the show.

The animation is pretty outstanding. The narrative is the most important part of this anime but the action is also nicely presented. Especially in the first half, the action carried the dialogue heavy story. The fights are nicely choreographed. Saboteurs fights with knives and shuriken so it’s mostly fast paced hand to hand combat in this anime. The flow of the fights is pretty precise. Each strike and hit is nicely presented and the pacing is so well thought out that it can be exciting at times just seeing characters go wild. The use of special effects is mostly evident when Chaika fires her gundo. She chants a spell and she fires magic from her gun. The way she position herself to fire the gun to the magic circles it creates are all nicely animated. Bones is a pretty amazing studio to skimp out on flashy animation. I’m glad they understood the importance of a well-paced fight to the overall structure of the show. It can get pretty graphic at times like the unicorn split in half in the first episode but it’s mostly monsters dying. There is one scene though where a girl was stabbed in the head and she twitched as she slowly dies but it doesn’t happen all the time. The use of CG is minimal but it’s not the stiff kind that looks laughable. It actually looks good on the mechanical elements of the anime.

The anime’s OP is “DARAKENA” by Iori Nomizu. The singer also voiced a minor character in the show. The song is pretty decent. It does grow on you but it’s not really all that impressive. Iori’s voice seems a bit forced to me. That’s just my opinion though. The chorus is catchy but her voice throws me off. The pace of the song is pretty nice though. The OP sequence is pretty great. It focuses on Toru, Akira and Chaika. It’s like a noir OP with a lot of montages featuring the two saboteurs beating up people in some flash effects. It also has some cool scenes about Chaika looking cute with her cool gun. I love the mysterious montage with a little bit of the events of the anime mixed in but it’s too hard to decipher any of them.

The anime’s ED is “Kairaku Genri” by coffin princess (CV: Chika Anzai, Saeko Zougou, Yui Makino). This song was sung by Chaika and two other girls. It’s actually a pretty brilliant addition to the anime. The song itself is much like the OP. It is high intensity but nothing really remarkable. The voices blend well together and it has a nice pace to it but nothing really impressive. The ED sequence is also the same. It features a mysterious montage that holds a few notable events of the show but nothing that spoils the surprise. It also holds a few pieces of the overall puzzle regarding Chaika but,  again, nothing that makes sense for now.

Overall Score

7/10 “It had a great story but the muddled and disjointed first half cuts the enjoyment a lot.”

As much as I believe that this show is one of the best for Spring 2014, I also know that it’s quite flawed. As an impartial reviewer, I know that this show doesn’t deserve a high score…for now. Season two is going to be a solid eight though. I can promise you that. As long as it doesn’t go Valverave on us, I would bet my pants that the second season is going to be amazing. If you enjoyed Scrapped Princess then you’ll love the similarities in this show. If you’re a fan of good storytelling coupled with some decent action sequences then this anime is for you. If you want to watch a good example of a great light novel adaptation then check this show out. I recommend it.

6 thoughts on “Hitsugi no Chaika Review

  1. This ended up being my favorite show from last season although to be fair I haven’t watched Ping Pong yet and I’ve heard that was pretty fantastic. It definitely had some flaws and some of the characters seemed a little flat at first, but I genuinely looked forward to watching it each week which is rare for me when it comes to seasonal anime.

    Chaika also quickly became one of my favorite characters in recent memory and now I randomly throw “Shocking truth!” into conversations even though not all of my friends understand the context.

    I want to check out Scrapped Princess but as far as I can tell there are not legal means of streaming it at the moment.

  2. I’d say the overall mystery is the greatest highlight of the show(I’m a sucker for mystery/conspiracy themes), and look forward to seeing its resolution next season.

    The LNs explain that Chaika talks strangely because she is not fluent in the land’s common language(ie. spoken Japanese).
    She is,however, fluent in speaking Laake, a northern dialect widely spoken in the Gaz Empire.

  3. Thank you for bringing this Anime to my attention. In hindsight, I can see what you mean: there are a lot of deep flaws in the series: pacing can be weird, so many characters in so little time that many of them are effectively one dimensional, and some actions don’t really make logical sense when you think about them.

    Plus, they don’t explain anything, so there are a lot of “wait. What happened? Why are they doing this?”

    However, while I was watching it, I didn’t care. It was pretty to watch, the characters were charming in their moments, and the mystery kept building and kept me guessing.

    Its greatest problem probably is that it is no where near a complete package as a 12 episode series. While there certainly was a climax, and important things were found out and characters developed, these 12 episodes were pretty much all exposition for an overarching story and mystery that only really started to come to the fore in the last, I don’t know, three episodes.

    Otherwise you had all these characters, (light spoilers)

    such as the Red girl, the blue girl, the neo-graz, guy, the council, all these characters that when they’re introduced you know their going to go on to play a significant role, but then once their episode ends, we don’t see them again for the rest of the series.It really is just a lot of exposition and character introductions. Heck, we still don’t have a good idea what a Sabatuer actually is, or any clue on the significance of the neck scar.

    Of course, all that remains is to see if the second season lives up to the premise built in the first. If it does, then this season will retroactively be raised a few points. If it doesn’t then this one will fall.

  4. Many friends recommended this show to me, but I ended up stopping after the 10th episode LOL I was quite disappointed with the action scenes – like when he was battling the unicorn I was like “meh” but then apparently he’s supposed to be really good??? I think another major reason why I didn’t enjoy this show very much is the disjointed first half, as you stated in this review. Oh well. Going to read other reviews of yours to look for more anime to watch 🙂 Keep up the amazing work!!

Thoughts~

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