This is review number four hundred and twenty five. This anime is part of the Fall 2014 lineup, and it’s called Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle. It’s a ten episode anime about a girl trying to collect her dad’s body parts because, I dunno, some idiots chopped the dude up. It’s an awesome second season, read me gush about it below. Let’s read on.
Chaika’s journey continues, but the end is also insight. Soon she will learn the truth about everything. She’ll know who she truly is, she’ll know who her father is and she’ll know the true reason to why she collects her father’s remains. After averting war in the past season, it seems trouble is not that far off and the threat of war appears once more.
Taking the Pants Off
I remember loving the first season of Chaika to death, and I was a bit cautious of the second season when I learned it was only ten episodes long. I’ve seen anime so bad it couldn’t salvage itself with twenty five episodes (f*cking Argevollen), so I kinda tucked this anime away for a later date. I decided to watch it yesterday, and yeah, this anime is pretty amazing. In a weird sense, this anime gave me a cinematic experience. I’m not even sure if that’s a fair review of an anime, since I’m sure other shows have done it as well. But the second season of Chaika has a three act structure and the flow of the series feels like you’re watching a movie. It’s really weird, because I dunno, I’ve seen four hundred plus anime and this is the only time I’ve ever said an anime felt like a movie. I try to remember shows like Tiger and Bunny or any KyoAni output that also felt like a movie, but nah, those shows still took advantage of its regular anime airing format. Hitsugi no Chaika Avenging Battle is more hyper focused and the pacing really feel like the three act structure exists in a five hour anime. I’ll break it down below, but that’s really the main hook of this anime. It’s so good that it feels like you’re watching a movie. It’s so engaging I finished it in a day, mostly because I treated it like a movie and movies are supposed to be consumed in one sitting. Unless it’s that long Ten Commandments movie. I fell asleep watching that one.
The White Chaika Recap
Obviously, you can’t enjoy the second season without watching the first. I saw it such a long time ago, but this anime does try to refresh the audience of its important plot points. Firstly, we follow Chaika and her two skilled friends in finding the severed body parts of her father. He was a final boss magician that needed to die in order for the three hundred year war to end. The eight heroes that killed him, chopped him up and got a body part as a trophy or something. Either way, Chaika wants them so she can give her dad a funeral. But uh oh, there are other Chaikas hunting down body parts as well. More importantly a “Red Chaika” is on the prowl trying to beat White Chaika to the body parts. At the end of the first season, a Blue Chaika appears in a floating fortress ready to f*ck some sh*t up. Her aggression will lead to a new war, and the main characters try to stop her.
It is clearly established though that everyone wants war. Displaced soldiers who only knew how to fight, civilians struggling to get their life back together and even some leaders of several countries are convinced they were better off having a war. A special task force, called the Kileman group, tries their best to pacify the situation and the floating fortress is obviously a big problem for them. More importantly, the anime focused on the leader of the group named Gillette as he try to convince people that peace is the better option. In the end of the first season, he snaps but a stray laser blast from the fortress blows him up. His current status is missing. But anyways, Blue Chaika is stopped and the hunt for the body parts continues. The first season also ended with a lot of questions like, will we see a crayon set of Chaika complete with a Fuschia color? Why exactly are there multiple Chaikas collecting the bodies? Is there a bigger conspiracy behind of all this, and is everyone dancing in the palms of a dead man? Well, the second season answers everything, and I mean that they really left no stone unturned.
The Three Act Structure
Now let’s talk about the second season and why it functions like a movie. I think the show actually adapted three volumes of the light novel, and you could argue the original source had more volumes but the anime chose to end it now. The last three volumes of the manga weren’t out yet when they were making the anime, so they really made do with what they have. Compared to the first season as well, the pace wasn’t as fast and abrupt with a lot of breathing room for character development and backstories. The second season went on overdrive, and I have no problem with it. Again, I like it because it functioned like a movie. Now, let’s get technical. The three act structure (in a movie, I know it exists in books and other medium but I’m mostly talking about movies and I am also no expert on anything film related so call me out when I mess up my facts, thank you) is composed of an introduction, a rising action and falling action. A beginning, middle and end basically.
Now, you might be asking, doesn’t anime usually have a three act structure already? I’d say no, but it depends on the adaptation. Some original screenplays, like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, have a three act structure but others don’t. Most usually take advantage of the episode run to craft a story. For example, Tamako Market had no structure at all and it mostly relied on the staff arranging the episodic content for better viewing consumption. While adaptations like LNs or manga also doesn’t have them, they do have arcs and volumes containing their own three act structure. When adapted, the anime also adapts the transition chapters from one three act to another, so regular anime format usually don’t function like a movie. So why does Hitsugi no Chaika Avenging Battle feels more like a movie than a regular anime? Simply put, the three act structure is so obvious that you can feel it happen in its standard form.
Act One, The Setup
Act One is where you introduce the characters, the setting and the rule of the world. We can argue that the first season already accomplished this, so we focus on the second season’s main elements for the first act: the hook and the inciting incident. The hook is like a taste of the story, an event that grabs a viewer’s attention and engages more in the movie. Think of Infinity War when Loki’s ship is destroyed by Thanos and Hulk is no match for purple balls chin. That’s a hook, a good introduction for the rest of the film. This anime opened with a hook when the familiar characters are out in a field trying to beat one of the heroes that possess a body part. It introduces the fast paced nature of the show, the action oriented story and the reintroduces the characters. I needed this scene, because I really forgot what the anime was about. All I remember is a kissing scene between Chaika and the main guy character when he was drowning. It didn’t really reflect the anime at all. I just really liked that they kissed. But yeah, the hook is established mainly to tell the audience that the second season will be a lot more badass than the first.
The inciting incident kinda gets the ball rolling on the story. Again, Infinity War, purple Homer Simpson sends his crew to mess up New York. This incident assembled the team and the story rolls from there. This anime also had an inciting incident when the cast of characters are informed of the dead dad’s treasure and decided to go look for it. I’m trying to be vague, but that basically transitioned the show into its second act. One thing that really stood out to me in the first few episodes is the writing. The characters weren’t really developed, but important facts related to the story are foreshadowed early on. Both of these things had tremendous impact in the succeeding episodes, and it’s kinda fascinating how it is setup. We don’t get a scene where the characters just talk about themselves or their own character arcs established in the past season, but there were enough to really drive the story forward.
Everything discussed in the story is usually reincorporated later on. A good example of this is the hero they fought in the first episode. She mentioned having a reason to live after the war ended, and this directly foreshadows an event in the later episodes. Another example is Chaika learning shorter incantations, but the guy drops a “don’t use your memory as ammo, so try not to run out of ammo during the fight”, which directly foreshadows an important event later on. It feels too deliberate as if the writing was meant to be a movie unlike an anime where the different arcs and chapters don’t really impact each other as much. I’ve seen way too many anime to recognize the pattern or arcs and chapters, so it just feels weird that this anime doesn’t possess it.
Act Two, The Confrontation
In most movies, this is where a huge chunk of the story develops after the first act introduces everything. Again, Infinity War, this is everything before Thanos collects the time thingy. When he obtains the second to last stone, the stakes escalates pushing the characters and the story to the third act. That’s also the same thing that happened in the anime. The second act follows the team on search for a treasure, but they aren’t the only one looking for it. Red Chaika reappears in this story, but also Pink Chaika who revealed her Chaika form last season. More importantly, the stakes escalates when the treasure is found and the truth about the Chaikas is revealed pushing the characters and the story to its final act. The entire island incident is also the messiest and weakest part of the anime. It’s funny, because the second act is the hardest to write in a screenplay. You’ve moved the plot forward, but you’re not close enough to the ending so you need to bulk the movie up.
The search for the treasure is all over the place, and you see a lot of characters hiding, running, getting caught, tied up and sneaking around the island. It was kinda stupid to see a character captured, then two minutes later they break free and starts running around the area. It kinda exposes the lack of character development in the anime. Since everyone is busy sneaking around and getting captured, there were no moment to slow the plot down and just breathe. There was no moment for some needed reflection or some relationship growth. It was just a lot of movement with not a lot of meaning behind them. The anime covers this weakness though by raising the stakes. The mystery behind the body parts, Chaika’s identity and the reveal of the treasure kinda helps you not focus in on the show’s glaring weakness and engage in the mystery being presented. The show also makes up for the lack of down scenes with a lot of action scenes. Almost every character fights in the second act, and there were no dull moments. With seven or eight characters sneaking all over the place, confronting bad guys and beating up a lot of henchmen, the action also helps cover up the lack of character development.
Questionable Character Motivation
Before we proceed to the final act, let’s talk about this glaringly annoying aspect of the anime. The characters don’t really think for themselves, and they mostly function because the story said so. There is always a weird character named Guy that tells them where they should go, and no one really questions him or his motives. They got the information, and they suddenly went to get the McGuffin. It’s kinda annoying, and it cheapens the impact of the story. Another good example, of the characters not really thinking before acting, is when the dragon keeps nagging the guy character, Tooru, to become her master. He keeps saying no, and we all know he’ll eventually say yes in the end. We never know why he doesn’t want to own a bad ass dragon though. He said he is a “saboteur”, an assassin type, and it’s important to him. We never really discover why it’s important, or why not riding a dragon is a good thing. He can be both, so it just doesn’t make sense. The same goes for a lot of characters in the island. There are a couple of demi-humans there, and it’s revealed that they’re the only ones left because everyone else were killed or experimented on. Why don’t you leave? I can guess they are loyal to the people keeping them, or they are overpowered by the monsters of the island but it’s never really established. They can sneak around too, so escape is always an option. Oh wait, there are squid monsters in the ocean but that doesn’t mean you can’t spare five minutes to establish their plight.
The most glaringly bad character motivation probably happens in the third arc when two new characters are introduced. One wants war, because he loves war, I guess. The other is the super final bad guy who goes away in a weird manner. I kinda understand their thinking. There are subtle details to work with, but it still kinda made the show look weak. I am also bothered by the fact that one caught wind of Guy’s true plan. I mean, he appears randomly, tells people what to do, and then vanishes. When he tells you to gather all the remains and head for a specific location, I would throw one of the body parts in the sea, or whatever. I have no reason to fully trust him, and no real stakes to keep following him. They just do though. They just go and follow to wherever he points. Again, the show gives us enough to keep us engaged but understandably also exposes that there are certain flaws and plot holes present in the story. Things kinda crumbled towards the third act, and the ending is definitely an original ending given its weird send off.
Act Three, The Confrontation
This one is fairly straightforward. It’s the good guy and bad guy meeting for a final showdown which points to an ending. This is also where all the loose ends are tied up, and all the questions are given an answer. The third act for this anime follows all the important characters into the final location. Only one hero is left, and the Red and White Chaika hurries to obtain the last body parts. With the mystery of the gathering hanging over their heads, the show goes for one final burst of energy towards the end. Keeping true to its action packed nature, a tournament is held with the winner getting the body part. This is probably the most satisfying part of the anime, because a lot of really cool things happen here. Good also meets evil in the final confrontation, and it’d say it was a really explosive end to a really awesome second season. There are still some questionable motivations here though, like Tooru meeting his mentor. We never really understand why they are fighting, but this subplot is ended here as well. If there’s one big problem for this anime, it’d be the ending or the final moments of the show. I’d say the final five minutes after the confrontation concludes.
I honestly wanted to consider this anime for the perfect score. Sure, the pacing is problematic and the lack of character development makes the show weak, but the action and the technical aspects cover the negatives. The ending was the deal breaker, because it didn’t feel like a conclusion. It didn’t feel like a proper send off for an action packed series. It felt like a bland, playing it safe, kinda ending. I can imagine this is not how the LN ends, so I guess the writers respected the original source by not really giving something that can affect the LN. Usually the author is contacted to tell them of the changes, like how Studio Bones inform the author of Full Metal Alchemist that they’ll be altering the ending since the anime caught up with the still ongoing manga. I believe Hiromu Arakwa was even excited with how they’d tackle the ending. I’m not sure if it happened in this anime, but it kinda felt like it. Studio Bones clearly didn’t want to mess with the still ongoing light novel considering its initial audience is the fans of the LN. But, yeah, the final moments of the show just didn’t felt right. Loose ends were supposed to be fixed, but some of them were left untied after the anime ends. I have a big problem with that, especially since the anime engaged me in its movie-like presentation.
Establishing Shots and Cinematography
Now, aside from the anime bearing the three act structure, the visuals are also very much movie quality. There are camera movements and cinematography that really stood out in the anime, and it often punctuates the awesomeness of a scene. There is a lot of interesting camera work in the show. To imply the emotion of a scene, the camera would also flow with the story. There is a scene in the anime where the characters are hiding, so the camera peeps at them through a window. It’s a small thing, but most anime would just do a boring wide shot. This show went overhead, framed through a window, framed through cracks of a broken building, and even goes from an 180 degree shot to a sudden wide shot. I’m not a film critic by any mile, but there are elements in the technical side that feels like the anime is really making a movie. Camera work doesn’t stop there, because it also does point-of-view shots. I remember the evil boss slain by the hero dies, but the shot suddenly shifts to his POV as the heroes celebrate. These shots add emotion to a scene, and really cover up the lack of character development when the camera tells you how one character sees the other.
Anime is usually limited in animation, so camera movements where you feel like the camera man is really shifting the equipment on his shoulder feels glorious to behold. I know a lot of anime does this as well, but Hitsugi no Chaika Avenging Battle stands out because of its animation quality. One thing I love about the show is how the background colors and the foreground colors aren’t that far off. I’ve seen anime where the characters are floating in a background because of how mismatched they are, but this anime’s color palette is too detailed and polished for a regular airing series. I don’t remember the first season being this intensely detailed as well. My favorite scene in the show, possibly the only impactful downtime, is this:
It’s a simple scene, but notice how much detail is given to the characters and the background. The characters no longer float, or feel like they’re placed in the scene. The small details of light poking through the leaves, the brush work on the bark and the stones, and the use of shadow to signify the characters are in the background, these small things really make an impact to me mainly because most anime doesn’t care about them. Bones does though, and it just really gives the throw away scenes so much more importance. But the background is really something to behold in this anime, because they really elevate the show.
I mention establishing shots, and these are the image of a building or a city that appears before a scene implying that it happens there. The establishing shots in this anime are amazing, and it holds as much character as the people in the show. It also adds a lot to the world building giving you a sense of how large the world of the show is. It becomes even more inviting when the characters actually appear in these places, since the background work is so good that you can expect the world building to seep into the story through the visuals alone.
The visuals are truly outstanding in this anime. The storyboard is intense, and the director really knew how to tell a story through the visuals. I guess being free from the LN gives them that freedom to really go all out. Fight scenes are especially outstanding in this anime. They happen fast and some of them are just mindless brawls, but they are impressive nonetheless. Back and forth between opponents would be swift, but the show would often hold onto an epic image for a long time before the battle commences. It makes up for the short encounters, but it also covers the negative aspects of the anime. It honestly comes to a point where I am so engaged in the anime that I no longer care about the glaring plot holes or the dumb characters. The camera work, the stunning backgrounds, the fast paced action and the flashy image stills, these elements come together to really give you a movie quality anime experience. I am not even kidding. Studio Bones just went all out on a second season of a show I’m not even sure a lot of people have seen.
The Large Cast
The show has three main characters: the red and white Chaika, and Tooru. The rest are minor characters, but some of them do have subplots carried over from the first season. They don’t really feel out of place and none of them really felt like clutter in the show. Despite the lack of motivation for a lot of them, including the main ones, they still had an end goal and an objective to complete, so they were still incorporated in the story with no problem. Even during the messy second act, the characters are surprisingly balanced throughout the scenes and their dialogue is enough to subtly display their personality. I guess the only character that really felt out of place would the dragon, and it’s a shame because she is awesome. She also does weird sh*t like this:
And yet the story didn’t really need her. As for the antagonist and minor minor characters, they’re OK. They serve the story well and most would leave an impact. I’d say the story made them relevant whereas they’d obviously fail if the writing wasn’t as good. Despite the limp ending, I still had chills when the super final boss appeared after we witness one of the Chaika turn into a tentacle monster. They never explained why she turned as well, but it was still really cool. It’s one of those moments you’d have to suspend disbelief, because the scene will reward you with a chilling sequence.
Masui, Machida and Studio Bones
Souchi Masui directed this anime, and he also did the first season. His credits are mostly storyboard, which makes a lot of sense given how intense the visuals are, but he also notably directed Scrapped Princess which is kinda the prototype for this light novel. The author borrowed a lot of stuff in that story and reused it for Chaika. It seems Masui had his own vision, and he really went wild for the second time doing Scrapped Princess. His visuals are strong, and you can tell the man has monster talents. I’m surprised he hasn’t directed as much shows. As for the three act structure of the show, I’d say the series composition and script writer added that extra flair. Touko Machida has written a lot of scripts and series composed a lot of anime. I’m looking for shows that are similar to Chaika, but it seems this anime really stands out. I’d say the only other standout would be Wake Up Girls, but for a different reason. I am honestly not a big fan of Studio Bones, mainly because they make sh*t like Captain Earth and Star Driver, but they do make awesome stuff when it counts. I love exceptionally rare anime like this, and I hope I see more shows like this from their future offerings. I am afraid they might do more Space Dandy though. Oh gawd, they shouldn’t.
Sight and Sound
Character design is done by Namaniku-ATK, and they are glorious. I am particularly a fan of the Chaika rangers. It’s the same character reworked a bunch of times, and you won’t even guess it’s the same character design if it weren’t for their thick eyebrows. I particularly love the red and white Chaika. One dresses in a long gothic Lolita outfit while the other is in an all leather skimpy fighting dress. I also love his color palette on the LN covers since it makes the Chiakas look like dolls on a window display. The rest of the cast is pretty bland, especially the guys, and it kinda signals that they’re really just very minor characters. I love how Bones adapted the character design, since they really put a strong emphasis on the character’s visuals. While a lot of them looks pretty bland, they somehow adds a layer of awesomeness when they appear in the high quality background and just beating the sh*t out of enemies. The strong character designs will also come at you hard, since a lot of image stills in the show features character close ups or epic character poses.
Animation is incredible. I’ve discussed it a ton already, but it really grabs you hard. The flow is fast paced, but nothing comes off as cheap. While some scenes are less detailed, you won’t really notice it given how much detail is put in the background. Some wide shots lack details, but they make up for it with some intense close ups. As I said before, the camera work is also outstanding and the storyboarding is really intense. I like how anime wakes my imaginative side, and the visuals of this show really gets me going. I guess for a noticeable downside in the animation, it’d be the lack of the familiar gore. The first season had some sick ones, especially involving the dragon girl. The first season also sets up how cold blooded a saboteur is through some blood, and this is not in the second season. It’s a nitpick, but I do miss the dragon girl just shocking me with an Alien reference when she did the chest burst scene too.
The anime’s OP is “Shikkoku wo Nuritsubuse” by Iori Nomizu. This was sung by Vivi, the pink Chaika ranger, and the song sounds generic to me. I am sorry, but it just wasn’t for me. The lyrics also felt a bit bland, but I do understand it kinda foreshadows the events of the anime. Iori’s singing feels blah, and the OP sequence that accompanies it doesn’t really look that impressive as well. It’s a cool montage of the characters being cool and sh*t, but it doesn’t really elicit any reaction from me. I want an OP that I’ll stumble into youtube years later and it’ll make me smile because of how engaging it is. This Op doesn’t do that for me, and it’s annoying since the show itself is amazing.
The anime’s ED is “Watashi wa Omae no Naka ni Iru” by coffin princess (Chika Anzai, Saeko Zougou, Iori Nomizu). This one is sung by pink, red and white Chaika. Ohmygawd, the entire Chika rangers are assembled here and that’s pretty adorable. The song is still pretty bland though, but I like the idol group vibe of the song. It’s be better if they actually got into their Chaika character and sing the song in broken Japanese. The song is like a bland love song and the ED also doesn’t really add much. It’s the same visuals as the OP, but it did hint of the ending of the show so that’s pretty brilliant. Oh gawd, I’ve gushed so much about the actual show, I can’t believe I found something I didn’t like about it.
8/10 “It’s a five hour movie experience. While the flaws exist, the good stuff completely outweighs them.”
Here’s a testament to how amazing this anime is, given its strong writing and inviting visuals, you’ll be tempted to finish this anime in one day. It’s that engaging, and I am truly in awe of it. While you do need to know all the stuff in the first season to appreciate this one, I’d say go for it. The pay off in the second season is immense, and the experience is truly incredible. It’s fast paced, incredibly ambitious, and its short episode run doesn’t hurt it in the slightest. Yeah, the ending is blah but you’d really only care if you’d enjoy everything building up to it. It’s one hell of a ride. I highly recommend it.