Anyone who watches a lot of anime can tell you that there are certain studios that, for better or for worse, can’t be ignored. On the better end of these is Bones, a studio which has brought us classics like Cowboy Bebop, Rahxephon, Fullmetal Alchemist and Wolf’s Rain; a studio which, once upon a time, raised the bar for animation quality and storytelling. Chaika – The Coffin Princess (or Coffin of Chaika) is one of Bones’ newest works and, after watching the first episode, I’m not sure what to think of it.
The series is set in a heavy fantasy world, with wizards, unicorns and… Saboteurs? Ninja -they’re basically just ninja with some magic powers. Two of these ninja are siblings Toru and Akari Acura, who meet up with a mysterious young girl, Chiaka “gee, I wonder if she’s at all important to the story” Trabant. Chaika agrees to employ the two to help her steal something important from a Robert Abarth, who I guess is important because he’s got a big house, a bunch of candelabras and a portrait of himself over his fireplace. So the three proceed to break into his house, and there they will remain until episode 2. We’ve got plot but not much premise at this point; episode 2 is set up to explain a lot so that’ll be nice, but for now I can’t really say much about the story so let’s move on to the animation.
It looks nice. The characters look somewhere between Soul Eater and Sword Art Online, with saturated and heavily contrasting pallets. They all look like they’re from different series (Toru’s wearing a modern japanese school uniform with some accessories, Akari is the worlds most colourful ninja, and Chaika’s a black and white loligoth), but they all seem to fit rather naturally into this world. The backgrounds do their job to establish setting and give a sense of the world very well, but that’s about all there is to say about them so far. The two most interesting bits of animation so far are 1) a unicorn, and 2) the CG. The unicorn isn’t exactly a beautiful creature; it looks more like Queen Chrysalis from Friendship is Magic, with a boney frame, grey skin and Vicious from Cowboy Bebop‘s hair. It just looks cool, and I hope to see more like it from this show. As for the CG, it’s used well and looks nice, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. If the show can expand on it without becoming too reliant on it, it could add a lot to action scenes.
Finally, the characters. Chaika herself is a powerful, yet inexperienced wizard, who wields a miniature version of the positron sniper rifle from Evangelion. She’s also… well…
I’ve mentioned my distaste for moe before, right? She speaks in broken sentences, acts like a child and is a big-eyed lolita-goth-maid. And though I understand it’s possible for her to have these traits and still be a complex and interesting character, statistically speaking, it’s unlikely. She’s wrapped in a lot of mystery, yet comes off as more of a pet than an actual human being, which is especially odd because she’s the one pushing the plot along, the other two are just her employees. She could well turn out to be a great character, but for now I just have to ask “why?” Why can’t she speak in proper sentences? Why is she dressed like that? Why does she act like a cross between a five year old and Haruhi? And I’m worried the only answer is “because it’s just so Kawaii Desu ^_^”. She’s got a lot of potential for badassery, but other than that I’m not going to get my hopes up.
Toru and Akari are pretty similar so far, with the main distinction between them being in their relationship. They’re both very stoic and only concerned with where their next meal will come from and doing their work well. Again, nothing about them stands out so far, but they both seem to have more depth and room to expand than Chaika. I would complain that their voice acting is rather bland, but it actually suits their stoic nature well. Between the two of them, Toru is clearly the leader while Akari acts as support. She says she has a lot of respect for her older brother, but she doesn’t hesitate to swing her hammer at him. Despite being the leader, Toru is less aggressive and decisive then his sister, which seems counter intuitive for the leader but perhaps it makes him a better strategist.
Chaika – The Coffin Princess isn’t another Bones classic, heck, it might not even be any good. It’s really hard to say what it is at this point because nothing about it stands out much. This first episode sets it up, but has yet to set it apart. I wouldn’t consider it required viewing for this season yet, but hopefully the next few episodes can change that. For now it’s a bit of mystery.
Don’t Lose Your Way