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Chaika – The Coffin Princess

All right, so for those who read my blog you’ll have sussed out that I’m a big anime fan. However, not everything works in anime and I can see lots of people being put off if they watch the wrong kind of this wholly Japanese export. The Japanese have made this art form their own with gorgeous visuals and splendidly detailed and impressive animation for most offerings in the genre, but with it though you also find mainly cultural quirks that may not translate well to other audiences. I’ll leave you to make up your own minds for what doesn’t work for you, however, these can seriously put people off if they aren’t used to them.

I got into anime as a child with cartoons like Battle of the Planets and Voltron but it wasn’t until my teenage years when I saw titles like Akira and Fist of the North Star that I fully embraced this animation style and culture. Now you’re likely to see me watching such shows like Naruto Shippuden and Fate Zero, while mostly ignoring others like Black Bullet and Sword Art Online.

With the latter I haven’t really been able to get into it because of the story structure: having 2 or more different worlds for me doesn’t work especially if an equal amount of time is spent in both. Dualities aren’t uncommon in cinema: the Matrix, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe are 2 popular titles that spring to mind. And in these 2 stories the authors dedicate more time to one world, for instance, in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe  the children leave this real world and enter a fantasy one after entering a wardrobe. A similar thing occurs in the Matrix where Neo has to choose between staying in an artificial world created by machines or wake up to the real world where his mind is unshackled from the machine A.I. In both cases one world is chosen for the characters to fully develop and explore.

With Sword Art Online it seems the authors have chosen to dedicate an equal amount of time, developing both the real and online worlds. In the end I have to ask myself why I’m to care for either. I just don’t get the stakes, why I should invest time learning about one world: the rules, its culture, its people etc. if in the end it just won’t matter since the protagonist can just log out.

With Chaika there are no dual worlds for us to get tangled with. It’s just the one world. An evil empire has been defeated and the mage overlord dismembered by heroes of the rebel army. Chaika is the mage’s daughter and she desires to collect her wizard father’s remains so she can give him a fitting burial. Five years after the war, which saw her father dethroned, and she enlists a saboteur and his sister on her mission.

Chaika is something of a wizard herself, though not too skilled, and together with her new companions they avoid capture by the authorities, who don’t want to see the start of a new revolution with the disaffected rising to the cause of the displaced princess, as they search for her father’s remains, often times having to steal or win them from other powerful characters who use the parts as a powerful source of magical fuel. And oh yeah: turns out Chaika isn’t as unique as she thinks. There are other Chaikas! And all have the same mission of appropriating the wizard’s body parts, though they all seem to have differing reasons for this.

Chaika is a very likable character. Very cute and with a unique appearance, she’s often clueless and always seems to be a thought or more behind everyone else, which puts her in precarious positions. Put her back against the wall though and she’s surprisingly resourceful and equally handy with her magic weapon – an anachronistic rifle that seems out of place given the setting is in the 1600’s. But that’s anime for you.

There are 2 seasons already and like other anime titles this one might go on for ages, which means we’ll be blessed to see her parade her naivete like armour for a while longer, as she stumbles from dangerous incident to incident and all the while giving that trademark clueless smile.