Hitsugi no Chaika (The Coffin Princess) – Episodes 7-9
After their encounter with Red Chaika, the pacing of the story slows down from the brisk pace of fighting through the countryside and does some world building, character development, and adds another piece of the emperor’s remains into the collection.
After a shopping trip for magical fuel, our trio of saboteurs and wizards are confronted by the Gillette Corporation once again and it is only due to Frederica’s dragoon skills that Chaika manages to escape. From the location provided by their mysterious information broker, they enter into a canyon that is really a spell designed to trap those unfortunate enough to wander in. After some clever thinking on part of our heroes, they manage to take down the fog of doom emitter and retrieve one very gigantic leg from a mentally broken former hero. The next episode is a detour in a settlement devoted to the reemergence of Gaz’s empire after they are stopped at a checkpoint where an imposter Yellow Chaika makes an appearance as their figurehead. After a very assuming circus act to appease this rebel fraction against the current government, it becomes very clear that this is ragtag group is little better than your average bandit outfit. Some character development and a prison outbreak later, Chaika manages to convince them not to lose their way (minus epic insert song) and continues along their journey. Episode nine deals with the very pressing issue of obtaining more magical fuel and reveals the gradual emotional and physical hardening of Toru’s and Akari’s past. Not a lot of action happens here as it involves flashbacks and setup for the upcoming raid on the flying fortress Soara.
I’m noticing a pattern that with each successive hero that our group comes along, the more wary and broken they get. Aside from the first hero of Robert Abarth, who seems to be doing well enough on his own, the other heroes seem to be in a far off worse state after the war. Frederica was impersonating her master, who died of illness in a bed instead of on the battlefield like a true warrior, and surrounded herself with items that reminded her of better times. Simon Scania lives as a raving hermit at the bottom of a canyon and only seeks to have others share in his painful experience. The fourth hero, who is not even mentioned, apparently sold his piece of Emperor Gaz to a business tycoon for a large sum of money. It seems that the emperor’s curse may have some grounds after all judging from the state of all the former heroes.
Speaking of revealing inner details of the world, the mysterious fog in the canyon was a great way to dive into Toru’s hopes for a future other than fighting and survival. Designed to ensnare those unfortunate enough to wander into its grips, the fog twists its target closest relationships into a nightmare itself. Instead of showing illusions inside the target’s head like so many other mind control spells, this one actually physically manifested for all to see. Even though Frederica is able to cast a protective magical bubble shield around Akari, Chaika and herself, they all can observe exactly what illusions Toru is undergoing. It is quite heartening to see both fake illusion Chaika and Toru come together and live happily ever after. But in a completely out of character twist, Gillette comes riding up scoops up Chaika as he has the last remaining piece of the emperor’s remains. This causes Toru to go into despair after being betrayed by the one closet to him and left alone wallow in his depression. At the same time, it was completely hilarious having the other three real females provide the commentary and beat up on Toru after he is rescued from the fog. Frederica seems quite eager to lay in some jabs of her own on him to make up for Toru not fighting her in a death battle.
During that entire portion of the episode, I was getting Avatar: The Legend of Korra vibes due to a very similar scene where Tenzin and his siblings enter the Fog of Lost Souls to find his daughter, Jinora. The fog in that series uses the fears and insecurities of its victims to drive them into a state of eternal imprisonment. It was only when Tenzin has a heart to heart conversation with his father’s spirit and accepts that he must forge his own path instead of emulating someone else that he was able to overcome this particular challenge. Rather than using compelling character growth as a solution, our heroes of Hitsugi no Chaika resort to clever planning, teamwork and raw firepower to reach the source of the fog emitter and blow it up. It is these differences of how the fog operates and the method of which it is defeated that I can appreciate the how both series carry out their own distinctive narrative styles.
After spell emitter is taken out and the magical fog lifted, Simon Scania comes out to greet our heroes in incoherent manner, not unlike a homeless person who has been on the streets for a while. It turns out that after the war against Emperor Gaz was finished, he was betrayed by his wife and the army that he fought turned their back upon him. Using his skills as a magical machinist of sorts, he built a the fog of doom emitter to spread his despair around by making others suffer just as he did. Unsurprisingly, given his deteriorated mental condition and fearfulness of his past, Simon is willing to give up his piece of the emperor without any resistance. It turns out that his piece is a leg. A really gigantic leg somewhere around the size of Chaika. The size is making me wonder who exactly Emperor Gaz is, given his terrifying reputation and really large body proportions.
If episode seven emphasize on envisioning what the future looks like in regards to Chaika and Toru, eight and nine brings it back into the present and past. With three out of the eight remains under Chaika’s belt, they come across a checkpoint under the control of Neo Gaz Empire, who are devoted in bringing back an idealized past of the old empire. Leading them is a Chaika lookalike, wearing a yellow dress and speaking perfectly good unbroken Japanese. Despite their boasting about their superior ideals and awesome future plans, it is clear that they are severely lacking in the quality department. To avoid raising suspicious about their true identities, Toru’s and his party decide to play off as circus performers and hold a show to entertain their “royalty”. It was fun seeing our heroes perform tricks like a street artist but Frederica cat going into the coffin just takes the cake. I honestly thought that Frederica was going to turn into her loli form, but instead I was pleasantly surprised to see a very menacing dragoon pop out to wow the crowd.
On the Gillette front, we see him diving deeper into the history of Emperor Gaz as he is rather perplexed by the lack of data on the former emperor. Sharing the same experience as the Neo Gaz Empire, no one is quite sure of what he looks like nor has the slightly clue of what his greater plans are. What we do know is that he was a man of great power and commanded fear and respect from those beneath him. He also developed much of the modern technology seen in the show including the automobiles, gundos and fighting techniques of the saboteurs. His daughter, Chaika remains an enigma as all the copies of her lack any memories in regards to conclusion of the war and is imprinted with only the desire to gather his remains. Even her current memories are at risk of being lost as she tells Toru that her memories can be converted into magical fuel. If there is no other sources of magical fuel available to power her weapons and vehicles, she can sacrifice her experiences for energy. Ever since she met our protagonists, she hasn’t use that particular skill yet and Toru insist that she mustn’t do so again.
A passing caravan of traders prompts Chaika to ask about the saboteur’s past and what their memories were when growing up. Akari begins a flashback that shows them doing nothing but constantly training for warfare. The younger Akari is comically in love with Toru as she plays more of the stereotypical imouto love that is all the rage these days. Although her feeling have never changes, she somehow develops into expressing it in a deadpan manner that we see today. Toru is also much more optimistic about life, or rather taking life away from the enemy and has his first crush on a older women who regularly traded with his village. When she later dies to a bandit attack, his emotional and physically demeanor becomes harden and his attitude towards life grows cold. It is only when he meets Chaika that he begin that process of living once more instead wandering through life. It is both Chaika and Toru that need to journey with each other to begin that process. Now that she has memories that are worth keeping and Toru can move forward, it is both their good and bad experiences that make them into the people are they will be.
Along the same parallel line of thought, one of Gillette’s men reflects on his half demon/half human makeup. As he was created for the sole purpose of being cannon fodder, he was literally born to be killed. Only when Gillette take him in and treated like a normal person that he is spared from such a fate. Perhaps this is why Vivi is so hopelessly attracted to Gillette as she repeatedly tries to confess to him. It is his sense of justice and impartiality that leads the audience to question Emperor Gaz’s final plans and Chaika’s quest.
Those complaining that Frederica wasn’t doing enough fighting got their wishes granted in episode seven where she was instrumental in saving our cast twice. After Chaika finishes her shopping for magical fuel with Toru and Akari, they are ambushed just outside of town by Gillette’s and his entire team. As usual, the saboteur pair is on top of their game, being able to take on multiple skilled opponents but not really able to go on the offensive. Chaika has her magic railgun up and ready to fire but the high chance of hitting her own companions prevents her from contributing. As well, the high magnification scope mounted on her rifle is close to useless in a close quarter battle so she should probably switch to iron sights then.Outmatched and outnumbered, Toru is prepared to sacrifice himself in order for the other to escape. It is just then that Frederica happens to popup on top of the Gillietemobile and declare her presence like a boss.
Being the overpowered and bloodthirsty dragoon she is, the only thing stopping her from steamrolling Gillette’s party is Toru insistence to just hightail it out of there at the cost of ditching the recently purchased magical fuel.
The second time that Frederica’s power is showcased is during their adventure through the canyon where Simon Scania’s fog of doom machine is the primary threat. She starts off by diving straight down the canyon to save the day after everyone else decides that rock climbing on an unstable geological feature without any safety gear was a good idea (hint: it’s not). Later, her casting of the magic barrier was the only thing that saved her companions from falling under the fog’s spell. Then, after Toru comes up the solution to escape the fog, it was good to see everyone work together and having Chaika blasting off spells while riding on Frederica like a true champion.
Only other two moments in eight and nine had any real type of action; one being the bandits attempting to take our heroes’ processions and the other, being a jailbreak to free imposter yellow Chaika out of military prison. In the first instance, there isn’t any actual fighting done on screen as it only shows Toru and Akari strolling towards the group of hostile Neo Gaz before cutting to a shot of Frederica and Chaika just chilling inside the automobile while the noise of the fight plays in the background. It seems that a group of mere thugs fighting two highly skilled and trained saboteurs is not even worth animating, which is all right by me. The breakout happens just after this fight concludes complete with much pleading and contemplation for Toru and Chaika to help out. A new helpful spell is revealed that can cause a targeted object to become completely silence, especially if said target happens to be Akari’s spike hammer breaking through prison bars. Instead of using brute force, stealth tactics quickly resolves fake yellow Chaika imprisonment Although the actions has been rather sparse in the last three episodes, it is the quiet moments of character interactions that make up for it. The little touches really make the highlights such as Vivi carefully pocketing her fortune before running off to the next assignment and Chaika chucking a walnut at Toru in frustration to his subtle rejection of going anywhere beyond a platonic relationship.
It has been mentioned twice in pervious episodes that the current council is rather preoccupied with other matters not relating to the immediate capture of all the wandering Chaikas, particularly the one pertaining to a rogue duke gearing up for a potential war. Under this duke’s control is a weapon that is capable to turning the tide of entire campaign, the flying fortress Soara, and judging by the sliced-up emissary that they sent back, he means business. I’m impressed with how organic these seemingly unrelated elements come together to involve all our acquainted groups. The Gillette Corporation, taken off the Chaika case, is tasked with investigating Duke A antics as their mandate is to uphold the peace of the willed nations. Chaika’s party needs to board the Flying Fortress because the Duke holds a piece of the remains. Everyone else is gearing up for a massive battle as the show builds up into revealing some earth-shattering surprises as we head into the season one finale.