In the first episode we get to see a young girl shoot an evil flying unicorn in half with a magical sniper rifle. That’s just the first episode. You eventually get used to the crazy. Sort of. This is the kind of story that keeps you guessing up until the end while you gnaw off your fingernails from the edge of your seat. I have mixed feelings about anime. Shows are hit or miss. This was definitely a big hit.
The story revolves around Chaika, a young woman who claims to be the daughter of Emperor Gaz who was killed by eight heroes five years ago. She hires mercenaries Toru and childhood friend and “sister-in-arms” Akari to gather the late emperor’s remains so that she may mourn properly. They aren’t actually blood related, and the honorifics “brother” and “sister” are usually played for laughs due to Akari’s obvious romantic interest in Toru and Toru’s hilarious obliviousness to it.
The plot gets even stranger once you learn that there are multiple girls all claiming to be Chaika. And all of them are seeking to gather Emperor Gaz’s remains. If that doesn’t sound weird enough, it gets weirder, but I’ll refrain from spoilers.
Thematically, the story’s main thrust was an examination of the psychological effect of constant warfare on societies and individual characters. Emperor Gaz kept the world in a constant state of warfare for 500 years. Some characters have a hard time moving on, but the story never gets preachy. You won’t find any heavy-handed messaging here. This is much more about individuals trying to figure out what is worth living for. Loyalty, love, the power of memories, and sacrifice are all important, but there is a lot more show than tell here so if you aren’t paying attention you might miss a wonderful nuance to character development.
Chaika has an enormous amount going right for it. The art direction is wonderful. The character designs are great, the monsters are perfectly creepy. Even the opening and closing themes are great. Chaika defies genre and does so exceedingly well. There are fantasy elements and magic is pervasive, monsters seem dragged from a horror universe, there is mad science, and there are flying fortresses. Plenty of action is tempered with just the right amount of humor.
I love heroic characters and Toru’s growth was great to see and wonderfully written. His mercenary personality next to Chaika’s girlish innocence was completely charming. Even the relationships between side characters are incredibly well drawn.
As far as content? There are some shocking moments of violence, but nothing truly pervasive. Definitely not for kids, though. Language is pretty mild and PG. There is no sex. There is almost nothing close to fan service. The closest thing is in the OVA and involves Akari bathing and having to sneak up and knock somebody unconscious. Even that is played more for laughs than purely prurient interest.
This is a superb show and if you understand what is going on thematically, the ending is beautiful enormously satisfying. I can’t recommend this enough as it might be my new favorite anime.
Get it here.