For 500 years, Emperor Arthur Gaz—the “Demon Emperor”—ruled a vast empire while creating a catalog of magical technology that transformed the lands. While these tools proved useful, many considered Gaz an evil tyrant. Eight heroes set out to take Gaz down, and when they did they split his body among them as proof of their triumph.
Five years later, Toru Acura, a former saboteur (think mercenary), suffers from a form of depressed inertia, as he feels no purpose in his life. His younger sister Akari spends her days motivating Toru to find a job by alternately flirting with Toru and threatening to kill and stuff him. When Akari’s tactics finally pay off, Toru finds himself face to face with a mysterious girl who carries a coffin. The girl demonstrates immense magical potential, and soon Toru finds his fate and hers intertwined.
The girl in question is, in fact, the titular character. Chaika is a small white-haired girl with giant eyes who dons a Gothic Lolita style. She is determined to collect “important things” to place in her coffin, where incidentally, she also keeps her “gundo,” a weapon which channels magic and shoots it like a gun. Chaika (who speaks in a broken language) hires Toru and Akari to aid in her quest. The “important things” are the remains of Emperor Gaz. Of course, this quest wouldn’t be complete without those who are hunting the trio. A knight named Gilette and his entourage have been ordered to bring Chaika down.
Perfectly paced, no issue of Chaika gives up too much of the mystery—which will ensure readers will be clutching the pages of each book to the end, and reaching greedily for the next. Who Chaika is and her purpose are unrolled slowly amid a rich fantasy backdrop, with exciting action scenes and some very comedic plays on language. Furthermore, characters like Toru and Akari are given layered back stories with flashbacks throughout. So even if we don’t get Chaika’s story upfront, we have something to connect us to the characters.
The art is top rate. Each character has a very distinct appearance. Chaika is truly adorable. The details of her appearance, from her frilly dress right down to the sweet butterfly clip in her hair, portray a type of ethereal innocence which will make audiences love her even more. Akari is busty and steel-eyed with a long flowing ponytail. Toru’s expressions transmit appropriate apathy and depression, yet melt when in Chaika’s presence. When fighting, Toru uses an incantation to transform him into a determined warrior with gaze and stance to match. And, the fight scenes utilize smudged lined and frantic shading that allow them to rush off each page.
With the intensity of Akari’s flirting, as well as some violence and a few upsetting moments, this series should be recommended for teens. The manga form of Chaika was adapted from a light novel series. There is a scene in which Chaika and Akari bathe together. The adapter of the manga admits in an afterword that this was his own original scene as he feels every fantasy manga needs a bathing scene. That is debatable as it seemed unnecessary. Regardless, this bit of questionable fan service does little to detract from the quality of these volumes.
Chaika the Coffin Princess, vols. 1-3
by Ichiro Sakaki, Shinta Sakayama
Art by Shinta Sakayama
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9780316342070
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9780316263788
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9780316263795
Yen Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)