Notice: This review covers both seasons of this anime.
I find many calling this show a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, where a group of adventurers are going from one area to another, gathering artifacts and fighting monsters and other adventurers. That description is rather true, as long as you accept the fact that it’s not an official campaign, but one written by a rather amateur Dungeon Master who wanted to have fun with his friends. For you see, there are lots of things that feel random in the setting, from having snipers in the same team as magicians, to futuristic technology next to medieval one, to the overall world map and backdrop story being written on the spot, depending on how the Dungeon Master feels like it at the moment. When it comes to the plot, the narrative will feel something like this: Ok, there was a war in the past and hmmm, you start in a generic town. Now here is a nameless forest and inside you will find some villa. Go there and steal a hand or something.
Chaika is a fun show if you just watch it for the action and the adventure. Despite being an adaptation of light novels (a terrible medium in terms of quality) it is avoiding many stereotypes found there. There are no done to death school settings, most characters are adults instead of teenagers, and the main characters act as if they are the bad guys, trying to resurrect the Dark Lord by defeating the legendary heroes who killed him, while being chased around by other heroes who want to protect peace and stability. Why would they want to do such an evil thing? Well, two of them are mercenaries who are very bored of peace and find purpose only in slaughter and chaos. The third one is the daughter of the deceased evil wizard, she really liked her daddy and wants to give him a proper funeral. Yes, that’s right, she is stupid enough not to realize that she is in fact trying to resurrect him by gathering his perfectly preserved body parts. It was obvious from the very first episode but the characters act as if it isn’t. Random storytelling, remember?
The show is of course never trying to be serious despite constantly having creepy moments full of death and despair. The dark tones are easily lost under the pressure of lots of silly things, such as the daughter being a moe maid, the world being full of ridiculous things such as dragons turning to cute girls, and of course the unavoidable fan service bits. It does try to be a bit better than the usual fuss, but not by much. This makes it very easy to either like it if you are fed up with light novels, and equally easy to dislike it for not taking itself more seriously, something which the set up makes it seem like it could have been.
So leaving aside the hit or miss overall feeling of the show, what else is there in it? Well, for starters the battles are fun. They have far more choreography, motion, and strategy than most fighting shonen do. And the visual effects are very well done. Plus, they aren’t afraid to show gore; especially when it comes to killing monsters. When most shows would have them go poof in stardust, over here they are butchered to pieces and blood is splattered everywhere. Then there is Chaika herself who is this cute little moe thing, dressed as a goth maid, going around doing and saying silly things in broken Japanese. Awww, so kawaii! And then there is a lolidragon for more kawaii. And then there are more identical Chaikas for extra kawaii. And even the sister digs the main mercenary dude. And yes, the show is turning from an action adventure into a moe harem. Awww!
As I said, it is a fun show but it’s in no way crafty in its handling or complicating in its presentation. You are watching it for the action and the moe girls, with the danger of a new catastrophic war and the resurrection of the evil wizard being more like excuses to move from one fun adventure to another fun adventure. And when they eventually get to that part towards the end, they wrap up everything very fast, making it seem like the conflict wasn’t that dangerous after all.
By the way, the conflict could have easily been very hard to overcome if there was balance in the powers the characters use or their motivations made sense. But nope, typical to all lighthearted adventures, power ups come out of nowhere when the good guys need to win, and bad guys do some really ridiculous things that is like they beg to be defeated. A lot of excitement is lost once you realize the lolidragon is a complete hax that can do a dozen different deus ex machinas, and constantly saves the heroes when she otherwise wants to kill them. Or how the villains kill those who are willing to obey them and spare those who want to kill them. And beats me why that human super weapon decided to betray her master with absolutely no foreshadowing.
So yeah, it’s all about the action, the adventure, the moe, and the harem. Doesn’t do much to remember it as something great but look on the bright side. No schools for once.