Notice: This review covers both seasons of this anime.
This show seems at first to be like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, about a group of adventurers going from one area to another, gathering artifacts, while fighting monsters or other adventurers, and eventually taking part in a sinister plan that threatens a whole empire. At the same time, the premise of the story is a subversion of the classic epic fantasy formula, since it begins where normal epic fantasy ends. The evil wizard is already defeated, the heroes won, their leader became a king, and the world is at peace.
The catchy part is how many years later, lots of factions are discontent with the king and are ready to go to war, while the heroes who had nothing to do in times of peace become shadows of their former selves. At the same time, the protagonists of the show are close to bad guys, mercenaries who want to defeat the heroes, and begin a new war, so they can profit from the chaos and death.
With such a brilliant get-up, we could have a masterpiece if it was written and animated properly… and we didn’t because the damn thing is a light novel. Despite the occasional dark tones and creepy moments full of death and despair, nothing is taken seriously, the plot is running on convenience, and the author was more interested in making the characters quirky and gimmicky.
To its defense, if you see it only as a light action / adventure, it is actually pretty fun. Despite being based on light novels, there are no done to death Japanese high schools in it, most characters are adults instead of teenagers, and the setting is western medieval in looks with a weird mix of magic and technology. Superficially, it is doing a decent job at entreating a casual audience.
The early episodes had a fine introduction of main characters, making you care about them, while not forgetting to offer you lots of well animated action scenes. They have far more choreography, motion, and strategy than most fighting shonen do, with fancy visual effects which do not hide gore. In most shows when a monster dies it goes poof in stardust, but over here they are butchered to pieces and blood is splattered everywhere.
The protagonist is Tooru, who would be a great character if his behavior wasn’t so dry and the show was taking itself seriously. Despite having that bland personality all light novels protagonists suffer from, he is eons better than most of them, since he doesn’t want to protect the world or save the empire. He craves fighting and wants to constantly be in the middle of a battle instead of spending his life in peace.
The co-protagonist, and trademark of the show, is Chaika, a girl who has a very noble cause in mind. Being the daughter of the deceased evil wizard, she simply wants to give him a proper funeral by gathering his scattered remains. Combined with how she is also a powerful magic sniper, she could have been one of the very few respectable and dynamic female anime characters. And sadly she isn’t, because the author treats her like retarded goth loli maid that says silly things in broken Japanese and acts cute for the sake of pandering to the otakus.
Despite their shortcomings, these two make a fine duo and were more than enough to carry the whole show. I can’t say the same thing for other major characters, who were excessive baggage. Akari for example is Tooru’s sister. She has the same bland personality and the exact same fighting skills. Why is she in the story? So she can offer incest jokes. Because what kind of a light novel would we have if it wasn’t promoting incest?
Then there is Frederica, the loli dragon. She began as an adversary who wanted to kill them, but because the script is so lazily written, she becomes an ally out of nowhere and constantly saves them thereafter. Her inclusion to the team ruined most of the excitement in battles, since she can pretty much do anything. She has a dozen broken powers that offer convenient plot armor anytime the plot calls for it.
There is Niva, a loli weapon of mass destruction that again because the script is bullshit, gets emotions out of nowhere and goes against her programming, helping the protagonist instead of killing him.
And in case one kawaii Chaika wasn’t enough for you, there is also red Chaika. And then blue Chaika. And then fifty black Chaikas. Did you notice how I don’t mention any other male characters? Well, it’s because none deserve to be mentioned. The only memorable ones who have importance to the plot are all female, making the whole series to seem like a harem.
Ok, there is also the big bad of the story who is male, but he is such a joke of a villain that I hardly see him as a character. It’s Gaz, the dead evil wizard, who wanted his remains gathered, so he can be resurrected. Something that was obvious from the start but none of the characters in the story could see it coming. I mean, come on, they are only gathering the perfectly preserved remains of a powerful wizard for a funeral, there is nothing fishy about that. This guy is another Aizen. Everything is supposed to be part of his plan, he thinks everything is working in his favor, and yet he keeps making these completely retarded mistakes that lead to his obvious downfall. Despite all his bold claims and epic level powers, he never felt dangerous.
This show could have easily been so much more. You end up 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 nothing but excuses to move from one fun adventure to another fun adventure. There is no real excitement and even the finale was done in a very rushed and messy way that doesn’t leave you satisfied. But look on the bright side. No Japanese high schools for once.