Funimation // 2003 // 600 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jon Mercer (Retired) // April 3rd, 2011
Following a brush with success as an ADV release in 2004, where it garnered critical and commercial acclaim before quickly vanishing from store shelves, Chrono Crusade: The Complete Series has been reclaimed from the jaws of obscurity by Funimation. Is it a dose of horror/action worth the rescue effort, or should anime fans declare that they want "nun" of it (ouch)?
In the midst of the Roaring Twenties, as the world dabbled in cultural dynamism, debauchery, dancing and jazz; the denizens of the abyss have been loosed upon the earth. When demonic threats rear their horned little head, it's up to the Order of Magdalene, a paramilitary wing of the Catholic Church, to banish them back to hell. But for Sister Rosette Christopher and her devilish partner Chrono, this recent rash of attacks hides a sinister conspiracy that involves arch-demons, Apostles of God, an astral conduit, a long-lost little brother, and of course the fate of the world.
In the wake of success stories like Cowboy Bebop and Trigun, it seemed in the early aughties (or whatever you hipsters are calling them) every North American anime studio was grabbing any title they could with bodacious babes, badass dudes, and big guns. Standing admidst this swirling maelstrom of otaku action titles was Chrono Crusade, a delightfully occult offering from GONZO Digimation (Samurai 7, Hellsing). It tosses together slick character designs, the buttery smooth animation that the studio has become known for, and a twisting storyline that starts out modestly enough but quickly starts rounding out the characters to be more than mere archetypes and pushes beyond the boundries of a simple action title.
Chrono Crusade benefits from a sense of urgent pacing that keeps it from getting mired in the plethora of themes and concepts that are juggled. Unlike the usual anime fare, very little time is wasted on the standard monster of the week formula before the shadows begun to unfurl and the overarching plot sinks its fangs into viewers. By the fifth episode, the series is off and running, and if you'll excuse the sloppy pun, for the most part it's a hell of a ride. The real hook of Chrono Crusade is the relationship between Rosette and Chrono. With their lives intertwined in more ways than just their demon-hunting partnership, both have painful familial wounds to reopen and it's not a stretch of the imagination to see their connection grow. Especially with a cadre of villains so deliciously reprehensible and depraved that you're sure to have your fingers curled like claws, begging for their comeuppance.
Despite my exhuberance, this series is not without at least some unfortunate anime conventions. Such as the obligatory wise old mentor who happens to be a pervert, or Rosette's oh so "hilarious" and cyclonic outbursts when things go awry. However, most anime fans should be able to muster an appropriate sense of disbelief. Trust me, afford Chrono Crusade its eccentricities, invest in its characters and there's entertainment to be had. Me, I consider myself lucky that by my recollection there were no exaggerated nosebleeds or scenes of Rosette stuffing her face with platefuls of food.
Coming from GONZO, fans should know what to expect when it comes to the animation. Action scenes detonate with gusto, and the characters all move as well as can be expected from an animated TV show. On the technical side, Funimation have crafted another winner as far as presentation goes. Colors are vibrant, blacks are rich, and the picture quality is clean and tidy across the board, especially for a 1.33.1 full frame release. The English 5.1 track is top shelf (outside of a few nasally performances), but the Japanese 2.0 sounds positively tinny in comparison. Fans will be happy to note that most of the extras which were slashed from the 2006 Complete Collection ADV Release have been restored. These include of course clean openings and closings, along with some special opening sequences from the original Japanese television broadcasts. The real standouts are the "Azmaria's Extra Classes," a series of seven featurettes that focus on Chrono Crusades's background, providing some extra information to viewers looking for a more once the feature presentation has run its course. They're zany, mostly harmless, and I can't object to the inclusion.
Chrono Crusade originally aired at a time when I was beginning to note that a lot of anime series suffered from anemic third acts. It's a phenomenon I like to refer as the "Evangelion Trap," if your endgame lacks in muscle, just keep tossing out exposition until something sticks. And while it doesn't stumble quite as messily as that particular affair, when the time comes for Chrono Crusade to finally lay its cards on the table, it wasn't quite the dynamite hand I'd hoped for. For all the wonderfully built momentum, there was an alarming reliance on theological psychobabble from primary antagonist Aion without any substantial followthrough. Don't get me wrong, there's still a satisfying last battle and suprisingly emotional ending, but I can't help but feel frustrated when a series introduces a truly heinous adversary and when push comes to shove, gives him little to do during the penultimate chapter outside of posture and monologue.
Deserving of most of the acclaim it gathered back in 2003, Chrono Crusade is an action-packed spectacle that defies its cheerful and cute character designs by going to some frightfully dark places. To claim it poses serious philosophical discussion would be absurd, but there's no disputing this is a rollicking adventure from beginning to end.
Ten Hail Marys for the mild blunder in the last act, otherwise this one is
free to go.
Review content copyright © 2011 Jon Mercer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Original Openings
* Unaired Openings
* Textless Open/Close