Chrono Crusade Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, September 17, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2004



What They Say
The year is 1928. Jazz is hot, bootleg liquor is king and the idle rich of a nation have discovered a horrifying new past time: summoning demons! To combat this growing threat, a new order of Holy Warriors has arisen. This is the story of Sister Rosette, an elite Exorcist in the Order of Magdalene, whose soul has been bound by alchemy to that of the devil Chrono. Armed with Sacred ammo, they form an unstoppable team, ready to wage war at a moments notice? because when the gates of hell are opened, someone has to put the devils back!

The Review!
Gonzo attempts to strike gold once more by taking nuns, guns, devils and angels and wrapping it in 1920's America.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese due to two of my favorite voice actors working on this show. The show has a very solid stereo mix that makes really good use of the forward soundstage. You can hear a lot of effects being thrown to each of the stereo channels and the dialogue flowing across nicely during some of the action sequences. The music as well fills it nicely and has a very warm feeling to it. Throughout the four episodes, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, Chrono Crusade is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being a Gonzo show, it's a very up front show with its color and style and just goes all out with it. On the plus side, it handles the color gradient issue fairly well though there are some noticeable instances of it. Part of this is muted at times due to the general intentional softness of the scene while some others are stronger. This series, at least in the first couple of episodes here, definitely shift in the clarity level of the scene. There are some soft scenes based with lots of fog and the creepiness that's intended and then it'll shift to an outdoor daytime scene that's just as clear and beautiful as any other Gonzo animated moment. Other than the color gradient and softness, neither of which are actually problems but inherent in the source materials, this is a very solid looking print with great solid colors that don't show any blocking, blissfully absent cross coloration and only some very minor aliasing. Chrono Crusade is one of the top tier titles from Gonzo so it's no surprise to have such a good looking transfer here.

Packaging:
For the cover, we get artwork that wasn't used for the Japanese release that has a good shot of Rosette and Chrono leaping into action with weapons out and ready to go set against a brimstone and fire kind of backdrop. It's the kind of cover that will do well to sell the show with its faux-nun outfit, the double gun move and the demon feel to it. The back cover goes with the minimal religious symbol look with a squat cross taking up most of the background and providing lots of shots from the show, a brief summary and the usual array of production information into the various blocks. The discs extras are clearly listed as well and the increasingly becoming standard technical grid at the very bottom keeps all the key information easy to find at a glance. The insert for this release takes the character artwork from the first Japanese DVD release of Rosette showing of a hell of a lot of sexy skin in her outfit on one side while the reverse side provides plot summaries for the individual episodes as well as information on Azmaria's Extra Classes. Not missing a chance to do a sweet looking reversible cover, this volume's reverse side uses the character artwork from the second Japanese DVD cover with Rosette in her uptown girl outfit with a cloudy sky background used instead of the blank white one the Japanese used. The reverse side back cover lists the episodes and titles, provides a slew of shots from the show and fleshes it out with the production information and the technical grid, making it a very useable reversible cover.

In addition to the disc release, there's the disc + box release. This time around, the box gets treated right with a solid chipboard kind. One of the main panels uses the artwork from the first US DVD release while the other provides a close-up of Rosette shooting off both her guns in a fight. The spine panel has Chrono, Rosette and a couple of other girls sitting above the US logo for the show. The overall background used for the box is earthy gray but it really lets the character artwork stand out strongly. Unfortunately, all that comes with the box is just the box and no other items are included.

Menu:
The menu style for the release goes with some of the quasi-religious feel, heavily felt due to the choral style vocal piece that plays briefly to the menu. The layout is centered with a small cross in which sepia toned animation clips play through while the menu selections themselves are cast around it in various blocks. It's a good looking little menu though a bit plain in some ways but it sets the mood nicely. The transitional animations for this are among the briefest I've seen and work very nicely. Access times are nice and fast and the disc properly read our players language presets without a problem.

Extras:
There's a really healthy mix of extras with this volume that will please most folks. The big extra for me is the Extra Classes sections which takes you on a trip to tell you about the world this show inhabits. The opening two classes we get describe this version of 1920's America as well as the Order that we're introduced to. As a real plus, ADV did go and provide a dub for this release. I believe the language selection for it is based on the overall language selection so it may not be apparent at first depending on your player and how it handles presets. You can change it on the fly though so it's all good.

In addition, there are some good standard extras included. The home video version of the opening and closing sequences are provided in textless format and we also get the original broadcast openings for the first four episodes. I believe these are the same as what's on the Japanese release so they're clean versions as well. The Crusade Chronicle is a small subsection that lets you check out the people, powers, weapons and locations of the show in what's basically an art gallery form mixed with liner notes. A full series of production sketches is also included separately. For the dub fans, the two leads for the series in the form of Hilary Haag and Greg Ayres do a commentary track along with Matt Greenfield providing direction for it along with a number of amusing little anecdotes about the production. While it's a dub commentary, I think both sides of fandom can get some really interesting things out of it.

And Greg completely rocks by having the Mrs. Grundy comment. "Freedom begins when you tell Mrs. Grundy to go fly a kite." Indeed.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For various reasons, Chrono Crusade is a show I've been looking forward to for awhile but one that I had managed to not know anything about other than what Rosette's costume looked like. The twenty-four episode series, which will be spread across seven volumes, definitely looks like the kind of show that continues to generate much success for Gonzo and hits the mainstream market with exactly what it wants. Action, adventure, fan service, interestingly written stories and some slick looking animation. Even better, it doesn't look like yet another episodic series but one that has some plans to it.

The series takes place in late 20's America in New York City and its surrounding areas. With the rapid rise of technology and change in the air, especially in America, other things are changing to adapt to this new world order. A variety of devils and men who want to control or be controlled by them are working their schemes and agendas to bring themselves power, wealth and more. In order to stop them, since the normal police of the day haven't the power to do so, in steps the Order of Magdalene, a quasi-religious organization. This group employs men and women in a number of roles to take down the evil before it becomes widely known or causes more trouble than they can handle. The Order has a very old feel to it but it doesn't quite really feel religious but is steeped in some of its symbolism in areas.

While there are many field operatives in the New York area to handle the many cases that come up, the one we get to focus on is sixteen year old Rosette, a very attractive, somewhat clumsy and always brash young woman. She's not exactly the best field operative out there and she's often in trouble with her superior, Sister Kate, but she loves her job and she usually finds herself in some of the stranger situations that crop up. A lot of this is attributable to her companion, Chrono. As we learn, she and her brother Joshua Christopher discovered him when they were younger as Chrono was trapped inside some tomb or something and he's actually a fairly powerful devil that's been kept in human form for some unknown length of time. While we don't see the specifics, Rosette and Chrono become fast friends and companions while Joshua Christopher disappears from their lives. Of course, having a devil as a companion doesn't make her the most popular person in the compound but Chrono is such a cute and adorable guy in his human form that she gets the flack instead of him.

To my surprise, the series kicks in pretty early with some of the larger plot by bringing in the concept of modern day Apostles that are running around the world with various powers that the devils want to bring their own dark contracts into existence. So there's an element of finding and defending these people and we get to go through one such instance over the first couple of episodes here, though the first episode itself is fairly self-contained to introduce the series. A lot of the shows humor and style is very constant throughout, usually focusing on Rosettes antics and general clumsiness at times, or the way she tries to keep people from seeing up her dress where her bloomers are. In a way, a lot of these early episodes in terms of characters and not plot remind me heavily of Slayers. The kind of humor, facial expressions and other characteristics of Lina show through in Rosette to me which then has Chrono as some mutated form of Goury. One of the defining moments of Lina-ness for me was the ending to the first episode with the boat and the statue. That could be transplanted quite easily. Unlike Slayers, I find the style to work really well for Rosette and the way she interacts with everyone around her. She's definitely one of the more powerful people there but it doesn't come through until key moments.

There's a lot to like with this show in general. The design and style of things is a lot of fun, particularly with plenty of New York landmarks. Enough of the general city design is standard stuff that you'd see in any show set in this time period which is interesting enough, but we get a lot of fun with the kinds of cars used then, the differences in weaponry between the normal folk and the Order and other time related things. In a way, this is why the English language version will probably be superior to the Japanese version. Though they try to avoid a lot of outright stereotyping, which is hard to do based on how some of the secondary characters are animated, the wider range of accents that the English version can use will give this a much fuller feeling. My only difficulty with it was that I've gotten so used to hearing Hilary as Milk-Chan recently that I keep expecting Rosette to break out in some of the same dialogue. On the Japanese side of things, I have to say that I'm extremely happy with the dub due to two of my favorites. Tomoko Kawamura is just someone whose voice I enjoy in a wide number of roles and she does a really great job here. But even better than her was to hear Shou Hayami once more involved in a big show in the role of Minister Remington. I've simply adored his voice for a few years now and love that I keep discovering him both in new shows and shows that go back to the early 80's.

In Summary:
Chrono Crusade has all the elements of a successful show and these opening episodes hit every mark just about right. There's a real sense of fun to these characters that's mixed with a very evil an detailed dark side as well. The sight gags are complemented well with some high octane chase and action sequences, some surprising fanservice for a "sister" and just a really good time overall. While there's a fair amount to take in with the show, the package overall brings a lot to the plate both within the show and through the extras to give you a really full feeling release. This is a series that people will definitely be talking about for quite awhile to come and it looks to be a really fun ride.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Azmaria's Extra Classes,Clean open and ending animation,Original on-air openings for episodes 1-4,Chrono Crusade Chronicle, Production sketches,Commentary with Hilary Haag (Rosette); Greg Ayres (Chrono) and Matt Greenfield (ADR Director)

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98/39.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Chrono Crusade