Chrono Crusade Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, November 11, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, November 16, 2004



What They Say
Chrono and Rosette are back, and there's a whole new legion of the damned out to get them! But this time they've got a little help in giving the devils hell, as Azmaria and a new demon hunter join the fight.

Unfortunately, there are bigger, badder demons yet to come, and when the devil who kidnapped Rosette's brother resurfaces, it looks like the Magdalene Order may have met its match. Can our heroes cheat the devil out of his bargain?

The Review!
Expanding the cast and the world a bit more, Chrono Crusade avoids the "sophomore slump" of episodes and continues to build strongly.

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:
Similar to the first cover but with Rosette facing a different direction, she's almost falling backwards towards her car as she fires off both guns. While it's not fire and brimstone in the background this time it has the same kind of feel with the darkened city blocks behind her. 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 Japanese release of Azmaria in her new outfit wielding a snub nosed gun and showing off a lot of skin, at least for her. 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 Japanese release cover with Rosette and Satella together withh a cloudy sky background used instead of the blank white one the Japanese used. The artwork here is just great looking and very fanservice heavy but I love it. 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.

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. There are two more classes included in this release that helps flesh things out nicely. 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 fifth episode. 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first volume of Chrono Crusade threw a lot of things out at the audience as it had a lot of things that really needed to be dealt with, from the time period to the setting itself never mind all the characters and the basic plot. At times it definitely felt not necessarily overwhelming but rather full of information to take in. Since the setting itself wasn't something that most Japanese fans could latch onto right away unlike some of their own historical dramas, many of which they've grown up with on TV through live action serials, a good amount of time has been given over to getting a feeling for this new locale and time period.

With a lot of that past us, the next set of episodes has the job of carrying the momentum of the series setup and moving it into the new territory. Some series do this better than others and Chrono Crusade is definitely one of them. There's some really good material to be found here as they move the larger story forward while providing plenty of looks into the past and expanding the existing casts backgrounds and introducing some really interesting new players to the game.

With all the revelations of the first set of episodes about the Apostles, Aion's plans and how Joshua may fit into things, Rosette is fully set to take on the lead role in tracking down the other Apostles and figuring out what else Aion is planning to do. Of course, Sister Kate won't have any of this since she still doesn't feel Rosette's up to the job both in terms of skill and maturity for it. And she's still rankled about the entire presence of Chrono in their order and the way she finds his presence is almost flaunting itself even though it's not overt. Thankfully for Rosette though, she's got Minister Remington on her side to help nudge things along in his own usually careful ways.

Amusingly, Remington's intentions don't go as planned. Taking Rosette and Chrono down to one of the underground chambers of the Order where they cam simulate any kind of monster they need for practice, he sets Rosette alone in there to handle a particular training exercise only to let loose a real demon in there. His figuring is that if she can handle this high class demon herself, it'll be what's needed for Sister Kate to give in and let her take on the mission. Naturally, Remington doesn't actually get approval for this since he wants to use it to convince Sister Kate. And of course, Sister Kate decides to use the chamber from a different location at the same time to provide Azmaria with some training since she's becoming a special member of the Order due to her Apostle status. And you can imagine how it all goes from there. What's good about this is that through the demon's powers of the mind, we're able to get insights that are key to moving things along for both women and it strengthens the bond between them as they're now becoming partners in this greater fight.

One of my favorite things about this volume though is the addition of a new recurring character named Satella. She's introduced as the Jewel Witch, a bounty hunter of sorts who has her own set of magical powers that are based on a different kind of magic than what the Order uses. Since she works by contract, her goals are often quite different than that of the Orders itself so when she runs up against them, even when the idea is the same, her methods tend to conflict. Much like Rosette, she's got a darkened past that she hasn't been able to let go which is only added to by her Germanic history and the timeframe all of this takes place in. So when during a particular set of relatively standalone set of tales she and Rosette end up coming across each other, the sparks do fly due to their similarities.

In fact, the first meetings are pretty amusing since it also covers Azmaria's first set of missions while being teamed up with Rosette and Chrono. She's got this really purplish-white outfit and almost a beret like hat that just makes her look angelic in nature, especially with the long hair. She's got that worried nature about how she thinks she's not going to be able to handle things as they go along and it's cute how it comes out as it goes along. Normally you'd find someone like this to be annoying but somehow Azmaria pulls it off without being so. The real sparks fly though when Satella realizes that Chrono is a demon and her life long pursuit of demons with the intent to kill them has her writing off the trio pretty quick but circumstances for all of their hands in a different direction in these missions.

The introduction of Satella and the forming of the team of Azmaria, Chrono and Rosette play out nicely in these episodes and it all gets capped off with some very enlightening material at the end of the volume when Aion starts making his formal play into the big game he's playing as he tries to capture as much power as possible. There's a lot of things going on very early in this series and it moves pretty fast at times. This batch of episodes does a great job of continuing the feel of the first without all the heavy information needed to get the setting realized and is instead allowed to focus just on the characters.

In Summary:
Chrono Crusade takes a lot of what it laid down as the foundation in the first volume and doesn't coast at all on that but rather continues to build up on top of that. With some interesting new characters, changes in existing characters already and a strengthening of the larger plot already in hand, these episodes avoid that slump where they typically focus on one or two characters or just some random travels to get a feel for the world at large. The comedy of the show is also a real plus here since it's not a completely in your face type but more of a situational humor for the most part which I think works better. The characters continue to be almost instantly likeable and the dynamics of the relationships change well here and show the direction they intend to take them in. Chrono Crusade is definitely just a lot of fun to watch.

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 episode 5,Chrono Crusade Chronicle,Production sketches

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