Chrono Crusade Vol. #3 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, January 08, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2005



What They Say
As the forces of darkness continue their war against mankind, the depth to which the human soul can be corrupted becomes the catalyst for a nightmarish series of events. The horns of a devil take root in a child of God, a Devil's bargain is joined and Aion's monstrous plot to conquer Heaven itself advances one step closer to fruition.

The Review!
Providing more key back story before going into a couple of simple tales that border on filler, Chrono Crusade does its best to ratchet up the emotional involvement level.

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. 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. The gradient issue caused some nasty blocking during one part of this release, when the door closes behind Azmaria in the orphanage, the disappearing blackness of the door resulted in massive blocking along the gradient lines, but lasted only for a couple of brief seconds.

Packaging:
As the lead trio of characters has come together over the last couple of episodes and their mission becomes clear this volume, having them all on the cover works well here and Azmaria in particular looks really good as her softer colors offset the darker tones of the other two. 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 has a really cute image of Azmaria as Santa Claus while Chrono is dressed up as a pregnant looking reindeer. 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 good looking reversible cover, this volume's reverse side is reflective of the material on the disc and has a younger shot of Rosette in a white dress with the longer haired Chrono next to her. 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:
The extras essentially mirror the previous volume with a few changes in actual content. The big extra to me continues to be 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. 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. Episode ten of this release also makes out by getting a commentary track by Matt Greenfield and Chris Patton.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Chrono Crusade manages to impress a bit once more by providing some truly creepy moments and continuing to work in a mode where characters are going to suffer in this series and the punches won't be pulled when it comes to someone getting killed or just messed over horribly. With so many series these days having the same kind of death count as an old GI Joe cartoon where every jumps out at the last moment and has a parachute handy, those that have things actually happen to the main and secondary cast members tend to be a breath of fresh air.

Though it's not been terribly up front since Azmaria came into focus, the hunt for the apostles is still ongoing and apparently things are heating up in that hunt that Aion's side of things have come out on top for the most part as they've acquired yet another one in San Francisco. In a brief talk with the fairly delusional Joshua, we find out that all that remains now is the one in his sisters' hands, which means that things aren't going to be looking all that good for Azmaria in the future. But to her advantage, some of this information comes back to the Order and both Remington and Sister Kate have decided that it's time to send Rosette out to find her brother and do what must be done.

Before this can really happen though, Azmaria really needs to learn what went on in the past that haunts all of these people so much. With Chrono in tow as always, Rosette takes her to the Seventh Bell orphanage where she and Joshua had grown up for so many years until the events four years ago. What's really strange about this is that the entire area around the orphanage has been sealed up inside a prefab building and locked to keep unwanted visitors out. The interior, once the lights are on, is extremely creepy. The orphanage building is partial collapse and numerous kids are running around inside and outside of the building but they're all frozen, cast in gray material with their faces showing nothing but fear.

Rosette tells the tale of how she and Joshua were wandering out in the countryside of the orphanage some time ago in order to avoid the minister and ended up crashing through the ground and into an underground sealed chamber by accident. Exploring around, Joshua inadvertently causes a door to open that reveals a disheveled looking Chrono sitting there, which we've seen in past instances as to how the three of them met for the first time. This tale takes it further though and we see how Chrono, kept secret, spent much time with the pair out in the countryside and enjoying the time spent together. For Chrono, this is a drastic change since his time as one of the baddest of demons out there, so he enjoys it more than he realizes. So when Aion comes to claim him back only to be refuted, he realizes that he's been taken advantage of and his horns have been transplanted into Joshua instead.

The resulting devastation caused by Joshua grappling with the pain – both mental and physical – of getting the horns isn't staggering in a sense but it cuts through you as it affects so many of the kids in the area. But at the same time, you can understand how he lashes out because the pain he's feeling can be healed by what he does and the acquisition of the horns has given him a strength he never even dreamed he'd have due to his body's illnesses. The battle for his soul as the two sides try to deal with all of this power is shown only briefly in his eyes but when he loses, you can't feel completely sorry for him since it's saved him in a sense.

The back story is very important material since it establishes the bond all three of them had in even greater detail and explains the ties that Rosette made to Chrono in order to be able to save her brother from what Aion's planning to do. Only a bit of Chrono's past comes out in all of this but it's enough to realize just what he was in the past and how deceptive he is in a way with how he looks now. For Azmaria, all of this really brings home just how important the three of them are to each other, which probably puts her feelings on the outside, but Rosette does a really good job of making her feel just as important to her as anything else she cares about.

This becomes especially true in the Christmas episode that's here. Finding out that due to her circumstances, Azmaria has never had a Christmas before or even received a present, Rosette holds off on her trip to find Joshua so they can properly celebrate the holiday and to show Azmaria just how much she means to everyone. It's a quiet little episode that feels awkward watching just a couple of weeks after Christmas (such bad timing) but it lets Azmaria have some good tender moments as well as showing a bit more of her past that helps explain her character. There is some good fanservice in here though, particularly Rosette dressed up as Santa, and even a bit for Chrono fans as he wears a reindeer suit and a small set of horns with it.

In Summary:
This volume has some of those key episodes that helps explain a lot of the motivations and deals that had gone on in the past before the series started and enables the viewer to make a greater connection to a pair of characters that they've done a good job of making very accessible already. Getting more time with Joshua before his turning and the younger Rosette helps make them all the easier to identify with for many kids and teens and sets up much of the drama to follow. For Azmaria, it makes her own connections with the pair stronger, something that they return to her in great warmth. This is a solid volume that has plenty of what makes the show fun to watch and provided some good entertainment that had me both amused, excited and saddened.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Azmaria's Extra Classes, Clean open and ending animation, Chrono Crusade Chronicle, Production sketches Chrono,Crusade Slang,Commentary with Matt Greenfield (ADR Director) & Chris Patton (Joshua)

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: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 15 & 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