Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Aion maneuvers to complete his ultimate plan to bring Heaven down to Earth and Hell up to Earth, and Rosette, as the stigmata-marked Mary Magdalene, is his ultimate tool. He uses her to mislead the people and turn the masses against Chrono, while Chrono, Azmaria, and the Magdelene Order try to figure out a way to stop him and recover the ensorcelled Rosette. They must also keep the addled Joshua safe, while Satella tries to bring matters with Fiora, her elder sister, to a resolution which saves her from Aion's influence. But will the truth about Fiora's nature prevent that? And what is Chrono to do if Rosette herself has been turned against him?
With these three episodes the saga of Chrono Crusade is brought to a satisfying conclusion. Yes, one of the two key battle scenes may be a little anticlimactic, and fans of the show may be saddened by the deaths of some major characters, but Chrono Crusade is one of the rare anime series which not only takes time to show what happens after the climax, but also wraps up its loose ends, including at least one that viewers may have forgotten about. In doing so it draws into its conclusion dire real-world events which begin happening in 1929, suggesting a progression from the events in the story into these events, and also ties in the second and third Fatima prophecies as well. While this could be perceived as just adding some extra flavor for the series, it also goes a long way towards portraying the story as being a part of the historical events of the time, alternate universe or not.
As with the previous volume, this final volume is almost completely devoid of the silliness prevalent in the earlier episodes of the series. These are serious topics being dealt with here, and they get a suitably dark and serious treatment. The story continues to play around with Christian dogma and mythology, mixing its own extremely liberal interpretations of the nature and relationship of God and devils with strong intimations that AiON is supposed to be the Antichrist, or at the least deliberately taking on the characteristics of the Antichrist in order to serve his own ends. Through to the very end the series continues its philosophizing, with AiON as a mouthpiece, about the corrupt (and corruptible) nature of Man and the uncaring, uninvolved attitude of God towards humanity. Whether or not the series is trying to make a point with this content, or just using it as flavor, isn't entirely clear.
As this volume opens Rosette has been given a Gothic Lolita look to reflect being under AiON's spell, but otherwise character designs for continuing characters remain unchanged from previous volumes, with costuming looking as sharp as ever. New designs, and designs for younger versions of characters in flashbacks, are generally appealing. A dark but vivid color scheme is favored throughout to enhance artwork laden with flashy effects, be they transformation scenes, magic, or manifestations of spiritual power. The animation favors common shortcuts and uses few scenes of sustained action, although it does have a few. Graphic content is heavy but not extreme, involving a good amount of blood but little gore, and the fan service occasionally seen in earlier volumes in the series is nonexistent here. Overall this isn't one of Gonzo's best artistic efforts, but it isn't bad, either.
The musical scoring in this volume concentrates heavily on dramatic orchestral arrangements, which are a marked improvement over musical content in earlier volumes. At two different points Azmaria singles a beautiful, soaring church hymn, which is sung in English (with what sounds like a German accent) in both the dub and sub versions; the title of the song and identity of the singer are, unfortunately, not credited, but one does not have to be Christian to appreciate its spirit and soul. The moody closing piece, “Sayanora Solitaire,” suits the tone of the series better here than in early volumes, while the opener continues to be a throw-away number.
The English script for this volume remains remarkably faithful to the subtitles except for the long-established practice of inserting in period slang (“everything's Jake,” for instance), but doesn't sound awkward at all; this is the way English scripts for anime dubs should be done. Credit for this goes to longtime English VA Kelly Manison, who did the ADR script for this volume and the previous two. Hopefully this wasn't a one-time job! The English dub performances are also smoothly delivered and well-performed, though Tiffany Grant lays the Satella's German accent on a little too thick at times when speaking non-German phrases. On the upside, Andy McAvin sounds even slimier and more self-righteous as AiON than the seiyuu for that role. (Does any other English VA for anime consistently perform as well in villainous roles?)
“Hellfire” provides the standard Chrono Crusade package of DVD extras: company previews, clean opener/closer, unused on-air openers, production sketches, Chrono Crusade Chronicle, and Azmaria's Extra Classes. As usual, the Chronicle deals with topics which come up in this volume, while Azmaria's Extra Classes includes only the 11th and final installment. This time around the class focuses on the head of Pandemonium, and as always the lesson can be viewed subbed or dubbed depending on what setting you have on for the episodes.
Taken as a whole, Chrono Crusade in many ways resembles Fullmetal Alchemist, which was on the air in Japan at the same time. Both stories feature lively, flashy action involving superhuman powers, somewhat similar artistic styles, and bipolar behavior in the way they bounce between extremes of silliness and dark, heavy content. Both also work in a fair amount of philosophy, with Chrono's being more of a religious bent while FMA's is more focused on morality. Chrono Crusade lacks the level of depth and character development which makes FMA one of the all-time great anime series, and it never quite achieves the fine balance between humor and drama that FMA has, but it fares well enough judged solely on its own merits. Fans of the series shouldn't be disappointed with the way this final volume wraps things up, and those who gave up on the series after the first couple of volumes because of its inane silliness might want to reconsider. Despite its earlier wackiness, this is, on the whole, a fairly serious action series about characters so driven by their pasts that they have difficulty moving on. I would not classify it as a top pick, but it's worth a look.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Good English script, proper resolutions to storylines
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