The Summer 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Chronos Ruler ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
The first episode of Chronos Ruler is stunningly bland. Having two guys with special powers battle monsters isn't exactly a new idea to begin with, and the presentation almost seems to go out of its way to be formulaic. This is the kind of premiere that sleepwalks through the basic outline of its genre without ever offering a convincing reason for the audience to keep watching. As ordinary girl Koyuki stumbles into an encounter with Horologue hunters Kiri and Victo, the feeling of “been there, done that” is downright overpowering.
The closest thing to a distinctive trait that I noticed in this episode was its abundance of redundant expository dialogue. When a character with time-related powers uses an ability called Slow Down and the monster in front of him stops moving, he really doesn't need to turn around and explain that this ability allows him to slow the passage of time. I promise you, anime screenwriters, your audience is capable of figuring that out for themselves. By the same token, basic points like “time-eating monsters are dangerous” and “you can't change the past” are repeated and belabored to a painful extent. You could cut down this episode's running time by a significant margin just by getting rid of all the moments where dialogue is used to state the bleeding obvious.
The show does its best to look good during the big fight scene, and the results are serviceable as long as you're not expecting A-list production values. Unfortunately, that's probably where all the time and effort was concentrated, as the rest of the episode looks pretty lousy. My favorite moment of non-animation involves Koyuki announcing that she and her friends are going to sing a song at their graduation ceremony, only for the show to pan across a set of still images to a soundtrack that's completely devoid of vocals. Apparently these girls are very talented at imitating the sound of a violin.
There are moments when Chronos Ruler seems to be reaching for something other than mediocrity, but it never really finds much to grasp onto. The best it can manage is a forgettable mix of stale ideas and weak execution. Go right ahead and skip this one; there's nothing to see here.
Chronos Ruler has some potential, partially because I'm a sucker for a time travel story or anything involving clock imagery. That's the one thing this episode does really well – the use of numbers flipping into letters like an old pseudo-digital clock, the distorted analogue clock faces in the monsters’ eyes, and the idea that time can only be “turned back” by actually being consumed in an irreversible process are all intriguing, especially as we are actually given enough hints to figure out the big reveal about Victo at the end of the episode. That's another major plus here – between comments about how he's a “geezer on the inside” and flashback images that show a clearly older Victo, Kiri's final statement about his true nature is less a surprise and more a confirmation of what we've already been given enough information to suspect. That bodes well for any future mysteries the series may contain – there are few things more frustrating than not being given the clues needed to solve the case along with the characters, and Chronos Ruler looks like it won't fall into that trap.
Or will it? While we know all of the particulars about Koyuki and her brother's inevitable Death by Speeding Truck (seriously, between that and mysterious wasting illnesses, are there any other ways people die in anime?), we don't know what Miss Emily's deal was, and that's kind of annoying. While her journey from young woman to infant to nothingness throughout the episode does its job as a terrible warning for Koyuki (and foreshadowing for Victo), the lack of a reason behind her wish is kind of annoying. Koyuki's and Victo's reasons for turning back the clock are selfish, but ultimately about a deep personal regret or loneliness. When child Emily runs in at the end screaming for her time to be returned, we don't know if it was for a similar reason or if she's so upset because she wished for time to turn back to when she had nicer hair or something, such as Koyuki's classmates were discussing at the start of the episode.
The art here is all over the place, with some scenes looking pretty bad, such as Victo awkwardly floating up his card spiral instead of jumping, which is what I think he was supposed to be doing. The episode does deserve some credit for not giving its transwoman stubble or a beefy build, however – still giving her a deep man's voice isn't awesome and can still be intended as “humor,” but it isn't nearly as bad as it's been in the past. The dog also looks sort of like a creepy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which is different than we usually see.
Right now this feels like it could either clean up its act (and dramatic music) and be a decent supernatural action show with a dark underlying theme about living with your regrets or turn into a mess of jumbled symbolism. Since Koyuki saved the dog in the end, I'm willing to give it that chance.
Chronos Ruler is a show that wants so desperately to be cool. It has the jazz/funk fusion soundtrack, the stylized CGI monster battles, the sexy and mysterious duo protagonists who arrive in the nick of time to save naïve young girls from a horrible fate. It has all the signifiers of what a group of faceless chair-people sitting in a studio board room would consider hip and stylish. I will say this: The music isn't half bad.
Chronos Ruler isn't a bad show, but given how hard it tries to be impressive and appealing and mysterious, it doesn't really manage to evoke any of those sensations by the time the credits on its first episode roll. This is mostly due to how painfully tired everything is about this series’ execution, from its exposition heavy dialogue to its painfully unfunny attempts at comedy. Even Kiri and Victo represent the same “tightly-wound straight man and lackadaisical womanizer” shtick we've seen a thousand times before. Koyuki functions soley as the point of view character that gets caught up in the escapades of these two “brothers” solely so they can catch the audience up on the Oath of Time and how being a Chronos Ruler works. The story itself cares so little about Koyuki herself that her tragic backstory actually comes off as unintentionally funny, because I don't know if there is any way to play the “suddenly hit by a random truck” card seriously anymore these days. Everything about this script reads like its going through the motions, so while it technically functions as an introduction to these characters and this world, it does very little to inspire any actual sense of excitement or mystery.
The visual side of things doesn't fare too well either. While the action scenes that bookend the episode are alright, the middle portion feels decidedly stiff and lifeless. The character designs are also weak, which doesn't help when the show is so obviously banking on visual appeal to mask the weakness in the script; everyone in the cast looks like the generic first drafts you might find in ufotable's discard bins. In general, there was an air of sloppiness to the production, from spelling errors on various signs to a few noticeably jerky and sudden cuts in between action beats.
All of this is a shame, because there are some things to like about this episode. The animation is okay when the action gets going, and the use of CG is admittedly pretty effective. If you cut out the middle eighteen minutes of the episode and cranked up the volume on the fun, jazzy soundtrack, Chronos Ruler's first episode might make for a decent AMV. As a twenty-minute installment of a weekly series, though, it has a lot less ground to stand on. Maybe the series will pick up now that the setup is over and done with, but as it stands, the show hasn't made much of a case for why anyone should spend their time sticking around to find out.
I'm sure the fact that this series shares a director with Chaos Dragon is going to give some people pause, but while this is hardly a stellar first episode, it's not that bad, either. In fact, this has all of the makings of a run-of-the-mill super-powered action story: weird foes to fight, interesting powers for the lead duo, and a nasty curse on one of the leads due to past misfortune. It also has a very ordinary mix of serious action scenes and much more free-wheeling, light-hearted moments. Put an equally ordinary artistic effort on top of that and you have practically the definition of “generic” here.
For this episode the strangely red-eyed Koyuki serves as the viewpoint character, but information that I could find on the source manga indicates that she isn't going to be a regular cast member; she guest-stars in a one-off tale doubtlessly being used to introduce a typical adventure for the Putin brothers, but only that. Instead it looks like the series is going to focus primarily on the supposed brothers – and I use “supposed” because that's what they claim but the final scene reveals that they are actually related in an entirely different way. If the series continues to follow a pattern similar to Fullmetal Alchemist, which it seems to be imitating to some degree, then we can probably expect the next episode to show us how the Putins got to be in the situation that they are in now.
As the leads, the Putins are a fairly typical personality balance: Kiri is the serious one, while Victo is the one who likes to play around and take risks, whether it's womanizing or essentially using Koyuki as bait to lure out the Horologue. Their comical antics are starkly at odds with their serious fights or the nasty stakes from fighting Horologues, but there's nothing unusual about that. The angle where those bitten by Horologues age-regress is a somewhat interesting angle, as is the ugly curse that Victo suffers from related to that. However, the whole business with Ms. Emily is handled a bit too clumsily, as we never get a sense of why she would have had the kinds of regrets that got her into that situation. On a more minor note, whoever did the signs in this episode clearly doesn't know English well, as Cabaret is misspelled as Cabalet and Hotel is spelled with an extra L in another place. Minor details, but still annoyances.
More at issue is an inconsistent artistic efforts. While the overall look of the first episode isn't bad and the Horologue is an ugly marvel of a design, the episode clearly saves most of its animation effort for the fight at the end, as it uses an unfortunately great number of stills early on. The Putins are also much too casual with explaining things to Koyuki (and thus the viewer) while holding off the Horologue with a barrier. Still, despite the flaws the episode and concept aren't entirely lacking in entertainment value.
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