Review

by Theron Martin,

Chain Chronicle: The Light of Haecceitas

Movie 1 (Episodes 1-4)

Synopsis:
Chain Chronicle: The Light of Haecceitas
Yuri has assembled the Volunteer Army in an effort to defeat the Black King, who threatens to destroy the land with his Black Army, corrupting miasma, and nihilistic attitude. All the forces from assorted powers and races across the land of Yggdra have rallied behind his cause, but at the critical moment in what should be the final battle, Yuri and his allies are defeated by the Black King, the magical Chain Chronicle which records the history of the land is torn in half, and their sprite companion Pirika, who is the embodiment of the world's will, vanishes. After being forced to retreat, the Volunteer Army is left to pick up the pieces, and the alliance disintegrates. But even as the world seems to be succumbing to the dark influence of the Black King, a new hope emerges in the form of Aram, a young man with an unusual magical ability that could end up being the key to turning things around.
Review:

Chain Chronicle: The Light of Haecceitas is the first of a trilogy of movies being released once a month between December 2016 and February 2017. A TV series version is also airing during the Winter 2017 season, but based on its first two episodes, the TV series is just going to be the movies chopped up into 20-minute segments with an opener, closer, and a small intro and recap added in to smooth out the runtime. (Crunchyroll, which is streaming both versions, has taken the unusual practice of subdividing the movie version into those 20-25 minute segments, presumably so viewers know which parts of the movie match up with which TV episodes.) So this review could be seen as covering the first movie in a trilogy or the first four episodes of a one-cour series.

The Light of Haecceitas is not the first anime adaptation of this mobile game. A series of eight OVA shorts was also created and released back in 2014, although Crunchyroll is not streaming those. By all accounts, those shorts take place prior to the events of these movies/TV series, but they're isolated vignettes rather than a comprehensive story, not by any means necessary viewing to make sense of this one. From what I can tell, the source mobile game also mostly consists of events leading up to where the movie starts. However, anyone who has extensive background with fantasy RPGs and their adaptations should have no problem jumping into this story and following it just fine.

That's because the movie and its characters are standard fantasy RPG fare to a fault. You've probably seen or played all of these characters before, whether it's the sexy witch, the hot-blooded sorcerer who aches for battle, the up-and-coming young hotshot with the short blades, the companion sprite, the clean-cut young champion, or the noble princess who believes in him. You've probably also seen most of these situations before, whether it's the hero falling under the effect of a curse that could kill or transform him if he doesn't complete his quest, the ally who does succumb to the influences of that evil, the heroes fighting on various fronts to fend off encroaching evil, or seeking the help of eccentric sages to locate a lost companion. Starting off with what seems like the climactic battle but having the hero fail, so that the allied forces have to regroup, is the one interesting twist on formula that gives us some hope for something fresher down the line, though by the end of the first movie, that hasn't materialized into any new twists. Even the rare actual jokes, such as awful cooking that all but one iron-stomached fighter can't handle, are still very anime-standard.

Most of the stock elements are executed and paced adequately, except for the business about the ally who gets corrupted; he just doesn't seem faithless and weak-willed enough to get turned that easily. The story doesn't do anything especially compelling though, and some of the Volunteer Army don't even get basic levels of characterization. That puts more weight on the action side of the movie, which it is able to carry. Action sequences keep a large number of distinct characters involved while giving many (especially the dynamic Aram) chances to show off, and the chain power-ups that start appearing in the second episode are a pretty cool mechanism. My only complaint is that the princess, who seems like a capable fighter, doesn't get to do much herself, and Phoena is essentially useless. (Apparently she's supposed to be a Cleric in the game but shows no effective power here.) Other female characters do get more directly involved, so it's not like this is a guys-only show, but it definitely favors men when it comes to showing off in fights.

The production comes courtesy of Telecom Animation Film (Orange, Lupin the III Part IV) and Graphinica (almost entirely support work beyond this title). Character designs have the exotic, lavishly-dressed looks typical of fantasy RPGs, but in a field crowded with such designs, most of these are run-of-the-mill; one of the few that stands out is just because of their distractingly sharp nose. Background art is high-quality but also unobtrusive, to the point that you have to be deliberately watching for it to recognize its excellence. Action scenes are capably supported by the animation and flow pretty well except for an occasional choppy transition, and CG integration (mostly for the Black Army soldiers and miasma effects) is good enough to not be a distraction. Graphic content isn't strong overall, but there are occasional intense scenes, especially in the first episode.

If the production excels at anything other than backgrounds, it's the musical score. The fully-orchestrated score may also sound fairly typical as RPG-based fare goes, but it nonetheless hits all the right dramatic notes and greatly enhances the content in both active and more low-key scenes. The movie version uses no real opener and a different closer song than the TV series version, while the TV series' regular opener, the rock song “My Liberation” by Nano (who also does the movies' closer) kicks in with the second episode.

I applaud the story for going beyond the base game's content and trying to do something different by focusing on the heroes recovering from failure rather than building toward the stereotypical endgame. However, the lack of any real world-building and thin characterizations make the generic story elements beyond that all the more glaring in their insufficiency. This isn't a bad series by any means, but it will have to do better in the second and third movies to be memorable. Thanks to Rage of Bahamut Genesis, the bar is now much higher for what's expected of mobile game adaptations.

Grade:
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B+

+ Good basic premise, quality background art and musical score
One character turns to the dark side too easily, not interestingly different beyond the initial premise

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Production Info:
Script:
Touko Machida
Masahiro Okubo
Hiroyuki Yoshino

Full encyclopedia details about
Chain Chronicle (TV)

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