Reviewby Theron Martin,
DVD 4: The Devil to Pay
Sister Rosette, Chrono, and Azmaria set out for San Francisco to locate Rosette's brother Joshua, who is supposed to be somewhere in that area according to intelligence. Assorted problems and misadventures arise, as does an offer of alliance from an unexpected - and potentially untrustworthy - source. And could it be true that Joshua is not the only one in Rosette's family born special?
Meanwhile Aion's plans involving Joshua near fruition, though Joshua's suffering only worsens. Can anything be done to ease his pain?
Chrono Crusade sometimes shows all the energy and stylistic elements of a lively, racy action-comedy, while at other times it gets serious, dark, and ugly. As with earlier “gospels,” this one (which covers episodes 13-15) struggles to find a proper balance and smooth transition between these two warring aspects. By the end of this gospel, though, the signs are clear that the frivolity permeating the first half of the series may soon be coming to an end. There are just too many dark elements hanging about for the series to remain silly while pushing towards its inevitable climatic confrontation with Aion.
The writing continues to strain the limits of credibility on its use of Catholic dogma and lore. If you thought the recent live-action movie Constantine was “out there” then this gospel of Chrono Crusade is several strokes beyond and headed out to sea while gleefully taunting Constantine for not being able to keep up. (I suppose Chrono Crusade could be looked at as a case study in the blending of Japanese sensibilities on spirituality and otherworldly creatures with Christianity, but that's giving the series too much credit for depth.) Still, the established storyline is interesting enough to be worth following, although I wouldn't mind at all if Satella got killed off at some point (All fans of the show who agree, please raise your hand!). Her butler Steiner can stay, though. He's cool. Sister Rosette's just fine, too, as is Sister Kate, and Azmaria's starting to develop into something more than a dead weight and walking target, but Chrono's still too much of a wuss. The Elder is so much the stereotypical dirty old man that he's more a nuisance than interesting or funny, though the rest of the supporting good guys and gals are fine. The Rat Pack of Sinners Aion has working for him, which first appear in this volume, are annoying (the spunky petite female one) or just plain uninteresting (the rest of them), so hopefully they'll be killed off quickly. The most interesting character so far is Joshua, who regretfully gets too little screen time in this gospel.
The color scheme for Chrono Crusade varies according to the mood of the scene, with more light-hearted scenes being brightly-colored and darker scenes being more subdued. The artistry and animation heavily use common anime conventions, so this is a series best reserved for veteran anime fans. Character designs for mature female characters continue to be consistently busty (though not ridiculously so), with Satella given ample opportunity to flaunt what's she's got. Curiously, though, for a show so seemingly obsessed with breasts, Sister Rosette's distinctly busty figure loses all hint of curves when she must don a shift in episode 14 (Yeah, I know her curves wouldn't be as obvious with her wearing something that loose, but she's been portrayed so far with too much of a figure for them to completely go away). Background artistry continues to be very well-done, and costuming continues to be distinctive and stylish, especially Azmaria's neat outfit. Even the more ordinary fare which Rosette wears in the latter half of episode 15 looks quite sharp. This is one good-looking series.
The musical scoring for Chrono Crusade is overly heavy on cheesy, cartoonish sound effects, though the music itself isn't bad. Both the opener and the closer are forgettable, although the way the series segues into the closer from the “To Be Continued” notices is interesting and distinctively different. “Next Episode” blurbs are as lively as ever.
The English dub for Chrono Crusade is full of good performances turned in by well-cast veteran voice talent. Hilary Haag, who has made a career of voicing young, immature, and overly excitable female characters, is the natural choice for Sister Rosette, and Greg Ayres is effective at mimicking the original Japanese vocal stylings for Chrono. Jessica Boone has the tone down right for Azmaria but sounds a little too old, while Laura Chapman has just he right kind of lower-pitched, mature voice to be Sister Kate. Tiffany Grant is almost unrecognizable but appropriately bitchy in her German-accented take on Satella. Most supporting cast performances are reasonably well-done, which adds up to an overall dub performance at least equal to the original. As with previous volumes, the English script varies a little from the original by working in slang appropriate to the Roaring 20s in the U.S. (“don't be a pill,” for instance). These changes are more corrections of deficiencies in the original script than the translators not staying as true as possible to the original, so I see no problems with them.
This gospel has some graphic violence and bloodshed but not as much so as in some previous gospels. Though no actual nudity is present, the jiggling and cleavage-related humor is as prominent as ever, easily earning the “older teens” designation on its packaging.
As with previous gospels in the series, “The Devil To Pay” is well-stocked for extras. Look for a reversible cover and episode summaries in the packaging, while the DVD contains common extras like company previews, clean openers and closers, and production sketches. Also included is the standard Chrono Crusade Chronicle, which details various aspects of the story, characters, and settings presented in this volume; this information includes period cultural details and references, so it's well worth a look. We also get a new edition of Azmaria's Extra Classes, though only one lesson is included (presumably since there's only one even-numbered episode on this DVD), this time about the Sinners and their nature. These lessons are creeping closer to the core of the storyline, however, and bear watching. Fair warning: some of the images in the lesson are spoilers even if you've seen all the episodes in this volume. It's also worth noting that this extra can be watched subbed or dubbed, depending on how you have things set to watch the main show. Overall, menu designs are functional, easy to navigate quite appealing, making this one of the more accessible titles out there in that regard.
Chrono Crusade will never be mistaken for being a deep and meaningful series, but it's entertaining enough, looks sharp, and never lacks for energy. If you have followed and liked the series so far then you're likely to appreciate “The Devil To Pay,” too. Trying to jump on board at this point is not recommended, however.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : C+
+ Sharp costumes, good artistry.
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