Chrono Crusade vol. 1
Mike Toole rates it:
Author/artist: Daisuke Moriyama
I've learned to be cautious when approaching anime and manga that deals with Christianity. There's stuff out there that's straight Biblical tales-- Osamu Tezuka's In the Beginning and Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's Jesus come to mind-- and then there's silly business like Ninja Resurrection, which equates Christian prayer with the same kind of shamanistic magic used by eastern supernatural heroes. Sometimes it works-- I absolutely loved the bitterly sectarian attitude of Hellsing's Integra and Anderson-- but sometimes it doesn't.
Chrono Crusade put me on edge when I first got wind of it, because it falls back to the old standby of nuns with guns. Okay, so it's not exactly an old standby, but it brings to mind Ben Dunn's unpleasantly exploitative Warrior Nun Areala, a woman who slays monsters in a habit and... a bikini. It's a novel concept, but it just doesn't make any goddamned sense.
Creator Daisuke Moriyama plays things a lot safer in Chrono Crusade. The series' heroine, Sister Rosette Christopher, may pack a holy hand cannon (nicknamed the Gospel, no less...!), but aside from a broad ditzy streak, she dresses and behaves modestly. Her immediate superiors in the church-- prim Sister Kate and jolly Father Remington-- also dress a bit silly, but otherwise seem vaguely authentic. Sister Rosette is a member of the Magdalan Order, a faction of the Catholic Church dedicated to totally slamming evil, wherever it may arise. She and her order reside in mid-1920s New York, when the United States was enjoying the huge shot of prosperity that came between the Big One and the Great Depression. Importantly, she's got an assistant in her duties-- a weird kid named Chrono. Chrono is a demon from hell.
It's not so surprising, really. The idea of the forces of good harnessing the forces of evil as a weapon is an old one-- it goes as far back as Devilman. The twist is, Chrono is a being of enormous power-- power that he keeps in check most of the time. In order to use his full power, Chrono must draw his energy from the soul of the human who holds him in thrall. Sister Rosette wears a watch around her neck. When Chrono unleashes his power-- which only happens twice in this volume-- she begins to worry, because the clock starts ticking, and there's only so much time left before it winds down completely. It makes for a weird relationship, especially since aside from that complication, Sister Rosette acts like a bossy big sister to the childlike Chrono.
This first volume kicks things off nicely, with the duo pursuing Ricardo Hendric, a known devil worshipper (heh) who has sinister plans for his stepdaughter, Azmaria. Azmaria had a vision when she was a kid, and therefore has the voice of an angel-- literally. Ricardo, along with his own demonic ward, hopes to use this power for some unsavory purpose, and it's up to Sister Rosette and Chrono to sneak in and thwart his plans.
I'm not a big fan of a lot of modern manga aesthetics. I favor softer, rounded features over the pointy chins and noses you see in so many manga styles these days. I don't like crazy looking snaggle-hair unless it's being sported by a hot-blooded giant robot pilot. Chrono Crusade strikes a nice balance, with aesthetically pleasing character designs that nonetheless look quite modern. Artist Moriyama loves splashy panel layouts and uses them often-- he seems particularly fond of laying out an action sequence, then slapping one of the characters in a dramatic pose over it. For an action series, this is a good thing-- it gives the production a dynamic feel. Finally, I really like the artist's grasp of exaggerated facial expressions-- he loves applying them to Sister Rosette, and seems to give her a new one almost every page.
I didn't have my hopes up for Chrono Crusade (which was thankfully retitled by ADV from the original Chrno Crusade, a title that made Sister Rosette's sidekick sound like a Czech soccer star instead of a devil), which makes this unlikely fusion of Hellboy and The Flying Nun all the more pleasant of a surprise. It's neither deep nor ambitious, but it neatly accomplishes the difficult task of presenting the audience with an entertaining heroine without ever really resorting to sex appeal. It's just as well-- Sister Rosette doesn't need to show skin, because she just looks cool in her habit/combat fatigues getup. Chrono Crusade is good stuff, a Saturday matinee action piece with a breezy sense of fun.
Added: Saturday, June 26, 2004
Related Link: ADV Films