28 Jan 2007

Chrno Crusade

Anime

(a.k.a Chrono Crusade.) I’ve been watching this for a while, but got interrupted by EQ2. Now I’ve finished it. I’d planned just to list it among “misc. animes” in a wrap-up post sometime, but in the end I was surprised. I’ll add more about that behind a more tag.

What’s worth noting is that it does have a touching boy-girl romance that isn’t played (much) for embarrassment and avoidance. Though the girl is the series’ protag, and the boy is an ancient demon…

The first half is pure action, with the heroine blowing up demons and creating havoc, and some hints of a mystery. The second half is very intense, with a theology so twisted that you have to wonder why they would even claim that it’s based on Catholicism, but which nevertheless is fairly consistent and leads to a very dark story.

One of the four main characters (Azmaria) is played by Saeko Chiba, who’s also Natsuki in Mai HiME / Mai Otome. In this, she’s a young girl – I don’t know if we know exactly how old, but I’d guess about 12. I’m impressed at Chiba’s skill at voicing the deep-voiced, confident Natsuki and the little girl Azmaria. As Azmaria, she has to persuade us that she has a child’s singing voice so beautiful it shows the divine – and she does (though her English accent is pretty bad).

She also sings the closing theme, partnered with my music idol, Kajiura Yuki. That’s a song that didn’t impress me immediately, but grew on me through the series – beautiful, quiet, and powerfully poignant. More about that below the tag.

It was music that got me into the series – Tsubasa wa Pleasure Line by Kuribayashi Minami, who sang some of the best songs in Mai HiME (and played Erstin in Mai Otome). I heard it on animenfo radio, and that led me to see what the series was like that it introduced.

Beyond that, I can’t really say anything without getting into very heavy spoilers. Even whether I’d recommend the series.

Update: After a couple of days’ contemplation – yeah, I’d have to say I would recommend it. It’s definitely one of the best series I’ve seen, though it certainly has predictable ideas in a genre that I think is weak and overused.

So, here goes. Beyond this point lie spoilers.

Let me get the ending out of the way, because it upset me – quite badly. I was expecting that in a show that’s still basically a kids’ show that everything would turn out well for the main characters. Other than (ugh) Neon Genesis Evangelion, I haven’t really seen anything that turns out to be a really sad ending for a series. (And even in NGE, the “unhappy” ending is in the movies, not the TV series.)

Chrono, the demon, is bound to Rosette, the heroine, and confined to human form. He can only become his true, powerful demonic form, when Rosette allows him to steal her life. She carries a clock which shows how much time she has remaining.

I assumed that because she’s supposedly working on behalf of God, that there’d be some magical reprieve from the price that she’d paid. She and Chrono save the world from evil. But then, in the aftermath, they avoid their friends and allies, find a secluded house on a beach, and spend a couple of months together. Then a very poignant, tearful farewell – Rosette isn’t ready to leave her life behind. She wants to live, to grow old with Chrono, but she knows that it isn’t going to happen. They sit together on a porch swing as the sun sets, and her timepiece ticks down to zero.

Rosette is 16 when she and Chrono die together, hand in hand. Her friends, when they find the pair, think they both look happy.

It was heartbreaking.

Maybe I should have been prepared for the scene by what happened a couple of episodes earlier. Satella, their reluctant, vivacious ally, had finally been reunited with her sister, only to learn that her sister was really dead, and the thing that inhabited her body would always be a servant of demons. Satella killed herself to take her almost-sister with her. I hadn’t expected that, I thought she’d be able to save her sister. Again, it was tragic.

So, good triumphed, and evil was vanquished – at the cost of three of the four main characters, and the loss of faith of another major ally, an angelic being. He’s doomed to walk the earth, cut off from God, and sees the prophecies they fought to prevent coming true again, in the second world war and the assassination of the pope in 81. The demons he defeated are on the rise, and the outlook is bleak. So even the apparent victory is only a temporary lull in the eternal war, and the true ending is very dark.

Maybe that should be at the cost of four of the five major characters, because Rosette’s brother Joshua, whom they spent the entire series trying to rescue, is only a shell of himself, apparently stuck at 12 years old, when he was taken by demons.

I don’t mind dark endings. I just wasn’t expecting this one. I know it’s a series I’ll never be able to watch again, and I really don’t know if I can recommend it.

I suppose that the Kajiura / Saeko ending song was in the end a spoiler – and I guess I have to admit that from the beginning it seemed too sad for its own words. That should have been a warning.

Sayonara Solitia

It’s because I love you so much that I hurt you, that I’m so confused
Coming close to your cold cheek, my soul was born
I always want to see you right away

I love you so much I can’t speak, so how will you see my kindness?
Hold me tighter, I believe in your warm heart
Farewell, solitaire, to tomorrow

Because I’m so small, I give everything, but it’s not enough
This hand, which can’t hide anything at all, I want to give to you
We still have to see off the white dawn

Why was I able to run across someone this important?
Holding on to these fingers that they almost hurt, I see the dream that had disappeared into sadness
Farewell, solitaire

Because I’m no longer alone, tomorrow awakens, and I’m with you

Because I have someone whom I love so much, I’m here by your side, protecting you
I’m so glad that I was born on this earth that connects me to you

Updates, a few days later: Yes, as I added before the spoiler section, I would recommend the anime. It’s not without faults, and I really don’t think the series would have suffered by having a little less traumatic end for Rosette and Chrono – but at the same time, it’s good to see a production that doesn’t compromise its own story and values.

The God of this bastard theology is a pretty depraved being. I’m not sure whether the writers intend for him to be seen that way, but it’s a refreshingly blunt view. In that sense, the ending – not so much Rosette’s, but the post-denoument descent into darkness, from the point of view of the exiled angel – is absolutely fitting.

I’d also say I’ve managed to think of another major anime with a similar ending. It was more in keeping with what I’d guess was the expectation of most viewers, but it certainly wasn’t “happy” for the protag. [spoiler /Major spoiler for another series/ /Hide spoiler/] That would be Cowboy Bebop, of course – and again, the unhappy ending was telegraphed a few episodes earlier, when Ed wandered out of the life of the Bebop. Now, Spike’s end was triumphant, not pointless and not tearful, and I think we cheered for him as he died. At the same time, considering how much Fay has become dependent on him, giving up her freedom to return to the Bebop right at the end, it surely isn’t a happy ending.[/spoiler]

Although this was a very bad weekend to see this particular series, I think the ending would have hit me fairly hard even had everything been perfect. Someone mentioned on IRC that a substantial number of the show’s fans absolutely hated the ending.

Current obsessions: (anime) Simoun
(writing:)The Scent of Petunias

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 28th, 2007 at 3:56 pm and is filed under Anime. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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