There have been numerous stories that take an unusual view of the war between Heaven and Hell and those who fight that war. Some are focused more on their interpretations of the Divine Mission, some more on action and some more on the supernatural.
The focus of Chrono Crusade is on its characters and the relationships they share. Of course there’s action, too, and supernatural elements, and a touch of the Divine Mission… but mostly it’s about its memorable characters. Rosette Christopher, a nun in the Magdalene Order, has a contract with a devil named Chrono, meaning his power comes from her very soul. The more he uses, the shorter her life becomes. But Chrono is a good devil (excuse the oxymoron) with a sad past who only entered into this contract because of extreme circumstances, and is actually doing everything he can not to use her soul up. The two have a long history together and are very close, though at times Rosette’s somewhat abrasive personality gets the better of him, leading the two to argue. Whatever conflicts they have, however, they truly love one another, and it is this love and how slowly it comes to the forefront that serves as one of Chrono Crusade‘s great strengths.
The anime series, based on the manga series of the same title, starts off essentially the same as its source material, but partway in begins to deviate into an alternate storyline. Even in episodes where it takes inspiration from the manga by including certain locations or events, the anime does its own take, and leads us towards a very, very different ending; it is so different, in fact, that by the last episode it feels as though we’ve experienced an entirely different story, and in many ways, we have.
While I would say the manga has the superior story to tell, the anime series tells its own story very well. You would have to have a heart of stone to not come to care about Rosette, Chrono, Azmaria and Satella and the adventures they share. Other areas in which the anime excels are its animation, which is absolutely gorgeous; its music, which is also gorgeous (especially “Sayonara Solitaire,” the closing theme); its voice acting (though I’m speaking of the Japanese cast; I have not watched the English dub); and its good balance of humor, action and plot. If the anime has any real weaknesses, they would be the fact that it reveals certain secrets way too soon, and that its final battle is surprisingly underwhelming (to be fair, however, the anime’s intent in the final episodes is to focus on Rosette and Chrono’s relationship rather than the battle they are fighting). The villains, especially Aion and Fiore, are very well-portrayed and behave exactly the way anyone familiar with the manga would expect them to. Their stories are, of course, also altered, as is Joshua Christopher’s; his story ends up petering out towards the conclusion, whereas in the manga he remained important right up to the end. This isn’t the jarring change you might expect, but it doesn’t exactly carry as much weight, either.
As mentioned before, it’s the love between Rosette and Chrono that really makes this series strong, and their most tender moments together are the series’ most powerful. Episodes 18 and 24 in particular moved me greatly and brought tears to my eyes. Special praise should go to Tomoko Kawakami, who plays Rosette. She brings the character to life in ways that even the animation couldn’t. There is not a single flaw anywhere in her performance. Whether she is expressing happiness, anger, sadness or any other emotion, we believe her completely.
Don’t allow the religious imagery or elements keep you from giving this series a try. There is a lot here to recommend, from a good, moving story to beautiful, cinema-quality animation. Of course, I would also recommend reading the manga as well; the story, as I said, is different and the manga’s ending is so powerful it is certain to bring a lump to the throat at the very least. I had to wait a long time to watch the anime, but I must say: the wait was worth it.