Chrono Crusade was a 少年 [shounen] manga written by 森山大輔 [Daisuke Moriyama] and serialized in Dragon Magazine from 1998-2004. It also spawned a one-season anime near the end of its run, animated by Gonzo. While I noticed this series when it was first released in America, it didn’t really make any big waves or gather a large fan base that I could see. Still, that is hardly an indication of whether or not a series is a good one, and so when I came across the manga online (free to download here), I decided to check it out.
The story focuses on Rosette Christopher, a nun of the Magdalene Order, whose sole purpose is to quell demon activity in the world. Rather nonsensically, her partner is a hornless demon named Chrono, who feeds off of Rosette’s soul via a clock-looking device that Rosette always wears. When she releases the seal on the clock, Chrono transforms from a stereotypical cute and polite shorts-wearing prepubescent boy to an attractive, muscular, often violently angry demon man. Interestingly Chrono is more of a bleeding heart than our lead female, and really does not want to ever be released to use his power because he doesn’t want to kill Rosette (which is exactly what he will do over time). Rosette herself fights via a plethora of different guns, which house special bullets filled with things like holy water which are particularly effective against demons. The guns (or bullets, not really sure which) all have names, such as her most often-used weapon, Gospel. As the story unfolds we find out that Rosette, in the fashion of all brother-complex; sister-complex; mother-complex characters that you can easily find riddled throughout anime and manga, is looking for her long-lost little brother Joshua, who had Chrono’s horns implanted on his head and turned into a villain controlled by the leader of the Sinners (a group of demons), Aion.
Okay, so far so good, right? Well as the story goes on, it just gets more confusing.
* * * WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD * * *
The setting is America during the 1920’s. Now, this might not funny in and of itself, but I will simply say this: I really don’t believe, after reading this manga, that Mr. Moriyama ever visited America or really knew much about it before writing Chrono Crusade. The scenery looks convincing enough, so he did his research on that at least, but the costuming and culture are not quite right. There is for example a carnival on Thanksgiving Day (?) in California, which the gang attends. Even if you can ignore the fact that ESPECIALLY during the 1920’s nothing would be open on Thanksgiving Day and everyone would be at home with their families eating dinner, during the carnival there is a dance where the people all wear cowboy hats like they’re at a square dance in Texas (????). The whole time I was reading that chapter I just wanted to smack my head down on the tabletop anime-style.
As the manga progresses, a bunch of half-cocked storyline is spewed out. Chrono’s a Sinner just like Aion, and is in fact literally his brother; Sinners are trying to destroy Pandemonium, which is the world that the demons come from, and the demons are being controlled by Pandemonium via their horns…only Pandemonium is actually also a beautiful, naked female who is actually Chrono and Aion’s biological mother (?) and is apparently some sort of computer (?) and is ALSO a big ship-looking thing that came from outer space (?) and when it is destroyed, it will bring about the end of Earth (?). Chrono’s softheartedness is explained via his living with Magdalene, a woman who could see the future. Magdalene wrote all her prophesies down in a book, and that book is the basis of the Magdalene Order. Now, other than Magdalene referring to Mary Magdalene, I can’t really see why the Magdalene Order is rather decidedly (yet loosely) Catholic in persuasion. But additionally, all of the demons are shown as being warm and friendly among themselves, loving and caring for each other and just coincidentally not giving a crap about humanity or any enemies they cross, killing indiscriminately. They were written, essentially, more like fallen angels, Paradise Lost-style: the fallen angels, led by Lucifer, used to be regular angels until they grew discontent under the rule of God. Seeing God as a tyrant, they were cast out and decided to wage war against Heaven in order to rid themselves of his tyranny. In Chrono Crusade, the Sinners are warring against Pandemonium, who is their equivalent of God. O-kay.
Even though they are “demons” and the Magdalene Order has crosses everywhere and dress like clergymen and nuns there’s really no mention of God or angels anywhere. But, somehow, there are Apostles (who have nothing to do with Jesus, but are simply children with psychic power), who are able to manipulate the Astral Line which is like the Lifestream from Final Fantasy VII, or like Brahman from Hinduism: it is the conglomerate of spiritual energy from the entire planet and all of its creatures, and everyone who dies rejoins it. Well, that’s got nothing to do with Christianity either, so yet again the culture of this series is pretty confused. Oh, yeah, and the Apostles all sprout angel wings even though the Apostles of Christianity were humans, not angels. The Apostles of Chrono Crusade could, however, be manipulated by Aion for some reason. And when Pandemonium is successfully destroyed (I guess??? I don’t even know if that happened or not – somehow the world didn’t blow up, but Pandemonium was just gone), the Apostles returned to being normal children for whatever reason.
I suppose the upshot is that although a lot of things don’t make a great deal of sense, the story ends with both Chrono and Rosette dying. At least the author didn’t leave off entirely trite and keep them both alive for a Happy Ending despite the way the story was headed. Chrono was executed by the Magdalene Order (though why they didn’t do that on sight long ago when he was first contracted to Rosette, I can’t even begin to fathom), and Rosette died at age 24 from some undetermined illness that I suppose we’re to assume was due to Chrono eating her soul.
But aside from the quasi-explained ending, supporting character Stella (who has a sister-complex) shows up randomly in 1999, having been thawed out from crystallization (?) even though she crystallized herself and her older sister together (????) during the final battle. Her older sister, Fiore (or Floret, depending on which of her names you want to use), watches over Stella from afar in 1999 also although she was not found with Stella (??). Fiore is seen with Shader, who is a house cat-demon/scientist (???) who was a Sinner along with Chrono and Aion (???) and apparently was the only Sinner to live, though no explanation was ever given for it.
…And what was the “Crusade” from the title, exactly? That the Magdalene Order kills demons? There isn’t really a lot of demon activity that springs up other than during the first chapter, other than the activity of the Sinners themselves. So, that doesn’t really make any sense.
* * * END SPOILERS * * *
I suppose that my biggest problem with the series was that the characters were forgettable, only drawing from various stereotypes and not really exerting themselves as different from Manga Girl B or Manga Boy X. Even with the story as ridiculously confusing and useless as it was, if the characters were at least stronger, I could have muddled through and found myself liking it at least somewhat due to it possessing some redeeming quality. But in the end I just kept reading and waiting for it to get better, and it never happened. I was depressed when I finished, not because of the ending, but because I was hoping for a lot more than what I received. Suddenly, the lack of enthusiasm for the series in America when it first came over made sense.
Overall opinion: half-cocked, forgettable, stereotypical, confused. Nice artwork, but that’s all I can say for it.