Chrono Crusade: Anime or Manga?

That day… That time… At that place… An irreplaceable moment was born. In a flash, the present becomes the past. Memories blur with time, and then fade altogether. The traces left behind, the silly days we spent together… There was only one definite piece of proof that the four of us lived through this era: The first and last picture we ever took together.

Warning: Anime spoilers!
This post is intended for people who have watched the anime and are wondering if they should give the manga a try. If you don’t know the franchise, I recommend watching the anime first, then jumping to the manga if you enjoy it. And please, buy the damn thing. Most of the online scans have extremely bad translations.

“Which one is better?”
You know when sometimes movie adaptations of literature end up being really different from the the source material?
The original characters and story are there, the feel and mood as well, it isn’t necessarily better or worse, it’s just… different.
That’s the feeling I got from Chrono. Both the anime and manga are productions of high quality, made by passionate people and because of that, each stands proudly on their own.

This is a result of the fact Daisuke Moriyama –the manga author– wasn’t involved with the production of the anime[¹], leaving much of the creative process in charge of the scriptwriters from Gonzo, hence the difference on how some subplots were approached and who/what was on the spotlight.
Not only that, but production of the anime was in parallel to the writing of the final volumes, meaning the endings could differ, and that’s precisely what happened.

“[…] the manga and the anime are approaching the story from two different perspectives. But the themes in both are the same –the bond between Rosette and Chrono, and the idea of time running out. But the way that the anime and manga show this is different. With the anime, you have these currents of time and fate, and the challenge to see how far these personal feelings of “trust” can run through all that. At least, that’s what I believe. But I think the manga centers more on Rosette’s individual ideology, with a focus on things like how the potential strength of will she possesses can actually change her current situation.”
-Daisuke Moriyama, CC Volume 2; in interview to ADV Manga, October 2004

This is easily noticeable when comparing the last three volumes with the final arc of the anime. While the anime’s focus was on showing how the main character’s actions where impacting the world and how they were affecting people outside the main cast, the manga instead goes on the opposite direction and covers in-depth the backstory of the MCs and their relationships, explaining their reasoning and mostly cleaning the metaphorical fog that was keeping the reader from connecting all dots.
Whichever form was better is entirely subjective. Personally, I very much preferred the manga. Some of the reasons why (spoiler-free) are discussed bellow.

According to Moriyama-sensei, Kadokawa’s intention was to make an anime with “more serious tones” and “strong and dark imagery, filled with occult elements” to contrast the manga’s comedic side[²]. In a way, this was successfully achieved. In the anime, most of the creatures Rosette and Chrono fight and (accordingly) most of the situations that caused said evil creatures to appear, were the work of twisted humans. The darkness bestowed upon innocent victims were in most cases work of occultists, necromancers and psychopaths.
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Right on the first episode there’s already some blood and gore and the culprit behind the carnage is a mad human. Along the series this continues to be a trend, with the introduction of Eliza Brown an anime-only character, that tries to capture Satella in order to gain Aion’s affection.
On the manga, however, ordinary out of the loop humans play a small to non-existent role in the “bad guys” team. Most of the characters outside main cast scope are members of the Magdalene Order and therefore part of the “good guys squad” though even those are only relevant to some volumes and unless they have a close interaction with the main cast, they don’t get much development neither.
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In other words, the manga ignores the trope “there’s evil inside the average Joe” or “we can all be good and bad” and focuses strongly on Aion-tachi, condensing the range of the narrative and giving room for background development, which is something those with a backstory fetish (such as myself) greatly appreciate.

Since there are fewer antagonists, and all of said antagonists are connected to a long-lasting main plot, the manga had the chance to explore a bunch of details and close many of the loose-ends the anime left scattered all over the place.
Who the hell really was Mary Magdalene? What really happened to her? And who in their right mind would name their kid exactly like a biblical character? It’s like naming you kid not only Jesus, but Jesus Christ.
The story of Chrono’s past and his misadventure with Mary constitute almost an entire volume and the manner Moriyama fits it into the main story is really ingenious.
What really is Pandemonium? What role does it play? What Aion wants to do with it?
Another huge difference is terms of “strong and dark” is that while on the anime it’s easy to downright hate Aion and his buddies because they are pure evil with dark hearts, the manga shed some light on their life stories and their lives (as sinners) together, making you wonder for some moments whether they really are 100% EVIL or if this isn’t a war of ideologies, like any other great war in the history of humanity. Aion doesn’t simply want to see the world burn, he isn’t a cardboard villain.
What is Father Remington’s story, and Sister Kate’s, Elder’s? What about the other Sinners?
The manga explores more of the Order’s hierarchy and branches, introducing some new characters and cutting out irrelevant ones. It expands way more on what are the Sinners, what happened to them and greatly explains a bunch of the plot holes left on the anime concerning demons in general.

Still, “serious” is a strong word. On one hand, the anime does show the raw consequences of the fight between good and evil a lot more than the manga, however, it never really emphasized how serious is the contract Chrono made with Rosette until very late in the series.
Sure it was mentioned every time she released the seal that it was draining her life and that it was dangerous, but it was never stressed out how much pain and suffering followed this act. The fragility of life and fear of mortality is discussed much more seriously on the manga.
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In terms of ending, it can be said the anime is more serious if we equate serious = realistic, but the road it took to get there? It’s nowhere near as “serious” as what is narrated through the manga.
It’s also worth noting that serious and tragic have different meanings. I’d say the anime ended in a bittersweet tragic note, while the manga had a less tragic but still poignant closure.
“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living” might give you a hint without spoiling much.

With all that said, I feel safe to answer the only question that will matter to some:
How different are the endings?
A lot. REALLY, a lot.
If you think reading just Volume 8 will do. You couldn’t be more wrong.
Volume 7 and volume 8? Wrong again.
Many of the events that are climaxing on the final chapters of the manga were introduced way earlier in the story, and some of the dialogue and situations require knowledge of hints the story gave you volumes ago.
Not to mention, the plot is completely different. Yes, the very script differs a lot.
Yes, all the deaths are also different.
When approaching the finale, the anime turns into a “rescue the princess” narrative, with Aion becoming a sex maniac implying he would rape Satella, NTR’ing Chrono and turning Rosette into some kind of holy saint waifu. Chrono and the Magdalene Order are suddenly public enemy #1, and defeating Aion becomes more of an individual battle for Chrono than anything else (fighting shounen structure 101).
We see demons and humans fighting alongside –said humans tragically under-powered– and somehow characters who were really powerful in the beginning of the story are suddenly useless (i.e. Azmaria).
“Now you’re just ranting!” No! Not at all. There are people who enjoy this structure. I just don’t believe it fits the story.

Things are quite different in the manga.
Count Duffau is a completely different character; demons and humans are never buddies; there’s no Aion NTR; Mary Magdalene is relevant and so is Azmaria; Rosette and Chrono are strong because of their will and mutual trust, not due to divine intervention; the Order is badass and fuck; and the climax –the final boss battle– isn’t between two OP characters (Chrono and Aion) fighting for a lass in distress but a collective effort of many individuals to stop a group of other individuals from ruining the future of their kin. The precise definition of a war.
You might have heard there are also aliens in the manga. That’s true, but believe me when I say it actually makes more sense than you’d expect.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the two versions is on the romantic development of Chrono and Rosette’s relationship. The anime is a “romantic romance” i.e. as a school girl would explain to you: it’s clear from the beginning that they like like each other. It’s structured that way from the beginning and you will just ride with it. The manga however, when portraying their relationship show that there’s a lot of trust and mutual care but doesn’t force/stress out the “I love you” romance. It was there all along as we all know but it progresses slowly, gradually blossoming as they face more and more hardship and heartwarming moments together. It’s only on the later volumes, through small actions here and there that they realize they cannot live without each other. And that’s a turning point of the manga and where Moriyama hit jackpot on the emotional heartstrings of many readers.
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Guess it’s pretty obvious which medium I enjoyed the most.
I got hooked on the story with the anime, then followed the characters’ battles through the manga and finally put down the final volume glad I spent money buying a physical copy of it.
Chrono Crusade is a tale that shine on the small details and Moriyama’s art manages to convey that in compelling ways.
If you can relate with some or many of the points I made through this post, definitely go for the manga, it won’t disappoint.

[¹] – Before someone calls for [citation needed], I got this information from the last pages of Volume 2 and 3 published by ADV Manga (the US publisher of the manga). Moriyama answered some questions about the anime adaptation and I’m transcribing the exact words printed on the manga.
[²] – Also from the same interview, those are the adjectives he [Moriyama] used when asked what Kadokawa (owner of CC rights) expected of the anime.

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