[Review] Chronos Ruler – episode 1

Koyuki is a high school student who’s cheerfully trying to lead preparations for graduation even though she has recently lost her only living relative, her brother. While visiting her brother’s grave, she encounters a strange creature called a Horologue, which is attracted to human regret and eats the time of its victims, causing them to age in reverse. She is saved by Kiri Putin, a serious-minded swordsman who works with his “brother” as a Chronos Ruler, agents who attempt to thwart the activities of the Horologues by slowing down or speeding up time to fight. In defeating the Horologue, the two are able to help Koyuki understand that dwelling on her regret forever isn’t safe or healthy.

Source: Anime News Network

Well, that happened.

I don’t mean that in the sense that this premiere was terrible. It did some very good things, and it did some very bad things in equal measure, and in the end it averages out to “just okay.” You could probably waste some time with it without regret.

The first and biggest blow against this fantasy action series is that its action isn’t very good. The opening fight scene—a very Soul Eater-esque monster chase down a narrow street lined with corridor-like buildings—has stuttering, janky CG animation that can only be partially explained away by the hero’s use of time-slowing mechanics, and that’s more-or-less the most impressive card the show has to play.

A white-haired young man holds a child with black smoke streaming from its eyes and mouth

The climactic fight that ends the episode has some nice visual tricks involving a Gambit-playing card aesthetic (though as this scene starts there’s also an absolutely heinous use of a CG clock tower), and there’s a good use of the time mechanic for horror as a lead-in (see above). Yet it doesn’t quite erase the fact that the fight choreography is essentially “dodge right, dodge left, deliver exposition behind a barrier, Big Final Attack.”

And that exposition. Woof, that exposition. There is a great deal of Tragic Backstory handed out, the majority of it off-screen. The clumsiness of it is cringe-worthy, and the awkward title drop that comes along with it is the cherry on top. This is compounded by the fact that the two “mysterious” travelers are willing to dump all their baggage on what turns out to be the girl-of-the-week within two meetings, which doesn’t necessarily gel with the whole mystique they’re shooting for.

A white-haired young man, three women in nice dresses, and a dark-haired man with glasses look at something off-screen

But then another good thing will swing around, like the fact that Victo is a playboy archetype who, in this episode at least, has a posse of female admirers that includes a trans woman—and nobody is shitty to her about it. That is the absolute lowest bar, but the show does indeed step handily over it.

In the realm of visuals, things are equally rough. The show has some nice still shots of the characters, but it is a baaaaaaad sign when your premiere—the place where a bunch of resources go to draw in new viewers—already has QUALITY animation. Also, check out this horrific eldritch dog:

A white dog with brown markings over its eyes and ears and eerily large, warped eyes

I was disappointed when I realized that Koyuki, the young woman we follow for most of the episode, isn’t likely to return. She’s well-developed and interesting, though the girls around her hear the time travel rumor and talk about using it for…weight loss and picking up boys. And the quality horror moment I mentioned earlier centers around an older woman trying to get her looks back. It’s a shame, so hopefully the series will introduce more interesting women to the cast posthaste.

After being lukewarm on the show for twenty minutes, the closing lines of the episode deliver a fantastic hook (which aaaaaalmost sells the clumsy backstory spillage from earlier) that may have tempted me to return for more. Ultimately there’s enough on my plate this season that this one will probably fall by the wayside, but there’s a compelling tragic underpinning here that could punch some guts if it doesn’t get subsumed by episodic adventuring.

Read the ANN Preview Guide review.

 

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