I have thoughts, a lot of thoughts on this. But before I move into that, let’s run down just what exactly Chronexia and the Eight Seals is.
Based on the novel by Youtube/Author, Mathieu Brunelle, Chronexia and the Eight Seals is a fantasy adventure work. You can purchase the book from the link below.
One thing I want to touch on prior to moving onto the actual review. I’ve noticed an extremely bi-polar reaction to this “anime”, supporters love it, while others have just been beyond negative, borderline rude towards it. I can empathize with both parties in regards to what may influence their feelings towards the end product. I’m going to be extremely neutral in this review but at the same time add some points that a lot of people may not have touched on.
So, let’s begin.
Just what the hell is this anyway? Anime? They call it an anime, everyone calls it an anime. So, is it an anime? Honestly, it depends on who you ask. Anime by definition is simply “animation”. It’s shorthand used by Japan to categorize all forms of entertainment done through animation means. Keeping this definition in mind, then yes, it can be considered “anime”.
But to be completely honest, in Western culture, especially with the anime audience, that is not how they define anime. They specifically define anime to be “Japanese Only” animation that follows the sort of artistic style that generally comes from their content. And this is where the problem arises with Chronexia. In calling it an “anime”, they pretty much sealed their fate. From that point, every single anime fan in the West would inevitably compare the quality of this product to the quality of professionally produced anime from Japan. It would not be a project viewed for its merit or creative passion, it would be judged by the banner it gave itself. That is the problem. By saying you’re part of the “big boys” means you’re going to be critiqued by an extremely harsh and unfair standard.
Now, if it called itself a web series or indie animation, it wouldn’t make all the issues disappear. They’d still be glaringly present, but the attitude towards them would be much, much different. There would be a lot more support, understanding and even admiration. Simply because using one of those categories acts as a rating system to viewers, letting them know that the quality is not going to be professionally competitive, that the staff behind them is barely funded, if at all or that there aren’t many people on staff to begin with. The looking glass to see the project through becomes more sympathetic and focuses on the passion that drove this small project to fruition and completion.
But that’s not what happened. Chronexia and the Eight Seals labeled itself as an “anime”, and even gathered funds through Misty Chronexia’s (Mathieu Brunelle) Gofund me account to be produced. I’ve heard that it was around $60k that was donated to go to the funding of this anime, but I’m not entirely sure on what the final total was. It doesn’t really matter anyway, because any sort of funding is another strike against Chronexia, the fact that it was funded gives people less incentive to ignore errors/mistakes or even lapses in quality that would appear throughout the episode. More on that later.
So what is Chronexia and the Eight Seals really?
Honestly? It’s an independent animation, a passion project. It’s not an anime, it’s not a professionally backed creation. It’s simply an indie web production. It’s the first step towards something that has a lot of potential.
I’m going to break this down into categories.
The elephant in the room, the visuals
Remember when you watched Dragon Ball Z and one episode would look terrific but then suddenly the next one would look awkward? Well that was because different animation directors were in charge of specific episodes. Their art style, animation pacing/timing and camera work were all different. That’s sort of the issue with Chronexia, expect that it’s all done randomly in this under 10 minute episode. And it can be jarring.
When it’s good, it’s good.
But when it’s not, it’s just obvious.
Now, I’m not saying that the artists that did different scenes are bad. I’m saying there’s no consistency in the art direction. When that happens, it really hurts the illusion of this world and art style that’s trying to be presented.
So, why did this happen?
Could be any number of reasons, but it’s most likely because the work was split between different animators to lessen the work load. Since the project was announced it constantly suffered from deadline projections, having to push it back when they arrived at it with nothing to show. This is something that happens a lot with people that really don’t have a good idea about how animation works and just how much work and effort is required. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, it’s how you learn. And this is really the first full, completed release from Izune Studios. Misty also doesn’t have any experience with this sort of project so it’s understandable that he’d get deadline predictions wrong.
Backgrounds are pretty damn good and are one of the constant highlights of the episode. Characters can look standard anime good with decent weight and proportions, but then there’s the occasional animator switch and, well, yeah.
To be simple, there’s a lot of times where it looks like more inbetweens should have been used. Some parts look nice, but when there’s some more complex animation, it gets a bit rough and clunky. If this wasn’t being pushed as an “anime”, this sort of thing would be endearing as a “Well, gotta start somewhere!” sort of mentality. But with a funded budget and a constant use of the term “anime”, it becomes less forgivable. The main focus of this episode is a fight scene to protect a goddess and the focus of the animation becomes apparent. It often comes off like a bunch of dynamic shots that looked cool in theory thrown together hoping they’d mess, but they don’t. The fight itself is extremely difficult to follow. The dynamic angles and camera movement look great, but honestly, I couldn’t tell what the characters were trying to do or what purpose the clip served.
In this scene, character with the sword runs and does this strike. He’s in the air striking down.
Like maybe a second after, when it switches to this angle, you can see the ground in behind him. It should be the sky since prior he was above the bad guy.
What actually happened was he transitioned from the air to the ground, but it’s not shown. So it comes off a little disorienting. This pretty much sums up the action for this episode, cool dynamic movements followed by abrupt less dynamic shot that doesn’t have a transition. It felt like the episode was really just about trying to imitate anime action shots first and flow last.
Another thing that happens a lot in this episode are “abrupt off camera events”. In a pivotal point in the battle these 2 characters literally send away another character and seconds later their expressions go from this
For one, it’s breaking the “180 degree rule”, which
“is a cinematography guideline that states that two characters in a scene should maintain the same left/right relationship to one another . When the camera passes over the invisible axis connecting the two subjects, it is called crossing the line and the shot becomes what is called a reverse angle.”
It disorients the viewer and really messes with their concept of dimensions and locations of the characters.
And two, a major, MAJOR moment happens here but it’s off screen. Within a split second a character is suddenly in the hands of the bad guy when they had just walked off frame. There’s no concept of time or flow in the episode. Things happen off screen and the viewer is presented with close up frames trying to figure out what occurred.
This is something I suffered A LOT from early on, so it’s something I was always going to recognize.
This is really a nitpick and it’s something that probably would have gone unnoticed or brushed aside if they weren’t funded for approx $60k or insisted they were an anime. Sometimes when you “fill” an area with color, it leaves some pixels unchanged, when that happens, the edges look white and somewhat pixelated when placed over a fully colored background, like here.
The fact that this frame and some other frames like it got through to the final product when you have a fully paid staff is for a lack of better words, baffling. Someone should have caught this, but they didn’t.
At the end of the day, Chronexia and the Eight Seals is one of the better looking indie web series out there. It just is. With all it’s visual, animation, storyboarding flaws, there aren’t any indie web series that come close to the highest points of Chronexia’s episode. But since they classified themselves as an “anime”, it was destined to receive the amount of flack and comparisons to professional animes that many of its intended audience follow.
Won’t beat around it, it’s unbalanced and awkward. Voice Actors have different audio levels, sfx, music, etc. Acting wise, there’s not a lot here. Most of the actors sound like they’re reading off scripts with no sense of direction given. Some are okay and have a lot of potential, where others are just flat and hurt the general ambiance the episode is trying to portray. The main cast that was promoted aren’t really in this episode so those professional actors that could have brought up the audio quality aren’t given the chance to do that.
The original music is pretty solid and like the backgrounds is a highlight of the episode. But it’s evident that whomever was handling the sound design for this doesn’t know what they’re doing…yet.
Standard anime cliche writing. A big exposition dump and it can be boring in the beginning. That said, and I might be bias here, I get what he was trying to do. It’s something I originally tried to do. He wanted the first episode to be a basic prologue to the main story. Give some basic exposition, show an event and then time skip to the present story and show how that generic event will influence the main story of the show.
It doesn’t work. But that’s not necessarily his fault either. This part is going to be a lot of me explaining comparisons between myself and Chronexia. Shattered Heaven started out as a novel series. In 2013 when I went to make the animated series of the book, I immediately started it out as a direct translation. Something you won’t learn until you do it is that prose books do not translate well to a visual medium. They really don’t. What works well in book format won’t necessarily work in an animated format that really wants a “show don’t tell” attitude.
Because of this, a lot of things were thrown at the viewer with no explanation, characters aren’t given any development, too many characters present to keep track of, all within 8 minutes or so. It’s too much.
A character died during the battle, but there was no real connection with the audience because as far as we were concerned, she was just some random fodder character. While the moment held impact for a specific character, it really was a “meh” moment. This is also something I can personally relate to as it’s one of the main reasons I adjusted something between my book to animation translation.
The dialogue is bland and exactly what you’d expect from a shonen anime. Is it bad? Not really, it’s just nothing new.
But for a pilot episode, you really want your writing to be on point and to be engaging. This was not.
I enjoyed it. Yes, there’s a lot of flaws, and maybe it’s because we’re similar, but what I see when I watch the first episode of Chronexia is potential. I see him starting out on a journey I have been on for a while and I recognize all the mistakes that are being made because I’ve made them and probably made them a lot louder than he has!
But one of the most fulfilling experiences the come with indie productions is the growth. It’s seeing where a project started and ultimately how it’s improved and grown.
Audio: Get someone with proper audio experience to handle the sound design.
Actors: Get someone to handle directing to get better performances out of your actors.
Animation: Try and make all the different animators learn a single style and keep to it. Have more inbetweens to make smoother animations, focus on storytelling action sequences instead of cool looking clips thrown together.
Writing: It’s hard to see what the normal style of writing would be when all we’ve seen is a prologue. But try and emphasize character development and avoid massive info dumps.
But the funding is an issue. If you’re going to be funded, then you’re going to need to be more on top of the quality. Avoid promising release dates, it’ll be released when it’s ready to be released and not before. I honestly feel like this episode was rushed out because Misty got anxious about getting it out. I can relate, I know the feeling of anxiety, of wanting to get out a product. But you need to keep that at bay and ignore it. You need to keep watching over and over again until you’ve fixed every possible fixable error.
I don’t know if this will have more episodes since it seems like it’s completely based on Misty’s fans keep sending him money through Gofundme. If that’s the case and you’re going to get more money to produce it, then you’re going to have to really improve the quality.
I’m a one man producer. I write, animate, mix raw audio before sending that off to a friend. I have somewhat of an excuse to have lower visual quality at times, I’m not paid or paying people to do it. But I also don’t call what I do an anime. Calling Chronexia an anime hurt you more than it helped. You’ve attracted all of the anime lovers audience that are used to professionally cleaned up anime and what they got was a higher end indie web series, and that disconnect is what led to tons of rude and negative comments.
But you have my respect. As a fellow writer, you’ve earned that much. You have a dream and you’re making it happen. Keep on with it, keep learning and keep growing. Build on what you’ve created, view the first episode as an experiment and do better.