Chronus plays it a little too safe, and that’s probably why I’m so lukewarm about it.But first, a little context. Makoto has always had the ability to see shinigami, mysterious individuals whose job is to send wayward souls to heaven. Of course, as a kid, that’s not what Makoto assumed. In fact, he thought they were evilly stealing souls, but this is understandable. You see a shinigami follow a person around, then you see that same person die shortly afterward. Naturally, you’re going to assume that the shinigami had something to do with the person’s death. His fears were compounded by the death of his own mother and the fact that he was powerless to prevent it. After all, do you expect a boy to defy a shinigami? This is especially after his mother had warned him to say nothing about them lest he be ostracized by everyone around him. As a result, Makoto had resigned himself to the mindset that he was powerless.
But like I’ve said, the truth is that the shinigami are here to send wayward souls to heaven. Otherwise, they become bakemono, i.e. malevolent spirits. But hey, if you’ve seen any anime about shinigami and souls, then this should all be familiar territory to you. In fact, that’s why I’m rather disappointed with the short. The first half of Chronus feels very much like a horror story. Death follows these mysterious individuals, and now, they are stalking his childhood friend Hazuki. Can Makoto defy death itself? And then he’s able to speak to the mysterious individuals. And then they identify themselves as shinigami. And then all the fun is sucked out of the story. I’m sorry, but the story just feels way too familiar. Not only that, the mysterious individuals are not so mysterious anymore. In fact, they’re personable. One of them even helps Makoto because he has that tragic but common backstory of having lost a loved one. As a result, he wants to help Makoto save Hazuki.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with what Chronus ends up becoming. In fact, the short is rather competently made, and the story is okay if not a tad bit rushed. After all, we only have a little over twenty minutes to touch upon a myriad of topics. For instance, Hazuki almost gives up on her life because she’s going blind. Well, no, it’s not quite that simple, of course. She’s been chosen to go to, uh, NASA, but she feels that she’ll let everyone down since she’s losing her eyesight: “What would you do if you were wasting everyone’s time?” But like I’ve said, with a little over twenty minutes of runtime, Hazuki’s despair is merely touched upon and not explored. There’s not much to sympathize with because we haven’t gotten the chance to know her. Because Chronus is merely a short, none of the characters have any depth even though they’re begging for it. Unfortunately, we just have to accept her tragedy for what it is, but that’s not very satisfying. Still, there’s only so much you can expect from a short. My biggest beef with Chronus is because it feels so ordinary.
It’s just not exciting. Well, to be fair, Chronus was sort of exciting for a teensy, tiny bit. The first five minutes were intriguing when you didn’t know who the mysterious individuals were or what they aimed to do. But like I’ve said, one of them gets to know Makoto, so as a result, all that intrigue just goes flying out the window. Once they were identified as shinigami, the story begins to feel like every other anime about shinigami that I’ve ever seen. Oh, they’re here to send souls to heaven lest those souls become monsters. It doesn’t really bother me that Makoto goes on to defy fate and save his childhood friend. It’s just lame how run-of-the-mill everything was. Numerous times throughout the short, the shinigami even consider whether or not they could recruit Makoto to their cause. Hell, the ending even teases the possibility of Makoto going on in his life to save other despairing souls from the brink of death. I can’t help but feel that this is like a set-up to some generic shounen series.
I would have preferred it if we had never gotten to know the mysterious individuals or that they were even shinigami. By getting to know Akira, however, you render him and the rest of his colleagues human, i.e. boring. They’re just like you or me, but they have the power to send people to heaven. Ho-hum. Continuing on, I would have preferred it if certain things were left unexplained, i.e. there are truths about the universe that exceed the limits of human understanding. What if the mysterious individuals were merely personifications of a force we can’t understand? To take that idea even further, what if Makoto comes face to face with the Real itself because he can’t accept the symbolic reality of death? There’s even a sense early on in the story that Makoto could just be imagining things since no one else can see what he sees. Unfortunately, the anime takes the most literal approach possible that it could take, and what we end up getting is pretty much a bog standard tale about death and shinigami.
Basically, I would have preferred it if Chronus had stayed a horror story and thus somewhat unexpected. Shinigami are just way too played-out and cliche nowadays. There’s no excitement to be had here. There’s nothing left to explore in this concept, so it’s hilarious that the ending would tease the idea of there being more to Makoto’s story for us to see. In reality, death is a traumatic concept that people can rarely confront head on. It’s thus sad to see how boring and mundane anime has made it.