Nuns, guns and puns...Chrono Crusade has it all and so does Animefringe, as we get to know Chrono's voice actor Greg Ayres.
Before we begin, we should clear the air of the first thoughts that might have sprung to a lot of people when they hear the title Chrono Crusade --this show has absolutely nothing to do with the SquareEnix game, Chrono Trigger. The two might use a similar time motif logo, but the original title was actually written "Chrno Crusade" before ADV got their hands on this pre-depression era story about a nun and her contracted demon.
The year is 1928, or the roaring twenties as they have since become known. The location is New York City; your average city with one minor exception --the place is an undead battleground.
Meet Sister Rosette --one of the Magdalene Order's top devil exorcists. Her skills are second to none, but that's to be expected with an amazing arsenal of special bullets, called Gospels, at her ready.
When not off fighting vile undead monsters, Sister Rosette constantly finds herself in hot water with her superiors. Why, you might ask? Well, it's because she's a tad too spunky for her own good. Wherever she goes, massive property damage and mayhem ensue.
Luckily for Rosette, she gets to share her hot seat with her demon sidekick and friend, Chrono (the same bizarre spellings apply to his name as they do the title). Chrono is not your average demon though. To Rosette and the rest of the Magdalene Order, Chrono projects a gentle and sweet guise that he only splinters from when provoked by fellow demons. For these reasons, he has become infamous amongst the undead as a sinner that has betrayed his own kind.
When Rosette was younger, she formed a pact with Chrono, signified by the sealed clock around Rosette's neck. While the exact nature of the contract between the pair is an integral mystery for the enjoyment of the series, if Rosette releases the clock's seal, Chrono's body can undergo a drastic metamorphosis from a frail little devil to a fully-grown menacing demon with wings. Unfortunately, the trade off for Chrono regaining his original body is a grave one for Rosette. Each moment Chrono is free from his shackles is one less that Rosette has to live--a grave trade off for sure, but one that Sister Rosette would gladly make in order to save a life.
When not putting her life on the line or trying to frame Chrono for some trouble that she caused, Rosette constantly spends her time trying to sweet talk her way into getting The Elder, the Order's perverted mad scientist/inventor, into letting her field test the latest Gospels. Obviously, this ends up getting both her and Chrono into even more trouble with Sister Kate.
Sure, fighting vile and sinful forces for the greater good of humanity is all well and good, but what truly drives Rosette is the thought of finally locating her long-lost younger brother, Joshua. All she really knows is that he is still alive out there... somewhere.
While fairly episodic, Chrono Crusade progresses at such a pace that the events of each episode just pile upon one another. By episode three, when the third main character, an apostle with the voice of an angel named Azmaria, is introduced, the series is at such a fever pitch that scenes cannot seem to happen fast enough.
The series begins simply enough with Rosette and Chrono being assigned to investigate demon activity inside a building, and things just spiral wildly out of control from there. Maybe Rosette should have realized that wrecking one of the Order's cars was a bad omen, but her and Chrono end up wrecking more than that when they literally bring down an entire building in the process of their exorcism.
But guess what? They top themselves by running a haunted cruise ship into Liberty Island! Not even a million Hail Mary's might be able to save Rosette from experiencing the full brunt of Sister Kate's wrath after that one.
The nun-filled story of Chrono Crusade by manga-ka Daisuke Moriyama began its life as a manga in the popular Japanese anthology magazine, Monthly Dragon Age and spanned a total of eight tankoubon. GONZO (Last Exile, Gravion) transformed the series in a stunning and madly addictive supernatural action/comedy hybrid in 2003. ADV quickly snatched up the rights to both the manga and anime this year and ever since, they have become must-haves for many anime fans. AnimeOnDVD.com even voted the first volume of Chrono Crusade the "Best DVD" for the month of September.
For the English Dub, ADV called in two of their biggest guns --Hilary Haag (Rosette) and Greg Ayres (Chrono)-- to voice these two incredibly energetic and somewhat troubled characters. While the lovely Ms. Haag seems to be keeping a low con-profile, Animefringe did catch up with Greg Ayres at Anime USA this past October where we talked flap-to-flap.
Animefringe/Andrew Chanthaphone: What did you before you got into voice acting?
Greg Ayres: I used to work at a law firm doing IT work. I used to be that guy who fixed people's tickets and answered any questions about computers other employees had.
AF: Holy $#^%! I used to do the same thing!
GA: (laughs) Yeah, happy that I don't do that anymore!
AF: If you wanted to encourage someone that only watches subtitled anime to give dubs a try, what would you do?
GA: (laughs) Once upon a time ago, I was just like you guys. I used to watch anime when dubs were not so good. I hear people all the time say that the English dub is not as good as the Japanese, and that's funny, 'cause a lot of people who say that don't speak Japanese. Also, they haven't listened to dub in the last few years. I tell them, if you haven't listened to a good dub, a high production dub in the last four years, you don't know what you are missing. If you like hearing in Japanese, that's fine; I'll admit I listen to French and German music and I like the singing in another language. I believe it's VERY disrespectful that people say the actors/actress that work on the English dub are not talented. Like I said before, the dub has gone light years ahead of what they used to be three or four years ago. I believe that it has to do with fans supporting the industry, and the industry being big enough and also having the time and money to do things right now. Where before everything was rushed, and it was, "Hey, we have to get anime out there for everybody". So yes, if you haven't listened to dub, you should definitely give it a try.
AF: When you are preparing for a new role, what types of steps do you take to get to know the character?
GA: Yeah, it's real tough. Being a fanboy, I had the tendency to go and watch the show, even if I know I won't be in it. I mean, if I'm going to go and audition for the role. If it's a show I haven't already seen, I want to watch it immediately. There are some that would ruin it for me; Chrono Crusade is one of them. I am very happy I do not know how the show ends. I know people that are like, "Oh my God, I need to tell you this!" I do not need to know how the story ends to be in the middle of the character. What I try to do is find a good fan site, so WHAT UP FANS! I find good fan sites on the Internet, where I find good character designs.
AF: I see you do plenty of homework on your roles.
GA: Yep. With it I can read the fan sites and find out what people really love about that character. Like for Monin on Pretear, I found a whole site devoted to Monin. It was everything that people loved about Monin. As I read it and started to work with the show, I realized it was like one of my best friend's little brothers. So I already knew what people were expecting from Monin, just from going to a fan site. I don't rely on the original creator. I rely on other fans to say, "You know this is why I hate this character, and this is why I love this character" and so on. Those are probably the essence of the character anyway. I'm sorry if my answers are rambling answers.
AF: Naww, they're GREAT!
GA: (laughs and give me a high five)
AF: Personally, how difficult do you find it to be to match up lip flaps?
GA: Wow! You know that gets easier the more you do this. It's very weird to act in the spaces. Mike McFarlane, a very dear friend of mine, called it "data entry acting".
GA: Because you had these little holes to act in and when you start working originally, you have to be very disciplined, and eventually you get more familiar with it. When I first started, I used to think "Oh, that matches fine", and I didn't want to do it again. Now I am like, "Hey, hey! I've got a better idea on where that pause comes in there". The flaps are just a part of the job and they are very normal for me now. FLAP FLAP FLAP!
AF: (laughs) Which is better in your opinion: the matching of the mood to the scene, or matching to the original script?
GA: That's a tough one. I work with directors that feel very differently about that. Steven Foster, as most people know, tends to make great adaptations to his scripts. In some cases, they have greatly improved the original for newer audiences or younger audiences. In the case of Super Milk Chan, I don't think it could have been done any other way. I think the direct translations are proof of that. There are purist fans that don't like that, and there are directors who feel the same way. I think if I am very concerned about the original content, I can always switch back to the subtitles. I think as long as the story is true to the original, as long as the actors and the characters take the show seriously, I'm usually pretty happy the way it turns out. I don't think you can ignore either one. The acting has to be on; the script has to be on, even if it has to be altered a little bit. Most directors don't like to edit or alter the original. I respect the ones who do and support them. I do what I'm told. I'm a good boy, most of the time.
AF: I thought you were great as Chrono.
GA: Oh! Thank you! (high five)
AF: Did the voice of Chrono present you with any special challenges that you had to overcome?
GA: (laughs) Oh my god, yes, there were.
AF: What were some of them?
GA: The young Chrono is very easy, because it's similar to my own voice. In fact, I just went in to work on volume three, and I was pitching my voice up high and Matt [Greenfield] told me that it wasn't too far off from my regular voice. I don't scream for Rosette constantly, but the biggest challenge for that role was being really silly when there is comedy. There are some Jerry Lewis type moments, and Matt really had to pull it out of me because I'm not used to being really crazy silly. The other one was the physical challenge of the demon transformations and the low-voiced Chrono. I do have some help, but I'm glad I do not have giant filters placed over my voice, so I don't sound like a tentacle monster in a hentai.
AF: HENTAI RULES!!
GA: (laughs) I'm very pleased with the electronic altering my voice got. It's barely altered at all. Jason Gren is a brilliant sound engineer and works with Matt. He did some really neat things to make that voice still sound very much like me. It's still very physically demanding for me to do that voice. The screaming is so screeching; that's the reason I quit smoking.
AF: Wow, that's great!
GA: Thank you! So it was very demanding. I will always be grateful to Chrono Crusade, because I hopefully won't have to quit smoking again. It's a very demanding role, and I think this show deserves every bit of energy I've put in it. I will always be proud of this show and I'm very happy to be associated with it.
AF: Last question, what is your favorite role?
GA: WOW! Man, that's a tough one. Honestly, I love all my roles. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to do voice acting. One role that I will always enjoy and remember is Son Goku from Saiyuki.
AF: Thank you, Greg, for taking the time to answer a few questions. I hope to see you again and I can't wait for more Chrono Crusade.
GA: Thank you and rock on Animefringe!
Devil hunting with Greg was fun, wasn't it? Greg showed us that being an anime fan does have its payoffs. Greg went from being a fan, just like you or I, to earning a living voicing anime. It's what almost every fan dreams about and Greg is living that dream. And if it was not already apparent from the tone of the interview, Greg is a very approachable guy, and you can ask him just about anything. For convention schedules and a look at his projects, past and present, feel free to visit Greg Ayres' web site at GregAyres.com.