Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon

My experience with anime series from Sunrise is rather limited. I know absolutely nothing about Gundam and have had rather little chance to see Sgt. Frog (which I own two seasons of on DVD). In recent years, Sunrise has turned some heads with the much talked about Valverave the Liberator.... Something that I do not plan to see ever. When you have the alternate name of ValveRAPE the Liberator, some may just be put off by it. When fall 2014 came around, there was word of a new Sunrise mech series that seemed to be getting attention prior to it's start, mostly because of it's predecessor, and, initially, I had planned on skipping it. However, at the last second, I figured why not try it and see what comes out of it. What resulted was something weirdly entertaining to the point where I, apparently, seemed to be enjoying the show more than others and was asked by the boss man, Jonathan, to make a full review of it. I guess I should tell people that my thoughts on Cross Ange are rather.... meh.

WARNING: This series and the subsequent review contain mature content and imagery. Please be advised when continuing on with this review.

Through developing the ground breaking information transfer and material generation technology called "Mana," various problems, such as pollution and war have disappeared, and days of peace have arrived in the world. However, the people who receive the benefit of the Mana live in a false peace. Those who cannot use the Mana, named with the derogatory term "Norma," which are seen as an opposition to structures of society, live in oppression. Because this is the norm, the people who use Mana don't question it. The first princess of the Misurugi Empire, Angelise Ikaruga Misuragi, was convinced of the belief of exterminating the Norma. But when she turned sixteen, and she was baptized, her older brother, Julio, exposed her as a Norma to the public. Angelise, who is bewildered by the revelation that she herself was a Norma all along, turns into a target of hate of the people in the blink of an eye. Ange is exiled to Arzenal, and then starts her new life as a Norma soldier. As she struggles to adjust to her new identity, Ange's now stormy life takes one surprising turn after another and she embarks on her quest to correct the world she lives in.

I first have to admit, this one is a hard series for me to process since I'm not much of mecha person. I'm pretty sure the only mech type shows I've seen can all be accounted for on one hand. It's a genre I'm not well versed in. Luckily, the mech elements aren't the major element of the story. They are a plot devise, yes, but they are not heavily relied upon until the second half of the series. Now, here's my first problem with the show: it's not quite sure what it wants to do with itself. Yes it manages to create a cohesive story, but it's also playing in dozens of areas. Is this series trying to be a mech series, political, philosophical, fantasy, romance, comedic, etc, etc? It's as if the production team wasn't sure of themselves while making it. RahXephon, another mech series, does use multiple pieces to create a story, but it manages to execute itself even better than Ange did. What Ange was trying to do is a great effort, I'll give it that much, but it can be overwhelming at times when trying to bring us through this story and the direction it wants us to go in. Thankfully, the ending of the series does tie up it's loose ends, mostly, and creates a solid ending for the series.

However, there are some pieces here and there are either glossed over or never explained to the fullest extent both in terms of plot and character motivations. For example, there's a point in the series where a character scarifies themselves, through use of explosions, in order to save someone else. Obviously, that person should be dead, right? Well, they appear again in the next episode and we never find out how that character even survived! At least, in that same episode where another character is presumed dead, there's a two second explanation as to how they are still alive. As for lack of character motivations, Embryo is probably the biggest offender of this. We get how he managed to make the world as it is, but we don't really ever understand why. This leaves the interpretation slightly open ended with the obvious answer being that he's a power hungry narcissist. It makes his character more into an enigma rather than a God like character, and it's one of the more frustrating elements of the series as a whole.

Character wise, it doesn't do any better even with the lack of Embryo's motivations as a real problem of mine. The majority of the characters are pretty much a bunch of stubborn and teenage goofs that feel almost entitled to what they think they should have. At least that describes them for the first half of the series. The second half, once a major change sets in, turns into that more political aspect and the characters are starting to feel their idiocy kick in rather hard core. Each one of them have been persecuted in some way, making some of their weaknesses rather prominent during the latter half of the series. I believe the only one that this doesn't fall under is Vivian, she just retains the obligatory moe cute girl status. Some of the adults aren't any better either with Jill and Julio being some of the worse cases. Believe me when I say the sense of entitlement doesn't just stick with the Norma to an extent, but with the people of Misurugi as well. It's as if you take some of the most entitled teens from this generation, segregate them and then lock them in a room together to see what happens. I can imagine the term angst would be used by the people conducting the experiment... Quite a lot.

At the very least, Ange is one of the more interesting characters of the series though not for the reasons you'd expect. She's supposed to be a strong female lead, but never quite gets there. She still has her weaknesses and vulnerabilities that are seen throughout the series, but she also does rely heavily on others. I'm not saying this is the worst of it, because putting up walls around you so you can survive makes some sense. It's the personality Ange takes on after that is what kinda bugs me. For lack of better words, she becomes a complete and utter bitch for most of the series. She pushes the other girls, including Momoka and Tusk, away from her for much of the time. Gradually she does open up, but the changes in her personality are what seem to give me a kind of whiplash every time it happens. It's almost like trying to figure out your friend's original taste in music, we'll use Pop here, suddenly becomes Death Metal, and then knocks it down to Country. Kinda just makes you turn your head in confusion the entire time.

Obviously, I have to bring up the sexual undertones that appear several times in Ange, with lesbianism and rape as a couple more of the strong ones. I'm pretty sure the only characters to ever consent to anything in this series are, mostly, Hilda, Chris, and Rosalie along with maybe one or two more characters. In terms of the yuri undertones, I don't have a lot of problems with this. Considering the circumstances the Norma are under, who wouldn't want to have sexy times with the other women that are in the same predicament? Norma are, almost always, women making the use of lesbianism logical to some degree, but it's personally not my cup of tea. I have the feeling that this series belongs to the male demographic for quite a few reasons, with the sexual undertones one of those reasons. However, I'm not all that pleased that rape becomes an element during the latter half of the series, and it isn't even handled all that well. This coming from someone who has seen Maria the Virgin Witch and knows better. This is what made those Valverave fears realized for me as it is not only handled poorly, but it is also made to achieve some kind of fetish inducing, sexual high that people can get off to. I was extremely uncomfortable with this and it's not even a one time thing. There's at least two instances in the second half alone where someone confesses to being raped or someone is about to be. It is never ok to bring in this subject to any form of media, in my opinion, unless handled in a way that is appropriate. Maria did this, Ange did not.
Also, THIS is a running gag throughout the series.... *le sigh*
Did I enjoy watching Cross Ange? I'll admit that, yes. The first half truly did surprise me when I was watching it! But is it a critical darling? Far from it. While there are some story elements that I found interesting and some developmental moments for some characters took on a natural progression, the overall series was rather average at best. It doesn't help that some of my fears regarding the show were realized and it kind of made me uncomfortable at times because of it. I should have said this by now, but I'm not a hugely sexual person. Moments that are along those lines can make me extremely squeamish and a tiny bit harder to get through. To be fair, there were times that I was fine with it, but it's still something that doesn't sit well with me if it is done in a certain way. And let's add to it some of the rather pointless humor the series tries to add. This isn't my favorite from the Fall 2014 season, that went to Yona of the Dawn and Your Lie in April hands down (granted I still need to finish April at the time of writing this), but Ange isn't the worst thing to come from that season.


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