CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon
by Theron Martin,
As it turns out, the recurring theme of Cross Ange (if there has truly been one at all) is that having your own will and acting upon it are important and valuable. The whole of Ange's development throughout the series essentially boils down to that, but it isn't just her; Hilda has also discovered it over the course of the series. So, in this final episode, do Salia and (most surprisingly!) Sylvia. In two of episode 25's most satisfying moments, the former finally realizes that she does not have to attach herself to anyone, while the latter takes action in the ruins left from Embryo's attempted convergence in a way that in some senses is surprising but in some senses is not.
In all other ways the finale stays true to the established nature of the series, too. It has dramatic mecha battles, fan service (it's been largely absent the last two episodes but could only be restrained so long), references to advanced physics concepts like supersymmetric particles and unified theory, Embryo being an ass, Tusk rescuing Ange yet again, Tusk crotch-planting Ange yet again, and Ange being, well, Ange. On the darker side, it also has yet another potentially objectionable scene, as Embryo does take advantage of him and Ange being isolated on his own little alternate-space version of Arzenal (which is revealed to have been Embryo's original research facility) and try to rape Ange. This is a scene that has been coming for several episodes now, and frankly, it would have been completely out of character for Embryo to not attempt it. Unlike some earlier problematic scenes, I did not find this one to be pointedly framed in a salacious fashion, but mileage will vary on that.
What Embryo doesn't bank on is that, unlike other women that he has had his way with, Ange isn't alone. She has friends, allies, loyal servants, and lovers built up over the course of the series, ones that she can and will reach out to, and one of those has the individual that is second only to Embryo in power as an ally: Aura. Aura gives the rest of the Norma and Dragons instructions on how to reach the isolated space where Ange and Embryo are, and Tusk uses the Ragna-Mail to make that happen, taking Hilda, Salia, and Salamandinay and their mecha with him. Each of the ladies eventually understands that they can manipulate their machines just as Ange can to overcome Embryo's control, and between them, the rescued Ange, and Tusk battling Embryo's physical body directly, they eventually take Embryo down for good. The episode even has a bit of fun with it, too, as in one scene after Tusk has just rescued the naked Ange, Hilda can be seen making motions in the background which seem to indicate that she is not happy about how physically close the two are, but they are not paying attention to her.
As satisfying as the defeat of Embryo is, the way things play out in the epilogue part also offers some nice touches. Tusk and the surviving Norma and Dragons all end up on the original Earth where Ange declares that they will start a new nation (though how effectively they can do that with only one male human is never addressed) and Café Ange is shown becoming a reality. As for those who survived the convergence in the ruins of what used to be the Misurugi Empire, Ange pretty much takes a “screw them” attitude and insists that they will have to learn how to fend for themselves – and as Sylvia shows, some adapt to that much better than others. Despite how harsh and mean that seems, it also comes across as an extension of Ange's “supremely tough love” approach with Sylvia in the previous episode.
The end of the series also offers a good opportunity to discuss one point that has been brought up in some discussions about the series: whether or not the creative staff was just making a classic villain in Embryo or whether they had ulterior motives in the way his actions were styled. This has to be at least considered because in some respects Embryo could be looked at as the ugly side of an idealized otaku. He is building and managing a harem, after all, and his emphasis on Ange's purity (or lack thereof) is in line with common idol and anime otaku expectations. So could this be an “outside looking in” harem scenario and/or an indictment of common otaku predilections? While it is an interesting idea to discuss, I do not believe that the content supports that notion strongly enough to justify it as a reasonable interpretation. Sure, some parallels can be drawn, but Embryo also comes across as the classic cad, the womanizer with enough power to make his predilections reality, and Japanese otaku are far from the only group which values purity in women. That doesn't mean that the series isn't striving for something more than just being trashy, fan service-laden entertainment, as its character development chops go well beyond base bottomfeeding fare and it definitely lobs some cannon shots at systemic prejudice. However, I think more could easily be read into the series than what it is actually trying to say, as the writers seem to be using devices more as tools than symbolism.
While some individual scenes in it may be disagreeable, overall Cross Ange is a success. It tells a complete, well-paced story with definitive background and conclusion, wraps up nearly all of its plot points (the implication that Ange and Salamandinay have known each other across time and/or multiple realities is, sadly, never revisited), and brings most of its key characters through satisfying, plausible degrees of advancement. It turns a heroine who initially was not very likable into a strong lead who was her own woman but not above relying on the help and support of others, who could be in love and draw strength from it without being a slave to it, who could acknowledge the feelings of another woman without reciprocating them or debasing them, and who would ultimately not let anyone – man or woman – dictate to her who she was or should be. As graceless as it may have sometimes been in execution, it accomplishes a lot more, and more effectively, than the bulk of recent anime series have.
Episode Rating: B+
Series Rating: B
discuss this in the forum (636 posts) |