CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon
by Theron Martin,
Different people have different ways of dealing with stress, whether it's because of recurring life-or-death situations or uncooperative subordinates. Salia, who has to deal with both, has a unique way of handling it: she dresses up like, and pretends to be, a magical girl.
Ange discovering her “dirty little secret” makes for one of the rare true comedy moments in the series, but rather than being a one-off it actually becomes the direct or indirect impetus for a goodly amount of what happens in the episode, which focuses on Salia until the last minute or so. She fell into the role of squad commander by default rather than by choice, so she has always been uncomfortable in the role and, thus, has struggled to establish her will and authority. Ange isn't the only one who shows no respect for the latter, but she is the linchpin of the problem, and for Salia Ange finding out about her secret is the last straw. A confrontation in the bath leads to a reprimand and Ange falling ill, which means the squad has to go out without her. Although other pilots are happy about this, for Ange had been hogging all the kills lately and thus making it hard for the others to earn money, the revelation that no deaths had happened since Ange mastered Vilkiss troubles Salia. Things come to a head when a new Dragon type appears with a new ability that puts the whole squad in danger until a sick and unsteady Ange shows up to help, which gives Salia a chance to finally establish her creds as leader. She doesn't waste it.
Seeing an episode focus on one of the major supporting characters is a nice change of pace, and an effectively-used one, too. Salia's viewpoint is the one most worth exploring, and given the discipline issues in the unit, a “commander establishes her authority” format allows the series to deal with both in one shot. The play-out is fairly predictable one but nonetheless does a good job of showing the stresses that she is under and the weaknesses in her effort so far. Being compared to a strongly assertive, charismatic previous leader already left her at a disadvantage, and her not putting her foot down to stop the harassment of Ange or make a more concerted effort get Ange under control only worsened the situation. Salia's self-discovery also smoothly allows the series to point out that Ange actually isn't being a prima donna in the way she takes over fights; there is actually a method to what she is doing, even if her fellow pilots don't appreciate it.
And this series being what it is, the episode does not skimp on fan service; in fact, it has possibly the heaviest load of it to date. Two separate bath scenes bring up loads of actual or near-nudity, and a lesbian three-way is tossed in for good measure. It makes somewhat of a joke of its sexy combat outfits, too, in the ridiculous way Momoka has Ange bundled up when she tries to go out to fight while sick. Even while delivering some of this the artistry relies more heavily than normal on still shots, which is concerning.
The episode rounds itself out with a couple of other treats, too. At the beginning the surprising answer to who Tusk (from episode 5) was working for is revealed, and at the end a character not heard from since episode 1 pops up again in alarming fashion. Combine those with the rest and (finally!) a lack of specifically objectionable elements and you have possibly the best episode of the series so far.
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