• remind me tomorrow
  • remind me next week
  • never remind me
Subscribe to the ANN Newsletter • Wake up every Sunday to a curated list of ANN's most interesting posts of the week. read more

CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon
Episodes 1-3

by Theron Martin,

On her 16th birthday, a pampered, ignorant princess gets a very rude awakening to the way things really are when one of her parents is killed right before her eyes and a relative who claims to mean only the best for her kingdom usurps her position. She is effectively exiled, and we know from a prologue that she eventually cuts her hair, toughens up, and become a warrior-maiden while also getting involved with actual or figurative dragons.

Two anime series in the Fall 2014 season fit this basic premise, but they are practically polar opposites in execution. Yona of the Dawn, a pure fantasy story clearly made with female audiences in mind, takes the more romantic approach, with the princess being aided and protected by a powerful, dashing male warrior and eventually surrounded by a bevy of other male warriors. Even the usurper is a handsome guy who probably actually does love her, too, and apparently has very mixed feelings about getting her involved in his coup. Cross Ange, which is a “girls with mecha” series mixed with magic that is clearly aimed at male otaku, strips the concept of any hint of romanticism and instead takes a vastly harsher, crasser, and grittier approach. Here the usurper was very much out to get the princess specifically, public opinion quickly turns strongly against her, and she has no protector, no defenses, and (at least as of episode 3) no hope for recourse; she is left utterly vulnerable by her circumstances and her complete lack of understanding of, and appreciation for, her situation, to the point of suicidal despondency. Whereas Yona will probably be gracefully guided through learning the lessons she needs to learn, for Ange her learning curve is a bitter and brutal one.

Angelise (later Ange) is the princess of a prominent kingdom in a future era where the advent of the Light of Mana – essentially universal ability for telekinetic magic use – has brought to an end to war, poverty, and most forms of strife, creating a veritable ideal society. The only apparent chinks are the Norma, the occasional girls born without the ability to use Mana, which also makes them partially able to thwart Mana, too. (They are shown being able to break through pure Mana barriers, for instance.) They are regarded as abominations that are threats to society and are thus isolated if not outright killed. The highly-admired Angelise espouses this belief, too, including in one case where a mother must be forcibly separated from her Norma infant daughter, but the secret that has been hidden from her and the public all her life is that she is actually a Norma herself. (How she could have never realized this is finally explained in episode 3, when a flashback shows that the Emperor had proclaimed that royal family members should never have to use Mana themselves – obviously pampered privilege being used as a cover story.) Her ambitious brother makes sure that secret is exposed during her coming-of-age ceremony on her 16th birthday, which results in him taking power, her father being imprisoned, and her mother being killed in a failed attempt to help her escape. She gets shipped off to Arzenal, an isolated island facility where Norma are trained to use transforming mecha to fight off dragon-like extradimensional invaders, a task which we learn in episode 3 is vital to maintaining the peace of the rest of the world (a fact which is not common knowledge, not even to those of Angelise's status) but which is also incredibly dangerous; even the most skilled veterans commonly have scars and/or artificial body parts from past encounters, and death is not unusual. And there, for the most part, she gets treated as anything but a princess. Her only saving grace is that the flight systems for the mecha are similar enough to ones for vehicles in a sport she formerly played that she shows above-averaging aptitude for piloting, but her long-instilled prejudice against Norma and inability to quickly come to terms with her new status alienates many of those she will have to work with and leads to tragic consequences.

One thing that quickly becomes clear in both series is why both have prologues showing where the heroines will ultimately end up: because both start as weak and unlikeable characters, and the series producers are not trusting audiences to connection with the heroines without that foreknowledge. Between the two, though, Angelise is the more extreme case. Beneath that pleasant, well-meaning veneer is a bigot, one so self-centered that she fails to realize that she is being hypocritical or accept the truth behind what's happening to her. Although technically none of it is directly her fault, as it was her predecessors who established the system for handling Norma and her parents who hid the truth about her Norma status, she certainly exacerbates her situation through the derogatory comments she makes and the uncooperative actions she takes. Even some pretty brutal treatment (we'll get back to that) in response to her uncooperativeness doesn't break her of her arrogance, but there's nothing like being directly responsible for the deaths of comrades to shatter one's ego or discovering a new ability in the depths of despair to rebuild one's self as a new person.

And that is what Cross Ange seems to be trying to do thematically: show a young woman being totally reformed in character by hardship and the crushing irony that she actually is what she once regarded as anathema. The first three episodes are the establishment arc for this transformation, as by its end she has cut her hair and found her resolve. Future episodes will, presumably, have her dealing with the fall-out of her previous attitude and actions and with some of the potential plot thread raised here, such as what her slimy brother is doing with her former home empire (and younger sister!) and why the dragons are popping up in the first place. (Presumably they are in some way connected to the Light of Mana.) These episodes also leave some room for character development, as the Norma commander, quite surprisingly, actually turns out to not be the total bitch that she initially comes across as. Getting too attached to anyone else might be dangerous, though, as through three episodes the series has already shown an Attack on Titan or Akame ga KILL!-level penchant for bloodily killing off named and established characters.

Getting bloody isn't the only way these episodes get graphic, though, and it is this aspect which has made the series the most controversial of the fall season. Though the Cross Ange does deliver an interesting mix of mecha and magic, it is also very much a fan service-oriented series. Angelise and her mother commonly wear clothing that flaunt their generous figures, mecha combat uniforms are impractically sexy, the camera routinely ogles female characters, lesbian sex scenes are strongly implied, and that's just for starters. Only one scene in three episodes merits censorship bars, but the content overall clearly aims to be racy. What some viewers may find more objectionable than normal for fan service series is when the content aims to be racy. One episode features a scene where Angelise is strongly implied to be forcibly anally and/or vaginally probed as part of a physical, another involves an attempted rape, and a third involves her being naked except for heavy bandaging while laying restrained in a bed. Each of these scenes involves only female characters, but that doesn't make them any less edgy, and each of these scenes has definite fan service elements in them.

However, that does not necessarily mean that those scenes are actually a big problem; indeed, I did not find them to be such. I have seen a lot of non-hentai anime content over the years that has mixed violence with sexual elements and/or tamer fan service and did not find the content here to be any more egregious than what is shown in titles like, say, Freezing Vibration. In fact, in this case, each of those scenes can be at least partly justified for narrative reasons other than fan service; the probing scene is part standard medical exam for a prison-like environment and part making a point to Angelise that she wasn't a princess any longer (a notion she clearly wasn't mentally accepting at that point) and thus wasn't going to be treated as one, the attempted rape scene is part disciplinary action and part Zola trying to seduce Angelise into her harem, and why Angelise is restrained in the bed is completely justified by her actions immediately prior to that. (Anyone who did what she did would have been restrained.) And again, remember that the whole point of these episodes is to forcibly deconstruct Angelise from what she was and recast her as a more hardened and determined warrior, and these scenes are both part of her trials and part of stripping her of her old identity. Granted, the scenes could have been handled more tastefully (like covering Angelise with a sheet in the latter scene, for instance), but we are talking about a dedicated fan service series, and since when have those ever been tasteful?

Aside from all of that, the series does have merits. The story actually isn't a bad one; it leaves plenty of room for character development and has some good potential plot threads, and stories of heroes and/or heroines who reform themselves have long proven to be enticing. The artistry and animation, while not stellar, are also good enough to provide promise of intriguing mecha-on-dragon battles that mix both tech and magic. The mecha elements, fan service, and graphic violence can be satisfying for those who favor such elements and do not find the aforementioned scenes offensive enough to be deal-killers. The musical selections are strong, too.

Cross Ange is an edgy, somewhat trashy, often in-your-face viewing experience, the kind of series which actively strives for attention and is willing to risk offending some potential viewers to do so. I definitely only recommend it for those who are fully aware and accepting of what they're getting into; for others, Yona of the Dawn is probably the safer bet.

Rating: C+

CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

discuss this in the forum (636 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

back to CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon
Episode Review homepage / archives