Review-Roundup: CROSS ANGE 01, World Trigger 01, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bladeworks 00
It’s amazing how Cross Ange can keep a straight face without anyone making a necessary and appropriate comment in scenes like these. Apparently racism is just another one of those drama-inducing tropes now.
This time around I review these series:
Cross Ange 01: Magic, rainbows and racism have secured world-peace – but at what cost? Princess Ange is about to find out!
World Trigger 01: Pesky foreigners (from outer space) try to invade Japan and just as a proud Japanese city is about to fall, some ingenious teenagers appear and kick the asses of those aliens! A few years later a dude wearing glasses has a stick up his ass concerning virtue and shit like that but then a weird little, white-haired transfer-kid appears. Naturally the transfer-kid is SO unorthodox in his behavior that he can’t be anything but one of those pesky aliens! Turns out he needs to learn how great humans are because he himself has NO clue how being good works.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bladeworks 00: Tohsaka Rin is a tsundere, her Servant is NOT. Hilarity and a lot of magic battles ensue.
Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo 01 Review:
I mean, I understand the motivation of her character here but still… this is a really creepy scene.
Worldpeace, an utopian society, magic, yuri-like adoration, action, Racism, incest, nudity, rape, murderous intents – this series has it all! Nothing in this first episode is half-assed! And it’s all delivered with all the intensity and no self-awareness whatsoever! Cross Ange is a fucking crazy series. It’s Yoshiharo Ashino’s first really big major project with him as a director. He directed the short series Mahou Shoujo Tai Arusu and he did animations (various positions in that department) in a lot of series, he did the storyboards for a couple of episodes in Madoka Magica for example and some other series but this now will be his first big thing. And yeah, it’s actually quite competent except that this very competence emphasizes a lot of stuff to the point where it becomes a bit overbearing.
Where to even begin? The setting is a sci-fi-utopia where everyone can use some sort of techno-magic apparently – and it’s also an empire. You know, the kind with princesses and no democratic processes whatsoever. And magic has solved all the problems of the world. Yep, everything’s fine but like all utopia this one has a dark secret… except that this utopia is presented as an idyll to the point of obliviousness. Everything is SO great that things start to seem stiff. And it isn’t helping that nothing in those moments is even hinting at a dark secret or some injustice festering at the heart of this empire – although that stuff is actually there. All the scenes are just brightly colored, girly-looking scenes with the princess Ange being everybody’s favorite person.
That’s the first moment where the series shows off how deranged its script is. The princess is doing some sort of quidditch, field-hockey thingy – and her team loses. But everyone still loves her for it because she gives a cheesy speech to her teammates amounting to “We may have lost the finales but in terms of spirit WE are the true winners of the tournament.”. And her teammates, all girls, dig it. They just eat that shit up and poop it out again in the form of fanatical devotion. And it would’ve been already bad if that had been the scene but no, the OTHER team approaches the princess and their captain’s like “We may have won but your example has taught us something far more valuable than winning.”. She actually says that! It’s ridiculous, simply ridiculous.
And the insanity doesn’t end there! A few moments later the princess witnesses the police beating up a mother whose kid turned out to be a Norma. Yeah, there are some people who are unable to use those miraculous magic powers and they have a negative influence on anything constructed with that magic apparently. So what does our heroine, the princess, do? She steps out of the car and goes to the crying mother. And then she proceeds to tell her that her child is a monster that isn’t worthy of being considered human. Also, she wishes her good luck to have an actual human pop out of her vagina the next time she has a child. She actually says this shit! It’s one thing to establish a lower caste or class in a sci-fi-society, it’s another to go all the way into racism-territory with this!
Well, the joke’s on Ange anyway because as it turns out: She’s one of those Normas as well. But the crassness that’s employed in this series is just unbelievable! And it doesn’t end there! Ange indirectly causes her mother to die and for her brother to become the new emperor since their parents had always tried to hide Ange’s Norma-status. So she’s brought to this island where the Normas get trained to become soldiers, I guess? Anyway, she’s in that prison and the first thing that happens is that a woman rips off her clothes and rapes her. This series is even grittier than Akame ga Kill! At least Akame ga Kill isn’t completely tonedeaf whenever something horrible happens on-screen.
There’s also fanservice, a TON of fanservice as one of the main-points of this series is to show a lot of good-looking girls and women who are in various states of near-nudity. It’s silly, it’s forced and it’s clear that this series ultimately wants to objectify the appearance of the all-girls-cast. At least that’s how this first episode has presented it. This series… Really, it’s not quite as absurd as Queens Blade but it comes awfully close on a lot of points.
World Trigger 01 Review:
Ah, what would a Japanese school only do without its draconic rules regarding their students’ appearance…? No wonder all these animes are all about how special people do special things in their school-life…
Immigration – isn’t it really just a foreign evil planning to invade a country…? Just in case that it is, we totally need a militarized border-patrol to save the world from the foreign Neighbors trying to cross the border! That’s the sci-fi-scenario World Trigger revolves around. With stuff like that I always wonder whether the writer was smart enough to know what he was writing here. The notion of aliens invading earth is hardly original but in the xenophobic environment of Japan, stuff like this has a kinda different undertone. As Japan-centered as most animes are, this stuff is ultimately more about Japan than the actual aliens. The voiceover-prologue introducing the setting is SO Japanese and anime-like. Aliens appear and rather than switching to a doomsday-rhetoric (which you usually would get to hear in Western stories), the series is immediately militaristic and talks about stuff like that no human weapons could hurt them, that the city was “about to fall” as if it’s some sort of fortress and then the saviors are naturally teenagers who do their civic duty by kicking alien-butt. Of course, this then leads to Japan being the leading force in defending the world against those aliens that are ironically called “Neighbors”. Really, a foreign enemy invades a country and the nickname is ‘Neighbors’?! That’s way too on-the-nose for my tastes.
The whole concept behind this series kinda unnerves me. It’s a tad too blunt, I feel like. This immigration-thing isn’t just subtext, it’s basically RIGHT there thinly veiled by random sci-fi-bullshit. Sure, it’s at least not Mahouka whose perception of foreigners was as extremely prejudiced as what it ultimately had to say about equality. After all, there’s a little white kid that’s basically an alien who has to be convinced that humans are good, I guess. Even if you tackle such topics in a benign manner, there should be some finesse. With a real problem being there as reference, you don’t want to undermine the discussion by oversimplifying it. And yet, I feel like, that’s exactly what’s happening here. It’s not so bad that it becomes egregious but ultimately it’s the thing that solidifies this series’ mediocrity.
While it doesn’t indulge in any of the sillier anime-tropes (despite the fact that its plot is set at school), it still uses a ton of tropes to set the stage here. Giving the main-chara glasses just completes a stereotype of a perfectionist hero and introducing the plothook via a transfer-student isn’t that inspired either. And the bullies are brainless plot-devices anyway (also the voice-actor for the leader of the bullies sounds way too old for such a role). The episode plays with the familiar here and yet the world never really comes alive.
In fact, the world-building is kinda weird as most of the students are shown admiring the Border-agents who fight the aliens and they also believe they live in a warzone. Later we even get to see one of those forbidden areas where aliens could manifest at any moment. First of all: They should be more serious about stopping people from entering those areas. It’s not exactly the same as a building-site where a fence and warning-signs are enough. But there’s also once more no tension present just like in M3. If you present this big danger that’s very close by, I would say that the whole public will unanimously agree to avoid those dangers as much as possible and daily life will be colored by this looming danger. “And then everybody just started acting like everything was okay again.” is NOT a realistic evaluation of how a city would deal with a traumatic event such as an alien-invasion. The episode instead focuses on the heroic fantasy of monsters that get killed by cool humans.
And what doing the right thing exactly means will obviously be the theme of the series. That alien-kid has no clue how amazing humans are and therefore needs to be taught by the stuck-up, hero-wannabe glasses-guy. And then there will be a finale where the glasses-guy is in despair for some reason and the alien-kid will come to his help because he has learned his lesson – or something like that. With that trigger-stuff there’s enough room for some uninspired battle-shounen-stuff, so maybe there’s a battle as well. It just isn’t that interesting.
Well, one good thing is the soundtrack here which was composed by Kenji Kawai, the guy who sort-of always produces pleasant-sounding but not very memorable soundtracks (with the exceptions of the Fate/Stay Night soundtrack and the Ghost in the Shell movie soundtrack). But aside from that there was nothing in this first episode that grabbed my attention. For a moment I thought they would do some cool stuff with the monster-designs but it seems they only have that one kind of monster for now. Although, since it’s a shounen-show I’m sure they will get stronger at some point which will force the main-characters to get stronger as well so that there can be a bunch of duels. The series may not do a lot of shit uninspired series do but it’s also not doing a lot of shit great series would do.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 00 Review:
Oh, good that he’s asking! You know, just in case if his opponent rethinks the whole thing and does NOT want to face his “mightiest blow”.
And here we go again… I guess, in a few months we will get an announcement for a reboot of the original Fate/Stay Night series with its specific timeline as well. At some point they will have to make the janitor of the school a meaningful character just so that they get a new angle for these reboots, I assume. It’s ridiculous! There’s already a movie out there giving a nice summary of what happens in the Unlimited Bladeworks storyline but no, now there’s an entire series as well to detail the events of it.
All the things that make ufotable/Type-Moon-productions great are still there: There’s the usual urban-fantasy-worldbuilding, the art-style and the animations are great as usual and there’s the epic soundtrack doling out its usual atmospheric tunes. At this point, though, it’s all been done before. Starting with Kara no Kyoukai this Type-Moon-universe has established its own style now and while it’s still great, it’s now a thing you expect. The sort of quality this prologue exhibits is the bar ufotable has set for itself when animating Type-Moon-universe-stuff.
In a lot of ways this series has nothing new to offer therefore. The style is a well-established one, the plot is a more detailed version of a previous movie and there’s also the original series as well as the Visual Novel it’s based on to make this more or less a fan-project. This series solely relies on the big fan-community that the Fate-universe has. There’s no logical reason why this series should even exist. It has nothing to offer to anyone but the biggest fans of the franchise at this point!
The one thing this prologue does right is to change its perspective this time around. And I really hope this stays that way. I really have no patience to watch Emiya’s plotline AGAIN. Instead the series focuses on Rin and considering that the Unlimited Bladeworks storyline is focused on her and Archer anyway, this makes sense. More than that, this move offers the series the opportunity to include new scenes and to explore Rin’s character a bit more.
That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing problematic about this move. In the latter half of the series, you can already see the hints of what focusing on Rin means. There’s a clear sense of things happening elsewhere that somehow force Rin into action because in the original Emiya-plotline that’s when she appeared. This sort of stuff is a bit tricky and I feel like, the referential nature of this plot-structure will always seem a tad too self-conscious. You’re taken out of the story when something’s suddenly happening and you remember something like “Ah, yeah, Emiya did this and that around that point of time after all…”. Overall, though, focusing on Rin is still the lesser evil compared to telling the story from Emiya’s perspective again.
Naturally one thing you quickly notice in this prologue is that Rin’s basically a tsundere-character with a daddy-complex. This series really should be used as an opportunity to develop her character more because she needs it. The writing is good and the dynamic between Archer and Rin is pretty solid as well but if Rin is the main-character of this series it should be considered an opportunity. Personally I would be fine if they would even change stuff from how the storyline develops in the visual novel (and the movie) but I doubt that anything major will happen in that regard. After all, this is basically a fan-project.
Story-wise you also notice how this prologue doesn’t even really bother to offer a proper introduction for those who are new to the franchise. Tiny bits of exposition will simply be thrown in from time to time whenever it comes up in the conversation but the expectation that mostly fans are watching this is clearly there. But in the end with the episode rarely treading new ground really, it just feels like this episode was just going through the motions. There was no excitement, adventure or tension present. Instead, there’s a self-aware sense of indulgence present as if having produced this anime-version of this Fate/Stay Night storyline is already enough. The thing that will determine how valuable this endeavor will turn out to be completely depends on how original it can still be after all those previous versions that have already been experienced by a lot of people.
Posted on October 5, 2014, in Anime, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Reviews, World Trigger and tagged Anime, クロスアンジュ 天使と竜の輪舞, ワールドトリガー, CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, reviews, World Trigger. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.