Review-Roundup: CROSS ANGE 03, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 02

[HorribleSubs] Cross Ange - 03 [480p].mkv - 00006Uhm, I’m not sure whether she’s trying to insult the way Normas live or if she genuinely thinks that’s what the Normas’ life has been like before she came along and fucked things up.

This time I review:

CROSS ANGE 03: Ange’s a real asshole… but then she becomes a different kind of asshole. Suddenly, though, she turns out to be Chosen One who’s the only one capable of piloting the SUPER-MECHA! Sucks to be you if you’re actually a decent human being in this series’ universe apparently, because it’s all about being the shittiest one of them all (I think, that’s the message of the series).

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 02: Shirou talks to Rin and then they go to a place to talk some more with yet another person present. Fun times!

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo 03 Review:

[HorribleSubs] Cross Ange - 03 [480p].mkv - 00002Wow, just wow… How can any reasonable person hold onto such a horrible thought for THAT long?! That isn’t some shock-denial-reaction anymore, that’s just plain stubborn pettiness.

How far can one go with making characters seem unlikeable before rather than making a point, the characters become genuinely unlikeable? That is apparently the central question behind this series because so far… 90% of the cast are assholes in one way or another. And this doesn’t mean they are anti-heroes or anything, no those Norma-women are for the most part just really horrible people.

It’s one thing to put a character into the limelight who isn’t good. There are a ton of villains out there who are compelling characters despite being up to no good. Just look at Darth Vader (not the prequel-Darth-Vader, of course) and you have a threatening villain who clearly is evil – but you wouldn’t describe him as unlikeable. Even if that character is supposed to be one of the “good guys” you can still have a character who isn’t exactly good. I mean, that’s the whole theory behind the anti-hero. Character can do good without being “good” and evil characters can still be “likeable” (interesting would be the more fitting description, I guess) while doing evil stuff. Naturally you can forego all that but then you would be creating a horror-story. Cross Ange isn’t that.

So, here’s where things get weird. This series wants those Norma-women and Norma-girls to be the good guys apparently and yet the series makes those characters out to be very horrible people. Just looking at these last three episodes, the general tone of the conversations is mostly mean-spirited and hostile. The characters don’t seem to like each other at all! And they’re not hiding it. There’s stuff like the blue-haired girl asking the commander a question why she gives Ange another chance to pilot a mecha and the commander’s response is simply “Shut up! Just obey my orders!”.

And this dysfunctional social behavior becomes REALLY weird when you remember that the premise of the show is basically racism. “Some people can’t use magic – let’s declare them subhuman and force them to become soldiers!” is what the worldbuilding is telling us here. Ange is all too eager to repeat the propaganda there that Normas are brutish people who relish acting out their violent urges. That is supposed to be the propaganda but the way this series portrays this, it almost seems like Ange’s tragic realization isn’t that this was just propaganda but rather that the propaganda was kinda right about Normas. That’s the first point where the series loses me.

The other big problem is, of course, Ange. For fuck’s sake! I’ve already said that there’s a generally mean tone to most social interactions but what Ange is doing in this episode… More than just being unlikeable, she has become downright pathetic. I guess, the notion is here that it’s always gets worse before it gets better but this series goes way too far with this. She’s supposed to be the hero of the series! Valrave was heavyhanded in the same way but at least that was built upon a foundation of optimism (except the rape-scene, of course). Here, the foundation is misery, depression and horrible behavior. Ange is NOT a person you want to cheer for. She whines a lot, gets three people killed, takes no responsibility and she’s a racist. There’s nothing to like about her!

And in some ways the series gets that, which leads to an interesting moment. It’s the twist that Ange’s only motivation, after all the stupid and selfish shit she has done, is to die a good death. That could’ve been a good stepping-stone to let her slowly regain her will to live and an enlightened perspective on life and the Normas around her.

Yet here’s where the series completely misunderstands the impression Ange has not only made on her Norma-comrades but also on the audience: The episode tries to push her into a chosen-one-role. More than that, Ange sort-of goes back on her death-wish and it’s treated like a change for the better. She did all this shit and apparently it’s all forgiven because now she’s able to pilot a super-mecha.

Another thing that really plagues this series is how its story lacks direction. You would think that the series would early on establish a revenge-story for Ange to pursue and yet the series focuses on all these horrible people being horrible to each other and Ange being the most horrible one of them all (while also being racist). Instead we get dragon-like creatures who are creatively called DRAGONS. There’s no context for why those creatures are there or why they hate humans so much… And it isn’t portrayed as a mystery, either. Those creatures just sort-of appear to be the enemies in those mecha-battle-sequences.

I hope that what this show has shown so far isn’t what the whole series will be like. I think this is a 2-cours-series, so there might be slight pacing-issues maybe in how the story is structured…? At this point, no one can be sure. The thing you can be sure about is that the series try to sell mecha-action with a redemption-story as the plot-hook but the crimes that need redeeming are SO horrible and Ange’s so unlikeable that it’s hard to get invested in the whole redemption-thingy.

Episode-Rating: 5.0/10

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 02 Review:

[C12] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 02.mp4 - 00003Oh, I just LOVE it when characters end up talking to the back of another character during a dialogue. The whole scene was kinda stupid. Okay, I get it, Kirei is slowly circling Shirou and Rin like some predator… but that circling begins with Kirei moving to the side of the church VERY suddenly and facing THE WALL while he’s STILL talking with Shirou! That shit played like a parody of dramatic pacing during a dialogue!

Exposition. Exposition. Exposition. An episode that concerns itself mostly with characters delivering exposition is hardly entertaining. And this episode is definitely just as boring as you might think it is.

I know that exposition is necessary but things get boring really fast when this incarnation of the series ends up repeating itself. There’s a ton of details Rin explains to Shirou and yes, they all matter. But for example, thanks to the prologue-episode the audience had already heard about the command-seals and so to hear Rin explain those to Shirou may make sense but entertainment-wise it’s just a waste of time as she’s just repeating what EVERYBODY at this point knows.

The other issue that I always had with Fate/Stay Night is that its setting is both oddly detailed and very vague at the same time. Characters can have a little speech about the relation between a Master’s mana and his or her Servant. But then you get moments like when you think about how local the choice of the Masters are in Fate/Stay Night are despite its huge impact it could have on the world. Due to how specific a lot of the magic can be in this series, it’s strange how the world itself never comes alive really. In this series, the world of magic outside the Grail-War is something you can only talk about rather than show. If you look at the Urban-Fantasy-genre of novels, a pretty big concern is often the way magic and present-day blend into each other without most of the world being aware of it. In Fate/Stay Night, though, magic feels far more “tacked on” despite its claims of existing. In many ways Fate/Zero did a far better job of exploring that setting in that regard.

Speaking of Fate/Zero, it naturally also plays a big role in this series’ story. And with it being out there now, I really think this series could stand to make Saber more relevant. As far as I remember she actually had lost her memory of Fate/Zero in the original version but now it seems like Saber can actually remember what has happened. That would be great! Look, her character isn’t that great, I feel like. I mean, she’s just a bland, chivalrous knight in a body of a girl and her relationship with Shirou isn’t as meaningful as the one with Kiritsugu. The relationship between Shirou and Saber mostly relies on the former being EVEN MORE idealistic than the latter. When even Saber’s like “Let’s be realistic here…”, the guy who still tries to be the ultimate hero of justice comes off as a bit of a whiny baby. Still, one of the things that makes me feel hopeful about this adaptation is that Shirou hasn’t been half as annoying as he could be until now.

It’s a real pity this series hasn’t decided (or managed) to hang onto the 45-minutes-per-episode-format. This episode could’ve really needed that double-length as well. With the first half being committed to a bunch of infodumps, the second half could’ve invested in some flashy action-scenes to save the episode from total boredom. Instead, you get one scene of people talking and then those people wander to another place… to talk EVEN MORE with another person. That’s really the whole episode! And the infuriating thing is that it isn’t even useless exposition! But at that point, you gotta wonder whether the setting shouldn’t have been simplified or whether it wouldn’t have been better to separate those infodumps into smaller pieces to be delivered in different places throughout the story. This simply wasn’t a good episode with the way it just acted like a giant infodump.

Episode-Rating: 6.0/10

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on October 19, 2014, in Anime, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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