Review Roundup: CROSS ANGE 10, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 08/09
Ha! That joke never gets old!… It also will never be funny.
This time I review:
Cross Ange 10: Ange learns that torture is a public event and also that if she wants to create a better world, there are a lot of stupid people between her and that goal. Naturally that won’t stop her from bringing about the apocalype regardless.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 08/09: Tohsaka and Shirou do their best to start a romance but a pesky little thing called the Grail War forces them to become serious people who deal with serious problems. Also, Shinji is a little dipshit.
CROSS ANGE 10 Review:
Actually silly lines like this one are what this show should strive for ALL THE TIME. This show is already rather excessive, blunt and whatnot – but really, it’s still not enough. Since the show doesn’t really have style, it needs to double its efforts in terms of sheer epic craziness. And this episode has been a step into the right direction in that regard.
Cross Ange isn’t about Ange, it’s about the world she lives in. That’s the theme that connects all the serious moments of this show. This tenth episode has made clear that this series doesn’t want to explore any specific character but instead wants to talk about a world and how one character comes to change it.
With this Cross Ange becomes a bit of a throwback to the 90s when world-type-animes were really big. And the way Ange talks about humans, things seem VERY 90s-esque in the way this series deals with its world. With world-type I mean this aspiration of an anime-series to build up a fictional setting and then to treat like a serious and meaningful world. More than that, though, a world-type series makes the journey of the character center around the mystery/conflict of the world itself. Rather than having the protagonist undertake a deeply personal journey, the ultimate consequences of the protagonist’s journey are directed at the world he lives in rather than just himself. And this resolution of the worldly conflict is about reaffirming the protagonist’s sense of values but also about resetting the world in order to be more in line with what the protagonist wants this world to be (and with that the protagonist also gains more self-confidence in how he deals with the world around him). This apocalyptic resolution is used by world-type-animes like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Revolutionary Girl Utena for example.
In the case of Cross Ange, it remains to be seen if it actually goes for an apocalyptic ending but the important thing to note in the 10th episode (and also the 9th episode) is how the “humans” (the non-Norma) rarely act as individuals. Their hatred is universal and unreasonable but it also unites all the “humans” as this evil force. When the series portrays the hatred “humans” have for the Norma, then there’s no debate going on and the individuality just disappears behind this mask of absolute racism. When the execution of Ange is shortly halted for this short exchange between Ange and her former classmates, the classmate’s response to Ange’s crude accusations is just a nonsensical “You’re a Norma, that’s why!”. It’s important to note here how even the Norma-characters don’t call themselves human. In the same way the “humans” actually don’t see the Normas as human, either. In this world, the Norma-racism goes so far as to turn off even the most basic sense of empathy a human would feel for another human when said other human turns out to be a Norma.
And so it speaks to this irrationality that when Ange actually responds to the hateful reactions of the crowd she denounces the “humans” of the empire to be the actual sub-humans. That’s what makes an apocalyptic ending more likely. Ange doesn’t really have a grudge against Sylvia or her brother, what she’s denouncing in this episode is the very nature of those “humans”. In this series’ world everyone who isn’t a Norma absolutely hates Normas. And with that hatred they justify all sorts of cruelties. That’s why Cross Ange is ultimately more about the world than any specific character: Because the enemy of the Normas is the rest of the world.
At this point, you might think, that this makes the series sound more awesome than it seems and that’s because until now this series has wasted a lot of time. Ange mentions that only the other Normas approached her without prejudice despite being a Norma – and that is a bit of a stretch. This series has spent all this time focusing on the relationships between Ange and the other Normas but then this episode drops the ball and needlessly sentimentalizes that relationship for the sake of making Ange’s argument cohere more with where the series wants to go story-wise. The reality was rather that this series had been dicking around for five or so episodes after Ange had become a Mecha-pilot without really achieving that much story-wise.
Also, one has to say that this series has done jack shit in terms of worldbuilding so far. I like where the series is going but this doesn’t change my problems with how the racism is portrayed in this series and how Ange is still an insufferable asshole. The whole racism-angle is just too broadly written and lacks subtlety.
But why do I like where this series is headed apparently? Because it’s fucking crazy. This series doesn’t need to be more subtle if it can be flashier and more ebullient with its “fighting against racism”-storyline. And in terms of the Normas… let them be assholes for all I care. In fact, it will just improve this series if it doesn’t give a shit about how much of an asshole Ange is while saving/destroying the world.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 08/09 Review:
Yeah, I wonder why… After all, reactions like these are the pure embodiment of self-confidence and likeability… It’s not like freaking out over a loss and blaming everyone else but yourself is a really shitty way to handle a defeat.
This series has one of those stories that unfolds slowly and so you can clearly see this process of story-development which starts with the general elements of the story and then works its way to the specifics. It’s the way this series has handled exposition that is most telling for how this process defines the series. In the first few episodes, the series is mostly concerned with setting the stage. The Grail-War gets explained, the nature of the Servants is discussed and the general motivation for the story is established. In the second stage the characters engage with this scenario directly and you get those battle-sequences which evoke the feeling of an overwhelming challenge. The heroes fight the baddies for the first time and they don’t win the day. So now what? And that’s where the series is at currently. Things have happened, the stage is set and the series asks itself “So now what?”.
It is a bit of a pacing-problem that the series isn’t really at the point yet where it could start preparing the series-finale and so the battles in these past two episodes felt a bit like pointless skirmishes (even though they did push the plot and the story forward). The series currently lacks atmosphere. Without being able to invoke the drama of a finale and not really ready to offer some interesting plottwists, the story is floundering in its attempts to keep the tension high.
I mean, the eighth episode with its battle at school should’ve been a nice way to offer some action but it wasn’t that engaging. The main-reason for that is that the villain for this particular story-section, Shinji, is just a real dipshit. And that’s all the characterization he really has. While story-wise there may be a bit more to him, the way he behaves and acts is far too obnoxious for me to care about his endeavors. His character is supposed to drive the tension in the eighth episode but I didn’t really care about his role in that episode. Shinji is the sort of petty character you can’t really take serious. Shinji is a goon-character, someone who serves a bigger evil and quickly loses relevance in the struggle between good and evil. Add to that his unlikeable personality and it’s really hard to stay interested.
Another thing they try to fill the time with is developing Tohsaka’s and Shirou’s romantic relationship and the series does that in a really weird way. On one hand it’s good that it never gets too cheesy but what this series is doing instead is this uncommitted flirtation that simply appears sometimes and isn’t present at all at other times. Also, sometimes the series is VERY obvious with what it wants to do, like when Tohsaka was waiting in front of Shirou’s classroom and Shirou peeks at her from the door together with a classmate who basically spells out for him that Tohsaka wants to fuck the guy she’s waiting for and then the scene reveals she has been waiting for Shirou. And Shirou still doesn’t take the hint! But then there are other times where Tohsaka and Shirou really seem like good buddies in this Grail-War but nothing more than that. Meanwhile, Tohsaka does her usual Tsundere-shtick and well, she’s a Tsundere after all – obviously. The most important point here is, though, that Shirou and Tohsaka still have no chemistry together. Actually if you wouldn’t pay attention to the series right now you might even miss the romantic undertones of how Tohsake reacts to Shirou sometimes.
The characterization in general is weirdly paced in this series. It’s all done in layers. When a character appears, he’s never quite what he seems to be and at the “incredible” speed of one tiny layer at a time do you learn more about his motivaition, his background and stuff like that. Just take Taiga’s short remark about Shirou’s need to be a hero no matter the odds and she talks that he was like that since he was little. I feel it’s kinda a waste of time to wait so long to explore this character. Shirou doesn’t have to be a bad character but instead of actually making him a good character from the very beginning, the audience is bound to wait for the series to present his characterization at its own pace.
The details of characters, their actual personality included, get turned into “revelations”. Instead of presenting a wholesome characterization with the hope that the audience might sympathize with the character, this series presents a seemingly bland character and then peels off the layers of this character which makes understanding characters not a matter of presentation but rather a matter of time. And I don’t like this way of characterization personally. A character can have a secret or two that even the audience doesn’t know about but the audience should never feel misled by such a thing. Now, one might argue that this is the whole point of this method, to mislead the audience, to pull the same trick Agatha Christie did in “The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd” but I don’t think it enhances the story to mislead the audience in this case. Shirou is slightly more interesting than in the beginning but even if he becomes really interesting in the end, you still have all those episodes where he wasn’t interesting and a plottwist-like revelation about the character isn’t worth it if that’s the price the series has to pay for that.
Is F/SN:UBW a 2-cours-series? It is, isn’t it? I don’t like the prospect of this at all. I mean, I know, there’s still a lot of plot and story to cover here but after the 9th episode I thought “How about we wrap things up and call it a day? Yeah, let’s just get it over with. We all know where this is going and frankly I prefer the destination to the journey here.”. The writing just isn’t very good. Take the conflict between Archer and Shirou for example, it basically always boils down to one saying “Hey, you’re wrong about this shit.” and the other one saying “No, you’re wrong!”. Then Archer has to add some ominous, mysterious remarks, of course, and that’s all there is to it. I know this series is holding stuff back from the series in order to have some meaty story-bits to throw around during the finale but come on! If you’re gonna do that, you need to have enough other meat to throw around in those moments when you don’t wanna get to the juicy bits! And there isn’t enough meat here, it’s just not enough!
Posted on December 8, 2014, in Anime, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Reviews and tagged Anime, CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Fate/Stay Night, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.