CROSS ANGE – 12/13 Review
And instead she’s now abrasive, abusive and a real asshole. Sure, that’s just the sort of character-development to get invested in!
What was even the point of this series’ first nine episodes or so…? I mean, if Ange simply had been a sensible person who hadn’t managed to get three people killed on her first day as mecha-pilot, a whole lot of drama could’ve been averted. And ultimately it was kinda pointless as well. Story-wise all the new revelations kinda negated the necessity of these DRAGON-battles and character-wise we watched Ange fuck up and be a real dick about it until she gradually became less of a dick and the others just sort-of forgot why they were mad at her in the first place. You don’t need an entire season to do that! But now the series has stopped fucking around and wants to be REALLY serious. And nothing screams “serious” more than a lot of explosions and meaningless deaths, right?!
The second half of the series starts with a mythology-episode. I mentioned a couple reviews ago that Cross Ange seems like a very 90s-like world-type-anime and this episode certainly cements that impression. This episode is basically an explanation of how this setting came about and what the deal is with the situation the characters found themselves in. It’s all very exposition-y but then again in world-type-animes the fates of characters are always very closely tied to the fate of the world they live in. And since the first half of this series tried to be “edgy” using excessiveness in all its forms without any sense of self-awareness, the characters range from unlikeable to not very relatable. But here comes the 12th episode that finally gives this series some much needed direction and focus.
When it comes to exposition you can naturally always point to the “show, don’t tell”-rule but beyond that, personally I feel like a series should also never sound preachy when exposition is dropped on the audience. It should never feel like the audience is forced to listen to some drivel about Tolkien-esque world-building-bullshit that takes ages to be summarized for the audience. World-building is like writing a historybook or some religious mythology. You try to give a context to something the characters should know about but the audience doesn’t. So how do you communicate something the characters know but not the audience? Well, the simplest solution is the audience-stand-in, the character who doesn’t know shit and needs to be told what shit is what. Animes have plenty of those with all their bland male protagonists but the more exciting variant of the same trope is to have some sort of revelation ready. This is what Cross Ange is going here for.
This episode’s exposition delivered by Jill shines a new light on the previous 11 episodes and tries to shock the audience as much as excite them for what’s to come. I don’t like it when series make these differences between “mythology-moments” and “random-stuff-episodes”. It always feels better that you can at least tie all the moments of the show together when it decides to drop some truth-bombs on the audience. Mythology-episodes shouldn’t just explain what’s going on, they should be the product of a slow build-up that occurred over the course of the season. And Cross Ange wasn’t very effective in setting up the reveals of this episode. There were a couple moments where the revelations of this episode were lightly hinted at but the problem with those was that Ange was pretty much left out of those. Until this episode a lot of the most important characters of this show didn’t really understand what was going on but they also didn’t push for any sort of understanding. The series felt directionless because Ange had no real destiny. It wasn’t clear what her future goal was. But then it actually addressed the issue of the Norma-racism (in its usual excessive, simplistic way) and hey, that was something.
But that was just a setup, a way to change the atmosphere of the series. It started to settle into this more serious tone where the excessiveness of the previous dozen episodes disappeared and was replaced by more typical shenanigans. And when this episode started to explain its mythology, it did so without any of the excessive silliness that had characterized the beginnings of this show.
Actually the first time she had boarded her mecha she ended up killing more humans than DRAGONS. So this experience shouldn’t be new to her.
It’s hard to say how much this show has gained and lost due to this change in tone. I mean, what this series had done in the previous dozen episodes was far from good and only entertaining in an ironic way. Now that the show has started to get more serious with its story and its setting, it’s more coherent than ever but you do start to wonder what this series exactly had gained by being directionless for so long. The last couple episodes didn’t feel like a finale and this 12th episode didn’t really feel like the start of the second half of this show either. Rather it felt like we’ve just left the first act and the second act has swiftly concluded its little mini-arc that also served as a midseason-finale. But the meta-plot has barely moved since the start of this show and only now it has leaped forward with this mythology-episode. This episode has done its job in establishing a villain, the stakes, a world-based mystery and the heroine has been assigned a destiny tied to the one of the world. And naturally there’s some talk of an apocalypse going around that can reset the world. It’s the kind of 90s stuff a world-type-anime would pull although it should be mentioned that apparently it’s the villains who cling to the hope of resetting the world.
The thing with this series suddenly getting more serious and establishing its mythology is that actually none of it is that interesting. The sort-of karmic rival-meeting from last episode and the revelation that DRAGONs are humans lack character. The problem with these things is that they lack build-up. There’s a very acute sense of dissonance happening in this series as it simply didn’t address its more serious storypoints at all until a certain point. More than that, it becomes really obvious just how oblivious this series is in regards to what it had actually been doing during the first half. At one point during the 13th episode Ange is talking about her time at Arzenal and well, she actually speaks fondly of it. The truth of the matter is that she was barely starting to think of the other Norma-girls as friends and be more nice to them before the whole shit with her younger sister hit the fan. It was clear that towards the end of that first half the series tried to create a bond of friendship between the all the girls in Ange’s mecha-unit. But the friendship between Hilda and Ange actually was the most convincing one as the series actually had some genuine drama ready to explain that development. As for the rest… The series simply started ignoring the part where Ange managed to get three people killed within one day and she continuously treated everyone like garbage for the longest time. If her becoming friends with everyone was the goal, that first half certainly had put in a lot of effort to run into the opposite direction with her characterization. The excessive degree of asshole-ish behavior was simply counterintuitive! I mean, what has been the point of that when the series actually never wanted to commit to this ridiculous characterization? The series sacrificed its cohesion for the sake of faux-grittiness that just ended up a stepping-stone for rather generic character-developments.
And the 13th episode really does go all the way in making it obvious that we’re entering the second half of the show now. These two episodes have enough story-related revelations and destruction to completely change the status quo of the first half. The series isn’t very subtle about the whole thing as well. First, you get the villain who’s the “boss” of the villains of the first half in the form of Embryo, then there’s the unceremonious death of the villain from the first half and then the place the protagonist has called “home” gets destroyed. And the roles of the characters change within the narrative as the Normas have suddenly become rebels who want to end the reign of the “humans”. In a narrative sense this series has simply flipped the table over and revealed a new table underneath the old one.
You’d think that a massacre accompanied by big explosions is anything but that… He’s right, though.
It is a step into the right direction. This series needed more focus and direction and what these two episodes have done was simply necessary. But boy, how I wish that the series would actually look good doing all that. I don’t talk about animation that often but the 13th episode clearly showed some problems in that regard. I mean, the series had a week off and the 13th episode still ended up looking shitty. Seriously the animation of that 13th episode was more than just cheap, it was rushed as well. You could clearly see how the episode was cutting corners in what it showed. Especially in an important episode like that one it’s paramount to actually make an impression. This is supposed to be the epic plottwist that would set the story on the path for the second half of the show. But the series was certainly let down by the animation here.
It starts with the simple fact that the animation of all the fighting in that episode lacked a sense of physicality. I know, shounen-shows often cut corners in that regard with their “too fast to be seen by human eyes”-bullshit and whatnot but this episode lacked even the most basic element of physical interaction in a battle-situation. There are a lot of moments where characters would shoot at each other and you would see the bullets fly around in bright streaks – and nothing would be hit. Someone would shoot at a Norma-girl and she would just duck and hide behind the corner while every bullet would fly past her without ANY effect (yeah, the sound-design wasn’t that great as well). The most telling moment is when Hilda gets shot and… I still don’t know where she gets shot. She holds her shoulder but we never see any blood or her treating the wound. And she doesn’t say whether the shot just grazed her either. She gets shot, holds her shoulder and talk about having been shot but that’s it! This is a series that showed us the death of a character and how that character’s eyeball landed in the lap of Ange together with blood! By that standards it’s baffling to look then at this episode and notice how cheap that violence has become.
The beginning of that series had at least some style with how excessive its portrayal of violence was. That sense of excessiveness is totally missing from the 13th episode. Even when the soldiers start to kill defenseless girls the series suddenly shies away from showing off the details of what’s going on. And the soldiers are all faceless clones while any of the killed Norma-girls are shown as feature-less corpses that were burned to a crisp. This series always has been blunt in going for the shock-factor to some degree but this is the first episode that was also bland in how it portrayed violence.
Ange’s attack with her mecha was equally bland and the way she took out those ships seemed effortless and irrelevant. This episode did such a bad job in actually creating an atmosphere of desperation for this battle. There’s no dramatic weight behind the decisions made in this episode since it all feels like a foregone conclusion. It isn’t surprising to see Ange dominate the battlefield with her super-mecha or that she would want to hunt down her brother. Embryo’s whole “Hey, I’m not the real bad guy here, you know.”-shtick doesn’t really make his character more interesting. Actually it’s more confusing than anything else that he healed those two Norma-girls. And the degree to which Jill was prepared to escape the wrath of the humans was also not very interesting to watch. It all amounted to this sense that we were just going through the motions with this episode in order to create a new status quo for the show. But the show really hasn’t delivered enough drama with these two episodes to sell this transition as something exciting or entertaining. For all the things this show has gained with its more focused direction, it simply failed to connect this new direction with what it has done previous to that.
Episodes-Rating: 12th Episode: 5.0/10 13th Episode: 4.5/10
- The particular revelation that the DRAGONS had been shapeshifting humans was simply ineffective. Ange shouldn’t react with such shock and revulsion. After all, she already had gotten a few people killed due to her incompetence and the 13th episode further undermines the whole thing by showing her mindlessly slaughtering hundreds of humans
- Because of that it’s also pretty ironic how Embryo was keeping Ange from killing her pathetic brother because it would “tarnish her soul” or something like that. I think he doesn’t know Ange that well if he thinks she’s “pure”.
- Can we all agree that “Operation Libertus” is a stupid name? I mean, the whole DRAGON-thing and calling the non-magic people Normas are stupid naming-decisions as well. I guess, that’s simply a shtick of this series to come up with a really stupid terminology for its setting.
- For that matter… all non-magic girls are called Normas whereas non-magic dudes are called “Ancient People”…? That’s stupid as well.
- And why do the magic-people keep around all that mundane weaponry? Wasn’t it a part of the utopia that the magic-people have no need for a military and the Normas are forced to defend the world against the only threat that exists.
- Ange’s fondness for Tusk is still one of the most unconvincing elements of this series’ story.
Posted on January 4, 2015, in Anime, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Reviews and tagged Anime, CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, review. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.