Review-Roundup: The Rolling Girls 01/02, CROSS ANGE 15
Considering how stupid most romance-sub-plots in shounen-series are, there should be way more way blatant remarks about getting to third base and even further just for the hell of it.
This time I review:
The Rolling Girls 01/02: Turns out that Japan without any authority-figures just becomes a battle-royale of superpowered weirdos and those who are happy to help the weirdos fight those battles.
Cross Ange 15: Tusk, Ange and Vivian finally meet the mysterious Dragon-people who… talk a lot, it turns out. Yep, another episode of Ange and Tusk acting needlessly bewildered and confused while people explain the series’ setting to them.
The Rolling Girls 01/02 Review:
It’s shots like this one that establish the visual style of this series as one of the most important elements of the series that establishes its upbeat tone and atmosphere.
The premise of this show really just gets thrown at you within the first few minutes of the first episode. That the series would rush through that and what the actual premise is are good indications of what kind of show this is. What this premise is doing is essentially that what many animes strive for: To reset a world in order to turn it into something better. Usually you would have a mostly mundane setting and would then throw in the fictional stuff that ultimately would overtake any notion of reality present in the show but Rolling Girls starts right at the point when the “fictional stuff” has overtaken reality. It has always been a very otaku-ish notion to take mundane stuff and replace it with a fictionalized and idealized version. Just take moe and the loli-fetish as examples of how that idea works. Interestingly this series goes right for that! It doesn’t hide behind any pretentious notions of seriousness but instead really just drowns the audience in the atmosphere of its own style… and that’s a good thing.
Let’s get my worries out of the way first: Look, I loved the first episode and I loved the second episode – but here’s the thing: These two episodes barely have anything to do with what the synopsis of this series talked about. It’s just at the end of the second episode that the series has finally started to establish the actual premise described by the synopsis. For two episodes this series has been chasing a different kind of story and so even now I’m still a bit unsure about how this series might change going forward as it actually starts to tackle the real story of this series.
That said, these two episodes have been great. The premise of having all of Japan’s authority-figures disappear which then leads to Japan dissolving into these little pocket-realms which are dominated by various sub-cultures is a great idea. That’s what being an Otaku is all about! … well, it was that two decades ago, I guess, being an Otaku nowadays isn’t really that much of a sub-culture anymore. The point is that the notion of sub-cultures showing dominance is something animes in the early 90s would consider wish-fulfillment but nowadays you actually get more and more this portrayal of Otakus dominating the world they live in: Take The World God Only Knows or No Game No Life just as examples of how Otakus can now be idealized heroes. Comparing these two series to Welcome To NHK actually makes that series seem VERY subversive. The thing is that those series aren’t really following this typical Otaku-trend of creating a reality that is heavily fictionalized; those series try to dramatize the existence of otakus by adding a fictional background for that purpose.
The reason why this series doesn’t fall prey to that same problem is that it’s heavily stylized and self-aware. The setting of this series is so heavily fictionalized that it avoids the trappings of wanting to idealize Otaku-culture. Instead you really get just this very stylish upbeat irrational alternative reality you can get lost in.
The stylishness of the series is mostly displayed visually. While the script mostly just delivers the self-awareness, it’s the animation and art that sells a very vibrant and joyful mood. Especially the fights between the “Best” recall the glitter and colourfulness of Eureka Seven for example. I’m saying that because BONES is doing parts of the animation in this series… and no, this isn’t a BONES-series, this is a Wit Studio-produced series. Well, with all that nice Shingeki-no-Kyojin-money (let’s not forget that that one did well overseas as well) Wits Studio certainly is doing better than BONES right now. Anyway, the point is this series’ visuals really help to sell the manic mood of this show.
But where the series truly starts to shine is the script. That’s the true source of the manic energy of this movie. You already have basic stuff like how quick the cuts and how fast the exchanges between characters are. The dialogue of these two episodes is really fast-paced. And there’s humor, the kind of humor that drops its punchline and then immediately leaves the room – in order to make room for the next punchline that promptly arrives. That style either grabs you or you just lose interest in following the fast pacing of its humor.
What sells the humor of this show for me is how often it takes familiar tropes and either makes fun of them or tries to downplay its typical dramatic value. Stuff like the identity of Maccha Green in connection to the sister who didn’t know that her sister had been Maccha Green really gets downplayed when it became a thing dramatically speaking. Essentially everybody already knew who Maccha Green was – but the series still goes ahead with staging this soapy confrontation between the two sisters, only to be interrupted by a random side-character who wants to punch the normal sister for not understanding her sister’s mindset. That side-character, though, ends up punching the wrong person. It’s basic slapstick applied to anime-tropes while the anime still tries to enact those tropes as if the slapstick isn’t a hindrance. And then you have the self-aware comments pointing out the contrasts.
So far this series isn’t anything that will blow your mind but it’s really enjoyable. And thanks to the visual style as well as the self-aware script this series already has a really immersive atmosphere and coherent tone.
CROSS ANGE 15 Review:
Ange’s expression in that shot is priceless. This sadistic side of her doesn’t come to the surface often enough these days in this series.
I would like to say this series has deserved to rest on its laurels but it hasn’t really delivered the shocking revelations this series thinks it has. Around episode 12 the series has finally started to spill the beans about what really is going on and since then this series just can’t shut up telling us what’s “really going on”. This is the fifteenth episode and the series is still throwing new information at the audience as if that’d be enough. Really, the big problem is the series’ plot right now. Those first ten episodes didn’t contribute enough to actually make me care about this world and when I started to care, I immediately lost interest again because this marathon of worldbuilding started to happen. And that marathon is STILL going on in this episode. Instead of working with what the episode had built up around episode nine, Cross Ange has now started to do all this mythos-worldbuilding. We basically have been watching a complicated way to tell an orgin-story for the setting of this series for the last couple episodes. This series is so focused on explaining things that it’s even doing the whole “How about we abandon our quest?”-thingy in order to stall for time.
Essentially this episode and the last one are all about Tusk’s and Ange’s convictions faltering since they’ve finally escaped the horrible experience of working for Libertus and living in Arzenal. It’s a bit strange, though, how Ange is once again going back to a cynical attitude regarding Arzenal and Libertus. This series just can’t decide whether Ange loved being in Arzenal or if she didn’t. Her opinion on that subject constantly changes! Tusk’s convictions also switch between just wanting to be Ange’s servant and being hellbent on revenging the death of his people. This series’ plot and story just haven’t offered the kind of through-line that would allow for a more consistent portrayal of the characters.
So the series is obviously stalling by having Tusk, Vivian and Ange relax as they learn more about those Dragon-people and what their deal is. You also know the series is stalling because of how it never gets to the point very quickly. All the usual idiotic character-reactions like blatant disbelief, stating the obvious, somewhat rhetorical questions and pointless scenes of pondering that don’t go anywhere: This one and the last episode have been heavily colored by this stuff. There’s nothing poignant or inquisitive about how the information is distributed or how Ange and Tusk react to it. All they have to add is just “Is that so…? I guess it is…” while the Dragon-people explain the background-story of this series’ setting for the millionth time while adding some puny detail. I feel like Jill’s story that she had told Ange around episode 13 or 12 had already covered most of the major points of this whole thing and you could easily deduce the rest. But this series is still stuck explaining this whole thing in detail.
What’s worse is that these last few episodes have been so bothered with explaining why anything is happening that the subject of what is gonna happen has never become a serious topic. Ange, Vivian and Tusk have their little soap-opera about whether they should just get out of the fight while there are no immediate battles going on, but once again the series conveniently ignores the bigger picture here. Remember how Ange got exiled to Arzenal for being a Norma while the series gave no shit about showing us what was going on in the Empire after that revelation…? The series is doing the same frigging thing again! I bet, Ange learning about the situation back on Ange’s Earth will also once again serve as a catalyst to get her back into the fight.
That said, ridiculous stuff like Tusk’s dick being examined by a bunch of Dragon-girls is exactly the kind of utterly stupid stuff this show should do more often. More than just teasing the interest those Dragon-girls might show in Tusk, this series goes so far as to show him being bound to an operation-table without any clothes. The obvious subtext of those Dragon-girls having fucked him out of curiosity goes beyond being fanservice. That’s just absurd. If this series would do this more often, maybe the whole thing would be more fun. But instead we’re stuck with this dreary plot of exposition and pointless meandering around until Ange has figured out that she’s the frigging main-character of this show.
Posted on January 18, 2015, in Anime, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Reviews, The Rolling Girls and tagged Anime, ローリング☆ガールズ, CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, reviews, The Rolling Girls. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.