Review-Roundup: CROSS ANGE 21, Aldnoah.Zero 20
HAHAHAHAHAHA… oh wait, she’s serious… Sure, she’s a girl after all. OF COURSE her most vulnerable moment had been her girlfriends sort-of not liking her hairstyle during a little party… while she got trained to become a soldier surrounded by other soldiers who saw combat and could die every day, mind you.
This time I review:
Cross Ange 21: Ange escapes with the help of Sala but it turns out she also needs the help of Momoka and Tusk (read: they needed to sacrifice themselves). Meanwhile, Chris fulfils the asshole-ratio of a typical Cross-Ange-episode just fine.
Aldnoah.Zero 20: Slaine continues to stop the shit from hitting the fan – and seems to lose control of the situation. On the other hand, Inaho does… stuff.
Cross Ange 21 Review:
Uh, wait, what…? Where the hell did that come from?! Maybe Embryo should talk about Nietzsche’s Ubermensch-theory while he’s at it. Or he could just reference the movie Zardoz in some way.
If you’d tell me that a penguin had directed this episode, I would believe you. You know why? Because the direction in this episode sucked. There isn’t a single moment in this entire episode that stays with you – despite the drama. This episode rushes from point A to point B and then something else happens which leads to that other event that connects point B with point D and so on and so forth. The pacing is fast, the stakes are there and the episode has some plot to burn through. And yet… nothing of it works.
I mean, the first thing is that the worldbuilding in this episode is just stupid. All of a sudden Libertus can just attack that Dawn-Tower with a couple mechas because Salia’s stupid squad is the only defense the tower has…? That doesn’t make any sense! A few episodes ago, Jill proposed a strategy involving a distraction because they obviously can’t directly attack the Dawn Tower where Embryo and the super-dragon Aura are. Sure, she was a douche there when she planned to straight-up sacrifice the Dragon-people as they turn into a distraction for the real attack but it did establish some ground-rules for the finale. That’s what that little scene established: Libertus can’t attack Embryo on its own. And yet here we are watching an episode full of small-number-mecha-battles that make any notion of strategizing seem unnecessary.
The whole logic behind the battles doesn’t make any sense. That dragon-princess with her two friends help Ange escape and then attack Salia’s squad which has more mechas – but then are surprised that they aren’t able to win this fight. There’s no strategy involved here. Sala just helped Ange escape and literally said something along the lines of “Hey, while we’re here… let’s try attacking the Dawn Tower and tack back Aura.”. It would’ve been worse if this plan (or rather that lack of one) would’ve worked out for her but still… what a stupid thing to do! And she sticks around long enough to help out during a later scene after she had called for a retreat predictably.
The battle-sequences in this episode are just a mess because of how confusing they are. Sure, there’s exposition in this episode explaining the setup of the battle but emotionally it doesn’t feel right how those couple mechas are already fighting in the vicinity of the Dawn Tower where the ultimate prizes, Embryo and Aura, are. The whole setup sort-of feels like a finale but both the episode-number and the lack of spectacle indicate that this isn’t the finale. This episode pushes for one confrontation after another without ever clearly adding the dramatic weight of a genuine finale.
But the confrontations in the second half do try to create some drama but fucking hell… All of them are cheesy and the confrontation with Chris is hilarious in addition to that. Let’s talk first about Ange’s escape, though. First of all, thanks to poor direction the series is too often cutting away from Ange dealing with Embryo-controlled zombies for that to ever really feel tense. The next thing is that once again the logic behind the whole thing is forced and stupid. Ange knew that Momoka could be controlled by Embryo and still took no precautions when she fled together with Momoka alone on Tusk’s jetbike. And then you get this scene between Ange, Tusk, Momoka and Embryo.
The first thing you notice of course is that the animation had been rushed. It doesn’t look very pristine, if you know what I mean. You clearly can see the shortcomings of where the animation is incomplete or shoddy. There are cheap-feeling moments like when Embryo shoots Momoka and Tusk since the shot-wound is in the same place and looks the same in both cases. The animation-team is clearly cutting corners here. And remember the last time it seemed like the animation wasn’t up to snuff? It was the semi-finale of the series, another moment where the animation should’ve been in top-form. Really, it feels like the animation-team behind this series has a certain limit and genuine and necessary spectacle is beyond it.
The scene itself was cheesy as hell, though. Everything involving a montage to explain a character’s train of thoughts is, I guess. Momoka just snapping out of her zombie-trance is simply stupid. It’s the sort of cheap writing that hopes the audience is more interested in wish-fulfillment than genuinely smart writing. I can imagine the sort of bullshit that went through the writer’s head as he wrote that scene “Momoka is a beloved character at this point so her being controlled by Embryo like this will be very dramatic – but then she will snap out of it thanks to Ange and she WILL sacrifice herself in order to save Ange. I bet people will love that turnaround but then be sad again when she sacrifices herself!”. Except that isn’t where the scene ends which is just another stupid mistake to make (and one a lot of other people aside from the script-writer should’ve rectified… or it was their mistake to begin with and the writer in question had a better idea for that scene). Now there’s a confrontation between Tusk and Embryo where Ange HAS NO AGENCY. For fuck’s sake, this series is about Ange! Why the hell is she the most useless character in this episode?! Why does Tusk have to end up being the hero in this scene?! And even beyond that: We JUST GOT a sacrifice-scene with Momoka and now we get ANOTHER fucking sacrifice-moment RIGHT AFTER THAT?! I… Seriously, this is TRULY bad writing. There’s SO much wrong with that scene from a writing-standpoint.
And there’s the confrontation with Chris which is truly one of the series’ funniest moments. Chris explaining her motivation for why she felt like her friends didn’t value her enough is SO childish and petty (considering she’s trying to kill her former friends currently) that it really borders on becoming a parody of itself. Chris wanted to have a certain hairstyle but when one of her friends suggested she could get a different hairstyle because her present wasn’t meant for her current hairstyle, she begins to suspect that her friends don’t care about her. Talk about First-World-problems, right? Especially since this innocent, girlish rivalry/friendship that ended up escalating has NOTHING to do with the actual setting the characters find themselves in. The truth is that none of these girls grew up normally and turning Chris’ moment of truth into the most stereotytpical and girly moment of contention imaginable is just funny and nothing more.
And you can add another hamfisted story- and plot-device to the mix: death. This series, much like the start of the series, is killing off characters left and right – except the series clearly doesn’t have the budget or time to sell those deaths in a visual way. Nope, it tries to sell it by relying on the audience’s ability to give a shit… which I definitely did not in this episode. Also, Chris killing off a young, uninteresting pilot is the exact same dramatic move the start of the series pulled when it tried to turn Ange into an anti-hero. It was cheap the first time around but at least the series added some gore to the whole thing. What we got here was all the cheap stuff except the spectacle trying to sell it regardless. And I guess, you could say that about the whole series in general.
Aldnoah.Zero 20 Review:
Sure, because it’s all about you, isn’t it? Go forbids anything would be a mere coincidence and would’ve happened with or without you anyway! … Slaine is such an unpleasant character…
This series has always been pulling its punches. Even in the first half the series never had these moments where shit got real – well, except the semi-finale, that is. This second half had this one moment of genuine confrontation during the semi-finale and when it had been time to establish the consequences of the event… the series just pulled its punches again. It went back to the old routine of establishing a plot of inconsequential little adventures that felt like a odyssey whose point is to stop being an odyssey but it’s an odyssey that would end only once the series would wish it to end. In the first half that format was more forgivable because both the Inaho-storyline and the Slaine-plotline were about isolation and figuring out what should be done next. The second half isn’t about that – but it’s still using the same kind of thinking in terms of how it paces the whole thing. Worse than that, without the thematic support, the series pacing just renders the plot pointless.
I mean it: The plot of this show is simply pointless. What happens in this show hasn’t led to any consequences. Just remember what had happened in the semi-finale and now remember how the second half started: You will see how the series actually did everything imaginable to minimize the consequences of its first big confrontation. Everyone survived, somehow both sides managed to escape before dealing with the aftermath and the result of the whole thing became “Yep, that happened.”. And from there, the series clearly established this very clear line between the two sides of the conflict. There was no chaos or intrigue going on. The series just turned the whole thing into two separate plot-threads.
And let’s remember what the actual point of this second half is currently: It’s about two dudes in love with the same girl fighting over her while she remains incapable of influencing said conflict. The real princess is just a token for these two dudes. At least, the series doesn’t do a lot to show Inaho being much better than Slaine in that regard even if he has fewer monologues to talk about that topic. And I’ve already mentioned in previous reviews how I hate the role the fake-princess is playing in all this (again, the episode shows how miserable she is, of course, without a man by her side).
The world-building is once again in trouble for not doing its job. In the last episode Inaho & Co found themselves in trouble as they suddenly had to deal with multiple Martian Kataphrakts (you know, the sort of simplistic strategy a child would come up with) and this episode resolved it by showing us how a few unimportant characters got killed while the important ones managed to get rescued by the Deucalion. The Vers-Empire had won the day which… is great, I guess? The episode talks about newly gained territories but what does that even mean? And the Earth-forces order the Deucalion to take part in a new offensive. I could just shrug in reaction to these developments. The series clearly doesn’t bother with consequences on a character-level but it’s much worse when it comes to the setting. 20 episodes in and I can’t tell you how close the Vers-Empire is to conquering Earth. You remember those first couple episodes where it was made clear how the Vers-Empire just launched this blitzkrieg of landing fortresses on Earth and how the Earth-forces seemed to be losing every battle? Yeah, around 20 episodes later it seems like we’re led to believe that the Martian forces are STILL in the process of invading and that the Earth-forces are a foe that CAN hold its own against the Vers-Empire. The series started out with the notion of an invading enemy that pointlessly started a war that it cannot lose. And yet here we are watching battle after battle without ever seeing a decisive one. This series just doesn’t pay attention to the big picture of its setting despite wanting to seem epic.
Slaine’s plot is once again the more interesting one but considering what happens in this episode, I would say, this series is doing too little too late. The real princess regaining her memories and the fake-princess finding out that Slaine had been lying to her about her sister’s condition should’ve been story-beats that should’ve been addressed a LONG TIME ago. After all, it’s the stuff that happens after that which is interesting as the fact that those things could happen is quite predictable.
I’m worried about Inaho’s storyline, though. Let’s assume that his need to save the princess is romantic in nature. Even if it isn’t, the problem is still the same: Inaho doesn’t show emotions. The only reason why I would think Inaho’s caring deeply about the princess is that some side-characters said something like that in the first half and then there’s the semi-finale of course. It’s not like these two characters had a great chemistry during the first half. Actually, Inaho is far too passive emotionally to have chemistry with ANY character. And his struggles this season are the result of his cyber-eye… but said cyber-eye is also a power-up which doesn’t turn this into the most compelling kind of character-arcs. His characterization is simply too weak to carry this show in a lead-role. We get tons of Slaine-monologues about him worrying how he lies a lot and why he doesn’t want to lose the love of the real princess. Meanwhile, Inaho has nothing of that sort. In fact, it seems like the series goes out of its way to make him seem even more like an autistic super-soldier.
The series’ portrayal of Inaho is dehumanizing and yet they want to sell a romantic motivation for his character. That just sounds like a ton of ideas that haven’t been edited to become a cohesive whole. A large part of writing is to possibly let go of stuff you actually like in order to create cohesion and focus. Inaho seems too ambitious for what the writers are actually capable of within the confines of the story they want to tell. Just take a great movie like ‘John Wick’, an action movie, where the main-character ends up being very close to being all-powerful. Inaho’s the same. But the movie’s plot is so tight and the story’s so straightforward, the power of the main-character becomes a sort of engine for the movie. The power that should make us question the logic of the movie leads to suspense of disbelief because the audience understands why the main-character’s doing this and what he’s capable of. What’s left is just to have great action-set-pieces and a great theme. But with Inaho we neither have a deep understanding of his motivation nor do we have a clear understanding of what he’s capable of. Therefore Inaho is unable to drive the plot forward.
In the end nothing of that matter as the actual plot is already problematic enough. It’s the semi-finale… I always come back to that because it’s the only time the series hasn’t pulled its punches and just turned a dramatic confrontation into a slaughterhouse. It nicely underlined the pointlessness of the whole conflict that the leaders of both sides ended up getting killed and the only survivor didn’t get what he wanted. But the second half has reset the stage and this new stage has been less interesting than the first if not necessarily worse. It’s obvious in many ways that this series is starting to get into finale-territory and the way this series is paced I feel like the series is gunning for a genuine second season. This series feels like one that begs to have more space for more stuff. I mean, drama-wise the series simply hasn’t set up any sort of spectacle that would qualify as an end of a series. And considering how Martian Kataphrakts and Inaho’s eye are handled in this series, this series has a tendency for a battle-shounen-esque power-based hierarchy where you can always up the ante for tension and action. It would be better if the series would just end this season but I wouldn’t put it past this one to have a second season.
Posted on March 2, 2015, in Aldnoah.Zero, Anime, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Reviews and tagged Aldnoah Zero, aldnoah.zero, Anime, CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.