Cross Ange – 25 Review
Rough going is a given because the nation’s president is busy maintaining a small café for some reason.
So the Mana-people get to play Mad Max among the ruins of their world while the Normas get to enjoy a new life on a nice island with friendly Dragons as neighbors. Guess, that’s karma for you. You’re a racist because a pervert programmed you to be one and then one day you realize: “Fuck, that pervert has really fucked up my life! Seems it’s time I find some way to survive the post-apocalypse!” At the same time, the Normas are busy fucking dudes because how else are they going to save humanity without the necessity of mecha-battles…?
Apparently these are the stand-out attributes that define good humans according to this series. I get it, Ange is cross… but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to be like her.
Cross Ange is exploitative, cynical, corny and above all not ambitious enough. Then again, at the end of the day it isn’t any one of those things. This is a series whose biggest flaw is a lack of focus. Even ignoring such classy questions as what Cross Ange wants to say with its story, you’re even left wondering when it comes to basic things like “Why is the series doing this and that at this point?”. There’s no consistency to how and why the series approaches particular scenes in the way it does. I wouldn’t even call this series exploitative because of how inconsistently exploitative it is. Exploitation always calls for some shameless commitment to specific tropes and cultural trends but this series doesn’t even commit to exploiting which is the easiest thing to do in the world for a series (you just have to let go of your self-respect as an artist).
Style is one of the biggest question marks this series leaves you with. What was this series going for exactly? In last week’s comments Andy pointed out the references this series has built into its plot. Actually, the way this series commented on its own story sometimes made you wonder how serious the series was taking itself. It certainly goes into the direction of a parody with how exploitative this series can be at times and how sometimes the series is capable of being rather cynically self-reflective. But the series isn’t doing it right nor is it doing it well. This series just doesn’t go anywhere with its references and exploitative hyperbole. It’s all just baggage the series has to keep on dragging along because it’s committed to carrying it. And the weird thing is: There’s no point to the series putting up with this sort of baggage. Ultimately a lot of stylistic decisions this series has made in how it presents itself seem simply arbitrary in how little they influence the direction of the series. All the exaggerated fanservice and the loose definition of sexuality most women in this series enact are just there to dress up very mediocre story-ideas.
For example, for all the sexuality this series affects to have on the surface, I wouldn’t call this a sexual series. Ultimately it always goes back to the well of romantic sentimentality and all the nudity and sex is just there on the surface to make the audience believe this was an actual racy depiction of sexuality. The teenager-audience might buy into it but ultimately there’s nothing sensual or sexy about the fanservice in this series. It’s blunt and very on-the-nose but both the writing and the direction don’t do much here to actually stylize these things in an artistic way. Despite how often you get to see Ange naked in this series, it’s telling how the series cut away when she had sex with Tusk. This is a series with a very “innocent” sensibility of what sexuality is like. This series is all talk and pretentiousness when it gets raunchy and only commits when it’s in the safe-zone of romance and sentimental vulnerability.
What also bugs me about this series is its portrayal of women. With only Tusk and Embryo as the only guys in this big cast of characters, the series has a lot of narrative wriggle-room to say something about women. Ange’s the main-character and she’s a very confident and abrasive character most of the time, so you would think this is a series where the women are heroes and dudes are just there in support-roles for what the series really wants to talk about. But you really know that the series’ writer is a dude with some old-fashioned notions when the last episode’s summary of the Norma’s role is “Hey, we’re the harbingers of humanity’s rebellion against Embryo… and we’re all women so that we can give birth to children.”. That second bit was completely unnecessary. It’s especially weird to hear that idea in a series with romantic lesbian relationships.
And if you look at Ange’s relationship with Tusk and the way Embryo enslaved a couple of Ange’s friends, the series portrays dudes as people who have power over women. It’s just that said power is romantic in nature in the case of Tusk and is sleazy in the case of Embryo. And you really can see how the series seems to look down on women when Ange gets constantly beaten and tortured by Embryo whenever he captures her while Tusk gets to fight him in close combat every time they meet. All the female characters’ presence in this show lessens when one of the two guys is there. The series may differentiate between good guys and bad guys but it always assumes that it’s the guy who a woman has to rely on in times of need. In a series with so many female characters, Cross Ange still managed to make its two dudes the center of attention whenever they’re in a scene.
That’s something no character should say in a final episode of a series. It reeks of exposition and that’s one thing your final episode certainly shouldn’t have (unless it’s a mystery-series). And you know that the writers know this, too because of how rushed Embryo’s monologue about his background has been. That they haven’t covered that before this episode just shows how wonky this series’ writing has been since the beginning.
There’s another thing keeping this series from getting somewhere and that’s its incoherent story. The series certainly hasn’t prioritized its story among all those exaggerated moments and it has led to a story that you really shouldn’t think about. Just take the role of the Normas for example: Embryo creates a new kind of humanity as a pet-project in order to create better humans but some girls among those new humans are abnormal in some way. And Embryo made the new humans instinctively hate the Norma-girls. After the Normas started to rebel, though, Embryo considered the new humans to be a failure and wanted to create a new humanity with the help of the Normas (especially Ange). And the war which had destroyed where the Dragon-people live was instigated by Embryo as well. Also, Embryo started a relationship with Alektra at some point but then discarded her. This is the kind of confusing story where it’s hard to figure out what is related to what in the timeline and what the reasoning behind all the twists and turns had been. Exposition should never just be about explaining what has happened but there should also always be a personal take on why these things happened. But here the series often has repeated the same story-beats time and again without delving deeper into its own story as the plot progressed. When you watch this series those things are often treated as normal exposition and worldbuilding in the moment but when you try to connect all the dots the series has presented you realize that there are a few dots missing for the story to make sense.
Cross Ange is certainly a series you just watch for the sheer ridiculousness it often offers in terms of characterization and plottwists. Sadly, though, the series just isn’t ridiculous enough to overcome its shortcomings and there are certain episodes which are just underwhelming instead of ridiculous. And then there’s of course the aforementioned lack of purpose. This series’ insanity may be entertaining while watching but there’s no punchline and the series’ delivery isn’t self-aware enough. That’s why the series just seems clueless. Who knows why that’s the case but the most ridiculous moments of this series seem ridiculous because of how oblivious the writing seems. Stuff like Ange offering her panties as good-luck-charm to Tusk is very exploitative writing but at the same time it’s just some girl giving a good-luck-charm to the guy she loves in the hope that they meet again. If it were really exploitative writing Ange would give Tusk her panties while making some raunchy comments about how good their sex had been while laughing about Tusk’s flustered reaction. And if it were a corny romance Ange wouldn’t have known what to give Tusk and he would’ve shyly asked for a few strands of her hair. That they went for both extremes while not committing to either just seems like a cop-out unaware of how it weakens the rationality of the scene. If you go that far into one direction, you shouldn’t try to go into the opposite direction at the same time. But because of that Cross Ange seems oblivious and gimmicky at best in the way it presents itself.
And this final episode is a good example of the series being afraid to be too exploitative. The ending is so generic and formulaic that even stuff like Alektra’s death-scene just fall flat. Of course, you get some traces of the series’ raunchiness because of how Embryo just ends up being a giant pervert and how he tries to rape Ange… again. Also, Tusk’s head lands in Ange’s crotch… again. The series just throws these moments at the audience without engaging them. The villain constantly tries to rape Ange and Ange’s lover constantly manages to bury his head between Ange’s legs for some reason. It’s really just baggage the series has been dragging around since it introduced those story-beats.
Of course, the actual ending doesn’t make much sense. It doesn’t help that most of the epilogue gets delivered by a lazy montage-sequence. The series ends with the predictable happy-end-sequence but more than that Ange ends the series with the declaration that she wants to found a nation where everyone, no matter if it’s a Dragon, Norma or whatever, can find a home… which is completely nonsensical now that she had left all the Mana-people behind on the other world and on Ange’s current world there are only Dragon-people and the Normas (in addition to the one Mana-woman and Tusk). So her speech of tolerance and acceptance makes no sense at all. Also, one image of the ending-montage shows Ange founding the previously mentioned Café Ange which should clash with her claim to become the leader of a nation. Or how about the fact that a couple characters refer to the Dragon-people’s Earth as the “True Earth” when in fact this series is engaging with the multiverse of Earths and therefore no Earth is the “True Earth”. The finale battle is just the usual transition from “Oh, we can’t win…”-despair to “We SHOULD win!”-fervor that somehow automatically leads to victory. And then the series just clumsily goes through the motions of establishing a happy-end.
For a series that can be very exploitative it’s rather disappointing to see how it ends with a bit of a whimper. This final episode has no flair and it doesn’t add anything worthwhile to the series. With that weak finale the series is just left with ridiculous stuff that doesn’t surprise any viewer at this point. In the end one can just say that Ange may have been cross but the series itself just hasn’t been cross enough to sell its ridiculousness.
- One of the series’ selling points had been to cast Nana Mizuki as the voice-actress for Ange. But it was nearly always grating to watch the transition from when Ange would talk to her singing. The reason for that was that the voice-track they used for the singing in most cases was that of a fully produced song. And of course, the fully produced song also changed Nana Mizuki’s voice slightly. So when we got this shot in this episode where the “camera” lingered on Ange’s face for a long time while she sang this fully produced song (and “of course” the audience got to hear the instrumental parts as well), it just seemed creepy how Ange’s voice suddenly changed as she started singing.
- Also… This series had FAR TOO MUCH SINGING! Both Yui Horie (as Sala) and Nana Mizuki had songs to perform as story-beats and with the song never changing it just became dull after a while to watch them sing the same song again and again. And it was obvious that they just repeated the same track over and over again for those scenes. Whenever those two started to sing, a couple minutes got wasted by making the audience listen to the same track they’ve already heard a dozen times during the course of this series. And seriously, you shouldn’t listen to the lyrics of those songs because they are… bad, really bad.
- So… that duel between Tusk and Embryo… It’s lame.
- In general, you can really see the animation-department straining itself to produce something somewhat acceptable with this episode. Guess, a lot of people will be stuck polishing this series up for the DVD/Blu-Ray-release.
- So where did the Ancient people come from again? Were they survivors of the Earth the Dragon-people live on?
- And of course, the Earth the Dragon-people live on is the “good Earth”. Those Dragon-people are always the good guys.
- In a series with a consistent story, stuff like the people who died at the beginning of the series would still be relevant at the end of the series and not just be forgotten.
Posted on March 29, 2015, in Anime, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Reviews and tagged Anime, クロスアンジュ 天使と竜の輪舞, CROSS ANGE Rondo of Angel and Dragon, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.