CROSS ANGE: Rondo of Angel and Dragon – Anime Review
Synopsis: In a world where advanced magic known as Mana is used by all, those who lack this ability are considered societal outcasts known as Norma. When Princess Angelise discovers that she herself is a Norma, her life of luxury quickly becomes a living hell! (Official HIDIVE Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Cross Ange is a series that straddles a fine line between offering up strong female characters and pandering to the male gaze. At times the series succeeds in providing direct, if hamfisted social commentary, and at other times devolving into pure, unadulterated, male-ego driven, sexualized schlock. Cross Ange has an identity crisis, one that’s obvious from early on, but one it manages to work with. There’s nothing inherently wrong with schlock, heck we can like it quite a bit, but Ange at times feels like a series that doesn’t quite want to admit what it is. As the series fights with itself, sometimes pandering to the male gaze with sexualized violence, other times depicting its female heroines with enough depth that they feel like more than mere pretty faces, the quality and tone of the show bounces back and forth. Rarely do our female heroines, Ange in particular, chatter about men, or their need for love and attention. Ange and the other women depicted here are often strong, standing on their own. But this is buried beneath a wealth of fan service that gradually culminates in an ending that largely throws what strong aspects the show offers right out the window in favor of turning Ange into a sexual object for the male audience to desire.
Linny: Conversely I found Cross Ange to be unabashedly all out sexploitation, meant solely for those looking to be titillated. Every single camera angle and outfit when it comes to the world of the Normas is designed to excite a, most assuredly, male audience. From the costumes to the attractive lesbians, everything and everyone is dripping with sexuality and sleaze. And sensitive viewers will likely find the violent treatment meted out to Ange and other female characters disturbing and unsettling. It’s so steeped in exploitative sexual content though that it’s impossible to picture anyone enjoying this save for purely sexual reasons. While it does have the potential to be enjoyed as a cheesy, cringe inducing B grade skin flick ironic/ludicrous comedy early on due to its prepostrous premise with over the top reactions, that appeal is short lived.
Tom: I disagree with Linny in that beneath the highly sexualized and exploitive nature of Cross Ange sits some really strong characterization. Ange herself has a wonderful arc from arrogant princess to a woman struggling to survive and find herself after losing everything she believed she was. And for much of the story; the overarching ideas and concepts are sound. It’s only the visualization of the story that screams male pandering. But as the show continues and we approach the ending, even what competent writing lies beneath the male gaze directed visuals falls apart. Particularly the last five episodes delve into this bizarre obsession with stripping Ange at every opportunity, the lead male characters becoming obsessed with bedding her, and two primary characters magically surviving what should’ve been inescapable death. And the less said about Ange’s pre-final battle good luck charm gift to Tusk being her used panties the better.
Linny: What really turns Cross Ange into vile content is how it treats its women as ultimately nothing more than sexual playthings for its male audience and even the male villain. While Tom defends the early writing of the series twenty-six episode run as containing a main female cast depicted as competent and skilled, this ’empowerment’ is completely derailed due to a plot development where the villain defeats the girls by inducing ridiculous orgasmic frenzies in them through mind control. And to make matters worse, the virginity of our main female lead, Ange, becomes the central bone of contention/the main theme of the great conflict later on. If it wasn’t already plenty obvious right from the start that this show is going to be outright sleazy, it becomes crystal clear in the final episodes where it mutates further into an offensive train wreck with its villain devolving from intelligent and super powerful into a whiny, sex starved molester.
Tom: There’s no denying that Cross Ange ultimately gives into its desire to pander to the fans with not only its visuals, but even the direction the story ultimately takes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that kind of entertainment, but that shift is so harsh in the final episodes that the writing quality simply and truly plummets. It’s enough to make me wonder if the final arc was rewritten, especially as characters return who clearly died, all to give male audiences that self-insert character capable of bedding Ange, our prized female heroine that everyone wants to sleep with. There’s other signs too, like Ange’s sudden shift to bi-sexuality, and the amount of fan service and nudity skyrocketing as if the show had a quota and needs to catch up because it just wasn’t sleazy enough early on. All of that said, I do feel there exist a few redeeming qualities none the less. The show features well animated combat sequence and attractive mecha designs. The characterization early on is strong, filled with redeeming arcs for not just Ange, but a number of the other female warriors around her. I think there’s certainly a place for fan-service laden schlock, that’s what Killing Bites has been this winter, alongside its strong brutality and remains one of Linny and I’s favorite series this season. That said, Cross Ange seems to want to be more. At times it wants to be taken seriously, unaware that its need to induce boners sits in the way of that. The show eventually drags itself so far down, so far away from what it advertised itself as early on, this marriage between semi-serious mecha and periodic schlocky sexualization, that I don’t think it holds a candle to far stronger, more honest schlock anime, like Killing Bites or Terra Formars.
Linny: The reason I sat through Cross Ange when we watched it was honestly as a means to balance out all the times Tom has sat through shows I like solely for my sake. Despite all my criticisms, I will reiterate that the early episodes provide some cheeky humour thanks to its outlandish and over the top premise and scenes like a baby being carried off in what looks like an oversized glass hamster cage, and it is interesting to see Ange’s journey from a close minded and vain protagonist to a determined and understanding hero. But that said, there’s just no redeeming the final episodes of the series and its utterly offensive content. If your curiosity has been piqued by just how trashy and over the top the show gets, you’re probably going to be amused and shocked by the early episodes due to how ‘tame’ they are by comparison. Just remember to brace for a ending that will leave most, if not all, level headed viewers completely turned off.
Tom: Cross Ange started decent enough, and those first twenty or so episodes continually straddle that fine line between decent schlock and offensive mess. What strong writing it may have going for it falls away due to Cross Ange’s obsession with turning its main heroine into nothing more than her feminine bits. There’s good schlock and there’s bad schlock and Cross Ange is the latter.