Review/discussion about: Cross Ange
Think about something that you did within the past few minutes. Maybe it was clicking a link to read this review or making a phone call to a friend of yours. Now, why did you perform this action? Was it a preordained happenstance that you had no control over? Or did you feel compelled in some way to act accordingly? The long and short of it is, did you make such a decision of your own free will? The idea of will, that you make the choices that govern your life, is something that has been endlessly debated about for centuries. Cross Ange dabbles into this very topic. And while it might not be completely resonating, it has as much fun with the notion as it possibly can.
Cross Ange begins in stunning fashion; Angelise, the princess of the Misurugi Empire, is discovered to be a Norma — someone incapable of using the “Light of Mana.” Thus, she is sent away to Arzenal, a prison for other Normas whose only goal in life is to kill the DRAGONS that threaten the non-Normas.
Cross Ange is crazy. This isn’t an exaggeration; this show is as wacky as they come. Not in the sense that what it is doing doesn’t follow logic, but that its very nature is aimed at being as ridiculous as possible. On the surface, the anime deals with obscene fan-service, machine versus dragon battles, and insane plot developments. But on the inside, Cross Ange treads on very mature subjects, such as sexual molestation, racism, and philosophical questioning. In essence, the anime spans an incredible range of emotions. One instant it is having Ange’s bare crotch shoved in Tusk’s face while the next has her being the object of ridicule as a means to demonstrate the social disparity that exists in their world. This tonal dissonance isn’t a detriment, though; rather, it is a boon for the show. Cross Ange revels in whatever it is currently doing, whether it is comedy or drama. And it knows this: it flits back and forth between the two constantly, never letting itself become too serious. In this way, Cross Ange manages to maintain its craziness and subsequently is able to always “know” itself.
While the silliness that Cross Ange engages in is its “home turf” per se, the nonstop swinging in direction is not something that lends itself to an overall direction. In other words, much of what occurs within the show happens “just because.” While there may be some obtuse reasoning as to why the narrative is going one way or there exists particular events that make sense in context, the plot points are isolated instances that never truly feel connected. Ange may be struggling with her new life, then whisked to an island getaway. Only to then be transported back to her birthplace which in turn leads her to an alternate dimension. And this says nothing of the more “unfair” ventures that take place. For example, the Vilkiss — Ange’s flying machine — pretty much has features added to it as the plot deems necessary; characters miraculously survive after being killed off; and once certain happenings come to pass — such as Zola’s death, the “Old Earth,” and the betrayal of Salia and Alektra — they are largely ignored, simply because Cross Ange needs to make room for its next “big” scene.
Even when the show is juggling its absurdity and misdirection, it does manage to bring about some personal message. And this is what the introduction introduced: the idea of one’s will. This isn’t too far-fetched a notion; “Mana” is usually a term used in conjunction with magic, which is itself a word connected to a person’s fortitude or will. And so that is what is seen through much of Cross Ange: the use of will or lack thereof. Those using Mana are slaves to the system whereas the Norma are free from the chains of constriction — though ironically being slaves themselves to the aforementioned slaves. This is what the first half focuses on; the second half shifts to the manipulation of will. Alektra demonstrates when one’s will is tarnished; Salamandinay represents someone who’s will is guided by the very principles she grew up on; and Chris showcases how will can be used for both good and for evil. And that is the show’s message: you are not subject to fate nor are you destined to follow some predetermined path. While people — be it a close friend or a lover — may be able to influence you, you ultimately have the final say in the actions you take.
Cross Ange unfortunately suffers from quite the poor art style. The actual locations visited are not that exorbitant: Arzenal (the prison), the open world (lots of sea and sky shots), and Embryo’s castle make up the majority of where the show takes place. More so than this, details are often nonexistent, with little attention given to the backgrounds, giving everything quite the boring look.
The character designs are not that impressive either. Besides Ange’s various transitions, Hilda’s striking red hair, and the revealing outfits that all of the girls wear, the show often experiences terrible quality issues. There are numerous scenes where the designs of their faces or bodies fall below an acceptable level, distracting the audience from everything going on. Granted, one could argue that this simply adds to the charm of Cross Ange’s crazy behavior, but this kind of drop in effort is nothing more than a lack of detail.
Actual animation, like what has come before it, is below average. The show sticks closely to the use of CG for the machines, but even so, their available movements seem weirdly limited. Often times, the robots would perform the same up-and-down slash pattern or the same volley of rifle shots, with the machines twirling around in an indiscernible manner. And when Ange and the girls weren’t flying around haphazardly, the show never had much motion, instead sticking to still shots of the girls’ various body parts — namely their butt, breasts, and crotches.
Interestingly, there are only two important characters throughout the entirety of Cross Ange: Ange herself and Embryo. The rest of the cast have their small moments here and there, but their true worth is in supporting these two, characterizing them, and reinforcing the ideas that they represent.
Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi is, as her name sounds, royalty. She’s arguably the most famous person in the Empire of the same last name…at least, in the beginning. For within the very first episode, she falls from the height of popularity to the bottom of the barrel faster than is physically possible. Her arrogant attitude, lack of empathy, and inability to cope with her new surroundings painted her as an annoying little girl lost among a sea of women. As she acclimates, and like the flip-flop nature of the story, Ange goes to the complete opposite side; she’s arrogant not because of status but because of prowess, she acts rudely selfish, and refuses to associate with anyone. But this, too, wasn’t working. In both cases, her personality prevents her from being sociable. At first it was due to ignorance and later it was due to misplaced worth. Eventually she finds a balance by retaining her own identity while letting others in to her world. This emotional instability makes sense; the Mana-users cast her out, the Normas mistreated her, and the Dragon people wanted her aide. Nobody bothered to ask how Ange herself felt in these situations, and through her experiences with all of them, she comes to learn that valuable lesson about will. That you alone have the power to make your own life choices.
While not as strong of a character, Embryo, or “The Tuner,” as he likes to call himself, is a literal manifestation of God. With the ability to teleport, make infinite copies of himself, and possessing the knowledge to alter genetic code, nobody within the millions of dimensions that exist holds as much power as he does. What’s nice about Embryo is that he isn’t a bad guy for evil’s sake. He values beauty and power, while loathing boredom. His actions follow this philosophy; he surrounds himself with hot, “strong” women with an overall goal to recreate the world once more. And yet, despite his all-knowing wisdom, Ange wants nothing to do with him. After all of his parlor tricks to coerce her are used, she continues to despise him. The idea here is simple: where Embryo is the epitome of control, Ange is the epitome of freedom. Thus, this dichotomous relationship is always feuding: Embryo has an instinctual need to dominate whereas Ange places all value in choice. And since Embryo, for the first time, cannot have what he wants, he relentlessly pursues Ange to the point of demise. In the end, his death is symbolic: not even God can force you to do something against your will.
The first OP starts off almost Scottish in tone, but then becomes more techno in its beat and instruments. It can be pretty catchy, with the vocalist doing nice work alongside the more triumphant sounds that the track gives off. If anything, it’s a zany piece that perfectly fits with what Cross Ange set out to do.
The second OP starts off slow, with powerful chanting taking up the background. The piece progressively gets more mysterious, with the continued chanting and instruments moving to a crescendo. After the break, the vocalist, still working with the male chanting, shows great range and strength, leading the piece to a resounding conclusion.
The first ED initially goes against the fast-paced nature of the show, with soft singing and finger-snapping making up most of the piece. But, in true fashion, the track transitions back to quick lyrics and louder instruments. And still following the anime’s nature, the song comes to a crawl by the end, filling the listener with an odd sense of hope.
The second ED isn’t as experimental as the others, following a simple beat with equally simple singing. The halfway point gets slightly faster, but the piece itself stays relatively the same from beginning to end and is easily the weakest of the four OPs and EDs.
The rest of the soundtrack is very much forgettable. The pieces mostly consist of non-lyric vocals, piano-and-violin melodies, and even Hawaiian tracks that exist as nothing more than background filler.
As far as voice-acting is concerned, it’s generally around average. If anyone deserves some recognition, Nana Mizuki as Ange earns it for her wide range of personalities that she had to portray throughout the show’s run.
This anime was probably the funniest “comedy” that the season had to offer. There was just so much ridiculousness going on at all times, that I couldn’t help but laugh at both the “drama” and the actual comedy. The writing at times could be hilariously bad, but it worked in the show’s favor. One of my favorite characters from the show was Ange’s younger sister, Sylvia. Not only is her “Angelise-onee-sama!” something that I still jokingly say in her voice to myself, but also the revelation that her paralysis wasn’t real for part of her life? Absolutely classic.
The fan-service was rather nice, too. The lesbianism, bikini Twister, and butt-smacking were all nice to see at intermittent points during the anime, and were also the source of more smiles from time to time. Without them, the anime would not nearly be as enjoyable as it was.
All in all, Cross Ange is quite the Ragna-Mail ride. While its characters are average in their execution, and its art can be shoddy at times, the crazy plot, unintentional comedy, and varying levels of fan-service make this an anime you may not have to will yourself to watch.
Story: Good, knows itself, directionless plot, yet willfully thematic
Animation: Bad, boring art style, bad character designs, below average actual animation
Characters: Fine, Ange and Embryo are dichotomous, with the rest of the cast reinforcing their ideals
Sound: Fine, good first OP, okay second OP, good first ED, okay second ED, bad soundtrack, average VA work
Enjoyment: Great, “Angelise-onee-sama!”, lesbians, and lots of laughs
Final Score: 6/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3