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Even though this series is usually considered So Bad, It's Good at worst, to me it is So Bad, It's Horrible.
First, the Fanservice. I am not offended by it, necessarily. I like fanservice when done right. But the liberal use of Nipple and Dimed and Barbie Doll Anatomy render it unappealing, and the series shoving it into what are supposed to be serious, dramatic scenes turns it into Narm.
But I could overlook that if it had a good plot and engaging characters. Instead, what we are given is a Cliché Storm full of unlikeable characters. The plot is “Fallen Princess learns to connect with lower classes she originally scorned, then leads them in a rebellion against the Evil Empire that oppressed them.” As if that plot hadn't been done a million times already. The characters are no better, as most were either completely obnoxious or bland. Ange, the princess, is a whiny, hypocritical Jerk Sue Designated Heroine who beats up her eventual boyfriend for comedy; Tusk is a Satellite Love Interest harem-lead-wannabe/Kira Yamato-wannabe; Hilda starts out as a bog-standard Alpha Bitch; Jill and Zola are the utterly depraved leaders of Arzenal, and the latter only gets away with it because both she and her victims are female and it's played for fanservice; the DRAGONs are equally callous about human life; and don't even get me started on Sylvia, the wretched, abusive little sister of Ange. Pretty much all of them were Unintentionally Unsymapthetic, no matter how hard the story tried to get me to sympathize with them. The only characters I actually liked were Momoka and post-Character Development Hilda.
They say a story is only as good as the villain, and the villains of this series are among the worst villains in all anime. The Mana people are an unrealistic Always Chaotic Evil caricature of racists, Julio is a generic and petty evil emperor, and Big Bad Embryo is a generic evil god who spends the series mind-controlling and raping women just to show how evil he is. They're cardboard-cutout baddies with nary an interesting quality. Of note is that they are all male, while the heroes and sympathetic characters aside from Tusk are all female- the implications are rather insulting, to say the least.
And finally, the ending of the series is the icing on the crap-cake. After finally defeating Embryo and freeing the Mana people from his programming and the evils of magic, the now-selfless heroine Ange decides to... abandon them all to die. Seriously? An anti-bigotry series ends with the message that bigots can never change and should all deserve to die, even when, in this case, the Mana people were essentially forced to be bigots against their will?
This is what I meant when I called Ange a hypocrite. An anti-bigotry show depicting bigots as Always Chaotic Evil shoots the message in its own foot.
Overall, this is one of the worst anime I have ever seen. The fanservice is unappealing, the plot is cliche, the characters are unlikeable, and the moral is hypocritical.
And do not even get me started on the series' inclusion into Super Robot Wars V. That is another review.
Bottom line: if you want a good fanservicey mecha series, go watch Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle instead.
Cross Ange is... complicated. On the one hand, there's a lot going for it. It has a strong, bisexual heroine in Ange, who grows from a well meaning yet naive princess into a hardened, kickass warrior. The other characters are pretty likeable too, if not always given a lot of attention or as fleshed out as they could be. The action is well animated, well choreographed, and just plain kickass, and makes the show a joy to watch. The soundtrack is for the most part pretty darn good, even flirting with true greatness on occasion. And the story is, on paper, a compelling, original, and fascinating one, with the foundation being that an otherwise peaceful and prosperous society is nothing but a sham if built on the backs and misery and suffering of others. It's a theme that's been told again and again, but Cross Ange tells it in an interesting way.
Or at least it does up until the very end.
The sad thing is, for just about everything the show has going in its' favor, there's something that serves to directly undermine it. The strong bisexual heroine is done a disservice by blatant fanservice and a ridiculous amount of skeeviness that runs rampant throughout the story, with far too many instances to count. And every now and then, a plothole or an asinine plot development rears it's ugly head which makes you wonder what the writers were smoking. (Tusk and Momoka staving off the Grim Reaper anyone?)
And then there's the ending. Without giving too much away, it shoot its' own themes and ideas in the foot by in a sense having the heroine proclaim to do what her oppressors throughout the show have done; ignore the plight of a now troubled and suffering people and leave them to rot. By claiming to build a peaceful kingdom for all, but not actually building a peaceful kingdom for all, she turns herself into a damned hypocrite and smashes the series' own message straight into its' face. It's the opposite of conducive storytelling, and just leaves you with a rather sour feeling in your mouth.
With all of that said, at the end of the day, what matters is if this show is entertaining, and the answer is, it is helluva entertaining. If you're down for plenty of good moments and some kickass action, then this is definitively a show to check out. But if you want something that has more to offer, that comes together as a cohesive whole and doesn't become bogged down in its' own hubris, then you're better off looking elsewhere. The sad thing is, this show could have been great, but it just couldn't hack it. In the end, it falls flat on its' own face and ultimately defeats itself. But that doesn't mean there still isn't something of worth.
A friend once described Cross Ange out to me as something that made Valvrave look like Citizen Kane. I wish that were true because even that would be better than Cross Ange's attempts at being "edgy", which are so one-note it's just depressing. The shows first three episodes exist in a bizarro world, sparing no time at all for important moments (like Julio's insurrection or Ange's combat assessment) while trying to find as much time to do stupid fanservice that feels like the story's trying to have its cake and eat it too by being titillating while simultaneously trying to show how terrible things are for everyone.
I don't care about Ange because in all that time, her personality kept ping-ponging, often without reason. First she's the misinformed racist, then she's the resisting poor sap dragged into this, THEN she's somehow coherent and driven enough to be deemed "above average" through her entire assessment, THEN she goes back to just obsessing about wanting to get home, and THEN she gets comrades killed and feels guilty and gah it just feels like too much time was wasted that should've been put towards fleshing her out. Or anyone, frankly. Were Jill and Zola trying to toughen her up? Were they just psychos that enjoy what superiority they have? I don't fucking know any of these characters after three episodes. How did Ange even get her freaking ring back? Didn't it get taken from her?
The mecha combat is boring too, sluggish and drawn out with just generic shooting and energy bullets everywhere. Majestic Prince's CG-animated battles were amazing last year in comparison, and G-Reco's fights similarly felt more action-packed and faster-paced.
Give it a pass. It's not even worth watching for bile fascination or snarking material. I've watched three episodes out of curiosity and in spite of so much happening, nothing feels like it actually happened. Nothing's been fleshed out. Nobody's gotten decent characterization. The "shocking" material is just some abrupt deaths and some really shallow fanservice... as if tapping into the same shock value as Valvrave's rape scene repeatedly won't provide rapidly diminishing returns. It's just a generic "young adult out of their element with lots of other people their own age who dislike them but then they become really awesome and a leader!" story and a bad one too.
There is no denying that the first few episodes are horribly, horribly done. This appears to be intentional. What can we say, this is SUNRISE, maker of Valvrave, Buddy Complex, and Majestic Prince. Once the squeamish and easily offended viewers have been weeded out, we actually get to the real story. It is actually quite gripping. It may have taken near a dozen episodes, but the series seems to have finally decided which way it's going to go. Life is gritty, it's dark, and it's violent beyond measure. This is all hidden beneath a facade of peace, love, joy, and harmony for the vast majority of people. Those people have also been conditioned to absolutely fear, hate, and loathe their one and only defenders from another race that presumably sees them as food. One can only imagine what Momoka went through when she became Angelise's maid. Think about this. Momoka, as a child, was sent to be the keeper of something that inspires terror in ARMED grown adults, and since she knew it, her PARENTS knew it, yet they sent her anyway. This means her family basically disowned her, at best, sent her to her to a fate worse than death, at worst. Yet, Angelise, the monster in question, upon seeing Momoka injured, tore her own dress to make a bandage and proclaimed "the doll can be replaced, the dress can be replaced, but YOU can't." This means that Angelise, a norma (though she did not know it) treated her better than her own family, and called her "irreplaceable." Small wonder Momoka has undying loyalty. Now we all know this is all done BY DESIGN by a self-proclaimed "creator" who sees people, all people as nothing more than test subjects, and now considers the world a "failed experiment" and wants to start over. I really can't wait to see where this all ends.
So I'm going to ignore the really sleazy things that happened in the first 3 episodes, due to the fact that everyone else has already discussed these things and, while Cross Ange continues to have rampant fanservice, the really uncomfortable and downright creepy kind doesn't appear past episode 3 (though it makes you wonder why it was there in the first place).
People say Cross Ange's problem is that its misogynistic. It could be that, but I think what makes Cross Ange bad is that it has NO idea what the hell it wants to be genre or tone wise. Each episode plays ping pong with the mood of the series, bouncing from "funny fanservice," to “brutal, dark serious world where racism and bigotry are encouraged and you need to kill to live." If it stuck with one tone, that would have been fine. However, you CAN'T HAVE BOTH. The thing with the "fanservice" debate isn't that fanservice itself is the problem, it has its place. It’s when you try to have fanservice in a serious moment/story that's the problem. It has no place in a grim/dark series and comes off as super sleazy.
Take the pilots' outfits for example. If this was a straight up fanservice mecha comedy then yes, these skimpy, barely-covering pilot suits would be okay. But since they've built the plot as a serious and dark story where any of these girls could die horribly fighting monsters there is NO.DAMN.LOGICAL.REASON for them to be wearing such skin-baring outfits into battle! It's made even more irritating when you see male pilots (Such as Tusk and his dead dad) wearing sensible and fully-covering pilot outfits while his mom and all other pilots wear those skimpy outfits! IT MAKES NO DAMN SENSE TO WEAR THEM IN A SERIOUS MECHA SETTING!
If Cross Ange was a lighthearted mecha comedy loaded with fanservice, it would have been okay. On the other hand if it was a grim and serious "war is hell," "humans are bastards," and "You need to kill to live" story with the fanservice dialed back, that would have been okay too. But because it tries to be both, it just makes it an insulting and confusing spectacle that seems to have no idea what it wants to viewers to feel.
Which is a shame, because I really do like the Para-mail units and their fights with the dragons.
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