Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 15

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As Tusk and Ange (who were allowed to dress) get carted off with Vivian to somewhere they know not where, this week begins by acknowledging that yes, it was cruel for the dragon girls to interrupt them in flagrante delicto. The episode certainly makes it up to him later (er…sorta?), but Ange’s “There’s no time for that now!”, while both practical and funny, is utterly unsympathetic to male biology.

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Still, there really isn’t time for sexytime. After taking it easy and exploring this strange new world on their own, they now find themselves in the clutches and at the mercy of the dragon girls, who I must say have one exquisitely picturesque capital.

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Fish-out-of-water culture shock ensures, as Ange and Tusk are brought before a council of priestesses who all shout questions at her. Our fiery Ange is having none of it and refuses to cooperate, which is great. Why the hell should she? Because they have swords pointed at her and are threatening execution? Pfft. Been there, done that. “Bring it on, if you can.”

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The dragon girl Ange once fought, a princess in her own right named Salamandinay (which I’ll henceforth shorten to Sala) emerges from behind a curtain. Amused by Ange’s brash impudence, Sala steps in to take responsibility for Ange and Tusk’s lives. She’s immensely proper and polite, showing the two to comfy quarters and offering tea, but when her subordinates deign to make her repeat her orders to leave, you see a tinge of her own hellfire lurking beneath that serene visage.

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With no reason to trust Sala, Ange repays her kindness by breaking what was probably an antique tea bowl and using a shard to initiate a standoff. You have to hand it to Ange, she knows how to handle herself, and has had it with waves of pleasantries obscuring the truth she seeks, whatever the hell it is. She’s also willing to test if Tusk is truly ready to die for her at the drop of a hat.

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Sala defuses the situation and bids that Ange accompany her to the bowels of the ruined Dawn Tower (called Aura Tower here), where Sala proceeds to lay the truth on her: There are two worlds, this one being where humans originally came from. After war, some left to create Ange’s world, while others stayed and fundamentally changed their genetic makeup in order to repair the planet’s damage, and their own.

The most damning truth is the fact that the first dragon, Aura, who is essentially mankind’s savior in this world, is no longer there, but being imprisoned on Ange’s world beneath its Dawn Tower, and is the source of the Light of Mana (thanks to Embryo). The Light isn’t infinite, so the powers that be replenish it by slaughtering the DRAGONS who stray into their world.

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Ange finds all of this fascinating, but it doesn’t change the fact that the world she’s from and the battles she’s faught aren’t “false” to her, and she has to go back. Sala won’t let her, and demonstrates the gap in power between them by choking Ange out. Sleep, fair, spastic princess.

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Ange awakes nude in last week’s hotel room as Tusk brings her coffee, and they have a perfectly casual talk about her dream, and then Tusk morphs into an evil Sala and Ange wakes up again, to find Vivian is back in her human form. The double dream is a nice indication that Ange has just ingested a large about of stuff, and she’s still trying to make sense of what’s real. She also probably wouldn’t have minded if the dragon girls had given her and Tusk just five minutes…

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The rank-and-file dragon girls were not idle as Ange slept: Tusk is the first mature male in human form any of them have ever seen (all the males here are big dragons) which is a pretty big deal. As such, he is stripped down and used as a live, unwilling subject for a sex education lesson, which consists mostly of a bevy of scantily-clad dragon girls poking and prodding him every which way.

Ange bursts in, suddenly Tusk’s knight in shining armor, only to trip on a bottle. In doing so, she learns just how easily one’s face can happen to land right smack-dab in someone’s crotch, and just like that, we’re tuned into to Cross Ange: Fellatio of Angels and Dragons.

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Obviously it’s not shown, but it’s implied that Tusk’s erection goes straight into Ange’s mouth, after which she swallows, dusts herself off like nothing’s amiss, and then asks what the meaning of all of this is. She blames and fumes at Tusk for this predicament, even though she was out cold, he was all alone, vastly outnumbered, and tied down; and all of this with blue balls. So I ask you: what the heck was Tusk supposed to do?

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Knowing the meter is running, the episode promptly tables the smut, and after Ange has calmed down, Vivian is reunited with her dragon mother. Vivi isn’t interested at first, but her nose knows: this is someone she used to know. This underlines the fact that the war between the two worlds isn’t as simple as Us vs. Them; there are children of both sides, and innocents on both sides that must be protected.

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That night, Sala spearheads a pretty lantern-launching shindig to celebrate Vivi’s return, Sala’s subordinates relay her wish that Ange and Tusk enjoy their stay and consider joining her crusade of acceptance, forgiveness, and restoration…and Ange finds it in her heat to forgive Tusk for letting himself get captured and sexually assaulted.

A lot happened this week: some of it intriguing, some of it downright silly; but Ange is still faced with the same basic situation she was in last week: she finds herself in a new, less messed-up world where she could live and forget about the messed up world she came from happily ever after, with Tusk (assuming she can keep the other girls off of him).

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The difference is, now she knows all the details with which to inform her ultimate choice, which Tusk will surely go along with whatever it is, because he’s her knight. Does she stay here? Does she go home and resume the fight against Vivi’s people (not easily done, considering how tough Sala is)?

She can’t really deny her world is a world of theft, greed, destruction and despair. On the other hand, it’s her world. If there’s a way to eliminate those things, as they’ve seemingly been eliminated in the dragon world, she’s going to want to be on point in that effort, because she’s no longer an the idle Princess Angelise with her head in the sand. She’s Ange.

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Stray Observations:

  • Sala is voiced by the ethereal Hocchan (Horie Yui).
  • Sala heard about Ange from Riza Randog, who we know is a dragon lady. That means the dragons have had one of their own in the emperor’s bed for some time. I imagine she was going to betray him eventually.
  • I was able to shorten Salamandinay to Sala because Salia wasn’t in this episode, but it makes me wonder if their names sound similar and they look similar for a reason, as Sala is the chosen magical girl heroine Salia has always fantasized about becoming.
  • No matter how much sympathy for their cause Sala manages to build, there’s a part of me that thinks we still don’t know the complete picture. These dragons may yet be the bad guys. This is Cross Ange we’re talking about.
  • The mind races to fathom which sexual acts will accidentally befall AngexTusk in the weeks to come. Will the show ever let them just have regular, okay sex?
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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 14

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Ange, Vivian and Tusk awake in the ruins of what was once a great city that is obviously Tokyo. Vivian is in dragon mode and Ange rides her around to gather recon, which not only gives us plenty of glamour shots of blown-up-Tokyo but confirms our hapless heroes’ fears that they are entirely alone.

Then a perfectly functional robot zips by informing them that space is available at the central defense force’s shelter. So Team Ange wanders off to investigate what that’s all about.

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Piles of dead people, so it turns out. But also a computer, who’s chipper female avatar INFO-DUMPS us some back story about World War 7, the fall of the human race, and ultimately the destruction of everything by wars end  via BLACK VILLKISS(es)

Also, that this all happened more than 500 years ago, which depresses the hell out of Ange, who’s decided Tokyo is her home country due to the Dawn Pillar being present.

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In her funk, Ange is rather unthinking about her criticism of Liberatus to Tusk, who’s parents were both killed fighting in it. She also yells at Vivian.

However, after seeing cute knick-knacks in an underground shopping area, she changes her mind and gives Tusk a necklace and they make up. Then they find a hotel with clean beds and a nice bathroom and spend the night.

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Following some soap-flavored Ange-candy (and Vivi-washing) Ange and Tusk have an incredibly awkward and/or hilarious admission of liking each other and try to get some sleep next to each other in the same bed because Tusk broke the couch he wanted to sleep on by sitting on it.

COMEDY GOLD!

Then Dragons show up, complete with more elf rider-girls like the one we saw a few episodes ago, and this episode comes to a close…

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Good:

  • We almost went the whole episode without Tusk jamming his face in Ange’s crotch for once and the lack of exploitation was a nice change of pace.
  • We received a lot of information about the world and, while it was via info-dump, things make a lot more sense now.
  • It was a nice twist that Japan was destroyed by a nation that invented mecha instead of Japan being the source of mecha, which would be more typical for anime.
  • One or two of Tusk’s lines were actually pretty funny! (intentionally or not)

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Not so good:

  • The pacing was sluggish, with jerky info-heavy moments and none of it reinforced the sense of loneliness, isolation or fear. It’s just another weird place for Ange to be, wherever it is.
  • Ange and Tusk have no chemistry and the romance-thread feels as forced now as you would anticipate from Tusk’s first episode.
  • I can’t decide if the over-the-top back story, Vivian’s dragon ‘whale song’ talking or the introduction of elves is profoundly stupid or profoundly stupid in a way I should just accept as how Cross Ange does things.

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Verdict: This week was watchable, and advanced the plot efficiently-ish with limited skin-ploitation, which are all good things. That said, Ange has become less and less pretty to look at as time runs on and the story it is efficiently telling has gotten more and more ridiculous too.

As a series, I imagine Ange is what I imagine doing Bath Salts is like. At the beginning, it seems insane but straightforward, then it gets twisted and warped and you don’t know what anything means anymore, then you feel ill as the high crashes away and you’re left with a bleak world littered around you and half your neighbor’s fingers still digesting in your stomach.

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Braverade’s Take:

When the Villkiss teleported Ange, Tusk, and Vivi away last week, I assumed they probably went to wherever dimension the DRAGON came from. Thus I was prepared for an entirely new and ultimately successful setting for the purpose of teasing a paradise for Ange. 538 years in the future, they’re literally the only two humans left.

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This was, in a way, a scaling-up of the infamous island episode, only better in every way. The ruined Misurugi capital, which is actually Tokyo (the Sky Tree, Rainbow Bridge, and Diet are all present) is a far more interesting and awe-inspiring setting, helped by the mystery that initially surrounds it and some of the best musical tracks of the series. Watching Ange soar over the foliage-covered ruins aboard Vivi is a surreal, gorgeous shot. As such I can’t quite agree with Franklin that the show is “getting less pretty to look at”.

Once they learn when they are and what happened from “Shelter Siri” (an infodump, but at least an infodump they tried to present in a practical manner, what with the holo-imagers) Tusk believes it, but Ange instantly calling it bullshit is true-to-character.

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It also helps that Tusk—and the show itself—are on their best behavior, as if they’d learned from the backlash to the island episode. Vivi stays in DRAGON form throughout, so there’s no naked loli. Ange never wakes up naked with a Tusk looming over her. They do end up in what looks like the love hotel near Amagi Brilliant Park, but Tusk doesn’t barge in on her bath, and when Ange opens her robes, it’s her decision, and because, well, she has needs just like anyone else…and he is the ‘last man on earth’.

Ange’s advances, along with her sentiment about this whole situation perhaps being for the best, are both dashed when a DRAGON shows up with two Ragna-Mail riders responding to a distress call. The show insists on getting one super-quick facecrotch in—the proverbial insolent child or dog doing something it knows is wrong.

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This was a vast improvement over the last Ange+Tusk episode (not a tough achievement, but still). It was helped by its fresh setting, by the presence of Vivian, by the show’s restraint, and finally the tenderness with which it treated the romance of a couple who, let’s not forget, are both greatly wounded souls with vast weights on their shoulders.

No, it’s not Shakespeare, but their pairing at least makes sense and is being treated more seriously. And Tusk, while not ideal, is certainly Ange’s best choice for an opposite-sex romance in the show.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 13

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Cross Ange wastes no time getting back into the swing of things, picking up where we left off: an obviously phony ‘rescue flotilla’ commanded by Julio. He’s only after Angelise, Villkiss, and other Mail Riders, and he gives orders to exterminate the rest.

Everyone has to decide what to do quickly. Jill proclaims the official start of the rebellion and orders all of Arzenal’s defenses turned against Julio’s fleet. She also orders Salia to retrieve Ange at all costs. Yes, retrieving the real savior is now pretty much the most important thing poor Salia can do.

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Ange isn’t interested in going along with Salia or Jill. At the moment, she’s only thinking short-term: Get Julio. Momoka helps spring her (with pepper, of all things), and after assessing the slaughter (and taking out child-killing soldiers whose defense is ‘just following orders’, which is never a good defense) she races to Villkiss.

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Even though she’s totally outmatched, Salia still tries to stop Ange, who is having none of it, trashing Salia’s mail and ditching her in the sea. Salia must watch helplessly as the woman who has all the power and privilege and importance she doesn’t have utterly reject it for her own reasons.

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Back in Arzenal’s wreck of a landing bay, Hilda displays bravery and selflessness despite the odds, even literally taking a bullet for Chris, whom she scorned so bitterly not too long ago. As the three reunited girls take off, an errant human solider gets a headshot on Chris. Damn.

However, the cutting back to Chris, followed by Embryo eventually healing her, makes this nothing more than a close call, though at this point both Hilda and Rose still think she’s dead.

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Free of Salia, Ange paints the sea red by sinking every ship in Julio’s fleet before slicing off the front of the bridge where he cowers and bargains for his life. Before Ange can finish him, Embryo blocks her blow with his own paramail, not wanting her ‘divine flame’ to be tarnished ‘burning useless things.’ He kills Julio himself, likely pissed off the emperor launched the Arzenal attack without his leave.

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While Julio is eaten up by the white light of destruction, and Good Riddance, Riza takes wing and escapes—topless, no less—suddenly down a royal puppet. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her, boring a character as she is. Meanwhile, with no one left alive on Arzenal, Jill sets off with the survivors aboard the submarine Aurora (which we’re just now hearing about) to start her rebellion in earnest.

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“Own-Agenda Ange”, meanwhile, does something else new with her Villkiss when Embryo targets an approaching Tusk (with Vivian), who says Embryo is a very dangerous dude (and is probably right). Villkiss turns blue, sidles up to Tusk’s ride, and they teleport away before Embryo can destroy him.

Good:

  • A great overarching sense of all hell breaking loose, because it does
  • Nice character beats with Ange/Salia hitting a new low and Hilda/Chris/Roselie reconciling
  • Tusk was used sparingly but well this week, kicking ass and saving Vivian.
  • Julio’s dead. Who’s in charge of the empire now?
  • The new opening theme is fantastic.

Not so good:

  • Julio’s fleet and assault force was awfully easy to defeat.
  • lot of people died, and died horribly, but they were all nameless extras.
  • Where the heck did that awesome sub come from?
  • Another “Tusk and Ange on an island’ episode next week. Oh dear…

Verdict: Lots of huge and exciting developments this week, delivered with confidence, if not finesse. We’ll see where they lead. The Norma are now far less numerous and more vulnerable without a base, but the empire took its licks, too. Not a bad start at all for Cross Ange’s second half.

P.S. I just discovered Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Gakuen, which is a comedy 4koma that puts the same cast in a high school setting. Take that for what you will.

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Franklin’s Take:

This week got all the explodey-killy terror we’ve come to expect from Ange and… just sort of flailed around incoherently and undid the most meaningful emotional moments. Dead Chris and children revive, Vivian is rescued, and Ange still gets to win the day no matter how much she runs off on her own.

If i still thought as highly of this show as I once did, I’d wonder if the entire structure was making fun of red herrings. For example, the episode opens by introducing FIVE new mail pilots who, presumably, immediately die off camera.

But thirteen episodes in and I wonder how well thought out or intentionally critical Ange really is? Sure, it can be over the top and ruthless. But is it all just for shock value or is there a point to this?

For now, I’m not really sure…

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 12

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I believe for the first time on Cross Ange, we get an Ominous Bigwig Conference, held in a pleasant holo-environment. which shows that Julio, whose name Misurugi is now synonymous with ‘criminal’, is very far down on the food chain. In fact, all the various leaders seem to defer to the apparently brilliant mind of one Embryo, a bishounen and dandy who proposes three options for humanity: surrender to DRAGON (unthinkable); wipe out DRAGON (impossible)…or scrap the world as it currently is and start over.

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Tusk bugged this meeting, and relays their decision to Jill. She reorganizes the surviving mail pilots into new troops, putting a released Hilda in charge and throwing Salia in the brig for insubordination. She wants the girls on full battle alert; but she’s not so much concerned with more DRAGON attacks as imminent action by her superiors, in service of the ‘world-rebuilding’ decision that was made.

Before Ange jumps to and mans her bird, Ange wants answers, and Jill promised to give them. Jill insists they talk in the bath, since the revealing of secrets requires ‘total exposure.’ Call it ‘Q&A with T&A’.

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Jill starts at the almost folktale-sounding beginning, in which a ‘god’ (Embryo) found a way to end war and suffering by engineering the ability to use mana in humans. When non-mana infant girls were born, the myth that these girls were dangerous society-rejecting monsters was propagated, in order to give the rest of humanity a common group to hate and discriminate against. But along with Norma girls, there was a faction of ‘old-fashioned’ humans who rejected mana (Tusk’s fam), and they joined forces in a rebellion.

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The rebellion continues to this day, mostly quietly (though Tusk’s Ange-rescuing stunt was pretty high profile). But back then storming the palace netted them a ragnamail, prototype to paramail. That mail was Villkiss, but no one could pilot it until a Norma of royal blood appeared: Princess Elektra Maria von [German name]. But even she ended up failing; losing her right arm and her ring.

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— “AAAAUGH!” — “AAAUUUUUGH!”

Ange mentions this is all well and good though she’s not ready to join “Libertus” movement yet, if ever, because she kinda likes her life. She also thanks Jill, whom she now knows was once a princess like her, for showing her what a stuck-up spoiled brat she was. Of course, Ange is still a brat, but whatever.

She also asks: What about the DRAGONs? On queue, Vivian wakes up and her hammock snaps under her weight. She lumbers about the barracks, wondering why she feels so big and bulky (we initially only see her POV, not her body). Then Vivi catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror: She’s a DRAGON. How very Kafkaesque. When Emma and the bridge staff see her, they scream… but she screams too. It’s good to have a sense of humor about such things.

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The trio of Hilda, Roselie and Chris…back in the same frame together, if not back in bed

DRAGON-Vivi escapes to the sky, and hums Ange’s song until Ange sings back; the song transforms Vivi back into human form, where she’s sedated and taken away by Maggie, who I’m sure already knew about this, having been the former Arzenal commander. But Ange connects the dots, then runs to the giant pit of DRAGON corpses Jasmine is about to set ablaze.

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Ange’s comrades accompany her to the burning pile, in which they find human bodies amongst the DRAGON. So yeah, DRAGONs are people too, man…including the DRAGON Ange savagely beat to death, and all the others she’s wasted in the air. Suddenly Ange’s contentment with her life of killing DRAGONS and making money isn’t so easy. Furthermore, ex-brother Julio (wearing a scar from Ange’s attack) is coming for her…for all of them.

There were times this felt like a long chore of an infodump, but in the end I don’t think I absorbed too many answers, but rather just enough to pique my interest for the second half of the show. More questions obviously remain. And the little Vivian reveal / action piece was as adorable as it was significant to the plot. Ange thought she could live a simpler life in Arzenal, but she’s still a princess with a right arm and a ring. In this world, that means something.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 11

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This is a Rondo of Angels and Demons, so I’m not surprised to see Julio under the mind control of Riza Randog, thanks to some kind of evil serum she secretes. Sylvia walks in on the two and is appalled before being restrained by RIza’s demon tail, suggesting the drug wears off. I’m guessing both were under Riza’s influence when Ange was around.  In any case, the royal family is in deep doo-doo.

This week gave me just about everything I could ask for in a Cross Ange episode: high stakes, new bad(?) guys; Arzenal camaraderie, more Salia backstory; a significant if incremental elaboration on the world’s mythology; lots of awesome aerial combat, and new friendships being forged in the crucible of imminent death!

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We’ve seen from her hobbies that Salia is still a little girl at heart, and it seems to surprise even her when a group of actual kids salute her and regard her as an idol (she is quite pretty). She can’t believe she’s already a whopping seventeen.

As she and Mei visit the grave of (I’m guessing) Mei’s sister, a fallen pilot, and remembers losing her, as well as having ‘Elektra” (Jill) lose her arm, give Salia a first chance in Vilkiss, but not a second.

If she still lives her life like a kid who needs protecting, Jill is going to treat her like one. WIth only five active pilots, First Troop is downgraded to third.

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But when an enormous cloud of DRAGONs appear directly over Arzenal HQ, the second and third troops are quickly overrun and it becomes necessary to put the half-strength Salia Squad out there anyway. And we’re talking the first couple minutes of combat that the other squads are wasted and the command center is wrecked.

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The DRAGONs are apparently being led (shepherded?) by three Vilkiss-like paramails that emerged from the same portal. The pilot of the lead mail sings a song, and the mail turns gold and unleashes a high-yield beam that destroys half of the damn island. Forget this show being tough on Ange and Hilda; it’s tough on everyone.

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With memories of the past fresh in her mind when the assault occurs, Salia gets it in her head that This Is Her Time to prove herself to Jill, Mei, the rest of her troop, and herself. To that end she disobeys orders and pilots Vilkiss herself.

Momoka frees Ange and Hilda and they race to the hangar bay. It’s kinda cute how pissed both Ange and Hilda that they’re so dirty, stinky, and disheveled from their confinement, but things get grimmer as they traverse the bloody corpse-filled mess hall.

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It would be enough in their rusty states to simply hop aboard their own paramails and fight the biggest battle Arzenal has faced yet, but Ange and Hilda have to reel in Rogue Salia first before she gets herself killed and Vilkiss destroyed.

Rivals they may still be, but Ange and Hilda prove they’re still quite capable of working well together under duress. Hilda even gets a little turned on by Ange being so close, which is understandable considering how much sex Hilda is used to and how long it’s been since she’s felt a woman’s touch.

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Ange also breaks out her daredevil routine, jumping on top of Salia and then tossing her off for Hilda to catch. There’s a lot of trust in these maneuvers, and however much the girls may swipe at each other, it’s clear they all know that they can count on one another.

That’s probably no comfort to Salia, as it’s basically confirmed during her short stint piloting Vilkiss that despite all her hard work and determination, she just doesn’t have what it takes. Vilkiss is sluggish and unresponsive in her hands.

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But Salia’s shortcoming isn’t so much talent as intuition, not to mention blood. When Ange hears the enemy mail singing again, activating its main weapon, she sings her song right back (a little Macross with our Gundam, if you will) which causes an identical golden transformation in Vilkiss, both to Ange’s and the enemy pilot’s surprise.

About that enemy: she’s the Chinese-looking woman at the end of the line of faces in the credits, and her outfit is extremely bizarre yet awesome-looking – essentially a loincloth that descends from bust to groin with a cross strap for her bust. Interestingly, it reveals the opposite parts of skin as the Arzenal flight suits. That would make for some bad-ass cosplay.

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This woman wants to know why Ange knows a song no “unworthy citizen” should know, and Ange just wants to know who the heck she is. Both are then shown flashes of what looks like histories that never occurred involving the both of them, as everything from opponents to classmates to lovers. The still-nameless pilot withdraws after an alarm and five ominous words: “The time comes, it seems.” 

Nearly halfway through the series, we may still be in the dark about what’s really going on here, but this episode made us rest assured the time is indeed coming when light will be shed on that darkness. In the meantime, the Arzenal girls keep on keepin’ on, since all they have are each other.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 10

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One reason I handed off Gundam-G review duties to Zane was that there was just too much going on, none of which made enough sense me to care, whether it was the endless parade of proper nouns or the endless arbitrary political machinations. Ange doesn’t make sense either sometimes, but it’s telling a far more cohesive tale that has actually drawn me in.

It’s also uncomplicated: by making the Norma out to be monsters, something not all of them are by a long shot) the arrogant, prejudice masses of mana-using humans are the real monsters, as demonstrated at the evening public whipping, mocking and hanging Ange must endure for basically causing ‘mild discomfort and unhappiness’ for a few people.

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Franklin: This is for you.

Yes, the people, including Ange’s former classmates, her brother, and even her little sister, are nothing but spoiled, petulant, hyper-sensitive shitstains and there’s nothing redeemable about them, nor is there meant to be anything redeeming about them. Uncomplicated.

Tusk also swoops in undeterred by any air defenses and actually takes his sweet time rescuing Ange like we knew he would.

The show doesn’t bother mussing its hair about details like ‘Ange did murder dozens of people’ (the scum deserved it), or ‘Tusk’s hoverbike is oddly quiet enough for Ange to give a “Fuck You” speech to the crowd’, and ‘its exhaust is cool enough not to burn her siblings on her way out’, or ‘Tusk buries his face in Ange’s crotch, making this kind of his running gag (which is terrible). Uncomplicated.

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Never mind how Ange and Momoka found the cabin attachment to Tusk’s paramail while he was unconscious, I think this is the question we all most wanted answered this week. While Tusk doesn’t have a satisfying answer, we must assume he either has extremely bad (or possibly in his case, good) luck, or is actually a pervert who targets Ange’s crotch any chance he gets.

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In any case, the joke is only used once, and our dealings with Tusk are thankfully limited to the first half. The rescue was ultimately swift and uncomplicated. And don’t say Jill doesn’t have a sense of humor, because when she locks Ange up for desertion, she has her share a cell with the also recently-recaptured (never mind how) Hilda.

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The balance of the episode are the two proud and tenacious women licking their wounds and laughing at their own pathetic stupidity, believing they could simply go back to the world like nothing changed. These scenes built up more reluctant camaraderie between Ange and Hilda, who in the end agree to form a loose accord to take on and destroy that world full of bullshit for fooling them both not once but twice.

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Of course, things won’t be quite the same at Arzenal, either, which didn’t stand still when Hilda and Ange deserted. Now they’re broke, possession-less, and at the bottom of the food chain. Chris takes over Hilda’s role taking over for Zola, which is an interestingly little twist as she always seemed so passive. But being betrayed changes people.

Salia and Ersha, Chris and Roselie; these are women who came to Arzenal as babies and have never seen the other world, let alone ever considered there was a place for them there. As such, none of them can quite fathom why Hilda and Ange did what they did.

Their isolation has also left them children on an emotional level, albeit children forced to fight. They put their trust into Ange and Hilda, and won’t forgive their treachery easily, if at all (Vivian already has).

Or maybe it will just take an episode. You know Ange; it likes to keep things…uncomplicated.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 09

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Oh Princess Mecha Sexy Violent Exploitation Adventure: this was not one of your best weeks. You either tried to make everyone betray Ange and Hilda, on every possible level, in order to drive our sympathy for these rain-soaked girls to the maximum level, or you tried to make fun of anime that use such melodramatic ham to control our emotions.

In either case, you were a hopeless failure, sad girls crying in the rain and all.

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The Rundown: Hilda goes home to her mom and finds out her mom has had another daughter who she’s also named Hilda, everyone freaks out, Hilda runs away and gets beaten up by cops while crying in the rain.

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Meanwhile, Ange and her maid raid Ange’s high school lacrosse locker room but are discovered by Ahiko, a former team mate. Ahiko betrays Ange, twice, but Ange still manages to fight all the way to the castle, where she is then betrayed by her little sister Sylvia and captured by her evil brother Julio.

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The Good: if you’ve wanted to see people comically freak out over hot girls, then this week’s for you. Hilda’s Mom’s replacement baby, Hilda’s mom obviously calling the cops even though she has no reason to, Ange’s sister stabbing Ange in the arm, it’s all there.

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Likewise, if you don’t like Ange much, it was nice to see her tactics fail constantly. However, It was also fun to see Ange kill a decent number of people with no concern at all.

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The Not-So-Good: we got two flashbacks this episode, and one of those flashbacks was so absurdly soon after the event it flashed back to, it felt like a joke. Otherwise, the entire episode was a cheap mess of over-the-top acting, super betrayals and an out of nowhere evil plan by Ange’s big brother.

Really? The whole message to Arzenal was a trap to get Ange to…escape from Arzenal…so they could capture her? Oh shut up!

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The Verdict: This was a stupid episode fueled by cheap emotions and storytelling clichés and what’s even worse is it as much as tells us Tusk will save Ange from her fate next week because He’s The Man, Dog! Yay.

It scores extra points for Hilda’s mom throwing the cherished apple pie at Hilda but it loses as many for not thinking the details through. I mean, I can’t be the only one who wonders where Hilda’s dad is in all of this. EITHER Hilda’s dad, for that matter…

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 08

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Aw, sucks to be the only Norma who has to stay on duty…

I won’t lie…I was kind of dreading this episode. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it wasn’t that bad at all. But why don’t I let Ange herself give us a quick synopsis, speaking as the mascot “Perolina”:

It’s the long-awaited swimsuit episode, pero. But there were only a few slurpy scenes, pero. Running pigs, stinky outfits, and a great escape, pero! Do they really know what a swimsuit episode is, pero? You’re just making me make funny noises, aren’t you? Pero!

I love Ange’s little meta commentaries after the episodes. In addition to being funny, they prove the show has a cheeky sense of awareness that knows when it’s being exploitative and knows when to pull back on the fanservice throttle, for instance, and give us some meat and potatoes.

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Yes, even in Hell, there’s a day off for hope, fun, and happiness, if only one. I’m not averse to this concept; at some point, all the Norma in Arzenal will snap and go nuts and probably cause a great deal of damage…if not given some kind of release valve. Granted other valves already exist — from the marketplace to spend one’s earnings to tacitly permitting conjugation. But the Festa is a day long deep-scrub of all the crap that’s been built up. I daresay the ladies deserve it.

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Ange mentioned a great escape, though. There are actually two that take place this week, and these events thankfully push the Festa into the background where it’s more than tolerable. The first is borne out of Ange’s totally understandable depression over the plight of her sister Sylvia. Initially she believes there’s nothing she can do, but an opportunity presents itself when Misty Rosenblum, whose family administrates Arzenal and who once played lacrosse with Ange a lifetime ago, arrives on the island to meet Ange.

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Ange isn’t the only one not into the spirit of the Festa. Emma seems to resent giving these filthy barbaric Norma a day of sun and fun, and stays stubbornly in her duty uniform, as this isn’t her festa. I liked this little exchange while she was searching for Ange, because it underlines her disapproval with this whole exercise.

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Ange, meanwhile, has shrewedly hidden herself within the Perolina suit, wanders off to the flight deck, scares off a couple of lovers, and broods in peace. Then she spots the Rosenblum crest on the transport ship and hatches a plan: she’ll take Misty hostage and force her to fly her off the island, so she can find Sylvia.

This is important for Ange not just because it’s her little sister, but because Ange blames herself for paralyzing Sylvia when she fell from a horse during a ride. When she though Sylvia was dead she was content to be Ange, but she’s not, so she has to try to save her.

But Ange wasn’t the first person to come up with this plan: Hilda, who has been just as sullen at the Festa, has been waiting for this day to escape.

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Contrast that with Ersha, who suited up as Pero first and then gets a massage, or Salia, who avails herself of the cinema, pop culture aficionado that she is. And then there’s Chris and Roselie, who deal with Hilda avoiding them after they ‘betrayed’  her, in different ways.

Roselie washes her worries in gambling, but Chris decides to put everything into winning all the sporting events and a fat prize check so she can spend it with Roselie…and Hilda. It’s a great character beat for Chris, who we haven’t seen much of, but who genuinely cares about Hilda.

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Speaking of cash, Ange leaves enough to cover the weapons she’s taking aboard the ship (which are guarded by a dog easily bribed by a tub full of cheeseburgers, the functional equivalent of diverting a pursuing dog with a string of wieners).

Ange and Misty arrive at the ship to find Hilda and Momoka already there, and that’s when Hilda suggests they team up, for a better chance of getting away. Ange grudgingly agrees when Hilda points out the arresting locks need to be unlocked to take off.

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After a nifty, carefully-coordinated operation in which they wait until the noisy fireworks start, they get the transport moving. Now Hilda just needs to catch up with it and jump aboard…something Ange isn’t so sure she wants to allow after all.

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“CURSE YOUR SUDDEN BUT INEVITABLE BETRAYAL!”

When Ange starts goading Momoka to take off without Hilda, something that doesn’t sit right with the still morally pure maid, Hilda forces the issue and makes a desperate leap onto the ramp, and we learn the truth about Hilda: everything she’s done, from becoming Zola’s plaything to befriending Roselie and Chris to planning this escape, she’s done to get back home to her mother. She’s going to get off this rock or die trying. At the last moment, Ange lends her an outstretched arm to prevent her from dying, and their alliance holds. And all this in flip-flops!

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Once they reach land, they ditch Misty and the transport quickly, Hilda unearths her motorcycle, and then heads off on her own to the Enderant Union to find her mom, but not before an exchange of respectful looks and promises not to die. While they were bitter enemies at Arzenal, finally putting aside their differences led to their freedom. But how long will that freedom last?

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 07

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From the beginning, Cross Ange has used difficult-to-watch, aggressive exploitation of skin that toes the line of outright adult content to make a point about racism and self-destruction. That skin-fueled message has (almost) always been the point though, and the creepiness has been relentless in forcing us to consider the very meaning of fan service, what it means and why we shouldn’t like it so much.

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Not this week though. This week was just fan service, stretched like lovely skin over an empty plot about team building and waving away all of Ange’s enemies problems.

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To sum up: Ange continues to defeat all the DRAGONs on her own, which means she’s ignoring orders and no one is making money. Team Hilda continue to try and shoot her down but are unsuccessful until Ange catches a cold.

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Then the episode devolves into a cliché-fest where the Salia finally realizes no one has died since Ange came back and that Ange is really good for them, regardless of following orders. Then they go on a mission and immediately get their asses kicked, until sick Ange comes to save the day.

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I would have a whole lot less against episode 7 if it wasn’t full of so much skin. (or ‘steam censorship’ equivalent to skin) There was just no point in having the girls fight in the bath nor have a nude bath party after the ‘we are all friends now’ battle. It was just skin and totally censored skin at that.

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So I’m deeply frustrated at the moment. I’ve enjoyed Ange, and I don’t mind its graphic nature where and when it’s making a point but this makes two episodes that I’ve gotten to review that were utterly cliché, disposable exploitation bits without any value or creative point.

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Sure, we get to know that Tusk is known by the prison’s command team and, during the credits, Ange’s sister some how gets a secret message to Ange that she needs help but so what? The only entertainment was finding out the captain is a cosplayer and Vivi is implied to be her lover…

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 06

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First of all, kudos to this episode for not bringing up anything about Tusk and his island…like, at all. Not that that episode was totally irredeemable, but it was pretty bad, and it was too soon to follow up on its events. This week was Cross Ange’s chance to show it could turn the page and move on, and to its credit, the show did just that.

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With that out of the way…Momoka’s Here! It’s the ep’s title, and it’s what we get: Princess Angelise’s Top Maid. A girl who grew up alongside the princess as she served her. An inconvenient, awkward, painful manifestation of a life Ange thought was dead and buried. A reminder of how weak and dependent and vapid a girl she used to be. But these are also reasons why Momoka works, where Tusk didn’t.

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Bringing Momoka to Arzenal was opening a can of worms, but I like how they use her mere presence and a short talk with Ange to finally feed us crumbs (though not too much) of what happened to the Misurugi empire: In short, after the Angelise fiasco, it fell. Not that it matters to Ange: she’s ordered by Command to take care of Momoka for the duration of her stay, and that’s all. On top of that, Ange resents Momoka for knowing she was a Norma all along and lying to her along with everyone else…and yet even if Momoka was as in the dark as Ange, the fact remains ignorance isn’t innocence.

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Momoka’s presence also gives the Hilda Crew ammunition, which they immediately pounce upon wih relish. They know Momoka’s a sore spot and drive their heels into that spot, reminding Ange that everyone who’s shown her affection has ended up dead. They also imply that Momoka’s life is already forfeit due to her exposure to Arzenal, the DRAGON, and the use of Norma to fight them – all state secrets the powers at be will jealously protect. As cool an exterior as Ange maintains, the barbs are enough to throw off her aim.

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How can they not? Momoka reopened Ange’s old wounds, but she doesn’t hate or blame Momoka half as much as she blames herself, for everything from bringing about the downfall of her family’s empire to getting Coco and Miranda killed. She rejects Momoka’s use of her full name and service and ridiculous room improvements and even roast quail because she feels she doesn’t deserve them. She’d worked so hard to find a groove in her new life of subjugation and death, and then Momoka went and complicated everything.

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This, again, is something Momoka can plausibly do, where it was a bridge way too far last week with Tusk. And hey, we even get a bath scene with a practical purpose that serves the characters, a rare thing. I say practical, because the nudity and proximity reveals Momoka’s scar from a cut she got when she broke one of Angelise’s dolls long ago.

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Rather than get angry about the doll, Angelise tears her dress to stop Momoka’s bleeding. Mana could easily repair a scar most may find ugly, but Momoka kept it. To her, it’s a symbol of Angelise’s kindness and compassion, as well of a mark that represents her service and devotion to the princess until death. Momoka thus shows us a side of Ange we weren’t sure existed until now; or at least a side we couldn’t quite see past her appalling racism in the first episode. Momoka believes her Angelise-sama isn’t dead, but lies just beneath the hard crust of life since her exile.

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And Momoka would be right. If one would apply that flashback to the present: Ange’s resentment, guilt, and desire to discard her past life, all of it, is the doll: it simply doesn’t matter compared to Momoka. We knew as soon as Emma got off the horn with “the Committee” that Momoka was a security threat that would not be allowed to leave the island alive. We also knew the episode would use our previous knowledge that it isn’t afraid to kill off characters to give the situation some weight. Jill and Emma even create the artifice of a “transport” coming to “take her home”, perhaps to soften the blow.

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When Coco and Miranda were killed, it was because Ange was so green and freaked out of her gourd, there wasn’t much she could have done to save them, even if she hadn’t run. In this case, however, Ange has the means and the savvy over Arzenal’s system to save Momoka, so she makes it happen. She goes into battle, kills ALL the DRAGON, and uses her earnings to Buy Momoka, a transaction Jill permits, partially because even she probably feels bad about having to kill the innocent maid (Emma certainly does), and partially because Ange, the budding ace, finally understands how things work at Arzenal.

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Maid Observations:

  • I also wanted to mention that I appreciated how Momoka wasn’t some embarrassing, cliched bumbling fool. As a maid to the royal family, she’s naturally a highly competent all-rounder, whether it’s getting to Arzenal in one piece, defending herself with Mana, or spending Ange’s money on extravagances.
  • I must point out, however, that it was a bit silly for Momoka to show up in her Maid’s uniform, as well as continue to wear it throughout the episode. If you need to sneak on to a prison island, dressing down is probably the way to go.
  • It’s also my sincere hope that Momoka not only gets new, more practical clothes, but her role evolves from merely being Ange’s maid. I’m not saying she should jump in a cockpit, but like I said, she’s an all-rounder; surely there are several ways she can contribute moving forward.

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 05

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Oh god! WHAT?

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What?! No! Stop it Ange!! STOP!

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Last week, Hannah gave a convincing argument on how and why Ange waking up naked in a bed next to some guy from the opening credits could work — could shake her out of the routine she was finally able to build — and that she such an event would let her reassess what’s going on in her world.

Instead, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo episode 5 takes Tusk, a new male character with a mysterious past, and forces his mouth into Ange’s crotch as many times as it can… for laughs!

ange5_9Thank goodness he’s a mechanic that can get her off this island!

In previous weeks, Hannah and I have defended Cross Ange’s use of sexual violence and exploitation as a bold (if not brazen) statement about oppression, racism, and keeping a people down through self hatred.

This week is indefensible.

The constant, absurd put-Tusk’s-mouth-on-or-near-Ange’s-crotch scenes, followed by a MONTAGE depicting how they slowly became friends, is mind-blowing.

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The only reason I’m giving this a 2 ( instead of the 1 I gave Vanadis’ boob-sucking episode) is because none of the girls are asserting their relative social status and value as people through comparing breast sizes.

Even then, I’m very tempted to give it a 1 anyway.

Episode 5 is a true, complete failure of story telling and the choice to MONTAGE together random events to show Ange’s growing feelings for Tusk is as cowardly as it is lazy.

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We even get to see Ange is a terrible cook in the most cliché, pot-exploding way, which facilitates yet another crotch-mouth for Tusk. Ha’yuk!

The total irony here is that Hannah and I were talking just yesterday about what it would take for Ange to ruin the goodwill it has built and I foolishly said, it’s built enough goodwill that I’ll give it a full review even if it fizzes out over the season.

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Who knew the character around the corner was a ‘klutz’ who would fall on Ange’s crotch accidentally more than once, that Ange would be bitten near her crotch by a snake and he’d need to suck out the venom, and that everything would be better and happy with no actual scenes or dialogue spent to actually make it so?

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Who thought it wouldn’t be creepy as hell that Tusk can leave the island at any time during this episode’s development?

Who thought it would be okay to have Ange whimper in an orgasmic way as Tusk “eats out” her poison??

What madness led the writers to have Ange fall for Tusk, her captor and possible sexual predator, by the end?

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Oh my god WHAAAAAATTTTT?!?!?!?????

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 04

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Jill repeats my assertion at the end of last week’s review: these girls are in Hell. But like anywhere else, Hell has a pecking order and an agree-upon way of doing things. Ange is struggling to fit in and, worse, is not even trying. As far as she’s concerned, she’s already a corpse on borrowed time that’s only going to be spent killing Dragons. No time for possessions or friends or enemies. No time for drama!

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Of course, her enemies and would-be have something to say about that. Just as Salia took up a leadership position that she’s not ready or equipped for as Zola was, this week Hilda takes over as the Zola of the bedroom, the one who fills the void her death left in Rosalie and Chris’ lives. There’s always someone to step forward and assume a vacated role. But like Salia, Hilda is no Zola. We know she couldn’t even satisfy Zola on the eve of her last battle, leading Zola to prey on Ange.

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I’m not saying Zola was a saint — she did try to f-ing rape Ange — but she was a vital, competent authority figure that kept her troops’ clashing personalities in check at HQ, kept them alive out in the field, and tended to their emotional and physical needs in the boudoir. No one can dispute that she owned herself. That woman has been replaced by two girls who are clearly out of their depth, but still try to cultivate the fiction that they aren’t, because at the end of the day, they can’t afford to be. They’re it.

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What’s so great about the new character dynamics is it isn’t the Hilda faction vs. the Salia faction, or Hilda vs. Ange, or Ange vs. Everyone. It’s all of the above. Salia has to protect Ange from hazing because it’s her job as the captain, but there is no “Ange Faction” as long as Ange refuses to accept the help or kindness of others, or refuses to help herself. And while Ange seems to have found her new self, she remains a pretty crap person, as evidenced by her cold treatment of Vivian. Yes, Vivian can be a pain, but I felt bad for her here!

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It’s not just Hilda, Roselie and Chris who are loathing the princess, either, but a large chunk of the nameless general population as well. The way she’s acting right now, Ange deserves some of that scorn. But she doesn’t seem to care either way. In an escalating battle of wills, somethings gotta give, and it does when Hilda goes too far and sabotages Villkiss.

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This leads to another great aerial (and partially naval!) battle in which Ange falls from the sky and sinks, followed by a twist ending where she wakes up nude in bed with a guy (who isn’t nude, just shirtless) on some tropical island. Is this…a bit goofy? Sure, but the set-up of the scene is thankfully quite straightforward: this lad saved Ange, got her out of her wet clothes, and is letting her use his bed. He has her tied up just in case she’s trouble, which we know she is! Any kinkier interpretation is just in Ange’s (or our) own head/s. Yes, a gentleman would sleep on the floor, but maybe he’s not a gentleman!

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It’s par for the course in terms of Ange continually finding herself strange, unexpected, and/or unprecedented situations. It’s also pretty standard in these kinds of stories for the protagonist to at some point end up exiled or isolated and in a situation where there’s time to analyze and re-examine, and emerge changed. I’m looking forward to seeing Ange suddenly outside of the regimented, lethal existence she’s only just gotten used to.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 03

Poor Miranda! She never had a chance, and more than Coco
Poor Miranda! She never had a chance, any more than Coco did

Cross Ange is a dark, gritty, brutal, sometimes just-plain-wrong mecha series done right. As First Troop battles a battleship-sized DRAGON and its twenty-odd underlings, Miranda is simply told to keep back and stay alive, an order she cannot follow. Just when you thought, “well, maybe they’ll have Miranda resent Ange for Coco’s death later”, she dies too, just as she’s told not to!

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But just so you know, the show isn’t content just with killing off rookie redshirts, as the highly capable, experienced bad-ass Captain Zola also meets her end in the fiasco of a battle where Ange first tries to desert, then freaks out and flies around, then slams into Zola’s Paramail, preventing her from landing the killing blow on the DRAGON. For her trouble, Ange gets to await rescue as the blood from Zola’s empty eye socket drips all over her cockpit. Frankly, I’m surprised more pilots didn’t lose their lives out there: those DRAGONS are exceedingly efficient at tearing people to pieces.

Everyone hates you. You are the worst.
Everyone hates you. You are the worst.

Even if it’s not all due not entirely to Ange, her selfish actions contributed greatly. She’s also gone and made even greater enemies of Zola’s three lovers: Hilda, Roselie and Chris. And Jill even sent her official petitions to several nations: all were rejected, as no one has ever heard of the Misurugi Empire or a Princess Angelise. She hasn’t just been plucked from her world: that world doesn’t even exist anymore.

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Nice touch that Norma get their full names back when they die

Once healed up and out of her Gaultier Leeloo bandages, Jill has her lug the tombstones of the dead to their final resting places – the duty of the person responsible for their deaths. It’s here she learns her cushy mana-filled world is built atop the bones of the Norma, all fighting to protect a civilization that spits on them. When she learns fallen Norma get their names back, she starts to wish for death, to escape the hell and return to a place of peace, even if it is the afterlife – because she’ll at least once again be Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi.

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Villkiss – Ange’s (old) new ride

With her first paramail trashed, Jill bestows Vilkiss on Ange – while awesome-looking, it’s hard to control and has seen better days; the perfect ride for someone with a death wish. But the Vilk is no lemon; and in giving it to Ange Jill seems to be challenging the voracity of her wish.

Salia is the new First Troop Captain…for better or worse, as she’s extremely rigid and by-the-book leader, probably a better lieutenant than captain. When they find the DRAGON and it’s revealed it’s basically acting as a decoy for a sea-to-air attack, Salia kind of just freezes. She’s only saved from the fates of Coco & Co because Ange lures it away — not because she particularly cares about Salia (or anything), but because she’s trying to die.

Vilkiss, Resplendent in Assault Mode
Vilkiss, Resplendent in Assault Mode

That is, until that DRAGON grabs her paramail and stares her down, and she remembers the dying words of her mother: “Live on.” Her ring, which was returned to her, glows, and when blood from her head drips upon it, there’s a reaction that’s both surprising and utterly un-surprising considering Ange’s natural course from now on. She’s not going to die there, because she realizes she doesn’t want to die.

Ange's not ready to die yet after all
Ange’s not ready to die yet after all

To that end, she does what it takes to live on — wasting the dragon in a heated blaze of gun and sword attacks and ending the battle on an exclamation point, bailing out the tactically deficient Salia in the first sortie under her command. By the end, Ange is flushed with excitement, just as Zola said she’d get when she hit her back. Ange is still ashamed to feel this way, but she can’t deny she does.

I have Nothing. I am Nothing. I will live. Kill and live. That is all.
I have Nothing. I am Nothing. I will live. Kill and live. That is all.

She hasn’t been a knowing Norma long, and having not grown up as one doesn’t harbor the same deep scars, but she’s very quickly starting to understand what kind of living Norma must cling to. Even if it involves killing and a whole host of other nasty stuff, they have to take what they can get and find peace and solace however they can.

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So Angelise cuts her long flowing locks and tosses them into the wind, to join her name, her past; everything else she’s ever had or been. She decides she will live on, as Ange, at any cost; not die as quickly or easily as her mother or young comrades. Then she takes the pudding Coco gave her out of the dustbin and dutifully chokes it down. It tastes disgusting, but it will nourish her soul. When in Hell, you savor every compromised comfort you can get your hands on.

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