Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 24

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As you can see, a lot happened in the second-to-last episode of Cross Ange, but not a whole lot was resolved; most glaringly the Embryo problem: dude just won’t die. Perhaps they’re leaving that for the last episode; though as Ange remarks in the preview, they could also hold that off until a special or movie…which would make me as cross as Ange usually is (if it’s to be believed the show’s title is a pun).

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While the fate of Ange, Tusk, Salia, and Embryo remains up in the air for the finale, this episode focused on secondary characters, as many as it could, and tied up some loose ends we were hoping wouldn’t end in tragedy.

The Aurora takes a beating, but Jasmine, Vivi, Riza, Momoka, and Ersha (taking to the cockpit again) manage to keep it together long enough for DRAGON reinforcements to arrive (sent by their empress to back up the Norma).

Embryo also shows his Diamond Rose Knights exactly how little he really thinks of them by using them to bait the Dragons so he can go grab his “wife” Ange. Two of Chris and Salia’s comrades, whom I could never remember the names of, are killed off in quick succession.

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In the episode’s best act, this latest betrayal basically breaks Chris, who just fires wildly at everyone wishing they’d all die. A nifty combo of Hilda’s tough love (“Give it a break, you emo bitch!” is particularly cutting, but apt) and a desperate stunt by Roselie, who plucks Chris right out of her cockpit and won’t let go until she’s heard.

Hilda manages to catch them both, by which time Roselie has reiterated her love for Chris, and the fact she can’t live without her, and wants to be her friend again more than anything. Chris, back to her senses and thinking like the Chris of old, uses this opportunity to make Roselie agree to several conditions, which will have the effect of balancing their relationship.

If nothing else, I’m glad these girls made up and no one had to be killed (well, except Marika).

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While all this feel-good making up is going on, Salako and Ange succeed in releasing Aura from his cage. Jill also smells defeat on Embryo and tries to get him to take her with him…wherever he escapes to. It’s a trick, but one that doesn’t work out for Jill, as she wrongly assumed she was dealing with Emby’s original body. She’s injured, but not dead, so we’ll see what becomes of her.

There’s not a lot of her here, perhaps because she’ll factor so huge in the finale (Embryo plucks her away in the end, sans clothes), but the fact large swaths of time pass where we’re not sure what she’s up to was troublesome. Furthermore, Salia has seen her comrades be betrayed by Embryo, but she doesn’t quite wake up like Ersha and Chris.

Emby doesn’t seem to care about either world anymore, and as they’re 97% converged when the credits roll, he may not have to care about them much longer. Ange remains his top priority, and he seems genuinely pissed when Tusk boasts deflowered her. Which when you look at that flashback and see Embryo with Tusk’s mom, adds a somewhat icky sheen to this whole affair.

Then again, it wouldn’t be Cross Ange if it wasn’t a little icky.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 23

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Even though two more episodes remain, this had the feel of a second-to-last episode, with a lot of character housekeeping leading into the start of the final battle that will decide the very fate of the world(s). With such a tangled web of character connections, any housekeeping episode in which many were either resolved or set up to be resolved soon could run the risk of feeling overstuffed and unwieldy.

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Not so here, and you can chalk that up to the show’s genuine care and concern for each and every one of its characters, with the possible exception of Embryo, who has been painted pretty consistently as a transparently evil pervert of late.

Because Cross Ange cares so much, so do I. So even when minor characters like a sober Emma and Riza Randog achieve redemption, it lifts my spirits as much as Ange returning to the Aurora with Tusk aboard his mother’s paramail, or Ersha returning to the fold. Everyone is getting into the right place.

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As Ange later remarks to Salia, she has a lot of “errands” this week, which starts with welcoming Salako back and thanking Riza, and continues with trying to slap some pride back into a sulking Jill. Hilda now sees fully what she’d only seen glimpses of before; how inspiring and natural a leader Ange is.

To that end, she offers Ange the command, and to Hilda’s credit it feels more like a correct and practical decision rather than any kind of emotionally-driven concession borne out of her inadequacies. She just prefers to run around with a gun, which is true.

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As for Hilda’s feelings for Ange, well, now is the time to confess them, and when Ange insists, Hilda doesn’t hold back: she sees Ange as her knight; her Tusk. When she laughs away these feelings as strange because they’re both women, Ange leans in for a kiss, and tells her the world where such things are strange is the same world they’re going to destroy.

Ange will need Hilda in that world as much as Tusk and Salako. This suggests it will be a society in which relationships need not be monogamous. It’s another credit to the care with which these characters’ roller-coaster history has been portrayed that this corridor exchange hits all the right emotional notes. Tamura Yukari also turns in a great performance as Hilda here.

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When chewing out Jill, Ange pointed out that many lives were destroyed in her failed missions for revenge and revolution, and that even Salia had to latch onto Embryo when Jill spurned her. When we see Salia saluting Embryo, you can tell that Embryo himself is now secondary to her own desire to rid the world of Ange once and for all, hoping that will make her special and desired. It’s a misguided motivation that I simply don’t see unfolding.

As Ange’s “errands” continue, she and Tusk have a quiet tender moment on the eve of battle, when Ange insists on giving Tusk something back for his undying devotion. Something more than being safe, that is, which is enough for him. But being light on the possessions, she decides to give him the panties she’s presently wearing, which Tusk accepts graciously and promises to return “so she doesn’t catch cold.” It’s the same kind of risque sweetness that has defined so much of their romance.

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After Ange delivers a stirring pre-battle speech that only demonstrates Hilda made the right decision in raising her to the command, the Aurora, with Jasmine at the help and Ersha on the weapons, heads to the Dawn Pillar for a frontal assault. The conventional Misurugi military units don’t put up much of a fight, so as the enemy nears, Embryo sends his harem of ragna-mail pilots out to meet them, and the battle’s stakes heighten accordingly.

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Such a wide-ranging battle with everyone involved means we get some nice matchups: Hilda and Roselie against their former lover Chris, who’s still in Embryo’s court; Salako’s two lieutenants we can’t remember the names of versus the other two Embryo girls we can’t remember the name of, and Vivi inspiring the rookies with her usual kick-ass combat skills. And then Tusk takes on Embryo, who is amused that Tusk isn’t dead.

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Jasmine and Ersha successfully fire the Aurora’s cryo-cannon at the Dawn Pillar, destroying it and opening the way for Salako and Ange to free Aura beneath the ruins. But Ange has to get past a hate-fueled Salia, who may yet again be ignoring her natural shortcomings in her obsessive quest to destroy her rival. Note that her arc has gone in essentially the opposite direction of Hilda’s.

Salia tosses Ange into the palace, where Ange happens to come upon her sister Sylvia, who is being harassed by commoners furious that nothing’s being done to protect them. Ange has nothing for these people but contempt, and in one case, a bullet to the head. In what she believes will be her last encounter with her pathetic little sister, Ange fires warning shots at her, forcing her to stop pretending she can’t walk and run away, taking care of herself for once.

It’s pretty harsh treatment when you consider that like much of the rest of humanity, Sylvia is simply a slave to her genetic abhorrance of Norma and Dragons, and a victim of her weak, brainwashing-susceptable mind. But alas, this is not a fair world; that’s why Ange’s going to destroy it, giving rise to a fairer one.

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With that last “errand” taken care of, Ange returns to her duel with a patient Salia, and it’s pretty clear at this point there’s nothing Ange can say that will make her see reason. Enter Alektra Maria von Levenherz, who has taken Ange’s words to heart, suits up, and pilots Ersha’s ragna-mail to join the fray, doing her part for Libertus.

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Perhaps Jill will be able to succeed where Ange has thus far failed vis-a-vis Salia. She certainly knows how to press Salia’s buttons, as the first thing she says to her is that she’s disappointed, the kind of tack that drew Salia away from her in the first place.

Is she provoking Salia to throw her off the game so she’ll break off from Ange and start attacking Jill? Is Jill’s goal to atone by snapping Salia out of it, or simply by letting Salia kill her, if she can? Did Embryo really set up this whole world-merging threat simply to draw Ange to kill him for realsies, using the Villkiss’ inter-dimensional ability.

Will the battle end next week, making episode 25 an epilogue? Who will live; who will die; who will reconcile? The housekeeping and table-setting is over: it’s time for the big dance.

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P.S. In the adorable preview, Vivi celebrates Ersha’s return by demanding food, and Ersha headbutts her, but the preview ends before she can tell us what happens next week. Drat!

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.