Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 25 (Fin)

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One of the question marks last week was what, if anything, would bring Salia back into the fold. That turns out to be Alektra, whom Salia brings to the Aurora. All Alektra wants is a cigarette and the chance to say what she needed to say to Salia, whom she regards as a little sister, if not a carbon copy of herself, complete with the same mistakes. But as Aura halts the world-merging, there’s still a chance to beat Embryo.

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And is there some villainy thee vile Embryo hast not committed? Why, forcable rape, of course! His final move is to return to his own timeless “in-betweeny space”, where he gives Ange more of his backstory in between slapping and stripping her. He won’t be refused, and aims to “purify” Ange, who was “sullied” by Tusk. Now Embryo is just pathetic, though who can say this wouldn’t happen to any man kept alive for a thousand years, with the power to control everything?

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But yeah, in it’s last episode, Ange “goes there”, just it has not been afraid to go there throughout its run, for good or ill. He binds her arms and legs with vines so she’s spread eagle, but is kind enough not to gag her, so Ange takes advantage and sings the song of Villkiss. Tusk boards it, and with his tears of love he’s able to activate her ring, and the Villkiss teleports him, Hilda, Salia and Salako to Ange’s location.

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Tusk is just in time to stop Embryo from going too far, and rescues Ange in their now trademark position of his head in her crotch. This time, Ange is too scared and happy he’s there to blush or slug him. And he even has the panties she gave him so she can cover up. I wondered when those panties would come in handy.

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There’s still Embryo to content with, and Tusk crosses swords with him, as is expected of a knight, and we also learn this is Embryo’s original body. He’s still a tough customer, so Tusk keeps him busy as Villkiss upgrades again to a Ange/Tusk combo paint scheme, and cloaks Ange in a crisp, white flight suit.

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Hilda (riding Chris’ mail), Salia, and Salako prove to be a good group to have accompanied Tusk to this place. They’re kept busy fighting duplicates of Embryo’s Ragna-mail. He tries to brainwash Salia and briefly takes over control of her mail, but as Ange and Salako monologue about how they’ll allow themselves to be controlled (by a man, no less) over their dead bodies. Hilda and Salia join their voices.

Salako even figures out why Norma exist—judgment for Embryo thinking in his hubris he could control human genes—and why they’re all women: so they can re-populate the Earth with a population of humans he can’t control. Life Will Find A WayCross Ange-style. It holds together pretty well.

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As Tusk runs Embryo through and Ange delivers that dynamite one-liner in the top-right, she runs his Ragna-mail through, and it’s over. No more dirty old man. Good game; let’s go eat!

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The world Ange & Friends return to is the “true” Earth of Dragons, now freed from Embryo’s tinkering. There, with no one left to fight, Ange declares she’ll build a new nation, and at this point everyone at her side is fine with that. She was born to lead, after all, not to mention she’s the reason they’re all alive.

When Momoka asks what’s to be done about the other world, Ange basically shrugs and says it’s not her problem, which she’s well within her rights to do. The people of that world are humans; they’ll figure it out.

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Sure enough, we see Sylvia embracing the fact that she really can walk, and arms herself with friends and weapons to protect the weak. The show didn’t have to do anything else with Sylvia, but I’m glad they did. She is Ange’s sister, and Ange herself was once an insufferable brat, so it stands to reason Sylvia had that same strength within her.

As the credits roll we get a great epilogal montage that shows us what everyone is up to now that there’s peace: Ersha, Salia, and the surviving rookies meeting Vivian’s parents; Ange opening her dream cafe with Tusk; Momoka and the bridge crew; hanging out with Salako on her time off; paying respects to the fallen, and building their new nation.

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Left out of the end montage, in a rare showing of restraint for this show: Hilda-Roselie-Chris makeup sex, Ange-Tusk baby-making, and other potential bedroom formations, such as Ange-Salako-Tusk or Ange-Tusk-Hilda-Roselie. Gotta leave some things to the imagination, I suppose…but I imagine at some point they’ll want to populate this new nation, and there are only so many men. Gotta watch out for inbreeding.

And on that somewhat inappropriate note, it’s time to say goodbye to Cross Ange, at least until the OVA or film, if they come to fruition. It was a very fun ride, and I’ll miss the show’s shameless raunchyness and shlock combined with genuinely compelling character drama and feminist commentary.

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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!

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 07 (Take Two)

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Nozaki asks Chiyo out, but that turns out to be a reference gathering and art supply run. Frustrated but hopeful embarrassment ensues. 

During the “date,” Nozaki attempts to get Chiyo to pose in a sailor suit. Failing that, Nozaki tries to model in the sailor suit himself. Hilarious embarrassment and heaven-sent curses for being manly-muscular ensues. 

Mikorin, who is shopping in the same mall, is discovered in the naughty Bishoujo model isle and asked to model the sailor. Double embarrassment and exasperation ensues. (End Act 1)

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Mikorin refuses Chiyo’s request to model for the art club only to accept the request from another girl he doesn’t know. (and accept with great flourish he does) Chiyo is not amused.

At home, Mikorin prepares by posing in an S shape (the wrong way) and by mimicking his sexy Bishoujo figures but even he knows this is all wrong. (nicely looping us back to act one) If Chiyo were there, she would not be amused.

At Art Club, Mikorin takes many humorously specific pose requests, is humorously not rescued by Nozaki when he shows up and ultimately flirt-agrees to pose for art club again… next time in the nude. Miserably embarrassed with himself, Mikorin crumples in a terror ball and, again, Chiyo is not amused.

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I’m double-reviewing GSN-k this week in prep for Zane’s hand off next week — and what a week to start reviewing this lovely show! While I giggled like it’s 1493 during Nozaki’s sailor antics and Mikorin’s bedroom confusion, episode 7 is all about the romantic teen drama. Lite-Drama, to be sure, but the confusion and believable frustration felt by the two emotionally present characters is there at every turn.

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Because we view the show largely from Chiyo’s perspective (I could even argue we see Mikorin’s POV scenes as Chiyo would imagine them) we’re only getting her hopes and doubts about Nozaki liking her or not and, since Nozaki is extraordinarily weird AND stoic, it’s impossible for us to tell if he really does like her and is going about it in a Nozaki-be-crazy way, or if he only considers Chiyo a professional ally. Color me less entertained, laughs-wise this week, but I’m gonna stream this show until I get an answer!

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Meanwhile, team Mikorin has to wonder if he’s harboring confused interest in Chiyo as well. I may be reading too much into it, but Chiyo is the only only female Mikorin talks to seriously — the only one he ever show’s his embarrassment to — and he’s come to her for childish emotional support on more than one occasion. He went so far as to panic and tantrum at her after she left him alone in the art room (to get him a drink no less) this week. Who knows if that clinginess will turn romantic or not but, given GSN-k’s playful jabs at the genre, I expect at least an episode dedicated to the art of tragic romantic triangles.

Or squares.

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What continues to make GSN-k so much fun is how absurd the characters are — sincerely bizarre. Not absurdist plays on modern culture sprinkled with anthro-characters, just people with unusual ways of looking at the world and unexpected ways of behaving. It’s great and very effective at keeping us in the dark over what they all want (in relation to Chiyo) and, usually, keeps an amused smirk on my face while doing it.

GSN-k is taking it slow but, sometimes, slow is a good thing. If this were Love Stage!!, Chiyo would have raped Nozaki by episode 3 and I’d be all make the bad bad dreams go away mommy by now. And that’s something I can do without.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 07

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Besides the fact they’re now friends and she helps him with his manga, one of the reasons Chiyo hangs around Nozaki so much is that she hasn’t let go of the hope that one day he’ll notice her as a romantic interest; even requite her feelings for him. It’s gestures like agreeing to hang out with her on his off day that lend fuel to the long-burning flame she carries for him.

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Unfortunately, in every such instance Chiyo is ultimately disappointed, and part one of this episode is no exception. He picks the movie they go to so he can see a school building from multiple angles; he picks out clothes for her to wear so he can use her as a reference for Mamiko; he picks out a resin doll to be a Suzuki reference; and he makes an art supply run.

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This isn’t the date Chiyo wanted; it’s errands, and she’s not his companion, she’s his assistant. We watch much of this show from Chiyo’s perspective, and she has an idealized version of Nozaki whose thoughts and actions are motivated by things other than shoujo manga, but episodes like this make me wonder if that vision of Nozaki is just her mirage. The last nail in the coffin is when he invites her to his place…because he has too much food.

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There’s always a practical reason for Chiyo in Nozaki’s life, but never an emotional one, aside from acknowledgement of and gratitude for her hard work, never realizing she’s doing all this because she likes him. In a comedy that purports to satirize shoujo manga, I’m actually okay with Nozaki being so single-minded and unromantic; it subverts that genre’s usual formula. But it also makes me feel a little bad for Chiyo.

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Unfortunately it is also hamstringing Nozaki as a character. Chiyo and Mikorin have many sides to them, but while Nozaki sometimes reveals strange tastes, he remains stubbornly static. Happily, the show seems to be aware of this as well, and chooses to put Mikorin at the center of the second part. An ironic indication Chiyo and Mikorin are good friends is how easily he refuses her request.

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Were she any other girl, he’d have put on the playboy charm and accepted, which is exactly what happens with the other art club members, much to his dismay. During the session each member of the club gives him a pose to do, and they’re all hilariously specific, including Chiyo’s request for him to pose like Nozaki writing a manuscript.

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When the real Nozaki pops in, he ends up drawing what he wants, then takes over the club by making everyone else pose for him. In the end, Mikorin has fun, and the club members, mostly girls, are very appreciative. He gets more comfortable and confident around them, but goes too far, offering to be a nude model for them next time. Godspeed, Mikorin!

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Stray Observations:

  • It was pretty adorable watching Chiyo try in vain to keep up with Nozaki’s massive gait!
  • Nozaki over-thinking: planning to break the arm off a resin bishoujo model because it’s covering her ear. Just buy a different pose, dude!
  • I don’t know why, but I feel a bit cheated that Chiyo never dressed up in that sailor suit. I guess Nozaki was a little too enthusiastic about snapping photos of her in it. Also, through his eyes/lens she’d only be Mamiko.