GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 15

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GARO has never been shy about shuffling off to a totally different story in its world when it feels the urge to. The serial tale of the Makai knights’ struggle against evil has always gone hand and hand with the smaller but still interesting stories of the people they’re protecting. Episodes like this are successful when they find a way to tie the two together. In this case, without meaning to, the common folk’s activities provide another lesson for the Prince Alfie, still young and learning what it means to rule.

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I won’t blame you for not remembering the blacksmith Julio, who had dealings with Herman and Leon and whose dad Sergi (or Jordi, depending on the subs) became a horror and had to be killed. But even if I hadn’t looked back at my older reviews, I’d have recalled him, and I’m glad they brought him back rather than making new characters. We know this kid’s history, and why he’s so determined to build his own Golden Knight; not just so he and his can protect themselves, but be able to help out the real knight.

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I will say, however, that the trial-and-error quality of developing the suit gets a little repetitive, and the sophistication of the technology employed strains credulity quite a bit (the Makai knights’ clearly supernatural armor). I simply don’t buy that elbow grease and some pig iron are capable of building a mobile suit in what is clearly a pre-industrial time period.

It’s also hard not to see this as filler, especially when our main characters get so little time. That being said, the show seems intent to tell us other stories precisely because Leon and Alfie are both kind of in holding patterns. Leon’s one scene with Lara is nice, but it doesn’t provide anything new; these two like each other, but Leon is transient. There’s also something awesome about the prince’s uncle sneaking into the palace through a window just for the hell of it…but it’s hardly substantial stuff.

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In the second half, things pick up when a widow visits the workshop with tales of a monster prowling their farmland. Time to test the anachronistic suit! And despite having, delicate, perishable pig intestines for hydraulic hoses, the suit holds up pretty well…though they’re not actually dealing with a horror, but a big bear made bigger and scarier by the light of the moon.

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Herman and Alfie just happened to be passing by this battle, and Herman is able to step in at the last minute when it seem’s the mecha’s pilot Bruno is about to be blown up with it. The lesson to Alfie is that the people he is sworn to protect are not helpless—indeed, in the ways of the world, they are far stronger—so it’s important not to see them as merely sheep to be tended.

As royalty and a Makai knight, maintaining and protecting the realm is a collaborative effort with his people. They can take care of themselves by and large, but it’s crucial he be there in case whenever they’re in a pinch.

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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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