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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