Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 16

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Cross Ange is completely comfortable changing its tone, mood and focus each week and sometimes what it chooses to be can be interesting and other times… not as much. This week, it was an over-the-top comedy, followed by a dreadfully terrible conflict sequence.

If I wanted Cross Ange to be a comedy, I think I would have enjoyed this week a decent bit. Unfortunately, that’s not really what drew me to the show sixteen episodes ago and I was completely un-engaged from start to finish.

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To sum up, this week pitted Salamandinay against Ange at an arena, where we get to laugh at how seriously they take each recognizable earth sport, or how sports-anime-like their rivalry goes.

Then the girls become friends through their rivalry and a space time tornado shows up and destroys things until Ange takes command and gets Salamandinay to fire her world-destroying weapon in a way that saves the day and only unnamed side characters die mostly off camera so all ends well.

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Honestly, nothing worked at all in this episode, so I’m going to hop right into what didn’t and that starts with Ange herself. Ange’s spiteful, confrontational personality felt out of place last week and, while the show desperately tries to sell me on the idea that Ange knows Sala wants to use her as a tool, Ange misses every opportunity to use Sala back… or make any workable alternative plan of her own in the mean time.

Worse, after some sports the princesses become best friends, which makes Ange’s outbursts here and last week feel pointless and plot delaying.

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Even without Ange’s personality draining my interest, the conflict that consumes the final third of the episode was just a drag. Yet again, we as viewers have to sit through a lengthy scene where characters say how terrible it all is but ARE SITTING THERE not doing anything except telling us how terrible it is.

There’s no sense of tension in the tornado scene. It’s there, doing… something… to the Dragon city but it doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. At least, not unless it’s threatening Vivian’s mommy. Otherwise, it’s just there waiting to be solved by our heroines.

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If I had to choose one thing I actually liked, it would be the unintentionally funny scene where we see Vivian’s mother’s family photo where she and Vivian are posed together. Sure, Vivian is younger and happy and we’re meant to accept that this proves that she really is Vivian’s mom.

Except she’s wearing the same clothes that’s she’s worn since she was introduced 2 episodes ago. Which would mean she hasn’t changed in the decade since Vivian went missing…

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Braverade’s Take:

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Cross Anko is a show in search of a higher score, but my conditions for bestowing one depended on whether we’d be past the crossroads Ange reached: would she decide what to do? Yet, for everything that happened this week, she’s not that far removed from her position at the end of last week. That’s not a lot of movement, so 7 it is. Don’t get me wrong, I consider a 7 a fair and respectable score for what we got.

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While Ange still isn’t clear what to do yet, it’s ultimately the desire to protect Vivian that motivates her to heroic action, requiring collaboration with “Salako.” Unfortunately, that teamwork occurs during a spacetime attack, apparently by Embryo, that was very confusing and free-wheeling. If he was capable of wreaking this level of destruction on the Dragon world, why is it even still here, let alone maintaining large sports centers?

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Along with the requisite AngexTusk “Rom-antics”, I actually quite enjoyed Ange and Salako going at it in tennis, baseball, ping-pong, auto racing, golf, etc. Heck, even Twister suggested these two were quickly running out of ways to ‘fight’ each other (and was half-surprised Tusk didn’t find a way to fall on top of them).

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The games improved Salako’s opinion of Ange, just as her cooperation improved it to the point Salako wants to be friends with her once the danger passes. I like the fact we have two princesses, one of whom is trying to get the other out of forced retirement. But is Vivian, dear as she is, really the only thing Ange cares about protecting?

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stray Observations:

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

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COMEDY GOLD!

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

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Good:

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

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Not so good:

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

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

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

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Braverade’s Take:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good:

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

Not so good:

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

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

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

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Franklin’s Take:

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

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

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

For now, I’m not really sure…

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 12

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

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

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

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

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

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— “AAAAUGH!” — “AAAUUUUUGH!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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