Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon Anime (English) Guest Review By Mariko S

September 28th, 2016

caradIt’s Guest Review Wednesday here on Okazu! Today we have returning Guest Guest Reviewer, Mariko S, who will be handling a request I get here rather often, a look at the Cross Ange series.  

If you know of some media that you consider Yuri or lesbian and want it reviewed, but haven’t seen it here, take a look at our Guest Review Guidelines and consider offering to write a review. 

So please welcome back Mariko and give her your undivided attention. Take it away, Mariko!

Compared to a couple of decades ago, it has never been easier to acquire and enjoy Yuri. Before, outside of a couple of pantheon-level characters and series, we Yurifans were mostly relegated to overblowing curiously timed blushes and offhand remarks. Now there’s more dedicated Yuri content released than ever before.

Of course, the dark side of this evolution has been the ossification of the Yuri genre around the “pure schoolgirl” archetype. This has resulted in seemingly endless series devoted to a plain girl entering a prestigious private all-girls school in a world where men don’t exist, and all the girls are gay. Nothing much happens over the course of a season, and at the end you get a kiss between the leads (maybe).

Where can we turn to break out of this doldrum? Where there is a real story, with a detailed plot, and things of consequence happen to a diverse cast in a richly developed world that happens to contain lesbian characters? In search of such a thing, I have delved into the world of seinen series, home of old to various evil lesbian predators or joke Yuricrushes. And to my delight, amongst the awful dreck of your Koihime Musou and Valkyrie Drives, there is some worthwhile stuff being produced! Today I come to talk to you about Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon, available on Crunchyroll (behind an adult themes warning.)

We are introduced to an idyllic world, seemingly free of all strife, and the magi-tech power called Mana that enables it. Our heroine Angelise is a spoiled, ignorant princess who, as it turns out, is one of the outcast “norma,” people (always female) who cannot use Mana. Her unmasking and downfall is orchestrated by her scheming brother, and as a result she is rudely ripped from her perfect life of privilege and thrown into the hidden war that enables the rest of society’s bliss.

As she finds out, when norma are discovered they are sent to a distant island where they are forced to use non-magic weapons in the form of fighting jet-robots called para-mails to battle extradimensional invading dragons. Most of the girls have been there since birth and know no other life.

The series has a remarkably good pace of character development for Ange. She has lived all her life believing that norma were antisocial monsters that must be eliminated, and it is not a quick or easy process for her to accept that she is one and how to restart her life as one. Additionally, the layers of truth and fiction surrounding the reality of the show’s universe are revealed in a gradual but compelling way. Things do not stay static long on this show.

Ok, so I will outright say it – many aspects of the show can get pretty ridiculous. The service is liberally sprinkled around: the battle uniforms are glorified fetishwear, too many conversations take place in baths, and there’s no shortage of boobs and butts flying around. However, as far as the plot is concerned, as crazy as many of the developments seem as they come out, for the most part I have to give the show credit for hanging together by its own internal logic to the end. There is only one truly horrendous asspull for which you will have to pretend they came up with a better explanation.

There are situations of violence and sexual coercion meant to emphasize Ange’s vulnerability. There’s lots of violence overall; although most of it isn’t especially gruesome, some scenes could be difficult if you are sensitive. Finally, the token male lead/love interest Tusk has a running gag of ending up face-first in Ange’s crotch at every opportunity. It isn’t funny the first time, and gets less funny every time after.

But that out of the way, unlike many of its contemporaries, this show has a brain and a heart. Ange goes on quite the journey from a weak, irritating, unlikeable brat to a strong, seasoned, fair leader. The series wants to say something about the way groups of people are marginalized and demonized to maintain a false sense of security. It brings together a diverse cast of people who are not stereotypes or tokens, but who have pasts, presents, and futures to explore. It draws a distinct contrast between the way the main villain says he wants “strong women of intelligence” by his side, but really just wants obedient servants, and the truly strong women who oppose him. It’s not a masterpiece, but it has ambition, and that is commendable.

Make no mistake, this is a series with Yuri, and plenty of it. But also, make no mistake, this is a seinen series through and through, and wears its fanservice badge proudly and frequently. For the first half of the series, lesbian attraction and lesbian sex serves primarily as titillation. To the show’s credit, there is never any “but we’re both girls” or a sense that it’s a stand-in because men aren’t around. Some of the sex is about power, some is about genuine attraction. The only character who thinks it’s “wrong” is Ange herself, and that is part of her character development.

In the end, while she does not return the feelings of the girl who loves her, she accepts them and even chastises her for feeling that her attraction is “weird.” Her response was pretty amazing to me for a show like this: “Who says it’s weird? That’s the ridiculous world we’re going to destroy together, isn’t it?”

In fact, there are three canonically lesbian characters who are all fully developed and have arcs both including and apart from their sexuality. They are not by any means one-note side characters or jokes. And that, whatever other shortcomings this show has, makes it worth any Yurifan’s time and money.
Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 7
Yuri– 8
Service – 10

Overall – 7

Thank you very much, Mariko!

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10 Responses

  1. Mariko says:

    I know I spent a lot of time discussing the “rough edges” of the show, but I hope it’s clear that I did *like* it, quite a lot actually. When I wasn’t facepalming the egregious parts, there was an intricate story with some pretty great voice acting and unusually good character depth to enjoy.

    In fact, while you can’t ignore the service, oftentimes the show zigs where others would have zagged and passes up prime service situations. In the back half of the show the service slows down a lot and is more connected to the plot.

    I didn’t spend too much time discussing the plot beyond the first few episodes because I felt that the rollercoaster of twists was great fun and didn’t want to spoil it for people. Give it four or five episodes if you decide to give it a shot; all is not as it seems on this show.

    Finally, Hilda is such a great character – her journey and growth from the start of the show to the end is nearly as long and difficult as Ange’s. It’s not often that you meet a character who you instantly, thoroughly dislike (by intention of the writers) that you eventually identify with and feel deeply for, and they accomplished that twice here!

    • It came across plainly that you did think it was a show worth watching. ^_^

    • Mara says:

      Good. I must say I was one of the people turned off by the first episode and how everything seemed to be setting up but heard good things on the vine by the end of the season. It seems very similar to Mai Otome but in the genre of ‘Women in Prison’ instead of ‘Magical Private School’. Thank you for convincing me to give this show another shot.

      • Mariko says:

        I was right there with you – it actually took me a couple of months to “get around to” watching the second episode after really not digging what appeared to be the direction in the first.

        With the benefit of hindsight I see the logic behind it – if our viewpoint is largely supposed to be Angelise’s, it makes sense to exaggerate the contrast between the “human” and “norma” worlds during the transition, and make Arzenal appear to be a much more hostile and awful place at first. The abuses she faces are uncomfortable to watch but serve to ruthlessly show that she no longer has any status or privelege; she’s not a princess anymore, just another outcast.

        An argument can be made that it’s a little more prurient than necessary to accomplish this goal, but by the second episode they’re already starting to show a more rounded picture of life on Arzenal.

  2. I’ve still only watched the first two or three episodes.

    I liked in the pilot the whole switching the usual approach to Fantastic Racism by having the super-powered people rule the world and shun non powered people.

    But then it quickly decided to not be about that.

  3. Mariko says:

    Not sure what you mean. On the most fundamental level it is about that the whole series – it’s the motivation and backdrop for everything that happens and every choice that is made. Except norma aren’t completely non-powered, keep in mind. They have the power to neutralize Mana, which is part of why they are shunned as dangerous to society.

  4. Ponzu says:

    Thank you for the review!

    This series is difficult to talk about because it has some dazzlingly shining moments and some that are just objectively awful and for the most part the awful part tends to overshadow tends to overshadow the rest.

    But I still end up rewatching it every few months because it has a few things I like: a narrative about a group of angry women who take on the establishment and change it. A strong-willed protagonist who is neither wishy-washy nor naive. A tight-knit story that doesn’t lose pace all the way to the ending.

    It’s a good show if you can handle its thrashiness.

    • Mariko says:

      I agree with your assessment (except for me the positives quite definitively outweighed the negatives). I particularly enjoyed the intricate, propulsive plot with relatively few handwave explanations, with so many recent series being slice of life fluff or utter nonsense.

      And of course it is unfortunately rare to find a heroine as capable and self-possessed as Ange. Who would rather spit in her enemy’s eye and insult them than cry. There was more “Tusk to the rescue!” than I would have liked but for the most part Ange did her own ass-kicking when asses needed to be kicked.

  5. Hello dear Yuri-friends. I just wanted to share with you their own opinion about Cross Ange. I personally have not yet started watching this anime, but all I will say. I am otaku yuri 9 years, and I liked the one hand, this anime, and on the other, and disappointed. I was very pleased that at the beginning was a real harem yuri (Zola, Rosalie, Chris and Hilda), but Zola bit spoiled everything and I was glad that she had died (although I have my suspicions that she is still alive). Now about Ange and Hilda, they initially did not really get along with each other, as Ange had to lose his own family and the love of the people, not realizing it was just blinded by concern for their commander Zola. Only after meeting with his mother, who also had forgotten her, Hilda began to understand what was Ange, when she had to leave our home and deprived of their family whom she loved very much. So it began to awaken romantic feelings Hilda to Ange, but at that moment she realized that she did not get to win the heart of Princess as Ange loves Tusk, but despite this she confessed her feelings for what is unexpected for most Hilda (me especially), the princess gave her a long, tender kiss, and expressed a desire to see her (Hilda) in the new world. (Perhaps it will give a reason to the fact that Hilda and Ange will pair). I would sincerely hope that the second season will Cross Ange and it Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi and Hildagard Schlievogt finally start dating. And believe me, I watched a lot of Anime Ecchi, I especially remember Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai !! (I especially liked the yuri-couple Takae Tachibana and Saki) As I said, I have not started watching Cross Ange, but I’ve seen some memorable moments on screens and videos. In any case, I hope that Ange and Hilda will be a pair of the new season, if he certainly will. Also, I forgot to remind that Tusk reminded me very much of Souma for Kannazuki no Miko. But there is a difference between them. The amount was able to let go of Himeko too Chikane, because he knew how much they love each other. But Tusk, I can not say anything about him. Since I do not know, he might have sent Ange to Hilda that they both lived happily ever after. For it is only necessary to hope.

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