Cross Ange: Rondo of Angels and Dragons is a prime example of why viewers shouldn’t give up on an anime too early into its run. Back when the series originally premiered I was warned to steer clear of the show due to an unsavoury incident that occurs during the tail end of episode one. Thankfully I paid no heed to those words because after watching all twenty-five episodes I have to say that I rather enjoyed the series. The distasteful scene in question was much ado about nothing and shouldn’t discourage fans of shows like Code Geass from checking out this series. Seriously the similarities Cross Ange and Code Geass share are uncanny – they both feature slighted monarchs, political skulduggery, badass mech fights and even disabled sisters who are confined to wheelchairs.
The series begins in the capital city of the utopian Misurugi Empire. Thanks to the advent of mana, which allows citizens to use magic, social problems such as crime, war, pollution and hunger have all been eradicated. Life is swell unless you happen to be one of the poor souls born with a mutation that prevents you from harnessing mana. The populace fears these mana-deprived individuals, known as Norma, because their touch can disrupt the flow of mana. Any unfortunate Normas caught by the authorities are whisked off to a prison island named Arzenal where they are forced to battle inter-dimensional dragon invaders from another world. Incarceration due to a genetic defect is harsh, but hey it’s not all bad. Using a giant robot to beat up Spyro sounds like an exciting career.
Princess Angelise soon discovers that the kingdom’s laws apply to everyone regardless of their status (nothing at all like the real world where bankers and celebrities are exempt from following the rules.) During her baptism ceremony it is revealed that Ange is a Norma, earning her a one-way ticket to Arzenal. To make matters worse her heinous brother uses the revelation as an excuse to usurp the throne. The former king and queen are cruelly executed for having the gall to keep their daughter’s condition a secret from the general public. Will Ange be able to mimic the Count of Monte Cristo by escaping her island confinement and gaining vengeance on those that betrayed her? Perhaps, but first she will need to brush up on her mech piloting skills or she will end up as a flying lizard’s snack.
My rating for Cross Ange is four stars. As expected from a studio with the pedigree of Sunrise (they are the guys who gave us Gundam after all) the show is good fun to watch thanks to its exciting mech battles. The story isn’t half bad either. It’s much more than robots slaying dragons, although I can’t discuss the plot at length because it is all tied together by surprising revelations I would rather not spoil. Although the series has its share of dark moments, particularly early on, there is also plenty of comedy to add levity to proceedings. For the most part the gags work, although at times things can get too silly for my tastes. I’d probably award Cross Ange a better score if it had higher production values. I guess the budget went towards the CG robot designs because there are several instances were the animation quality dips. The artists are also guilty of recycling assets, particularly during the second opening sequence.
In terms of characters the series is blessed with a likable, predominately female, cast (explained by the fact that Normas are exclusively women.) The show’s only notable male is Ange’s love interest Tusk – a buffoonish freedom fighter that has a knack for “accidently” falling onto her crotch. Ange herself is a strong female protagonist, although I doubt feminists would see her as one given that she is often put into compromising positions for the sake of fan service. Anita Sarkeesian would not approve of Ange’s flight suit either, as it reveals more skin than your average bikini. If I had to liken Ange to another anime character it would be Satellizer el Bridget from Freezing. Both ladies are blonde beauties that are proficient at battling invaders. They are both also the victims of bullying, by unappreciative comrades, partly due to their uncompromising attitudes.
To finish off I would like to comment on the elephant in the room – namely how episode one finished. Was the shocking conclusion in question justified? Probably. Said incident, along with the other hardships Ange suffered, is what turned her from a pampered princess into a hardened ace pilot. A traumatic experience was also required to make audiences sympathize with the character, especially as Ange was initially presented as a spoilt rich girl. If something that extreme hadn’t befallen her there’s a possibility that viewers would think that she is simply getting what she deserved. Cross Ange is packed with lashings of ecchi that will put some people off and that is fair enough. If the first episode’s ending is your sole reason for avoiding the show I would however have to ask why? Is a one second physical examination really any worse than the gruesome slaughter seen in shows like the universally acclaimed Attack on Titan?