Picture, if you will, a world living in idyll. People everywhere are at peace, conflict only exists in measured games – sports and the like. The Light of Mana, a form of magic power, provides them health, happiness, and protection. Everyone is happy…
Except the parents of the children known as Norma. Every so often a female is born who is incapable of being affected by the Light of Mana. These are the Norma, seen as being savages incapable of being civilized, and are banished never to be seen again.
Our protagonist, princess Angelise of the Kingdom of Misurugi, firmly believes that the Norma have to be removed to ensure the continuation of society. That is, until everything comes crashing down around her as it is shown that she, herself, is a Norma who has been protected from the consequences by her family and she begins to find out the truths of the world.
Battered and Broken
I want to open with a warning. Be prepared; the first few episodes are going to be extremely unpleasant. The show’s treatment of Angelise, later Ange, is brutal. And it borders on excessive, even given their obvious purpose of bringing her down so they can rebuild her.
But it’s not just her… a lot of characters go through some pretty horrid things and it just makes this show a little depressing at parts. Not saying there’s no levity or humour but the show is really hard on its characters – beating them down into the dirt so they can be shaped into the characters the show needs them to be.
But Not Defeated
Once you get past the opening scenes of the series, things become a lot more tolerable and even enjoyable. You get to see characters built almost from whole cloth to be what the story desires. It’s a pity that the first episodes are such a turnoff, because this show does feature some rather unique character development.
The primary recipients of this are Ange herself, her maid Momoka, a fellow Norma named Vivian, and Ange’s love interest Tusk. These four characters in particular have some interesting development and growth. There’s a reason the opening contains a large scene just showing Ange’s various facial expressions… from pampered and naïve princess to mech piloting badass (yes, this is in fact a mecha show) you get to see her personality develop in rather impressive detail.
A Dragon is Born! Wait, a Dragon?
And here we come to one of the best, and one of the worst, parts of this show. Cross Ange features some of the most exciting and interesting mech action I’ve seen in a long time. Sadly this action is featured all too infrequently. The first few episodes are too focused on abusing Ange, and then after that they have to spend a lot of episodes establishing her personality’s gradual change so they just don’t get around often enough to the mech action. It is so bad that the show itself actually makes a joke about it during one of the episode previews. It is supposed to be ironic, but it just turns out to be a sad reality.
It doesn’t really improve at any point during the first arc, if you can call it that, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you do see the mechs – whatever they may be fighting at the time – it is some of the show’s best moments. And most of the time, the mechs are fighting Dragons. Mysterious Dragons who appear out of holes in the sky and are fought off by Norma riding mechs. Yes, what has been happening to the Norma is that they’re sent off to a specialized facility and trained as a paramilitary force to fight off Dragons. Strange way to treat what you consider to be subhuman monsters, but I guess if you consider someone to be ‘hopelessly violent’ and not capable of being ‘part of normal society’, the military is a somewhat logical place for them.
Not Safe For Work
I’m not going to try to find a catchy title for this section, because it is very important to understand: This show is not family friendly. It’s one of the few shows Crunchyroll has with a ‘rating warning’ and it is not going to be a good show to share with your kids or to view at a workplace. People will get the wrong idea.
You see, beyond just the normal trope of ‘scantily clad women’, this show features a few scenes that border on sexual abuse. The protagonist is victimized a couple of times – never completely, but close – and she goes around wearing her normal scant outfit after it’s been put through a shredder for several episodes. There are also several ‘nude’ scenes that just don’t quite show all.
When you add into that the way some of these characters are treated just in general… it makes it a somewhat difficult show to get into. It deserves its rating, but it doesn’t really make use of that rating at all. The content is childishly ‘mature’ most of the time.
While I wouldn’t say this show’s soundtrack is overwhelmingly good, there certainly are a few highpoints, and the way the music is integrated into the show is fascinating. I won’t spoil matters, but there are a few really cool songs that are used to add both ambience and story to the show and they provide some of the show’s most unique and engaging moments – although this is only just beginning to be explored as of the end of the first section of the show. Additionally, the first opening and ending are both really good.
Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon is a show that tries very hard to make you dislike it. But even though it tried very hard, it never quite succeeded. I won’t say I was enamored of the show, but I certainly see glimmers of an interesting future from it… and as we move into the rest of the series, I foresee some really interesting possibilities for the rest of the series – especially if they give us more of the mech battles.
I just hope they can get over their attachment to gratuitous excess because I want to see more of these characters, not see more of the characters, as it were.