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First anime look: Cross Ange

Cross Ange: Rondo of Angels and Dragons

Currently at: Episode 5 (of 25)

Genre: Mecha, Fantasy

Non-spoiler plot summary:
Angelize Ikaruga Misurugi is the first Princess of the Misurugi Empire, a utopia created and maintained through the use of Mana (their description of magic). On the day of her coronation, she and the public discovers that she is a Norma, a person who is unable to use Mana. Such people are discriminated against, treated as subhuman and outcasts. Stripped of her rank and title, she is exiled to a remote island with other Norma girls. They spend their days riding Gundam-like robots, battling interdimensional dragons with the knowledge that they are unwanted by society. The only way they know how to live? Kill and survive.

Watch It If You Like: Valvrave the Liberator, Gundam

Why you should watch it:
With five episodes aired, it seems safe enough to report on it. This comes a little late…don’t judge me; even the most reclusive otakus can be affected by real-life (the 2D world is love! The 2D world is justice!—ala Keima Katsuragi, The World God only Knows).

Typically, I don’t watch a series until the entire season is over. I don’t enjoy the wait, but Cross Ange piqued my interest…mainly because Queen Nana Mizuki is voicing the main character (shameless plug on the coverage of her concert in Singapore here).

Before the truth came out, Ange at her coronation

The first episode opens with a throwback, a mecha sky battle, and then a quick series of events that detail Ange’s fast and furious fall from grace. The underlying theme of the anime is the divide between the have and the have-nots, where those who do not possess Mana become foot soldiers meant to die in the frontline of battle.

What a difference a haircut and a scowl makes
It’s fairly ambitious. It combines mecha, fantasy and nosebleed-inducing fanservice with equal parts comedy, action and morbidity. Think Magic Knight Rayearth with less clothing, more generous bosoms, overcompensated mechanical toys and a healthy dose of lesbianism.

If you’re expecting Gundam with babe pilots…you’re right. But it’s also gritty and raw, even if the characters seem quite one-dimensional.

Fanservice supreme!

From the very beginning, Ange immediately starts grating the nerves and tempers of the other Norma girls. Proud, antisocial and very much in denial of her identity as a Norma, she retains these characteristics even after she realises that being a former princess will get her nowhere. Of course, she spends a great deal of the first three episodes whining about her life, but she adapts quickly—as all main characters do, sinking or swimming—riding in her robot, Villkiss.

Norma girls battling the dragons in their robots, called Paramails

If you’re expecting numerous upshots and shapely silhouettes, you get that. But the anime certainly doesn’t shy away from some of the grittier aspects, such as sexual assault, discrimination and death. Within the first two episodes, four characters get killed off spectacularly, all caused by Ange in one way or another, and that puts her even more at odds with the other supporting characters.

We don't need an explanation for this, do we?

To be honest, I still don’t know what to make of the anime. It’s certainly entertaining enough, with crisp and detailed animation of mecha battles that faintly reminded me of Vandread. There’s enough action and comedic aspects that also keeps you watching, that’s if the rampant girl-on-girl starts getting old.

What did catch my attention were the three songs that were contributed by Nana Mizuki within these five episodes, and the ending theme sung by seiyu Eri Kitamura. That means that the soundtrack is going to be epic! The latest episode also introduces a love interest (hetro, unfortunately) for Ange, so romance is now on the cards.

It’ll be interesting to see how Cross Ange will try to bring all these different genres together, but with another 20 episodes in the pipeline, it’ll have its chance. In the meantime, enjoy the opening theme song!

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