クロスアンジュ 天使と竜の輪舞[ロンド] 第1話 「戦場の風姫」
Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo #01. 「The Fallen Princess」
Source Material: Original anime series
Director(s): Ashino Yoshiharu (芦野 芳晴)
Producer(s): Fukuda Mitsuo (己津央 満夫)
Script: Higuchi Tatsuto (樋口 達人)
Character Design: Matsuo Yuusuke (松尾 祐輔)
Music: Shikata Akiko (志方 あきこ)
Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo is a Japanese mecha anime television series and original production of studio Sunrise. The original run of the anime, starting in October 2014, coincides with the ongoing manga adaptation illustrated by Takeshita Kenjirou that began publication in Kadokawa‘s ComicWalker in August 2014.
Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi, the First Princess of the Misurugi Empire, is a sixteen year old member of nobility who has enjoyed a wealthy life being widely revered by the denizens of a civilization that she herself refers to as “a world freed from war, inequality, and poverty.” The day before her royal coronation, Angelise encounters a Norma, those born with the inability to use Mana, for the first time and resolves to work towards exterminating the phenomenon of Norma so that the world may become an even more beautiful place to live in. Touched by this sudden resolution of Angelise’s, Sophia Ikaruga Misurugi, Angelise’s mother, bestows upon her the Ikaruga Royal Family’s ring, an artifact that is believed to protect its wearer with the Light of Mana. However, the next day, Angelise faces the opposite of protective fortune, as her brother, Julio publicly exposes her as a Norma and executes a seizure of reigning-power from his father. Julio orders soldiers to capture Angelise, enabling them to use live-rounds as ammunition, and Sophia is fatally shot trying to protect Angelise. Angelise is subsequently arrested and sent to Arzenal, an imprisonment island where all Norma are sentenced to. There, a warden named Jill, a Norma herself, strips Angelise of all her belongings, including the Ikaruga Royal Family ring, and introduces her to a new, callous life by means of a traditional prison beat-down and a shaming physical examination.
Sunrise sure knows how to put variation in its mecha series, but I guess if I were to expect any mecha series with just as much fantastical dragon-blood splattering on screen as mechanical explosions, it would be one created by the same production studio responsible for the spasmodic sensation that was Code Geass. (My research only goes so far, but staff-wise, it seems that we have essentially no connections between the two series whatsoever.) Going into Cross Ange, there are further similarities to Geass other than the inclusion of a supernatural-fantasy element, such as its self-reliant protagonist hardened by a scarring past incident and the anachronistic setting of medieval European aristocracy in an otherwise uber-technologically advanced civilization (though I suppose this trope has somehow made itself a mecha series staple since the earliest of such series); and while I didn’t intend to center this review on any degree of comparative analysis, the likeness just kept steadily increasing throughout the episode, so forgive me if the parallels get out of hand. For Cross Ange‘s first episode, there’s a fair amount of world-building through miniature montages of a resplendent metropolis brimming with highways of hover-cars and far-expanding blocks of holographic advertisements, magical devices that swap a wearers’ clothes within seconds, and the futuristic like. And at the hierarchical top of this transcended capital is our Angelise “Ange” Ikaruga Misurugi, who doesn’t just stand among the top of an aristocratic structure but also in the middle of, as is promptly introduced, a moral dilemma. It’s truly a fall from grace as in one scene Angelise is spouting her undefiable belief that those born as Norma, unable to use Mana and branded as heretic things instead of humans, should be forgotten about by even their own mothers and replaced with a new child; and then in another soon-after scene, she is betrayed by her own brother and branded as a wretched Norma herself. (Ah yes, the family drama at perhaps its most dramatic.) Personally, if anything, it’s wholly annoying to witness someone, sixteen years of age and so ignorant of the workings of her own world, spewing the self-righteousness of her status. As she says herself, “This world freed by the Light of Mana from war, inequality, and poverty. A world where all darkness has disappeared. It’s peaceful, beautiful and perfect. But I’ve always been searching. There must be a path that challenges me out there.” Her mindset abhorrently screams “savior complex” as she juxtaposes the resplendence of the civilization that her family rules over to her own discovery of a social concern, emphasizing the rectitude of her new-found just cause. It’s naive that she even dares to call their society a sanctuary free from inequality and darkness after having witnessed the unjust treatment towards Norma for the first time and then proceeds to cite the experience and what she aims to be the extermination of such an anomaly as the path to making their world even more beautiful. Because really, it doesn’t take an individual of refined upbringing whatsoever to see that it’s clearly not beautiful at all. Of course, this becomes further evident, as no matter how presumptuous Angelise may have been, her character is nowhere near as instantaneously despicable as her incestuous brother, Julio, whose bigotry towards Norma is enough of a melodramatic plot-point that it enables him to usurp all authoritative power from his father, the king, in a matter of seconds. As the drama ensues, mother(s) are shot, dying speeches are made, arrests are enacted, prison bullying occurs, personal epiphanies are realized, panties are plucked, and at the end of it all is a wholly surprising, climactic, episode-cliffhanging hand up the butt. For the most part, I think Cross Ange is keenly aware of its position as a semi-experimental, semi-pandering production, this being something perhaps most discernible in its next episode preview dialogue; “What did you think of episode one? …It was terrible! They did horrible things to that glamorous princess! How could they do that to her! That was completely unconscionable! Also, isn’t this suppose to be a bishoujo robot anime? I get the bishoujo part, but where were the robots!?” In all honesty, it’s an interrogative commentary and sentiment that mirrors my own first impression. Even beyond discussion of whether or not the bishoujo sub-genre is any given person’s cup of tea (in my case, the pretty, varied female character designs, and the fan-service that accompanies them, is probably the most redeeming aspect to fall back upon when the writing itself is proving to be outright unbearable), there’s the question of direction. I can perfectly understand the impulse to begin the episode with the present-day Ange and then revert the chronology back to reveal her tragic back-story; it’s a perfectly established literary device of story-telling. But in regard to the show maintaining its viewership and reeling the audience’s favor back in, without giving that one final glimpse of the bad-ass transformation we know that Ange has made, the transformation that secures her conceptual story-telling rite to execute (revenge on) her brother, we simply end on the note of a ridiculously played out account of family feud involving the obscenely rich and wealthy. At the time of its original run, Code Geass was one of my most anticipated shows to tune into weekly (though boy, did I watch anime with a completely different mindset back then); and while my continual comparisons between Cross Ange and it (the theme of unrightful crown ruler-ship reflected by philosophical stances; if the opening and ending sequence are anything to go by, the cast certainly looks just as expansive; breaking the show down to even the smallest details, like the way characters’ eyes are drawn, there’s an undeniable touch of familiarity) have inadvertently deemed Cross Ange as a spiritual successor of sorts (complementary of a bishoujo complex), there’s way too much of a disparity in execution to mimic the success of a hit-series that was, admittedly, already steadily losing its luster in the second half of its run.