Princess Angelise lives a luxurious life free of worry or care. Humanity has now evolved to the point it can use a form of magic-technology called “Mana,” thereby eradicating war, pollution, and any need to do actions that would normally require physical effort. It’s not entirely a utopia, however, as there are individuals who are unable to use Mana, called “Norma,” and treated as threats to society for their uncontrollable ability to destroy it. On her 16th birthday, Angelise learns she is, in fact, one of these Norma, and is soon ripped away from her pampered life. Her identity as princess is stripped away from her, her name is now reduced to simply being “Ange,” and she is now forced to live in a hellish, isolated environment among a group of Norma soldiers, where she’ll have no choice but to fight the dragons that threaten to invade their homeland.
If you’ve heard of Cross Ange, you’ll likely have heard of what a stir its first two episodes started in the English-speaking fandom. Subjects such as racism, police brutality, the on-screen killing of a child and, most infamously, sexual assault, are covered in a mere two episodes. Many took these episodes to be downright vile, a sentiment I definitely don’t object to, but more than that, they seemed overwhelmingly desperate to see just how far they could push the “edgy” envelope. And, honestly, I couldn’t help but be compelled to sit through more of it to see just how low this show was willing to bring itself.
It’s been said that the show improves after the first two episodes, and that’s something I can both confirm and deny. While it lets up on more tasteless, exploitative aspects, it’s not necessarily a “better” series for it, either. In fact, it becomes more of a bingo card for anime cliches and ridiculous material. On the anime cliche side there’s the running gag with the guy accidentally falling on the tsundere girl’s untouchables (in this case, Ange’s crotch) followed by the tsundere getting mad at him, “stranded and sometimes naked on an island, romance ensues” episode, the beach episode, the Things We’ve Been Killing Are Actually People Twist episode, and many of the characters sliding nicely into their assigned archetypes.
On the ridiculous material side, we have an incomplete bullet point list:
* The keyboard mashing cemetery that makes several appearances throughout the series.
* When Ange and Jill are having a serious talk in the rain, their uniforms are soaked through to the point you can see their bras.
* The girls freaking out over Ange’s torn off-duty uniform even though it looks no more revealing than their pilot suits.
* Ange getting bitten by a snake, forcing the Kira Yamato clone named Tusk to suck the poison from her thigh.
* A game involving the girls carrying eggs between their boobs.
* Ange getting shot in the boob.
* Tusk and Momoka dying at the end of one episode, only to be revealed to be alive at the end of the next one.
* (Momoka survived because she had a frying pan in her bra.)
* Ange giving her panties to Tusk as a lucky charm.
* The villain named Embryo.
* (Miraculously, there isn’t a pregnancy plot.)
* The villain named Embryo spanking a girl.
* The villain named Embryo using his mind-control powers to make Ange uncontrollably horny.
* Tusk and the villain named Embryo, in the midst of battle, getting into a verbal ownage fight over who’s had the most action with Ange.
* Ange kicking the villain named Embryo, causing her clothes to explode.
The villain named Embryo in general is perhaps the catalyst for all of the show’s absurdity. He’s a demi-god who’s also possibly meant to be the show’s attempt at social commentary on otaku; he treats his women as objects (one shot even shows a naked girl in apron preparing his breakfast), he verbally claims Ange as his wife and is outraged when Tusk reveals she had sex with him and is no longer “pure,” his goal is to eradicate all of humanity so he and his pure wife Ange can live in their fantasy world, and to top it all off, Ange calls him a hikikomori in the last episode.
Commentary or not, however, it’s still pretty hilarious to see the characters calling Embryo a horrible person for the way he treats women and then taking a step back and seeing how the show is its own villain. Aside from the numerous fanservice and fanservice angles the series tries to cram in at any moment, there’s several other factors at play: the hilarious difference between what the women and men are required to wear for pilot suits, Ange’s “triumphant” revelation that the reason why all Normas are women is so they can make babies, Ange giving an absolutely vile “smackdown” to Jill that’s framed as being a necessary “wake-up” call for her--and I think I’ll end it there because that’s where I finally had the knee-jerk “What the fuck is the matter with this show?” reaction.
Neither does the show.
So what is Cross Ange, in the end? Good, bad, neither? To me, it’s junk food--bad, bad for me, bad for you, yet still somehow edible and has something that keeps me returning to it, faster than any other, far better, series I’d been keeping up with. In this case, it was to see how bad the show could get--and oh man, it got gloriously bad.