OP: 「禁断のレジスタンス」 (Kindan no Resistance) by 水樹 奈々 (Mizuki Nana)
「堕とされた皇女」 (Oto sare ta ōjo)
“The Fallen Princess”
If there ever was a tale of two halves, Cross Ange’s introductory episode would be it.
The first half was your typical introductory affair, giving us a glimpse of a world without “wants or worries,” and showcasing the prevalence of Mana as the great do-all in everyone’s lives. There’s a particular focus on the Empire of Misurugi’s First Princess (Mizuki Nana), and it’s all about the lead up to Angelize’s Baptism Ceremony, held in commemoration of her 16th birthday and official entrance into Empire politics. It’s as structured a build up as any major empire-led pomp and circumstance would receive, and it’s emphasized with a enough reverence and formal manner of speech to make even the most noble man blush.
It goes without saying that there’s always another side to the story however, and the first half does end up bringing this manner up to light in regards to the revelation that exceptions to the rule exist, and there are people unable to utilize Mana. The catch is they’re all subsequently given a designation of Norma and shipped off unceremoniously—yes, that’s a baby being shipped off in a container—and there are definitely hints early on that the peaceful exterior was none other than a facade covering a more nefarious darkness underneath.
The question was how far it stretched, and the second half brings with it revelations that likely exceeded any of the expectations we had. With them came a stark difference in atmosphere to match—one highlighted by a coup, a death, a fall from grace, and perhaps the most blatant expressions of disgust I’ve seen in an anime in a long time. The revelation of the Princess as a Norma (combined with the cover up by her parents) ends up throwing everything for a loop, and it’s one that ends with a controversial development that reminds me of another recent Sunrise work.
I’ll just say that between Valvrave, Cross Ange, and Sword Art Online II, I don’t know what’s up with people and their need to depict rape (or scenes that imply it or something else similar), but not only is it appearing a lot more often these days, it’s also not being given the treatment a topic of such importance should be given when it does. That said, one could argue that Cross Ange does at least have a legitimate reason for including such a scene, as it showcases the treatment Norma receive, as well as the fact that they’re truly in a prison akin to hell (cavity searches inclusive). But having a legitimate reason doesn’t mean it was intended for that purpose, and the inclusion of this inexplicable scene in between it all makes you wonder if it wasn’t just for the purpose of titillation, which would be downright appalling.
Either way, I’m at a loss at how to summarize my impressions regarding Cross Ange. The controversial rape scene aside, I did like how they went all the way in portraying the stigmatic nature of the Norma, the lengths people would go to in order to ensure they’re tossed out of society, and the flat out repulsion they felt for them. Cross Ange presents a lot of themes worth giving additional depth to, and there is a good story to be had when you have people trying to overcome societal labels, social stigmas, and various other meaningful challenges. It only helps that Sunrise is behind the animation, and the OST’s pretty good as well. The problem is, the series itself will first have to overcome hurdles of its own, as this flawed introductory episode doesn’t do it any favors in regards to how they portrayed events and developed the characters.
The first half was better in hindsight after considering how its atmospheric contrast plays into things, but the fact remains that I didn’t feel much while watching the first half at all, and the rehash of elements from prior Sunrise series (Gundam Seed especially) in the OP sequence doesn’t help in the overall scheme of things. When it comes to enjoyment, it’s not hatred, but rather apathy that’s the worst possible impression you can have, and I was definitely apathetic towards what was an underwhelming first half, and that’s despite the mecha vs. dragon fight. The Mana-Lacrosse match felt like it was just there, the reverence for the Princess overdone to the point that it detracted from the thematic focus, and Julio was presented as stereotypical brother with an ulterior motive.
Thankfully, the second half brings things up a notch, but even that ends up overpowered by the inclusion of the aforementioned controversial scene, and there’s a lot of work to be done here with this series if it wants to get anywhere. The beauty of it all however, is that this is only the series’ first episode, and there’s a lot of room (24 more episodes to be precise) for Cross Ange to build from here. This may have turned out to be a negative review overall, but that shouldn’t discourage you from watching this series for a little bit longer regardless. I know I’ll continue to watch this series despite my qualms, and here’s hoping it gets better from here.
Note: As of this moment, Cross Ange is not scheduled to receive weekly coverage.
ED: 「凛麗」 (Rinrei) by 喜多村 英梨 (Kitamura Eri)