Cross Ange is a masterpiece of a show and no one here seems to be watching it. Why is that?
I have a few ideas, partly based on it's first impression, and partly based on it's own pedigree. It's a train wreck of a show the likes of which have been attempted before but have faltered amid their own cowardice at what could be if they went all the way. Cross Ange is going all the way.
Let's start at the root of where I think Cross Ange's stigma lies, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. It's become a staple of shows that many fans of Anime and Sunrise harken back to as a classic example to show what makes Anime such a great entertainment medium. Code Geass has everything from Mechs, Alternate History Earth, super powered hero who fights with brains over brawn, to insane twists in tone, product placement, and copious helpings of melodrama with the politics at play in a given episode of the show.
Code Geass was huge for Sunrise, spawning tie-ins, spin-offs and securing fans for whatever spiritual sequel that would come down the line...
Enter Valvrave the Liberator, a show that could in no way live up to it's predecessor's sucess. It had all the trappings of what made Code Geass work well. Mechs, Politically infused Melodrama, a main character who was destroying himself to save his friends, the Alternate Earth History and insane twists in tone. But Valvrave floundered in it's mimicry of what made Code Geass work.
Spoilers ahead for Valvrave.
Valvrave threw us around in it's own timeline at very bizzare times to show us our immortal main cast in the far future long after the main storyline ended, for no real discernable reason other than to make the audience freak out and be confused by it showing off this future, and in some ways taking the suspence out of if our "immortal" vampire pilots would make it through the show. While at the end of the series it jumping forward makes a lot more sense in terms of epiloguing, early on it brings confusion and detracts from it's own story.
The BIG Elephant in the room with Valvrave comes to the very disturbing nature of our main man Haruto's lust for memories, what our Vampires use to fuel the Valvraves as they pilot them (well at least Haruto has to use since no one else if eflicted by the thirst, possibly because he has the "real" Valvrave and the others feed off of it for power as well...). He eventually hits the point where he goes into a fit of rage and assults Saki (one of his love interests throughout the show) who was seemingly stuck in 2nd place inspite of being a Valvrave pilot as well. The assult/rape scene was so shocking that I couldn't think they would just leave it like they did in the long run. They had our Hero for all intents and perposes rape one of the main cast who then seemed to enjoy it as a sign that she had won Haruto's affection.
I lost it, and am happy it sparked discussion. I respect the balls to do such a scene, but the aftermath was handled so poorly that it makes the scene even more disgusting than it should have been.
I stuck through Valvrave expecting it to get good and it never really did in the end. We had some really great moments scattered throughout, but after an amazing cliffhanger to end the first season, a lot of the 2nd season was a slog and the show wasn't able to stick the landing after pulling some crazy tricks out during it's run. It gave us really good music though.
And now we reach Cross Ange, the granddaughter of Code Geass and the troubled child of Valvrave. Where could you go to redeem the liniage?
It turns out with more rape. Kindof. Cross Ange sucked me in with this insane plot synopsis from Anichart.
Due to humanity obtaining the data technology that has evolved to a great amount- called "Mana"- the human race is able to subjugate all wars, starvation, pollution, and other problems on Earth by using its power, which is similar to magic. Earth has obtained the utopia of complete peace and no wants.
First princess of the Misurugi Empire, Angelize. As with everyone else, she also had no wants or worries. She was celebrated by the people of the empire, and was supposed to wear the crown. However, she realizes the shocking truth that she is a Norma. "Norma": An irregular existence that cannot use Mana, and are treated as heretics and as "things" rather than people. Having everything stolen from her, she is sent to remote island.
What was waiting for her there was a fateful meeting with a group of Norma girls who know nothing but battle. The girls spend their days riding humanoid robot weapons called "Para-mails" hunting giant dragons that have come from another dimension to invade. Having her name taken from her, what will soldier Ange see at the end of the fight? What can she believe in? What will she obtain? The story of a single girl's fortitude starts now.
How couldn't I watch a show that took 3 paragraphs to explain the setup. I expected a show with Girls in mechs fighting dragons more or less. I didn't expect Prision Girls catfighting for more or less the majority of the first half of the show. The show embraced this sense of mean, spitefulness that you don't get from anime traditionally, typically seen in B-Movies from the 70s or cheesy pornos. We had our "heroine" get whipped and molested by ostensibly a prision guard as she arrived in her new home. And Ange, having earlier separated a mother from her "norma" child, still can't handle the thought that she too is "less than human" as she had believed for most of her life. The meanness between Ange and her compatriots echos Mean Girls in terms of the ways they torment eachother.
It was awesome. Not the abuse, but the fact it takes so long for Ange to come around to her new home and allies feels kindof realistic but at the same time, because our main character is a Bitch more or less the whole show so far, I can see how that can (and did) turn people away from the show. They seem to have figured out the sense of WTF they wanted to do in Valvrave but failed in execution there, and made it work here with a different focus for the cast and personalities that benefit from the jarring tonal shifts that seem to happen in the show. (Our Male protagonist has the best running gag I've enjoyed in a long time, mostly because of how MUCH it happens.) They even manage to harken back to Politics with how Norma are treated by just existing in this world, and how Ange's Siblings act around her is quite a treat.
I don't want to spoil some of the better parts of the show so far but give Cross Ange a chance. It's coarse, rough at times sure, but it's been more enjoyable than most other shows of this past season can claim to be at times. You should check it out or don't, Ange doesn't mind.