What They Say:
Betrayed by her brother. Stripped of her birthright. Declared an abomination. For the girl once known as Princess Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi, the nightmare has just begun. Because not having the ability to use magic makes her less than human in the eyes of the law, and now she’s been exiled to certain death as a slave soldier in a war against draconic invaders! But the people and land that cast her out have made a lethal error. The girl now known as Ange is no longer an innocent Princess being lead to rape and slaughter. She’s learned the hidden truth about the world she thought she knew. She’s discovered that she’s willing to kill in order to survive. And they’ve given her a weapon. The studio behind GUNDAM, ESCAFLOWNE, and COWBOY BEBOP unleashes a stunning new epic in animation as giant robots, a Princess, and dragons engage in the ultimate duel to the death in CROSS ANGE: Rondo of Angels and Dragons!
The audio presentation for this release is available in both English or Japanese subtitled Dolby Stereo 2.0 encoded at 224 kbps, and while this might have been satisfactory for any other series, the intensity of this anime makes the sound a bit sub par. Although most of the dialogue comes across cleanly, the sounds of battle with dragons howling, machine guns blazing, Para-mail screeching by in a dive or the magnificent music playing in the background is sometimes muffled when a character speaks over these elements. It especially helps if you have a surround sound system for the playback since you don’t want to miss a nuanced piece of this acoustical puzzle.
This is a shame since Sunrise went through the trouble of hiring King Records for their extensive work with other anime studios and animation soundtracks. The documentary in the extras section outlines how they produced almost seventy-five magnificent classical and J-Pop track mixes for this series alone and while you can hear a majority of the vocals songs, most of the accompanying instrumentals are lost since they are swallowed by the special effects of the series. The only way you can enjoy these musical jewels separately is to purchase the first edition of the limited edition Japanese Blu-ray releases which included the three CDs for the soundtrack; it is a waste since they are such a wonderful addition to this show.
However, even with these sacrifices, the series still has its standouts with the fantastic themes used in the show. The high energy J-Pop opening theme Kindan no Resistance is performed by Nana Mizuki, the seiyū of Ange; this song encapsulates her attitude in the beginning of being defiant spoiled child who is then thrust into this unknown world with nowhere to go and wondering if destiny has any plan in mind for her. Then to encapsulate the series all within Ange’s persona, the warm classical ending theme Rinrei is performed by Eri Kitamura, Salia’s seiyū; it speaks of her struggles in Arzenal of having to give up her desires of the past in order to rise up and brighten the lives of her teammates by not to give up on hope and strengthening their resolve. The song is made all the more effective by scrolling the characters along while it plays, reflecting her past with her present.
But, the most amazing song of all is the hauntingly beautiful Towagatari – El Ragna, also sung by Nana Mizuki and Yui Horie, Salamandine’s seiyū. This almost operatic performance echoes throughout the series, in one form when it sung by Ange, but it does not reach its full grandeur until the last episodes of this collection when the two actresses sing their separate verses in opposition, comparable to a fugue, rising in tempo until it climaxes with the duo becoming a single harmonious voice, raising up to the heavens. This marvelous piece is fitting since it does connect the two cours and also thematically by making the viewers wonder how such music was composed by different civilizations. A great way close the set and leave us wanting more.
The series is broken down into three disks of four episodes a piece, encoded in the standard DVD media MPEG-1/2 video format with 720×480 resolution for anamorphic playback. A majority of the show is acceptable for this medium considering the complex palette used within the series and the dominating usage of computer-generated graphics for the mecha and enemies used in the show. While most of the humanoid actors appear to be drawn with digital cels, they are indistinguishable from the hand-drawn variety and are very pleasurable to the eye, until you compare them to their programmed counterparts. The monstrous enemies and the Para-mail which the Normas fight in are the main use of this technique and while they are still are acceptable for this procedure, there are times in which metallic lusters prove that sometimes the modern way is not always the best way. Also with the larger dragons, there are some errors in creating an organic texture for the skin or scales which compose them, or for lack of a better word, they seem inorganic – the exterior is too shiny with an almost mineral sheen. While it might be better to incorporate the two drawing styles to create a better series and save on time and money, it is not always better to sacrifice the quality for speed. While these flaws are minor, they do stand out with the extended time that each character is used and become more pronounced over the length of the show.
The case packaging is the first thing the buyer sees and thus, it should project the proper attitude for the series, and Sentai Filmworks did a great job in creating the mood. Ange and her Paramail Villkiss are prominently displayed in a striking foreground portrait, with the gloomy sky having been cracked open by a portal with storm clouds closing in. And to represent the menace of the series, we have a squadron of dragons flying through the door, their leader looming over the heroes, ready to pounce on the pair. To continue the militaristic theme of the show, each disk has a different mecha silkscreen on their face, giving us the defenders of the humans, all to their menial shame.
The spartan theme is continued from the exterior packaging to the interior display by simply showing a scene culled from the show on a steel black metallic grating background, with the episode titles listed on the right and using a standard arrow cursor for the selection. However, the discomforting flaw in this area is the repetition of the first minute from the opening theme Kindan no Resistance echoing in the background; while this may have been done to get the viewer ready for the show with its energetic J-Pop beat, it quickly gets tiresome once it restarts at the end of the cycle. Sentai could have given us an option to switch off the music, but they might not anticipate the viewer to spend that much time in this area.
The extra for this series is where Sentai outdid themselves for this series. While they did enclose the standard Japanese promotions plus clean opening and closing animations, the part which shines is the Special Interview by Momoka; this is section is hosted by the character’s seiyū, Sumire Uesaka, in which she asks her three special visitors questions about the show itself. Her guests are the series’ director Yoshiharu Ashino, creative producer Mitsuo Fukuda and project producer Naotake Furusato. While this might have seemed like a good idea at the time, the big problem with this conversation is that it contains major spoilers for the entire series. Although she does warn when they will discuss the ending, this section takes up approximately 2/3 of the thirty-minute talk show. This bonus would have made better sense to be included on the second half of the Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon Collection; if that was the case, then watchers would be able to see it without having to skip over it without risk of seeing what happens and why the crew made the choices which resulted in the end. For now, it is best to ignore this bonus and return when you have seen the second half, or if you have seen the series on the simulcast, enjoy it so you can gain more insight into the animation.
Angelise is the proud princess of the Empire of Misurugi and heir apparent to the throne. The beautiful flaxen-haired maiden is admired by all, praised as being the proper princess and inspires her people through her speech and actions. However, not all is as peaceful as it seems within the realm, as she soon realizes that the sheltered life she has been living was a disguise to hide the cruel truth within the kingdom. On the way back from school, her cavalcade is stopped by a commotion on the street – a young mother is pleading for the police to not take her baby away. This is the reality of the peace which they have all claimed as their own: Anyone who cannot wield the Light of Mana, which is essentially their version of magic, is branded as a Norma, and thus no longer a human. They are considered violent outcasts, sociopathic beasts who do not know how to live as civilized people, and strangely it is only girls who are so afflicted. All such abominable things are thus exiled from their families, no longer acknowledged by society and sent to be raised away from the great kingdom she now calls home. There are no exceptions to the law, all are tested at birth and those who are exposed later in life are still expunged. Angelise knows this and accepts it as the norm, for she does not care about such trivial things, even if they still appear to be human.
However, this is not for her to worry about, for tomorrow is her sixteenth birthday and on it will be held the Christening, the coming of age ceremony which will give her the right to be the next to wear the crown. Everyone is excited for their favorite royal to be granted this honor and cannot wait for the promised day. But, as the ritual commences, something goes horribly wrong: The once respectable child who everyone trusted as being the true face for Empire is exposed as a fraud, this young woman is what they fear most of all … a Norma. Cheers of joy turn to screams of panic, praises to the princess are returned as jeers and insults, once happy people now reject her for the monstrosity that she has always been. As her parents try to protect their daughter, the previously loyal guards now turn on the couple, ordered to arrest the dangerous beast. Even her loving younger sister is afraid, while her conniving older brother now sees the opportunity to grab what should have always been his – power. There is nothing to stand in his way now and with great glee, he has that thing removed and sent away where no one can ever see her again.
Arzenal is now her home, the island where all Norma are sent to fulfill their only mission: to protect the world from the one enemy that all true humans cannot know exist – dragons. Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi is no more, she is now Ange. She is now one of the lowly soldiers whose sole task is to pilot the mechanical suits called Paramail and face innumerable foes who will destroy all who dare to face them. They must fly into danger, for this is the only reason they are allowed to survive – fight to live another day. But her fellow defects will not welcome this spoiled princess, the one who does not follow orders and become one of the fold. She still thinks that she is human … a royal who demands that this is all a mistake. All she ever does is complain, whine that the Misurugi Empire will send an envoy to retrieve her once they sort out the misunderstanding. However, her petitions to the governments of the world fall on deaf ears, they will not listen to something who is no longer considered a person. It is now her choice: either acknowledges that she is a Norma, with all the responsibilities that her kind must tolerate or fall by the wayside and understand that no one will hold her hand anymore. These are her only options open to her in this reality which is now her world.
Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon Collection 1 on the surface at first may seem to be another mecha show populated by Gundam, but instead of the standard cast of brooding boys, we are treated to the fan service of sexy girls sporting skimpy uniforms. Then add to that mix, since there are no men allowed in Arzenal due to the fact that Normas are always female, the story becomes a yuri ecchi; in other words, a girls’ romance with sexual connotations where nudity is frequently shown after the violence of bloody mid-air battles. If this is what the viewer takes away after seeing this series, then they have missed the entire premise of the show. While it may be a fantastical sci-fi anime with amazing dogfights against dragons, the reality is the real battle which Ange must now face – she is no longer considered a person. In the sincerest of declarations: Ange is a slave to the human race, whose only reason for living is to defend it from the invading forces of the draconian armies.
While the majority of the show concerns her stubbornness to claim that she is still the heir to the Misurugi Empire, and as such, she is still royalty, we can understand her need to remember her past; however, once she accepts the truth, this determination becomes her foil to confront the real battle which she and her sisters now must face – prejudice. It is this unwavering determination which serves as her main weapon against the true enemy, the human race which considers her race no more than tools to fight their war and keep the peace. As long as no one knows the real truth, they can live in ignorance and bliss, confident in their own superiority which is the basis of the society. Hunger, poverty, strife … none of these curses exist in this utopian society as long as they don’t what is truly happening outside of their happy lives within a dome of ignorance.
Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon Collection 1 is a great show once you get past surface decorations and Ange’s tenacity to stay in the past. It is this underlying theme of discrimination which really makes this anime something to behold and treasure for what it really is: a masterpiece of social protest disguised within a Gundam show with multitudes of fan service. While some of the scenes can nauseate the viewer due to the callousness of the true humans, we have to remember who the true heroes really are – the Normas. It is their fight for equality which makes this a sad tale of determination, and Ange leads the charge. We cannot help but truly love this battle with all of the injustice in the world, and hopefully, it will serve as an example for how unrealistic hate can pollute a society where truth has been twisted into reality. A wonderful example of how might does make right once it is perverted for a chosen few and their selfish needs.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Special Interview by Momoka, Commercials, Clean Opening and Closing Animation
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 21st, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player