What They Say:
The foundation of Ange’s world has been ripped to shreds over and over again, since the moment her throne was stolen and she was stripped of her humanity. But the destruction of Arzenal and the stunning revelation about the true nature of the DRAGONS were only the start of a devastating new series of shocks and discoveries. Transported to an alternate and devastated world with Tusk and Vivian, Ange will finally learn the history of her world and the true nature of her own reality. She will discover who her ultimate enemy really is and how her para-mail, Villkiss, may be the only key to salvation. The fate of two worlds hangs in the balance, but unless Ange can conquer her own fear and rage, the battle will be lost before it’s even begun. The final war between man, DRAGON, and machine is about to begin in the climatic conclusion of CROSS ANGE: Rondo of Angel and Dragon!
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 at times 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 acoustic puzzle.
This is a shame since Sunrise went through the trouble of hiring King Records to produce 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 seiyu 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 there is any plan for her in this destiny. Then to encapsulate the series all within Ange’s persona, the warm classical ending theme Rinrei is performed by Eri Kitamura, Salia’s seiyu; 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 seiyu. 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 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 worlds 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.
This series is broken down into three disks expanding the breadth of thirteen episodes for the second cours of the show, encoded in standard MPEG-1/2 DVD media format and 720×480 anamorphic resolution. The 16×9 aspect ratio playback is magnificent for the panoramic views, considering the complex palette used within the series and the dominating usage of computer generated graphics for the mecha and enemies. While most of the humanoid actors appear to be created 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 computerized technique. Although 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, or for lack of a better word, they seem inorganic – the exterior is too shiny with an almost mineral sheen. Though it may 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.
Sentai Filmworks created an amazing design for this collection’s cover, immediately grabbing your attention with a brilliant sunburst illuminating Villkiss shown in shadow. Then to draw your eye from that pending disaster, we have golden rays of light streaming through the clouds, shining upon the true heroes of the show, in a tender yet intimidating portrait of Ange, Salamandine, Hilda and Salia, standing in defiance of what is to come. However, after we are treated to this inspiring artwork, the interior is a bit disappointing.
While Sentai may have tried to tie the outer and inner illustrations together by incorporating more mecha goodness, the three silk screened disks give more of an ominous presence than anything else. Why use so many dark tones on the DVD portraits of the Ragnamails when the inside of the case is black? The overuse of this depressing color just drags the viewer down as they look upon these menacing constructions staring back while they decide which disk to watch. Even if it was meant to communicate the overwhelming strength of these machines, this palette choice was a bad decision.
The bleak spartan theme from the interior packaging is continued to this section by simply showing a scene culled from the show on a steel black metallic background, with episode titles listed on the right and a standard arrow cursor for the selection. However, the most discomforting flaw in this area is 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 anticipated the viewer to spend that much time in this area. Terrible mistake for such an extraordinary anime.
The extra for this collection falls a bit flat when compared to this amazing show, since it looks like marketing simply ran out of good stuff after the first cour. Of course we have the standard clean opening and closing animations, trailers for other properties from Sentai Filmworks, Japanese commercials for the show plus some music videos for the themes with enclosed scenes and what should have been the most interesting piece – the Cross Ange Talk Show. However, that is not the case for this interview which is taken from the initial public showing of the first two episodes. While they did have an interesting premise of asking the female seiyū cast what they thought of the show so far, it quickly collapses. What you end up with is something akin a fluff piece with giggling women comprised of using three questions to fill in a twenty-five minute spot. I am sorry to say that you would better spend your time re-watching the finale to get more insight than with what they provide.
And then if that wasn’t bad enough, first minute of the closing theme Rinrei floats in the background, just like in the previous menu. Although I can understand the appropriateness for the main, why put it in a side section when all of their other shows have silence? While the melody is pleasing enough, I still don’t understand why put it in a place where most will only spend a few seconds before making a choice – seems like a waste of a wonderfully soothing tune.
A fleet commanded by Emperor Julio the First advances on Arzenal, with the announced intention of rescuing all Normas, their duty now finished. But as the ships progress ever close and everyone is in a state of confusion, Jill immediately sees through the ruse and commands that all anti-aircraft batteries go on standby. With this island’s intentions now made clear, the power hungry dictator states that everyone at the base are considered traitors and should be treated as such. But he outlines three exceptions: Ange, Villkiss and all paramail pilots are to be spared – all other personnel will be executed. At the same time, the commander proclaims that anyone who wants to die should surrender to the humans, any who want to survive are to join what she calls Operation Libertas. Of course all the girls panic and make their way to the rendezvous point, but Jill gives specific orders to Salia to bring Ange and her Ragnamail to the lowest level of the base.
While Hilda and her team try to make it to their own machines, the occupying force from Misurugi slowly sweep through the levels, following their orders and cutting down any who do not match the criteria; it does not matter their opponents are women and age is not a factor – all are equal targets. Salia, Ange, Momoka, Jasmine and Vulcan make their way downstairs, but of course the feisty flaxen will not go along willingly – constantly complaining until a sudden smokescreen allows for escape. Choking through the fog, the former princess and maid run back upstairs to the hanger, stopped by a strange man dressed in black with long blonde hair; he declares that his plan is not going the way he imagined and states Julio was the one who gave the order to kill everyone in Arzenal – with that he vanishes but first gives her brother’s location. More furious than ever, Ange boards Villkiss as Hilda screams that they can’t get out due to the debris, by which she slyly smiles and blasts the way clear with a few well placed missiles. The engines of her mecha roar to life and screeches forth toward the ships closing in.
With her true enemy now clear, Ange easily wipes out all who stand in her way, until she arrives at the flag ship, lead by the spineless emperor. She knows that this invasion was just an excuse to kill her after the last visit embarrassed him in front of all assembled. Slicing away the bridge, the heartless victor now stand before her former brother, with him cowering and begging for his life; Julio will cease any and all hostilities in Arzenal and recall the troops now … or she will kill him. Stunned by her newfound audacity, the whimpering sibling will do anything if she will spare him, including restoring her title. Blinded by rage, Villkiss raises its energy blade, ready to strike the final blow, but then an all black Ragnamail materializes, blocking the strike. With newly found courage, Julio screams to the man he calls Embryo, the same one she saw in the ruins of the base, to destroy her. Smiling and telling Ange not to bloody her hands any further, he pivots and sings the same song she used before to ignite his own spacial cannons, erasing the pitiful man from existence.
As Ange attempts to interrogate this new supposed ally, their conversation is interrupted as Tusk fires a flurry of rounds from his quickly approaching sea speeder, exclaiming that Embryo is dangerous. Annoyed by his impudence, the Ragnamail rider smiles once again and begins to sing, the shoulder mounted cannons beginning to glow. In desperation she races forward, attempting to intercept the blast meant for her friends. At the last second, a blinding light envelopes Villkiss, Tusk and Vivian – teleporting the group away from the fray. Once they open their eyes, everything has changed: the ocean and Arzenal are gone, Vivi has changed back into a dragon and they have landed in an abandoned city, now overgrown by the flora of the area. After some investigation, the gang soon learns that they are in what appears to be the Misurugi Empire, but Ange doesn’t recognize anything aside from the Column of Dawn; by following a rusted announcement droid, they are led to an abandoned shelter littered with desiccated corpses. Crying out in frustration, Ange and Tusk activate the building’s AI which answers her question as to what happened: After the start of World War VIII and numerous conflicts, the nations of the world met a stalemate once the population dropped to 11%. One group called the Federation constructed their ultimate weapon called Ragnamails built to stop battles. But while these unstoppable machines stopped the conflict, their spacial cannons caused a chain reaction which destroyed the planet – exactly 538 years, 193 days ago.
Horrified by these new facts and tired from frustration, they settle in for the night, only to be rudely awakened the next morning, surrounded by dragons and humanoid warriors. Once they are escorted to their compound, the leader, a lovely draconian woman named Salamandine informs them that the world they are in is not the one knew. This is the True Earth and its inhabitants are descendants of the true ancestor called Aura. Ange and Tusk are they who are called People of the False Planet. If this is all true … then what happened to the world they call home?
Let me say this up front: This show is the BEST mecha anime I have ever seen which does not get overenthusiastic with violence so as to forget to tell a meaningful story of human sympathy and tender emotion. Most of the series in this genre: Mobile Suit Gundam, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Robotech or many others are so engrossed in showing us a narrative which uses these constructs of destruction to annihilate their opponent, they forget that there are people piloting those suits. Though they may try to slip in a side story of that operator suffering from guilt from having to kill for the first time or some other folly, the studios always turn back to mindless explosions or defeating aliens and/or others of their own kind, so that the human factor becomes secondary; they squandered it away as long as they entertain the audience with what these behemoths of annihilation do best – blow things up with guns, cannons and slash away with giant energy swords. However, Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon proves that should not be the case if you want to give the viewer a real story which eclipses such derogatory and base values for something which should be more important – a tale with true value, drive and satisfaction in which those mechanical men are a means to those ends.
When I first started watching the show, of course I thought Ange was your average spoiled princess, awaiting her sixteenth birthday to be crowned heir apparent of the Misurugi Empire. But once the concept of Humans versus Normas came into play, that changed the entirety of the plot, expanding it radically which we would not have considered plausible for something advertising a giant mecha and dragons in the show’s opening. The prejudice, discrimination, hatred and violence for these second class citizens was so revolting and nauseating that I was tempted to stop, but the story was too gripping to close my eyes; then add to the conundrum that all Normas are female – this makes the terror all too complex to comprehend. Humans have always considered women as nurturers, those who raise the children and create a home which is warm and comforting. While this idea may be old fashioned in today’s modern society, it still holds true and thus rejects Ange’s new role in her new world of Arzenal: she is now told that all Normas are worthless, they cannot handle Mana, so they are of no value than to fight Dragons.
Of course Ange would not accept that horrible notion, her upbringing showed she was destined to rule, not confront beasts which threatened to destroy that which she once held so dear. Her denial, resolute determination that this was all a mistake and of course, what polluted her attitude the most – pride, caused so much friction, I was surprised someone didn’t kill her for insubordination or being a brat. But as the show progressed and Ange accepted her new role, those same traits of determination and pride drove her to become someone to be accepted and at the same time, feared. This new warrior princess proved to everyone that Angelise was gone and Ange was here to stay and pave her way to the future, no matter how long it may take. Even if others are thrown in her way, they can either be trampled or fall behind to be lead by this indomitable woman.
While this story may sound like it might be another mecha anime, it is anything but one of those recycled shows. With Tusk, Villkiss and Momoka always by her side, there will be purpose driven action and all due to the Knight of Villkiss’ clumsy accidents, comedy at Ange’s expense. But at the same time, we are granted a story of true determination, heartfelt compassion, tender moments of sympathy and dramatic tension which will keep you on the edge of your seat. And though this show was also produced by Sunrise, the nuances which keep it above and beyond the rest will become readily apparent by the first episode and through many tears and boxes of tissues, you will love the regretful but ultimately extremely satisfying ending.
Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon will be one of my Top Five picks for favorite animes and it will stay there for a very long time. I have not found another among its equal and will not likely find anything which will take its place.
Clean Opening & Closing Animations, Cross Ange Talk Show, Music Videos, Commercials & Sentai Trailers
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 23rd, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player