As you'll hear on the newest Ani-TAY Podcast, Cross Ange has a dubious reputation among the people watching it, and not really a good one at that. There's something about Cross Ange that I see though: This is probably one of the few stories that might be out to destroy the audience, which you don't often see.
Cross Ange is known for a couple of things to the viewers right now: Fanservice and violence. The first episode had base-breaking fanservice and borderline inappropriate scenes of a main character having really horrible things happen to her. The second and third episode followed suit in the exact same way.
By the time we hit the island episode, the show had hit its absolute low. The fanservice juxtaposition with the seemingly serious underlying show was indeed threatening to kill the show off early. It was difficult to watch and even more difficult to justify watching to other people. The "rape" scenes, the fanservice, the ridiculous outfits, and the completely inappropriate application of humor were there in spades, and no one can deny that it was impossible to justify.
Yet I do hope that was completely intentional. Cross Ange's first episodes may have been meant to desensitize the audience to the various elements and help illustrate the unacceptable nature of the world Ange is in.
Cross Ange rapidly began an ascent out of its lows with, ironically, the beach episode. The objectionable content of the episode was basically nil and the plot involved escaping from the base. By the end of the episode, they escaped successfully.
Last week's episode was also excellent, which brings me to this week's episode. This week's episode once again doubled down on the racism in the show to an extreme extent and set in motion the future story arc that will dominate the next cour of the show this winter. Unlike many popular shows this season, I actually will say that I can't wait.
Desensitizing the Audience
The key to the first bunch of episodes of Cross Ange is that they seem designed to make you hate them. They make you hate how callously the writers and animators treat the main character and basically every norma character for that matter.
I kinda head-canon this as a meta-nod to the treatment of norma. In the world of Cross Ange, the norma are treated with no respect. In the animation, this is also true.
As the show went on, it kept showing this complete lack of regard for the ridiculous juxtaposition of gore, fanservice, and death. The animation and writers did their best make us hate the whole thing.
Then something else happened. When the characters left the base, the amount of objectionable content took a massive hit. There wasn't any, at least that they hadn't desensitized us to. It was very strange to see it dissipate so quickly.
What we got in last week's episode was something very different, to the point that it prompted this article. Cross Ange up until this point has been made to make you hate the show; both the world of Cross Ange and the actual show itself.
As if that weren't enough, this week's episode made that fire burn even hotter in the audience I've seen.
Maybe Ange Killing Everyone is the Best Option
The header text here seems silly, but it was exactly what I've thought for the last two episodes.
These latest two episodes do something pretty special in many regards. The show has already made you hate several characters, the world, and the show itself, and now it subverts that and psychologically breaks down two characters completely, doubles-down on the show's fantastical racism, and contains no objectionable content at all.
Nothing that happens in these two episodes comes completely out-of-the-blue, but it is absolutely unfair to the characters. The show takes fantastical racism to the next level and systematically uses it to break Ange and Hilde into pieces. By the end of the episode Hilde is a shell of herself with nothing to live for (remember, we hated her and now we pity her) and Ange is in the same position, except maybe even worse.
These last two episodes were an impressive example of the Trauma Conga Line taken to an extreme. It's used to break down Ange into pieces for the second time in the series, except this time she (like Hilde) really does have nothing to keep her going.
By the end of episode, I felt like it was justified for Ange to kill everyone. It is difficult to reach that high of a despair event horizon, but the show does it. The first batch of Cross Ange episodes took the show low, but this single episode drops the show distinctly into the lowest moral point of the season in a strangely good way.
It's a Long Play
Cross Ange, should it continue like it is, marks the inception of another of the few shows that deliberately go out-of-their-way to destroy the audience, perhaps even at the expense of the show. It's difficult to watch on purpose because it's taking its time to systematically show how unforgivable the world, characters, and the show itself can be.
Cross Ange is many things, some of them not good, but credit must be given for the surprisingly skillful application of all the right literary techniques lately. It successfully got me on its side by officially making me hate (hate) everyone but the norma. It made the world that Cross Ange inhabits unforgivable and it reinforces that the norma really are just normal people that humanity shunned and made into the very monsters they think they are.
Honestly, time will tell if Cross Ange is able to do what I hope it does and start to reconstruct the tropes that it has now smashed into remarkably small pieces. I really, really want to see it continue this trend.
You can find all my posts on Dex's Corner.