Cross Ange is the very definition of exploitation. It exploits the viewers in virtually every way possible. It has an all-star voice cast, constantly bombards the viewers with the most pandering fanservice it can, all while failing to deliver any worthwhile material in its BD releases other than a Nana Mizuki concert ticket.
[ Story ]
The story is deceptively simple, a world where mankind has developed a magitech ability known as "Mana" that is used in their daily lives as if it were the most common thing in the world. However, there are a handful of people in the world who are incapable of using Mana, which results in immense discrimination toward them. These people are referred to as Norma, and they are taken from their homes, treated like literal objects, and forced into a military where they battle enormous dragon-like creatures called... well... DRAGONS.
On paper it sounds like an interesting concept. You have themes of racism, the aforementioned magitech, and the hardships of military life, with giant mecha battles spicing things up. The problem is in the execution.
People say that fanservice isn't inherently bad, and I'm willing to believe that. The problem comes when the writers prioritize fanservice over the work they're creating. Not only can this show not go five minutes without focusing on the bodies of its scantily clad pilots, it also can't go an episode without a mindless lesbian sex scene that only serves the characterize the cast as dominant or submissive to each other. Meanwhile the only relationship in the show that has any real substance (and not by all that much mind you) the one between the lead and the show's solitary male protagonist.
It's also a bad mark on a show when unnecessary fanservice is thrown into moments that are trying to be serious, as seen when a tragic event is highlighted by a blatant underboob shot of the main character as she's restrained to a bed, clad in nothing but bandages.
The show also suffers from a horrendous lack of awareness as to its own direction. Plot details are thrown at the viewer with absolutely no coherence and characterization frequently defies all logic to the point that some have declared the show to be a satire. At one point the main protagonist is suddenly expressing fondness for the horrendous prison that gave her nothing but bullying and abuse, which she outright expressed contempt for and desired to escape.
As mentioned above, the show brings to the table some interesting concepts, but never manages to properly address them. If it does they're usually unsatisfying answers that feel as if the writers simply shrugged off the questions so they could spend more time undressing the main character and panning over her body. The amount of times a viewer can wonder "Why is she naked?" in a single show is staggering.
At one point they went so far as to present the idea of two characters having met repeatedly across different timelines or dimensions, which basically amounted to a whole lot of nothing and only served to either wow the viewer with a shocking plot twist, or pander to them with the enormous shipping potential of these two characters.
It feels like the show doesn't know whether it wants to take itself seriously, when it tries to frame dark and edgy scenes as sexual or when the on-the-next previews lampoon the events that took place before them. It among the other things just reeks of this show not knowing what it's doing, and adds fuel to the belief that the show was meant to be some sort of parody.
A noteworthy scene at the very end of the first episode not only applies to the above, but also has absolutely no impact on the story or traumatic effect on the character it was done to. It was so vague that viewers all over can't seem to even agree what the nature of it was. "This happened. Now we're not gonna mention it again."
[ Art ]
What can I say that hasn't already been said in the many reviews beforehand? CGI is mixed in with animation so awkwardly in this series, that the only thing that lessens the blow is the constant off-model animation thrown in. If it were only distance shots it wouldn't be so bad, but often times a character up close will have a face too small for their head, or their ear will be trying to take over the rest of their faces. Compared to that, badly done CGI dragons aren't so big of a deal.
[ Sound ]
As mentioned above, the show has a large amount of talented and famous people working on it, particularly the lead, Nana Mizuki. The music direction is so-so at best and most remarkable song in the whole show is the OP. With such a good voice cast one would think the constant singing wouldn't grate on the ears, but this is just another example of the show putting style over substance.
[ Character ]
And we come to the big problem, the major deal breaker for this show (aside from the ending to the first episode). The cast of characters is often regarded as the weakest link in the show, and for good reason. The few that aren't completely detestable are either unremarkable or completely annoying.
We have our protagonist, Ange, who starts the show as the very picture of ignorant racist. Her response to a parent having her norma baby being taken away is to blissfully spout that she should try again for a proper child, as if that's easy. Once she's brought into the aforementioned prison camp, her characterization goes from a bratty racist in denial, into a bitter, cynical wannabe-badass who only shows moments of vulnerability around the lead male. For all her hardcore antics it's really baffling when Ange has to constantly depend on Tusk to bail her out of any given situation.
The next most noteworthy character is Tusk, also known as the only male character in the show outside of two of the antagonists. Tusk is the definition of a beta male, the kind of clumsy and passive character you expect to be the lead in a harem show. He claims to not be a pervert, but constantly finds himself face first in Ange's crotch and is ignorant and stupid enough to comment on her being "Blonde down there". It's another hallmark of the show's crass and tasteless writing when this supposed "nice guy" archetype doesn't know better than to say things like that.
The other characters don't fare much better (because let's face it, aside from Ange and Tusk no one really matters to the writers). One of the few characters of note is Hilda, who starts off being the perverse version of that girl in high school who is the leader of the popular cliches, and soon develops into a sexually confused teenager who claims to only be pretending to be a lesbian but then later molests Ange in the shower.
Then we have the smug snake Jill who uses everyone as her tools, the depraved nurse Maggy, Zola the rapist and Hilda's two cronies, Rosalie and Chris, and we have a wonderfully hackneyed trail mix of unlikable characters. Probably the only ones who come off as likable are Momoko, Ange's ditzy maid, Vivian, the cheerful to the point of being oblivious cutesy character, and Ersha, the stereotypical team mom.
And just because we couldn't get enough rape in this show, enter the man who has the stupidest name in the world, Embryo. This character only appears in the second half of the show, where the world surrounding the characters is finally elaborated on. He dishes out the brunt of the show's repetitive exposition, all the while mind controlling women into giving up their bodies for him. He also likes "strong, intelligent women" and becomes enamored with and determined to break the only woman who has ever been able to reject his advances. So basically, a rapist.
[ Enjoyment ]
The only enjoyment people seem to garner from this is either in its immensely sexual nature, or on how off-the-wall the show is, with some seeing the entire show as one big trolling attempt on Fukada's part (see Ep. 22).
For this viewer there was none to be had. Between the excessively sexualized nature of the show, how sloppy the story was written and how unlikable the majority of the cast is, Cross Ange is an anime that's pathetic at best and malicious at worst.
A show where its all female cast is literally treated as objects, forced into skimpy outfits, repeatedly demeaned and violated, while constantly spouting words like "skank" and "whore". It's crass, it's tasteless and as much as I don't like to use the word, it honestly comes off as sexist.