Cross Ange is a travesty. It's a horrible, stupid, illogical trainwreck of a show with shoddy production values that relies almost entirely on pandering to the lowest forms of human life and waving shallow moments of shock value all over the screen. The series has a narcissistic sense of self-awareness, and in each episode you can nearly hear a subtle narration by the director and other Sunrise execs laughing at how much of a moron you are for watching this garbage that they've put in front of you.
"Ha, I bet those glass-eyed imbeciles are getting bored, let's put in another lesbian threesome."
"No, not yet. Only after we show the loli whipping someone again."
That said, it's one of the best things I've seen out of this studio in years. With a big "Fuck you, Sunrise.", let's go into this.
Cross Ange is a lot of different things. Cross Ange is a magical princess show about knights and dragons. Cross Ange is a prison drama. Cross Ange is Mean Girls. Cross Ange is borderline yuri hentai. Cross Ange is Gundam Seed. Cross Ange is a catharsis for the type of person who has a Fetlife account. Cross Ange is what would happen if you made a Princess Peach anime starring Ronda Rousey. Cross Ange is proof that not only will Mizuki Nana play any role, but that she is also good at it. Cross Ange is anime madlibs where your only word choices are "lesbians", "dragons" and "kill".
The actual premise of the story is that a pampered princess named Angelise, a thoroughly awful person, is thrown out of her castle and put in an all-ladies jail when it's found out that she's a fraud. She's then forced to pilot a Gundam and fight dragons, because. And then she's bullied, molested or beaten up a lot, until she finally becomes "Ange", the greatest main character to ever appear in a Sunrise mecha show. Then the story becomes about rebellion, alternate timelines and dimensions, fighting god, virtual realities, and uhhhhh... Yeah. The story progresses through a flurry of ridiculous plot twists, comically evil villainous acts, and lesbian sex scenes. It's certainly not boring, but you will hate yourself for watching it. One of my favorite things about this series is what they do with the episode previews, where the characters break the 4th wall and banter about how ridiculous all this shit is.
My other favorite thing is that there are dragons in this show. But they're not dragons, they're DRAGONs, and they're called that because they're DRAGONs and not because they're dragons.
But really, the legitimate thing you're watching this for is Ange. Ange is amazing. She's logical, pessimistic, she cheats, she'll insult you and everything you stand for, disarm you and then shoot you through the face, twice. She's so out of the norm for an anime protagonist I can barely deal. She doesn't want harmony, she wants destruction. She wants to demolish everything that's wronged her. She's not a victim. The show is called "Cross Ange" because she's cross about 90% of the time. She is the one who knocks.
The rest of the cast is surprisingly good too. Cross Ange does a competent job at giving you multifaceted, developing characters to feel things about, even if those feelings are mostly hatred and/or pity. The other central females are almost all emotionally damaged in some way or another, and are in contrast to Ange, very fragile people. I thought this was very interesting, because not only is Ange a strong, domineering, unbreakable character on her own, but those qualities shine even more when you slowly see the deep-seated problems with everyone around her.
This series only has like two male characters. One of them is Kira Yamato from Gundam Seed, except that he's completely useless and a stooge 90% of the time. If you're ever worried about Ange being overshadowed or saved by her boyfriend, don't worry, he's the bottom in the relationship. This was also refreshing. Except for near the end where he actually starts doing things, that was lame and subverted a lot of the good things about his character and the show as a whole.
The other major male character is the central villain, Fetus-kun, who is also the most self-aware jab at otaku I've ever seen. The whole premise of his character is that he's his own OC, and is looking for the perfect waifu. It's insulting and hilarious at the same time, just like the rest of the series.
Animation-wise, Ange looks pretty okay at its best, and pretty bad at its worst. Gundam Unicorn this is not. The character and mech designs are also pretty bland, making the series not seem like anything relevant when looked at out-of-context.
The audio's good. Nothing to write home about. You get a bunch of Mizuki Nana and stuff. I can't recall much of the BGM at all even though I watch this series week by week. The recurring insert song sung by Ange is pretty memorable.
Cross Ange is a big damn spectacle with one of the best female leads in any anime. It's ridiculous and stupid, and even Sunrise probably hates you for watching it, so that means you should.