2014
11.30

The One-Handed Norma Detention Toss - When comically small glass boxes just won’t do.

Cross Ange is a show that is either run by sadistic misogynists or the maddest set of geniuses. This episode is a tense affair, because it is already established how hated Norma are on the mainland. All that needs to be done is to show how awful the aftermath is, once the steel-toed shoes drop on the baby Norma surreptitiously placed in its descent path. Mark my words, it is quite awful, and yet somehow establishes a thematic consistency, reconnecting us with that outrageous pilot that won our hearts a couple months ago.

It goes without saying that Ange and Hilda’s reunion with their families would not exactly be the best situation. However, the way Norma are thought of, is much worse than what was previously known. It isn’t enough they’re pried from their families against their will; apparently the families are conditioned to completely blame those traumatic events on their former kith and kin. It is not enough to have their Norma children taken, they have to channel that rage against them, and ascribe all their heartache on a person with a condition she did not choose to have. Thus it makes even the most genteel and benign of individuals, like Ange’s younger sister, foam at the mouth with zealous hatred. Then it gets worse when there is a realization that the show tried to make sure you kinda began to care for Ange and Hilda, or at least tolerate their presence and hope things suck less for them.

Then you see Cross Ange sitting nearby, waving its finger, and tsking you for having that kind of idealism.

I guess if you want to eliminate doubt, curiosity, and sympathy for a subclass, what better way to guarantee that than by drilling inhuman animosity towards their Norma brethren then saying life would be all hunky-dory had they not existed. It eliminates in them a need for rebellion, and makes them docile and desperate towards blocking out the event in any and all ways possible, even if it means birthing a replacement Mana child, with the same name as your Norma one (ADVICE ANGE GAVE IN THE FIRST EPISODE! Like poetry or something.). The episode just does an effective job in highlighting this dimension of the World of Mana, and is an acceptable pay off for all that time isolated on Arzenal. It would not have had the same effect if the show cut back to the mainland from time to time to see douchewagons like Julio douchewagoning their way through life.

Either way, the sooner we get to the day of Libertus the better.

Rondo of Notes:

  • Last time I said “Curious what other weird-ass thoughts and customs are in store for us next.” With regards to the human treatment of Norma. I should be careful what I wish for.
  • Yay, Not-Kira’s back and he’s going to save the day (I think)!
  • Hopefully Julio dies a humiliating death. Maybe he can do a Yuuna from SEED Destiny and get some Paramail or DRAGON to land on top of him. Or at least get his smug face punched in by Ange.

Previous Cross Ange Analsis:

 

2014
11.28

To be able to fly… you have to meditate...for long periods of time, without losing focus. Some of the great monks...can meditate...for four days.

So I know that he’s an established character because of his appearance last season, but why is Napoleon Dynamite here? It would be fine if they just got Jon Heder to play a random Air Nomad, but they literally cast him as an airbending Napoleon. Even his dad acts like Kip. It’s like going to a Buddhist temple and hearing the monks quote Ferris Bueller. The writers probably thought it would be funny to have a Napoleon Dynamite reference (in 2014?), but this has the poor timing of coming after an episode that featured internment camp escapees. This execution makes the show seem indecisive, finding itself unable to keep a consistent tone throughout the season. Like take this episode for example, which goes from Bolin’s goofy attempts to win back Opal’s love to Korra meeting the man who almost killed her a few years ago. The A-plot and B-plot feel so detached from each other that they may as well come from different shows. Unless juxtaposing the two subplots together was supposed to mean something, which would make it creepy for Korra’s relationship with Zaheer being compared to Bolin and Opal’s.

This failure to make a steady narrative also hurts some of the themes this show’s trying to exposit. Since it’s Avatar, the creator’s intention would be to show that the pacifist route is the best one regarding an enemy, something debated within ATLA’s finale between Aang and his previous incarnations. The show here seems to be trying to go with that introspection regarding the peaceful approach, but it does more to shoot down its own message than anything. Suyin refused to reunite the Earth Kingdom with her forces, which resulted in the Kuvira dilemma. Korra tried to give an olive branch to Kuvira, which indirectly resulted in Zaofu’s siege. Fire Lord Izumi won’t send her troops into fight Kuvira, and that leads to the cast losing what could have been a valuable ally. The pacifist route only seems to make things worse this season, which gives an odd message if problems could have been resolved had characters been more blunt with their actions.

Though it’s interesting to see the reasoning behind the non-aggressive stance from these characters. Suyin doesn’t want to rescue the Earth Kingdom out of fear that she’ll be another dictator. Korra doesn’t kill Kuvira after seeing her dark self in her visions. The Fire Lord won’t send reinforcements because she has Sozin’s previous actions as reason for why it won’t work. All of the routes are taken because of fear rather than a genuine desire for peace. Maybe the show is trying to aim for a proactive message, going for assertive pacifism in a sense. But then, aggressive peace was what characters like Unalaq were trying to do a few seasons ago. Perhaps it’s fear of the worst-case scenario that drives these character’s actions, though that would imply their actions are too black and white to choose a third option. This is something that could use some dissecting within the show, and I’m not sure if that will happen given the current pacing.

Instead, they’re still stuck on the Opal and Bolin romance arc. After being in the sidelines without any real distraction from the plot, the romantic plots comes again to take away Bolin’s character arc, judging his personality on whether he can get the girl rather than his self-growth after leaving the Earth Empire. I was hoping he would stay with Baraz’s guys in order to launch a two-pronged attack with Korra, and prove that he can be the leader without his brother’s help. But rather than that, it’s his relationship with Opal that swallows his and the show’s runtime. I’m not against romance plots in shows, but Legend of Korra’s previous attempts at them like Mako/Korra have proved that they don’t work here. Besides, it just makes Bolin stupid for wasting Opal’s time when she’s too busy worrying about her family. Get him to stop thinking with his cock. That’s more of a Mako thing to do anyway.

And then we get to the vital part of this episode, where Korra meets Zaheer to finally let go of her past tensions. But since this is the third time she’s tried to banish those inner demons away, I won’t be surprised if she has another breakdown later. I know they can easily wave Zaheer’s past behavior away by suggesting that three years without an earthly tether has made him a more cooperative man, but he was in the same situation sans flight for thirteen years beforehand and that did nothing to solve his issues. For him to go “even though all my friends are dead thanks to you, and my entire life’s goal was to kill you to revolutionize the world, I’m still going to help you attain spiritual acuity because I’m a sage like that” feels unearned. There should be more apprehension between Korra and Zaheer, specifically between a spiritually enlightened man and a messiah figure, and I’m wondering if the recap episode limited the writing staff’s time to space that relationship out.

But even if that was the case, important questions like why Kuvira’s evil get too little time in exchange for more Prince Wu moments. It’s been nine episodes, and he’s still the fucking doofus. And now that Bolin’s back, his role within the group is rendered void. This isn’t a problem unique to Book 4. Even though Book 3 was good, it also had issues with giving characters their respective time. Like with the Red Lotus, where most of Zaheer’s group got little characterization besides a few lines. Try telling me one thing about P’li’s personality. Or remember how Desna and Eska had no impact on Book 2 other than being Unalaq’s henchmen. What could have been interesting characters and dynamics that could have shaken up the show are sidelined by stupid moments such as Napoleon Dynamite references and the like. It’s almost as if the writers are screaming for more episodes to vent out their plots, but unable to realize they can just cut out all of the fluff to have the room they need.

2014
11.23

This needed to be used a second time.

I don’t even know where to start with this episode.

The very beginning of it, right after the intro, gave me such dread, discomfort, and possibly made me dyspeptic. For some reason, the humans of the world have deigned to give one public holiday for Norma to enjoy without having to worry about killing DRAGONs, and true to Japan it necessitates a swimsuit festival episode. All the Norma doing happy things, with gaudy Hawaiian BGM playing, brought memories of those dark first few episodes. The big tonal shift made for a rather big whiplash effect and I wondered if I would get over it if this week’s show would be what I thought it was.

Then the plot kicked in. It turns out one of the overseers of the ‘Festa’ is none other than the competing player in that spirited hoverball lacrosse game in the first episode. She desperately wants to meet Ange badly to verify that she is all Norma-like. True to Ange form, she’s incredulous of any familiar face in her past life, but finds some use for her former sports rival to escape and help her younger sister, who we’ve learned was in trouble last episode. Also she reconciles with the Alpha Waifu-est of the Alpha Waifu trio, the red-headed Hilda, who apparently has her own reason to escape Arzenal. Like… not just any reason, but a reason that makes her… a character? The fuck?

They’ll dress all the girls in skimpy attire but they’ll keep the old shopkeeper decent. Not only are you sexist and misogynist Cross Ange, but also ageist!

I wouldn’t venture to say this episode was exceptional, but I do appreciate how the characters are being handled and the overall kinesis of the plot development. I was totally expecting this episode to be another wash where hijinks make way for bonding, and that Ange would either go rogue in a nuclear kind of way to get back her sister or she would finally become privy at the end to this ‘Libertus’ thing mentioned in past eps. Nope, this episode surprised, and everything that happened in its episode preview successfully deflected any and all anticipation on what to expect. Ange and Hilda come to an accord after all the harassment the latter has done to her, and we finally have our heroine on the mainland, ready to rescue her sister. Again I have to give credit to how the show was able to sneak in such plot progression in the backdrop of a stupid anime festival episode. This is what I’ve been waiting for ages to happen, and now it has and I’m… strangely satisfied. That can’t be right.

Given how the series has started to where it is right now, every step of progress towards addressing how messed up its world is, is an accomplishment to be at least… acknowledged at best. I’d recommend the lot of us do that so it can get better but… You know the rest of the story.

Rondo of Notes:

  • Apparently the uniforms and paramail suits are considered TOO stuffy. You’d think with the amount of skin shown they would not be but nope.
  • After this week, and next week’s previews, the more I don’t really give two fucks about mecha battles. The human element continues to be much more interesting than the robots.
  • Human treatment of Norma is still weird. Gotta put them in the glass boxes, gotta use the scary dungeon and put the device in their ass, gotta set one holiday for them to have fun and shit even though they’re less than human. Curious what other weird-ass thoughts and customs are in store for us next.

Previous Cross Ange Analsis:

 

2014
11.22

Four Ball Run

I thought this season would be 12 episodes. I remember it saying so on a few preview guides. Turns out, it may as well have. I’d hope that a lapse in an episode’s budget would just allow the creators to make something like the last two Evangelion episodes instead of what we’ve got here. Some of the best-animated works happened because the studio didn’t have enough money to do what they originally wanted, so they were forced to adapt to the situation and make something better. It’s more of a struggle, and often results in more fumbling around when done in haste, but it makes the writers get off of their comfort zones and write something other than Mako’s love life, Korra’s failures, or Varrick’s delusions.

Seriously, the first thing the recap brings up, what they expect to be the first thing the audience will remember about the show, is the Mako-Korra-Asami love triangle. Instead of the politics or spiritualism inherent in the background, or something we didn’t already know about the characters, they bring up Mako for ten minutes. I thought that part of the show would have been buried in an unmarked grave. Yes, they make fun of that aspect through Wu and Mako’s grandma, but that’s not worth making me remember that happened. A bunch of chibis aren’t going to make those memories any better. It’s good on the writers to admit they fucked up with that arc, but that self-deprecation feels so halfhearted when Mako’s taking the helm as the narrator. And if you were going to take the piss, you wouldn’t need to spend the majority of a clip show discussing Mako and his unromantic ass. Get Tenzin or Lin to reminisce about the first few seasons instead. Or maybe even have Kuvira read up on the gang’s adventures to give a look on the other side. After a few episodes of marking her up as Earth Hitler, it would be nice for her to strawman the main characters for a change.

On the contrary, we get Korra lamenting her failures for the fourth time this season. I know she’s still in a rough spot, but it’s depressing in a meta-sense if you’re going to follow up a summary of Mako’s cuckolding with Korra remembering all the times she’s failed. If you’re going to make us rewatch moments from the show, at least screen the ones that made the show interesting, not remind us of the potholes of yore. Show off that time Korra became friends with Iroh, or when Bumi learned how to airbend, or Amon’s death scene. Show the parts that people will look back to in 2024 when they bitch about how cartoons aren’t as good as they used to be. It’s self-congratulatory, but better than moping about the moments in the show that sucked. If you’re going to do a pity parade, do it earlier than the last six episodes of the series. I know I could say the same about Ember Island Players, but that was more laughing with the show’s poor moments than laughing at them. Plus, there weren’t any chibis.

And then after the Varrick sequence, I notice this was written by three different writers. While the writers have seldom shown any distinction from each other, which speaks well for an arc-based series where the characters can at least act consistent, this feels like the exception. You go from ten minutes of mocking the romantic aspects of the show, to five minutes of more Korra angst, to seven minutes of Varrick parodying book 2 with accompanying edits. If it weren’t for the clips, they would all feel like pieces from different episodes ripped apart and sewn into one. For a look back into the show, it feels disjointed. I know they were trying to go for different perceptions of the past, but they don’t compliment each other enough to make it feel worthwhile. Instead of one recollection that can spell out the show’s history and make it seem better than it actually was, there are three clashing rundowns with too narrow a depiction to really be enlightening. It’s the equivalent of three kids running up to your face and talking over each other about what Legend of Korra means to them.

2014
11.17

What the fuck is all this convergence, Cross Ange?

You’re not only your usual self with all the crazy fanservice, catfights, and so forth this week. You also have an actual mecha battle, character development, AND allusions to plot movement. This is freaking me out, because I anticipated another load of nothing this week with the only two highlights being Ange with a cold and this girl, Salia, being well—

Apparently there are ways of relieving stress that don’t involve naked threesomes in an Alpha Waifu’s bed (which you ALSO get this episode, aren’t you lucky!?).

I had to watch this episode twice before I could really sit down and write this article. Why? I had to make sure the positive feelings I had were unfounded and I’d find something outrageous and/or lurid to lament. Nope, not in this episode, even with a naked catfight at a hot springs (due to the scene above) and the aforementioned naked threesome. I think it’s because some of this nonsense is attached to a legitimate development of character in Salia. After Alpha Waifu died she got promoted to squad leader, which is unfortunate as her reluctance made her unable to lead and thus allowed for a hostile atmosphere within the team.

Ange even takes note of it and as a result thinks Salia is no different than the Alpha Waifu trio in wanting the former princess to make an awesome ebola face or get ripped apart by DRAGONs. After thinking about her thoughts for a bit I was all “Holy Shit” in how it associates with Ange’s development. First she overcomes her desire for death with a will to live, then learns the necessity of associating with others (albeit those already fond of her), then reconciles with those of her past life who wish to be with her regardless of her Norma status, and now wins over the hearts and minds of those who are either ambivalent to her or hate her. It’s not high art but I have to give credit where it is due in how they are executing the character progression of the primary cast. As a result, Salia, Ange, and even two-thirds of the Alpha Waifu trio make a tad bit more progress in becoming somewhat redeemable. Somewhat.

Actual English translation

*sniffle* Our Ange is growing up. Feels like only yesterday she was a heartless, privileged, racist, eugenicist, aristocrat who was all for taking babies from mothers and putting them in little glass boxes.

If that’s not enough, Not-Kira is also associated with Arzenal in some way and we’re left with a genuine cliffhanger that involves Ange’s younger sister in trouble. It’s kinda nice to finally have an episode that doesn’t feel like a total wash. However, as I stated last time, Cross Ange is an anime that will never let you win, as it leaves you with another potential filler episode (festival-themed!), Salia complaining about the writers being a set of douchewagons, and this image that will make you wonder why you’re continuing this show…

The key word is ‘kindof’, because now you’re left to wonder what would compel somebody to dress up the dog like that, and to find out would require a watch of next week’s episode.

Rondo of Notes:
· All the women in this show have such shiny red shoulders.
· When I think about it, what with all the elements of the show’s plot, Cross Ange’s scenario is essentially what Gundam SEED/Destiny should’ve been, with no super god Coordinator/Mana user as the savior of all the Naturals/Norma.
· It’s a shame that Steven Foster is no longer directing dubs for Sentai Filmworks. Lord knows what madness he’d have wrought if he was in charge of this anime’s dub.

Previous Cross Ange Analsis:
· 11/09/2014 – Episode 06
· 11/03/2014 – Episode 05
· 10/26/2014 – Episode 04
· 10/19/2014 – Episode 03
· 10/12/2014 – Episode 02
· 10/10/2014 – Episode 01 (as part of Part 1 of the Fall Clusterfuck)

2014
11.15

Too bad we don't have a menopause-bender.

So this episode’s one about the heroes getting back on their feet. Korra and friends try to act like they did in the old days, while Bolin and Varrick recuperate from betraying Kuvira. After the last outing with Kuvira taking Zaofu to complete the Earth empire, Korra’s situation now carries too much of a calm air to it. Yes, they have to save the prince from kidnappers, but that doesn’t have the decisiveness that should come after a dictator consolidating their forces. The gang getting back together tries to resonate a “here we go again” thing, with Mako being annoying and Wu providing comic relief in place of Bolin, when doing that makes what should be the first step to the series finale seem routine. The early half of the season promised something more morose and self-complicating. Here, things become simpler.

Exhibit A lies in Kuvira becoming Hitler during this episode, with her forces throwing fire and water benders into camps for no reason other than implied racial purity. I don’t get that. The cameos last season and familial conflict here promised something deeper. I was expecting to see someone with good intentions slowly corrupted by power until they became blinded into thinking the ends justified the means. Instead, we never get to see Kuvira’s descent from Suyin’s loyal disciple to a cruel dictator. That all gets slid off-screen into a time skip, and that lack of proper buildup gives the sense that she just woke up deciding to become Earth Hitler. I mean, even Hitler took years before becoming a dictator. Kuvira just needed a moment, and she suddenly has an army, spirit cannons, and her own secret police. This almost makes me want a Book 3.5 to make it flow better.

I know this is just me whining like I did back in Book 2, but there’s a major sense of a slipback here. There are some scenes that showed character progression, like Asami finally getting involved in (and winning) a fight after seasons of just being the Korra crew’s cabbie. I would even give points for Bolin becoming a decent leader for his own group after realizing the stupid yes-man motif has failed him for the last time. But those advancements are saddled onto stupid things like everything Prince Wu did. I get it, Bryan. Prince Wu’s supposed to be the clueless socialite. You made it clear in every other appearance of his. It would have been nice for him to take Mako’s message a few episodes ago to heart, but it feels like it never happened here. He still represents the failure of the system that made Kuvira take charge instead of a legitimate alternative to fascism, and that’s troubling for a character with only six more episodes to fully develop into that role.

In place of that, the episode’s more keen on the apparent symbolism in Baraz. Baraz is an amalgamation of so many prior characters from the Avatar universe, that it’s unsubtle. His actor played the main villain from the first season, so his scene emulates Bolin saving Amon from the current threat. He’s dressed up like Avatar Wan, showing how the re-education camps are imprisoning potential spiritual leaders and the like. Also, he has to be a firebender, like the last totalitarian force that almost conquered the Avatar world. He’s a minor character meant to tell more things than the writers can say, which renders him with more narrative luggage than the main characters if my assumptions are right. And even though I can admire that effort thrown into side characters, it only makes the lack of layers in more prominent members of the cast all the more apparent.

Also, Kuvira is going Colonel Quartich on the Toph’s swamp. I hope their fight next episode will make up for how dumb that allusion is.

2014
11.10

Over the garden wall,
Virtuous souls may be lead astray with
Every fiber of their contents stalled, and a
Requiem sounding for their eventual demise.

This may not be the end for them,
However, upon greater reflection.
Evil cries out for these lost beings;

Giving up in the face of the unknown excites it,
And the roots of despair take hold,
Readying for the growth of new fuel.
Deny it the pleasure, for your own sake;
Everlasting is the spirit of hope that helps
Negate the lies of the Beast.

Will you let your spirits burn out, or
Alight them with the newfound knowledge of self?
Let go of that apprehension of the hidden, children, and
Let the aged lantern lose its flame.

Created by Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and Adventure Time alum Patrick McHale, Over the Garden Wall is a ten-part miniseries that follows two siblings, Wirt and Gregory, as they travel through “The Unknown” in search of a way back home. Along the way, they find themselves in small adventures. That’s the byline of the show, but let me elaborate on it ever so slightly: Over the Garden Wall follows the journey of an insecure, defeatist-minded teenager named Wirt and his ever optimistic younger brother Gregory as they travel through a mysterious land called “The Unknown” in search of a way to return home, all the while encountering characters and situations that wouldn’t be out of place in children’s literature such as The Wind in the Willows.

While there’s that clear link to other Cartoon Network productions in terms of the simple character design, the background elements and many of the animal characters make me think of the E.H. Shepard illustrations that accompanied old Winnie-the-Pooh books and the previously mentioned The Wind in the Willows. Maybe it’s the fact that he also drew some finely dressed animals, but I can’t help but feel that the approach to background design took a page from the Englishman’s sketchbook. There’s a warm, rustic feel to the world that these boys are traveling through that invokes the old English countryside just as much as it does parts of Antebellum America. Also adding to the atmosphere is a blatant love for early Fleischer Studios and Disney works; from the loose, flowing rubber-hose movement of The Highwayman reminiscent of Betty Boop cartoons to the bulk of Chapter 8 being a loving homage to the Alice Comedies shorts. The art and animation mesh together into a beautiful visual tribute to the countless fairy tales and nursery rhymes we heard as children, as well as bright-eyed infancy of the animation medium itself.

Over the Garden Wall has some of the best music I’ve heard in quite a while. There’s a vaudeville aura in the soundtrack that, as Elijah Wood put it, “Sounds like it would be on a phonograph record.” Singer Jack Jones sung a number of songs, including the main theme. Samuel Edward Ramey performed the powerful operatic villain leitmotif of The Beast, while others such as Janet Klein and Frank Fairfield give us catchy folk tunes. And the entire track was put together masterfully by Petrojvic Blasting Company, a two-man group that composed all the silly and heart-wrenching melodies. The music alone does the fantastic job of teleporting you back to another time and place. The amount of times I’ve found myself singing Patient is the Night under my breath or smiling at the thought of Potatoes and Molasses is innumerable, and is a testament to staying power of this miniseries’ fairytale presence in your mind.

I’m hard-pressed in my attempts to find any grievous missteps that Over the Garden Wall took when Pat McHale and his colleagues crafted the story and paired it down to ten episodes from the original eighteen. Every woven tale is imaginative and carefully balanced its underlying emotion with comedy superbly. From the fifth chapter and its eccentric businessman to the suspenseful climax of the final episode, there is a blissful dream-like quality that had you tense or laughing at all the right moments. The characters themselves serve as fantastic vehicles, from our main duo to even one-off characters that lead themselves as givers of clever foreshadowing. There are four characters in particular that come to represent not only different worldviews, but also the different stages of life in which these views are likely to manifest. Gregory, the youngest of all the characters, is an optimist who is fully receptive of the oddities of the world, and is fully willing to embrace them. Greg could have very easily become an annoyance to audience, but instead shines as the very symbol of childhood innocence in his actions. He’s also incredibly trusting of his older brother to keep them safe, even when it’s painfully clear the guy has no idea how to push forward. Their bluebird companion Beatrice, however, comes across as a brash young adult who begrudgingly goes along with the two of them, like a babysitter of sorts. She’s incredibly snarky and self-confident, but that also comes with a level of self-awareness and attempts to still piece together a proper moral code. Without giving anything away, Beatrice is a character of guilt; a character old enough to completely comprehend that her actions have consequences that can affect others and the desire to right the mistakes of the past. The Woodsman is the same way, but has had far more years to dwell on every single one of his life’s missteps. The Woodsman is a bit more wise and hopes to share his wisdom and warnings to the younger generation, in hope that they’ll perhaps listen and avoid what he sees as unnecessary pain. And, of course, we must backtrack to Wirt, who lies at the epicenter of it all. Wirt is an emotional teenage boy who is riddled with insecurities and has the inability to face them, optioning instead to find shortcuts around an issue or just avoid a situation entirely. This level of uncertainty in both yourself and the world around you is something that most viewers of the miniseries have gone through at some point. This doubt is the catalyst for the entire series and its underlying message of having the courage to face the unknown. Doubt and fear is something that The Beast, an entity that is following our boys, finds great enjoyment in. Perpetuating it, in a roundabout way, keeps him alive. This monster represents not a mindset, but a concept; a future riddled with fear, doubt, and guilt about what you’ve done and haven’t done. There’s something incredibly powerful about that which reflects the Brothers Grimm and Mother Goose-inspired foundation of the premise; like those stories, Over the Garden Wall turns characters into symbols of innocence or fear that must stand up and learn to face the dangers of the world.

My greatest fear is the unknown. While other psychological terrors such as loneliness and abandonment shake me to the core, the fear of the unknown is one that encompasses and overshadows them all. Not knowing what lies ahead is something that crippled me even as a child, who lay awake at night terrified stiff of what truly happens after death. For many children, the greatest extent of that fear can manifest itself as being scared of what lies in the dark. As a teenager or young adult, it becomes a fear of whether friendships will last, if any perused relationship will be rendered successful, or whether the field of work you choose to dedicate your remaining years to will be lucrative. Accepting that the future is uncertain and becoming willing to face it regardless is a sign of maturity and mental growth is a difficult battle that takes some time to win. Seeing the characters of this miniseries journey and conquer this deep-seated fear was a glorious sight to behold. And perhaps it’s that shared struggle that allows Over the Garden Wall to resonate with me, and so many others, to the extent it does.

2014
11.09

Yep, my suspicions were true. We’re back to Arzenal again this episode, Not-Kira’s absent, and to top it all off, we have a maid episode. Turns out that strange maid person in the intro (noticeable in the first shot after the title and in one shot with the dog), smuggles herself into Arzenal this week to… I’m not really sure. I guess she’s been having a sad because the mistress she’s been servant to for ages is gone missing and she wants to relive those glory days.

Trapped in the Locker

A lot of lockers were harmed during the making of this episode.

I say that because I can’t really divine much of anything from her unsuspicious, dim, demeanour which is punctuated by her yelps of “Angelise-sama! Angelise-sama! Angelise-sama!” The show continues to dance around the goings-on in the outside world, and I’m getting stir-crazy from it. They ALMOST get around to it with the inclusion of the maid but it’s sacrificed at the altar of animu comedy tropes starring her and Ange, who is a lousy foil to the maid’s hijinks.

How lousy? Ange’s reaction is to be apathetic, get angry, and be very mean and distant to her suffering maid. I guess (again) it is a defense mechanism as it reminds Ange of the past and puts a damper on her looking forward. I’m getting major whiplash from how Episode 5’s end reveals her softening up to her comrades to this where she’s back to the Lone Queen Bitch of Arzenal. At least reveal a bit more doubt and uncertainty in her behavior? Or have some interaction with her new comrades about the situation? Fresh out of episode 5 the ones who have the most positive feelings about her are relegated to background observation of the goings-on in this week’s episode. Groan. It’s only around the last third we’re finally given a short flashback of the maid’s feelings for Ange, and all one has to do is go through all that nonsense for the one meaningful part. Double groan.

The Norma-er The Community, The Deeper the Roots!

Then when it is time for the maid to leave (and then get ganked by the regular humans to avoid leaking Arzenal’s existence), Ange buys her. Lulz, slavery and it works because money can buy anything on that bloody island. That leaves a lot of questions as to why Normas don’t buy one another willy-nilly and Arzenal isn’t divided into a set of plantation areas but… I’m trying to make the heaviest looking shrug right now but it will never suffice when it comes to how I feel about this episode’s ending.

But hey look on the bright—I mean… less dark side. We will be spared from a shocking, potentially, misogynistic/sexist/whatever scene next episode of the maid being horrifically ganked or tortured. In return… she’s still alive, still chipper, and still calling Ange “Angelise-sama.”

Cross Ange will never let you win.

Rondo of Notes:

  • Slightly altered opening this time around. Lots more detail in some sequences, including some extra sunlight one point as well as some implication of enemy Paramails. I guess the Japanese princess is this show’s Athrun, what with her Paramail being Infinite Justice-themed and all. Here’s to hoping they remain opposed to one another instead of just joining forces near the end to stop whatever mean, bad man will be the end boss. That’s happened twice already (or maybe thrice if you count Gear Fighter Dendoh).
  • I’d have probably thought a bit more of this episode if I didn’t know the maid was going to eventually join up with Ange based on the opening. Fukuda knew once long ago that he didn’t have to reveal all major plot elements in his show’s openings. Why couldn’t he do the same here? It is something that can be tolerated however, just as long as he doesn’t lie in his openings, which he has done before.
  • Yay we may actually have some action sequences once again next episode. I hope anyway, for all I know we’ll be back to truncated action sequences near the end that cut to random moments like Ange naked in some guy’s bed.

Previous Cross Ange Analsis:

2014
11.07

Well, she does.

I’m struck by how shiny and clean the Earth Empire tanks look, not like the black iron of the Fire Nation vehicles. They would be horrible in camouflage situations and the like, and it’s probably another propaganda tool for Kuvira to use, but there’s something endearing about someone who cleans their tanks so they can see their face on it before going to war. A bit egotistic, sure, but it shows there’s care to that personality cult. A shame they aren’t utilized much in this episode though. Not even the mechs are given much time to shine (figuratively). This week is supposed to be more personal, with the one-on-one fight between Korra and Kuvira.

There’s been debate over whether Suyin was right in not taking part in the Earth Kingdom’s reconstruction, especially since doing so would have prevented Kuvira from achieving her current position. While the show is supporting her for taking the pacifist stance, and she explains why she didn’t take a more utilitarian approach, but that rings a bit hollow when she goes ahead with an assassination attempt on Kuvira instead of that peacefulness that informed her previous decisions. I could see it as Suyin being a hypocrite, going along with diplomatic affairs as long as they don’t involve her own family, in that case making her become the woman Lin thought she was long ago. Then you have Korra’s unsure behavior as to fight Kuvira or not early in the episode, and that makes this week seem like a question as to whether pacifism can work in light of a hostile landscape.

The episode follows this with another question as to whether it’s right for one city to hold the nation’s prosperity, like how Zaofu can thrive while the rest of the Earth Kingdom suffered for decades. I suppose that adds to Suyin’s hypocrisy if she’s supposedly hoarding the Earth Kingdom’s potential wonders in her little hub, but she does try to be an honest woman about it. While Kuvira claims to want this wealth to be shared, it’s more likely than not assimilation into her own personal forces rather than the villages she controls. It’s like how communism sounds good on paper, but goes haywire when acted upon. You could compare it to Amon’s ideals back in the first book, and how he wanted to get rid of bending despite being a proficient bloodbender himself.

All that and more shows that Kuvira doesn’t practice what she says to her forces. She wants to be seen as a diplomat and a leader. But deep down, she’s really just a warlord in need of a good fight, like how she savors her battle with Korra. Focus on her face during the fight, and she looks more ecstatic than she ever did in previous episodes. That’s the face of someone who can show their true side rather than a restrained mask for political purposes. She gets to show off in front of everyone by beating up the Avatar, proving her superiority over the spirits and mankind alike by fighting and winning against their representation.

But that’s more through her manipulation than actual strength though. Despite promising a fair fight, she knows that Korra hasn’t fully rehabilitated and doesn’t care, like swinging a new axe onto a dead tree. And even though she promises that Korra can use all four of her elements on equal footing, they’re fighting on nothing but land with no water to speak of. Korra can’t even use the bending she’s most suited for; instead resorting to attacks she’s only learned a few years ago. It’s like what Bruce Lee said, about how he fears not the man who had practiced ten thousand kicks once but the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times. Any fire or air Korra can pull means nothing compared to one quick metal attack that Kuvira’s probably practiced since childhood.

2014
11.03

We’ve reached a singularity on Cross Ange. After the shaming, laming, and taming, of the show’s titular shrew, she undergoes an event that includes the word ‘inflaming’. This is either due to the snake venom Ange readily receives very very near her nether-regions or her ignited passions because of the Not-Kira Yamato (aka Tusk/Tasuku/Tosku/etc) who rescued her. Either way, as was stated last week we now have Fukuda’s third island episode where two potential star-crossed lovers have to work together to survive, handle different worldviews, and maybe fall in love. Yawn, I’ve seen this all before—

–but I’ve never come across that in previous viewings. Whereas SEED and SEED Destiny was content with their mediocre eps leaving the ecchi with the girls undressed due to wet clothing, this Fukuda product thinks it ought to liven it up by including anime pratfalls of Not-Kira into Ange’s crotch.

After a few episodes’ worth of attempts to accept this strange ecchi stuff as part of the world building, I have to say it’s completely off here. I would think that in some new area that’s free of the weirdness of the Mana and Norma world, there would be different circumstances. Yet, Not-Kira, thanks to clumsiness, nature, and a bevy of other unfortunate moments keeps falling into that magical womanly place. Then subsequently he gets hit, shot at, tied up and left in the rain, tied up and shirtless, slapped and so forth. This is the guy sharing naked screentime with Ange in the intro, you would believe he would be given some high modicum of respect and not be some tsundere’s punching bag.

Yet the show hits you with a sock full of pennies and bellows, “I don’t think so. Cross Ange don’t play that.”

I guess what can said to be… somewhat ‘positive’ is the relationship isn’t so goddamn chaste like Kira and Lacus were, and Not-Kira is a fair enough middle ground between hapless Seijun Otoko and Kirito-esque wish fulfillment. The flashbacks to his past imply something interesting afoot as the series goes on, and his technical ability to fix the Paramail makes him not completely useless. I want more of him and how he connects with the Vilkiss and Arzenal’s past. I want to see what life was like back in his days as a kid and whether or not he’ll hop on the bad foot and do the misogyny thing like Ange’s brother. I want that. I want world building. I don’t want to go back to Arzenal to have another episode of weirdo, pervy, events that—

Oh goddammit, Cross Ange.

Rondo of Notes:

  • Strangely enough this is the best island episode Fukuda has ever taken part in, mostly because it actually allows for a small passage of time showcasing Ange’s ‘softening’. It’s bereft of dialogue and takes place in the midst of a standard Fukuda staple, the insert song, but does more in those scenes than what SEED/SEED Destiny ever did. The first one had to work under pressure and convention, the other wasted time having Athrun deal with a fake Lacus (complete with frilly negligee) in his bed.
  • I’d like to see Fukuda actually try doing a show WITHOUT any mecha, especially an action show. The entire bit of Ange trying to kill off the DRAGON without the Vilkiss was executed better than anything from the derivative Paramail battles.
  • How much do you want to bet that the DRAGONs are the key to get the rest of the world to utilize manga? It may explain why Paramails’s Freezing Fingers tend to encase DRAGONs in ice instead of making them explode.
  • I really want to know WTF is going on with the rest of the world. I appreciate the show’s attempt to give a sense of isolation from it as things go on, but when do we get the ball rolling?
  • Not-Kira had a knife the entire time he was hanging up in a tree and only decided to break free from it after like… lord knows how many hours or so up there.

Previous Cross Ange Analsis: