The Sunrise group responsible for Gundam Seed and Destiny dipped into a different kind of show with this seinen sci-fi action series that covers a lot of ground storywise, and incorporates many graphic deaths, betrayals, torture, and sexual assault.
The main character Ange (played by Mizuki Nana, in a challenging and unusually belligerent role) begins as a somewhat callous member of royalty, and through betrayals and deaths ends up an abused and bullied prisoner fighting dragons in a mecha. She’s feisty, selfish, and cold, and definitely is not the kind of character you can wholeheartedly identify with – but she faces a lot of difficult situations and struggles through them. There is a large cast of other flawed characters played by great seiyuu (perhaps underused), whose relationships change quite a lot during the course of the series. Notable is Tamura Yukari, playing a character who goes through many changes, including sycophant, bully, depression, rival, and more. Kuwashima Houko plays a little girl character, and given her history with the director I was very worried for her character’s survival.
The storyline is interesting, though at times a bit difficult to follow (one character changed her name in the past, and I had trouble figuring out what she did), with multiple reveals, a lot of backstory, a number of discrete chapters, and lots of things happening. There’s a lot of nastiness – discrimination, bullying, sexual assault, torture, and familial rejection – and it’s interesting to see an anime by a mainstream production house depict these so openly. On the negative side, the villain and a couple of other characters were a bit one-note, and some reversals towards the end undercut the drama.
There are many lesbian scenes but the director apparently didn’t regard this as a yuri anime – certainly it’s very gritty and there are at least as many negative relationships as there are positive.
While some will find the series gratuitous in a few ways, I really enjoy stories like this that move through a lot of events and perspectives on the world, contain characters who conflict and change, and beat down flawed protagonists – so I liked Cross Ange a lot.