Rinne no Lagrange – 03 Review
That’s the kind of technobabble I really dislike: Either you’re introducing sf-elements and bear the burden of explaining them properly or you use technobabble of the present. There’s no need to invent “Telepathic Control Waves” for dramatic tension.
Rinne no Lagrange 03 – The Many Places Of A City Where Two Giant Mechas Can Fight
Rinne no Lagrange is currently the series I like best from the new winter-season, I think. Nisemonogatari is good but it’s a sequel and liking a sequel when one likes the first series as well is kind-of-cheating when it comes to choosing favourite series of a season. And speaking of Nisemonogatari: I will review it arc-wise. I simply don’t want to review every episode and just explain how it’s Shaft being Shaft, Shinbo being Shinbo and Ishin being Ishin. But back to Rinne no Lagrange 03: Thankfully the introduction is finished with this episode. It was certainly surprising how this series has spent so much time on this one fight without delving into the fun-slice-of-life-parts at all after the first episode. Next episode apparently seems to be a bit more laid-back but as far as I know this is a 13-episodes-series (correct me if I’m wrong) and it certainly takes its time. Not like that’s bad, this series knows how to spend its time. One thing about this show is still a mystery to me: Am I the only one in thinking that Lan’s habit of randomly using “Woof!” isn’t cute at all but simply weird?
The episode starts as Kirius and Izo start their pincer attack on Madoka which forces her to retreat to the area of her hometown. While Kirius keeps her busy Izo is searching for the sunken Ovid from episode one. While Madoka avoids stepping onto any areas where people live she tries to catch the sword of Kirius Ovid but fails to do so two times. Lan meanwhile is torn between feeling guilty for involving Madoka despite the legend whose dire content keeps her from piloting. She finally decides to pilot it but as soon as she leaves the hangar she’s attacked by Izo who’s coming out of the water to confront her. Since she doesn’t dare to change into the Warrior-Mode she quickly is in danger of being killed by Izo. That’s when Madoka’s and Kirius’ fight bring them back over the ocean where Madoka can have a short talk with Lan encouraging her not to blame herself. Having overcome her fear Lan changes her VOX into the warrior-mode and turns the battle around. Faced with two VOX in Warrior-Mode Kirius and Izo decide to abandon the rescue-mission.
It’s surprising how the show can keep its level of humour throughout the last three episode without exaggerating the funny elements too much or dragging them out. The show manages to strike a nice balance between its serious and funny elements.
Compared to Mouretsu Pirates I like this series better. Rinne no Lagrange is just more straightforward which doesn’t mean that Mouretsu Pirates is bad for not being that but watching episodes weekly the series which are straightforward usually leave a better impression than a series whose quality only becomes apparent after two months or so.
That is to say, though, that Rinne no Lagrange certainly didn’t invent speed when it comes to pacing. The third episode concluded the introduction of the series and it has the usual strengths and flaws of an introduction you may expect but generally series just use its first episode for this kind of introduction. Rinne no Lagrange used instead three episodes to do the same thing. But using this time the three episodes showed a surprising attention when it comes to establishing all relevant characters and their personalities. Usually characters are just thrown at the audience in the beginning and the audience can only cope with that because the characters are stereotypes or simply shallow. While these three episodes didn’t offer any kind of deep characterization one can already sort-of understand how each of these characters would react in a certain situation.
What made this episode also so interesting were the fight-scenes which clearly cared about what it means when two mechas fight in a city. The usual mecha-fights in cities might as well be a duel between boars who disregard any responsibility for what happens to the city during the fight. It’s perhaps a bit strange with how much precision Madoka navigated the mecha in the city during the fight but since she’s supposed to know the city we can excuse that. Of course, conveniently we were never shown how the city looks from a bird’s point of view in these scenes and how believable it is that there were always places to land where no people are.
The characters are another strength of this series because they acted rather restrained and consistent during these three episodes. There were no useless fanservice-scenes just to show off and to raise the blu-ray-sales. Another thing is that none of the characters overreacted except in a way that felt natural. Madoka ending the negotiations due to her energetic personality wasn’t the usual whiny self-indulgent speech you usually get to hear when a character who had a normal life gets to pilot a mecha to defend the character’s hometown. Usually there’s far more melodrama involved when this kind of thing happens. Just think of a random Gundam-series and what kind of anti-war-speeches we would have to sit through just because the main-character and one of the attackers are talking with each other. It will be interesting how this series will handle its depression-phase shortly before the finale.
It’s rather clever how this episode hides the fact that Madoka can always find places to go with the mecha where people can’t get hurt. Instead of showing where those places are in relation to everything else in the city, Madoka just talks about the places and then we simply see her being there.
The only thing that I didn’t really like about the series was the narrative structure it has shown. It’s clear that the series has been talking business right from the start with the story and nothing of the show until now was a complete waste of time. But the story it has shown so far has a poor way of setting up the action, I think. What the first three episodes concentrated on were three points: First, Madoka, Lan and the other girl are destined to pilot the VOX-mechas. Second, the attackers from space aren’t really evil. Third, but the VOX are evil according to a legend. Of course at this point it’s all rather vague but I think it was made rather clear that the antagonists of the first three episodes aren’t evil incarnate. Now what I disliked about this was what it did to the atmosphere of the first three episodes. When you learn who the heroes of the story are and the characterizations of these heroes are solid enough then naturally you’d like to root for them. Rooting for the good side in such a series is something everybody would like to do. But in these three episodes it was rather hard to root for the good side because “bad side” wasn’t really evil – and the audience knew that. The fights felt rather empty and futile because it was clear that justice wouldn’t triumph no matter which side would win the day. But the episodes also lacked the tension of a tragedy occurring because of that because it embraced Madoka’s point-of-view which stayed ignorant until the end of this episode. Or rather she was fixated on protecting her hometown instead of thinking about the bigger picture. But I doubt anyone in the audience at this point is that passionate about Madoka’s hometown as she is. Since the series concentrated on the fights in the last three episodes there was no chance to show the contrast of what makes Madoka’s hometown worthy to protect. One can understand Madoka’s reasoning but one can’t share her emotional reasoning without the series investing some time into exploring it. And like that I didn’t feel that entertained during this episode as I’d like to be because seriously this was a good episode.
Finishing the introduction after three episodes the series may appear to some a bit slow. But the series uses its time well to establish the characters and pay attention to the developments of the battle. The first three episodes also promised a rather interesting narrative structure of making the heroes of the good side seem more evil than the antagonists they’re fighting against. Sadly this also led to a slight dampening of my excitement for the episode since it’s hard to root for Madoka & Co in that situation.