Rinne no Lagrange – Review
Despite what this image might tell you, Rinne no Lagrange isn’t a space-opera. Although its intentions to seem like that sometimes are quite misleading as to what this series is about.
Rinne no Lagrange: Intergalactic War In the Backyard Of The Galaxy
So Rinne no Lagrange gets an OVA and a second season. Not very surprising, I think. Everyone who has seen this series will probably agree that this series isn’t really a standalone experience. In fact it’s 12 episodes build-up for what’s coming in the second season. Because to be honest I’m excited to see what will happen in the second season, it seemed like there was a lot of stuff left unsaid in this series. But this series isn’t quite good enough to be recommended, I guess, it could become good enough if the second season is as good as I hope it will be but otherwise… Well, I guess one can only wait and see what happens.
Release-Date: Winter Season 2012
Running Time: 12 Episodes
Synopsis: Madoka is the lone member of her school’s Jersey Club. She is one day recruited by a mysterious girl named Lan to pilot the robot “Vox” and protect her city from space invaders. They are joined by a third girl, Muginami, who has a different goal than Ran. Meanwhile, they still don’t know their enemies’ true goal, or what “Rinne” might be.
The shounen-series’ typical excuse for sudden plot-convenient power-ups, in this case it’s called “Bio Telepathic Waves”.
If I would’ve to describe Rinne no Lagrange the best summary is that it’s the best flawed series of the winter-season 2012. On one hand Rinne no Lagrange is executed well and the characters are interesting enough to not bore anyone to tears, on the other hand, though, the series’s plot is fundamentally flawed from the way it approaches the story. So talking about Rinne involves a lot of “This and that but…”-arguments and in the end I would say nothing which comes before the but really counts so I would count Rinne no Lagrange to the disappointing series of the season but I surely will watch the second season in the summer.
And that’s my first problem with the series: The second season. Pacing is a very delicate matter in stories and it’s more than just the fact that nobody likes boredom. Ultimately it’s also about giving the plot a certain structure that gives its momentum a kind of logic. The most basic thing is that you have a cause and effect in the plot so that everyone can follow the events and doesn’t go ‘Huh?’ during the story. Naturally in the world of shounen-series stuff like that isn’t really a number-one-priority. And trying to act like everything’s okay is also just stupid, I mean, let’s just remember the ridiculous Dragonball-Z-dialogues when they tried to assign numbers to the characters’ power. Aquarion Evol at least knows it’s crap and just wants to be fun. But I guess nobody would watch shounen-series if we would take all this really serious. So, to come back to the pacing if the logical steps aren’t the most important thing than what is? It’s the dramatic pacing as I would like to call it. You know these fancy curves one likes to draw for students in literature with a climax, repetitive moment and whatnot (only one model of many, I know, but this isn’t about drama-theory) and what counts now isn’t that there’s cause and effect but that there’s a effect which is exciting and the cause is just whatever’s available in the moment story-wise. That’s how most shounen-seres do it. And as long as there are fireworks I don’t give a shit where they came from. That’s the kind of thing one has to accept while watching shounen-series.
Rinne no Lagrange gravely miscalculates, though, what to do with its pacing. There’s a certain sense of incoherence between the story and the setting. The setting is that one little town and the entire time it stays there and anything else happening somewhere else are flashbacks. That’s okay but the story is about an intergalactic war and there’s a lot of talk about war between nations, royalty and whatnot. For such a confined setting there sure are quite a few epic notions tossed around during the plot.
In that regard it’s kinda like Neon Genesis Evangelion and for once I think it’s an apt comparison and not something vaguely present because of its influence due to its popularity. Like NGE you have this small-scale setting but one which decides epic issues. There’s also a lot of angst in this series dealing with the stress of Madoka protecting her town and her friends. But both things aren’t as good as they are in NGE. The action in NGE which seemed epic despite the small setting worked because of its outstanding visual design. The weirdness of the angels, Neo-Tokyo and the apocalyptic scenery: All this made it seem greater than it actually was. Rinne no Lagrange doesn’t have this. Sure, you have a lot of mechas flying around, spaceship-fleets and flashy mecha-attacks from the main-characters but nothing of that is special or really memorable. Rinne no Lagrange is still searching for what its story is about. It wants to be about an intergalactic war but right now that’s not what it is. But still it wants to be that. And I think the pacing is to blame for that. This series held back its epic intergalactic war stuff for the second season. That’s the feeling I get from this first season. All this stuff about the school – not important. Just look at the screentime characters get in this series: All the concentration was on those characters important for a space-setting. There weren’t any of Madoka’s classmates making regular appearances and there wasn’t any real school-life which was central to the plot. It all just was a vehicle for character-development. And that’s the biggest flaw of the series. It practically stopped itself from being itself because what it really wants to do after the build-up is what happens in the second season. I think there would be two ways this series could’ve been better: One would’ve been going the epic route from the very beginning but then the break between the two seasons could’ve become problematic because with such series it’s always good to just bombard the audience constantly with plot-twists and revelations (like Code Geass for example), the other option would’ve been keeping it small-scale and make it a more character-driven story (like Cowboy Bebop). But of course the latter would call for better characters.
It’s not enough that the trio has a heart-to-heart-talk on a beach in a moonlit night, no, they have to go one step further with Lan going into moe-mode. Most of the time the series is just optimistic in a laid-back way but then you get lines like this that are totally cheesy…
I don’t want to say that Rinne no Lagrange has bad characters actually. Rather like the rest of the series it struggles to make itself look good. The characters are fine, consistent and have an identity but they aren’t very memorable. Madoka is probably the most memorable of the bunch but even she doesn’t have this special ‘something’ which would make her endearing outside the context of the story. Of course the story tries hard to make her look that way with that ‘Maru!’-nonsense but compared to Steins;Gate’s ‘Tutturu!’ or Yuu’s bland responses in Persona 4 I didn’t feel like it really added anything to a scene when she made that gesture. This kind of charisma is always a strange mix of the strange and solid characterization. The character becomes sort-of believable, one is able to relate to him but at the same time he has this outrageous quirk which makes him different from everyone in the daily life. And that’s when he becomes charismatic. Of course that’s only one way how this can happen but I think this is the kind of thing Rinne no Lagrange went for with its characters. Madoka has her ‘Maru’, Lan has her ‘Woof’ and Muginami… well, she has big boobs, that ought to be enough. But none of these will be remembered outside the context of the series. Looking at another anime nobody will go ‘Oh, that’s just like something Madoka from Rinne no Lagrange would do…’. Heck, when I hear Madoka I will probably think of an entirely different anime-series first before thinking of Rinne no Lagrange.
So what it’s like watching Rinne no Lagrange? It isn’t bad as one might think after reading the above. The series has a certain fresh optimism to it which isn’t as preachy or naïve as with other shounen-series. Like I said the first half stays away from actually dealing with what it’s really about but that leaves room for nice character-moments. The typical speeches about the meaning of friendship and the burden of saving everyone are still there but the leisure pacing gives them a laid-back atmosphere. Madoka’s optimism isn’t just the series starting its message-time. With the time this series has it actually acts it out and her character becomes more of a person than a role. The same with Lan and Muginami which one gets to know during this first series. The characters aren’t just fulfilling these roles of “And now I have to be angry… and now I have to be sad…”, the series goes through the whole range of the character’s emotions and describe them with this. You have a pretty accurate picture of the characters at the end of this series. Like I said, the characters are held back by not being charismatic enough to be memorable but they still manage to be characters and with this the series is better than most of the shounen-series out there.
The action of the series is another important element and while it’s flashy and nice to watch, it’s overall decent, I think. It isn’t really epic and the battles are more like a way to progress the story than the kind of exciting fireworks this series thought it produced on screen. Interestingly, though, there are some really good moments in the battle-scenes where the series goes to some lengths to actually think things through instead of throwing generic mecha-action at the audience. The enemies aren’t total retards for one and for example splitting the big enemy-force by Lan and Muginami splitting up led (naturally, I would say) to the enemy concentrating on one of them. There’s potential here for the epic parts in the second half to become really good action, I think.
Rinne no Lagrange may not be the most entertaining shounen-action since sliced bread but for all its lack of exceptional strengths it has no glaring flaws either. Being only the first half of the series the pacing very laid-back in the first half not daring to do anything really exciting. This leads to the strange feeling of being kept from seeing what the whole fuss is about actually. The solid characters are entertaining enough while watching and this combined with the sometimes interestingly thought-through action makes the second season a rather promising candidate of a series that gets to be better in the second half.