And it’s ~back! Winter 2012’s most disappointing and most enjoyable show is airing its second season, and is better than ever.
gallifreyians: My hopes for Rinne no Lagrange were ridiculously high; not even regular “ridiculously high”, I’m talking bold, italicized, and underlined “ridiculously high”. What I expected from this show after seeing its first episode were a mature portrayal of the pressures mecha pilots are under, a well-developed plot and story-arc that detailed Madoka’s issues with being altruistic and saying no, Lan’s own narrative focusing in on her rectifying Madoka’s philosophies with her own and thus becoming a more human person, and fabulous themes about camaraderie, altruism, and what it means to be human. Obviously we didn’t get many of those things in the following eleven episodes, and the ones that we did were woefully underdeveloped. Rinne no Lagrange proved itself to just be anime; nothing more, nothing less. Its approach to all of its topics were less than mature, its themes underdeveloped to non-existant, its characters were only developed in fits and strides, and both its plot and story were mediocre at best. Yet even after saying all of that, I still found Rinne no Lagrange‘s winter season to be remarkably enjoyable. This was a show I didn’t watch for the same reasons I watched Neon Genesis Evangelion; my viewing pleasure was and is not derived from Rinne‘s thematic basis nor its A++ character arcs, but instead from a baser place. Rinne no Lagrange was appealing in its bubbly loud characters and their quirky, heartfelt interactions. Sure, they aren’t at a Mawaru Penguindrum level of development, complexity, or characterization, but the characters are still endearing in their own way. What pleased me and made me enjoy Rinne no Lagrange in winter, despite it’s critical shortcomings, still remain all of the things that made me enjoy this episode of Rinne.
Between the winter season and this summer season the people at Xebec placed in a one-year timeskip; this, quite frankly, was a big risk for them to have taken because most of the time timeskips do not turn out well. Most commonly what happens with timeskips is that the entire status quo of the show is changed without regard to the characters and the develop they realistically would’ve gone through during the lost time; Rinne no Lagrange manages to perfectly execute its timeskip however. During the year that they did not show us Madoka fell into a sort of depression – not the kind of major depressive disorder that constitutes stereotypical depression or even my kind of recurrent atypical melancholic depression*, but instead a depression that is altogether a different kind of beast. The kind of depression Madoka feels is the loss of feeling and a complete detachment from the world, she can function in her daily life just as well as she did before, but inside nothing brought her pleasure nor pain. As if she was not a participant in her life, but merely an observer. The loss of her two dearest friends was so great that Madoka lost her ability to feel and became numb to the world. Furthermore, her inability to pilot Midori during the year timeskip is also something that is most likely intrinsically linked to Madoka’s loss of Lan and Muginami and Madoka’s subsequent depression. That all changes though when Lan ~mysteriously shows up in Kamogawa. If fact, the change is so great that the production itself even reflects this; when Madoka sees Lan again after her year of depression the music chirps up and a high contrast shot of Madoka running up to Lan is shown, and in the moment that Madoka finally reaches Lan and hugs her time seems to slow down a bit, the girls (Madoka specifically) light up like they do in the openings and background is replaced by twinkling stars. Unfortunately Madoka’s happiness is short-lived, as Lan is in Kamogawa on business.
From that statement alone, one would say that Lan, rather unlike Madoka, hasn’t changed a bit; they would be wrong. Lan came to Kamogawa at the beginning of the first season full of determination and drive, but without confidence. Lan has always known what she’s wanted, but has never thought that she could make it happen. Even at the end of the last season when Lan departed for Le Garite she seemed to be uncertain of herself, but now that has all changed. Armed with drive and confidence (and, admittedly, a giant fighting robot suit) Lan returns this season knowing exactly what she wanted to do: protect Madoka, her dearest friend, and Earth, her second home. We first see Lan’s new confidence during the De Metrio assault on the Vox testing facility, in which she headed out into open combat without any reservation, but her true drive is much more evident in her actions in Kamogawa. When it proves that Madoka isn’t going to have any luck in piloting Midori and the De Metrio forces approach Earth, Lan fearlessly and with fervor climbs into Orca to engage with the De Metrio forces, despite having no backup and coming face to face with Muginami.
Unfortunately, Muginami’s development during the timeskip is left untouched, as her development is always left untouched. Muginami went back to De Metrio and her brother Villagiulio, despite his harsh betrayal of her during season one. She and her development are further complicated by the fact that Muginami openly and with malice attacks Lan at the Le Garite Vox research facility and then attacks Pharos with the express intention of killing Madoka. In the next episode, Muginami’s development will hopefully be shown in detail, and I await for the moment when Muginami’s unparalleled complexity takes the spotlight for once.
Upon hearing all of this, upon hearing that her two best friends are out to kill each other, over her no less, Madoka comes back to us with full force. Like in the very first episode, Madoka gets into Midori and wills it forward with her altruism. Madoka doesn’t want to fight, but she needs to, and so she will. In the final moments of “Welcome Back, Kamogawa” Madoka rides out in Midori to fight with all of the passion and determination of Lan and Muginami combined, but with a much nobler cause: peace between her friends. That is what makes this one of the most enjoyable shows, because the protagonist is motivated by pure, uncorrupted feelings of altruism and friendship. At the end of episode thirteen of Rinne no Lagrange friendship takes back the spotlight and promises to raise the show to new levels by combining with the timeskip’s character development to bring to light a heartwarming message: people may change, but friendship is forever.
illegenes: Psh, Steven, I don’t know what you mean by disappointing; Rinne no Lagrange was the cure to my boredom with Winter’12 season’s lineup. The first season, while having a mediocre plot, was still bright and full of energy with smooth graphics, decent character development, and a fantastic OST. From where we left off, Lagrange had entered serious territory with our three friends having to part ways in order to settle intergalactic conflicts and affairs. Luckily, our second season offers a recap episode before diving back into the bright blue waters of Kamogawa.
After a rather unappealing new OP (I’m not a fan of reused scenes for these things- I can’t tell if it was due to budget purposes or if it was a last moment thing and the animation studio was just being lazy) we return to Kamogawa shores, one year later after the events of season one. To say that Madoka’s life is empty would be an understatement. While everyone seems to have settled in with the idea that aliens exist and have taken refuge on Earth, Madoka is the most uncomfortable from deeply missing her two Jersey partners, though she’s hesitant to admit it. As Steven analyzed quite correctly, Madoka’s depression isn’t continuous or pinpointed; it’s a stagnant one that stems from absence of friendship. Despite this, she masks her depression with smile and enthusiasm, struggling to figure out what to do with her life after school or if she wants to work at her father’s shop. As if these things were actually important to Madoka; mostly anything is trivial in comparison to her feelings about what’s going outside her world, and her inability to get the Vox Aura to fly for almost a year. I think it’s for these reasons that I find Madoka admirable as a protagonist. She’s optimistic and cheerful, but it’s not to the point where it creates poor judgement. There’s the obnoxious happiness and then there’s the maturity that comes with being positive in life. Madoka seems to have the latter most of the time and it’s what makes her and this show fun to watch.
Luckily, we don’t get to see Madoka put on a fake smile and angst for too long. Lan comes back out of nowhere and Madoka is more than happy to see her again. Unfortunately, there’s no time for happy moments; war is coming, and Lan has made it an issue that Madoka needs to learn how to pilot her Vox Aura- Midori- again in order to settle some outer space conflict again. I do agree with Steven that Lan’s progression of character is by far the largest in the series. Madoka definitely has a darker edge to her since the beginning of the show, but it’s Lan who I’m a bigger fan of. She possesses an inner drive that can be parallelled with Madoka’s to some extent and I do like how they motivate each other. The scene where she undergoes some painful mental stimuli in order to activate her Vox (and with her brother cruelly asking for ‘more data’ despite knowing that the pain could permanently damage her brain) really touched me in the kokoro, as one would say. Despite regaining courage, Lan’s attempts to get Madoka to activate her Vox are interrupted by Muginami, who once again is on the opposing side with her onii-chan, as she alone tries to fight Lan. It’s here where I’m really happy that Xebec’s budget hasn’t wavered. The fight scenes are smooth and the use of 3D CGI was great. I’m also a fan of the many hues of blue used in the show for the ocean and the sky but also to depict the sort of bubbly but calm atmosphere that Rinne is about.
While I’m sure the audience is asking themselves why Muginami is fighting, I can think of many reasons why Muginami would go back to her brother and fight on the opposite side. For one thing, Muginami’s ties to her brother are strong, as seen in the previous season where she literally spent every day struggling for survival with him. That, combined with the fact that Madoka is the key to initiating the Rinne- or rather, just world destruction- would be a good reason for Muginami to try and fight so that Madoka wouldn’t activate her Vox (an admirable plan that fails, ironically because Madoka does activate her Vox, because of her feelings for Muginami and Lan fighting in the first place). Our trio is back, but there’s a darker edge to the ending. What was once happy blue skies are now skies lining up with grey clouds. A war is coming, and our girls will have to be prepared, because if anything, their friendship hasn’t been tested to the fullest as yet. All things considered, there’s no time to be fighting amongst each other when that’s exactly how the first Rinne started in the first place! Hopefully things will calm down before events really spiral out of control.
That said, Xebec, I have to say that I’m really disappointed with the reusing of scenes from the original OP and ED to use in this season’s OP and ED. A couple is enough, but this was more than needed and I sincerely hope that it was just for this episode and not for the next 12? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see….
gallifreyians: (As if Natasha was bored with Natsume Yuujinchou Shi airing in Winter ’12.)
illegenes: (Whatever Steven, that doesn’t count, Shi was a continuation!!!!! Jeeeez.) Either way, I look forward to how our trio resolves their personal issues next week.
gallifreyians: *WAIT, I would just like to say, for the record, that despite being depressed I consider myself to be one of the happiest people I know.
illegenes: *I can verify that, as Steven’s writing partner who constantly bothers him about this blog on a daily basis. :)