Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Apr 11th 2012
Lagrange -The Flower of Rin-ne
Episodes 8-12 Streaming
Vox Aura's strange behavior has attracted the attention of Novumundus's leader, Asteria, a little girl with a big brain and an equally outsized attitude. She immediately grounds Madoka in order to prevent another rampage, which gets Lan and Muginami up in arms. Madoka subsequently throws herself into preparing for Kamogawa High's cultural festival, during which she has several indirect encounters with one-time opponents Kirius, Izo and Array. During the festival Asteria informs her that an all-out assault is coming and that Lan and Muginami will be in the vanguard. Madoka rushes to join them, but even if she's allowed to, will her intervention ultimately set off something worse than a mere war?
Lagrange's first season ends with a lot of open questions. That's bound to cause some frustration. Even more so because it ends with Madoka, Lan and Muginami's fates very much up in the air. Frustration in this case is good, though. It's a measure of how much we want to see where these girls are going and to figure out what exactly it is they're caught up in. It's a measure of our anticipation for next season where, hopefully, we'll have our answers.
There wasn't much of a break in the first half of this season. Madoka's alien-battling adventure was a steamroller that only paused when there was a character to introduce or an emotional conflict to resolve. If you count episode seven's quiet solidification of Madoka, Lan and Muginami's friendship, then this half of the series, on the other hand, is about two-thirds break and one-third alien-battling adventure. Lagrange isn't too concerned with moving Kamogawa's corner of the galactic war forward here or revealing more about the war and Madoka's place in it, which is a big part of why the season ends with so much of that unresolved. The time off isn't time wasted however. The first three of these episodes are rich in enriching little character moments. Madoka's flying ban gives Lan and Muginami a chance to show just how deep their new friendship runs (very deep). Kirius and his buddies get their own episode during the cultural festival, during which all three emerge as sympathetic and thoughtful opponents, each with their own reasons for acting as they subsequently do. The second cultural festival episode is given over to Madoka's feelings for Lan and Muginami, which prove to be darker and more complicated than the trio's sunny relationship indicates.
These are easygoing episodes in general, but they're well-balanced. It is easy to feel for Madoka as she comes to grips with her separation from Midori and wrestles with the more selfish parts of her love for Lan and Muginami. Humor is plentiful and, if not uproarious, consistently chuckle-worthy. The mess that Izo gets himself into trying to use his television-inspired knowledge of Japanese culture to challenge Madoka to a duel is particularly fun, as is the revealed fate of the trio's youngest member. There's warmth in Kirius's unwitting encounter with Madoka, and in the bond the "bad guys" reaffirm going into the season's final battle. There are even a few hints dropped about the bigger picture. Kirius's trio drops a name that obviously has a lot to do with why they are doing what they are doing and why so many are so wound up about the Voxes. And of course Asteria's episode throws some light on the power-structure of the alien-fighting institution Novumundus, while some of her later actions raise serious questions about her goals and those of the forces she commands.
And then the series explodes into action once again. Literally and figuratively. In literal terms the series' mecha action kicks in again. Which is welcome in its own right. Tatsuo Sato is a veteran of the mecha trade, and he knows how to put together a mechanized free-for-all. Villagiulio's full-force assault on Kamogawa isn't the most expensive battle sequence ever animated, or the most anything for that matter, but it hits most of the right notes. The fighting is suitably cool, especially the fleet bombardment of Pharos, with the occasional hint of humor when Madoka joins the fray (she obviously learned her fighting style from pro wrestlers). Shortcuts are taken, but not enough that anything looks actively cheap. The scale is suitably big, the stakes are suitably high, and the emotions of the previous episodes—Madoka's fear of abandonment, the trio's burgeoning friendship, even Muginami's feelings for Villagiulio—suitably incorporated. It's a good, solid climactic battle, complete with big music, big explosions, dire pinches and the heroine's last-minute entrance.
And then episode twelve happens. Episode twelve is where the series' fans and non-fans are going to part ways. Some are going to love its jarring rift in chronology and tantalizing non-answers about the nature of the Voxes, its sudden rupturing of established relations and bittersweet non-conclusion. Others are going to hate them. This is not the conclusion half-promised by the definitive battle taking shape just one episode previous. The enemies don't go away. The war doesn't end. Life doesn't return to normal. A great deal is revealed about the Voxes—fragments of their history, glimpses of their power—and about Asteria, but every scrap of information only raises more questions. The end of the battle is the kind of mystifying spectacle pioneered by Evangelion, a bewildering mix of alternate spaces and unidentified mystical advisors and gorgeous blossoming energies that is cut short (in by far the series' most impressive visual) before anything can come of it or anything more than the barest fragment of an answer can make it through.
It's an episode that tells you in no uncertain terms that closure is still far away. Even the less weighty fan issue of whether or not Madoka and Lan's (and to a lesser extent Muginami's) feelings for each other are more than platonic is given a humorous nudge and then left dangling. There is much that is satisfying about it, especially in its gentle and sweetly sad penultimate scene, but far more that isn't. Which is exactly the point. This isn't an ending. It's a new beginning, one that promises a broader, more complicated, more emotionally weighted series. A series that cannot come soon enough.
And hopefully one that will still take place in Kamogawa. Reportedly the city is hoping that the show will promote the area to tourists. Sato's version of the city, all azure skies and cerulean seas and pastel sunsets, certainly does that. It's one of the most alluring fictional settings this side of Aria, and that is no mean praise.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Slows for a couple of gentle, fun, character-based episodes before diving back into mecha action and shattering the status quo in preparation for season two.
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