Reviewby Theron Martin, Feb 25th 2014
Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne Season 2
Blu-Ray - Set 2
Nearly a year has passed since Lan and Muginami departed Kamogawa in the company of Le Garite and Del Metrio forces, respectively, and Madoka has been carrying on the Jersey Club banner solo while dearly missing her friends. Kirius, Izo, and Array, meanwhile, have taken to running a new beachfront café edition of Madoka's Uncle Hiroshi's restaurant. The continuing presence of Vox Aura (which has been entirely inactive during the interlude) on Pharos is still a powerful lure for both sides, however, for many believe it to be the key both to the destruction on Earth of 20,000 years ago and to preventing an eventual catastrophe for both Le Garite and Del Metrio. That brings Lan and Muginami and their Vox units back, albeit initially in conflict until Madoka can break through to them. But can she do the same when their big brothers, former friends and the respective leaders of the warring planets, also come back into the picture? They are not the only ones with long-standing interests in crossing the Rin-ne threshold, either, as other key players finally make their moves and reveal their true natures.
The first season of Lagrange ended at a definite break point but with a healthy sense that nothing even close to a full story had played out yet, so after a full season hiatus during the original broadcast (and six months off for the American Blu-Ray releases) the story picks up in the wake of a time lapse. Since the first season depended so heavily on the interactions and chemistry between the trio of main girls, this season takes only a few minutes to describe how life has continued on in the absence of the Le Garite/Del Metrio conflict before reintroducing the wayward ones and bringing the action firmly back to Kamogawa – because, you know, a small city most notable for its fishing industry and being a burgeoning tourist attraction (Kamogawa Sea World, which is depicted prominently in the series, is a real place) is the perfect place to hold interplanetary battles and peace conferences, host alien princesses seeking asylum, and be the starting place for the destruction of the world.
But logic has never stringently applied to Lagrange, so why should that change now? On top of that, the second season often feels like it is not taking its story seriously, which is not a problem on the regular occasions when it wants to be playful but is a problem when it wants to generate gravitas over its impending doom scenario or the strained interplanetary relations. This is coupled with plot progression which oversimplifies the development of what should be world-shattering events, uses an awkwardly-handled reversal, and allows a spunky teenage girl to more or less dictate events at her whim, including getting away with simultaneously gut-punching two world leaders. And let's not forget the seeming little girl who is a reincarnation of an important person from eons ago who is directing a major planetary security initiative. In other words, it's all pretty cheesy and ridiculous, even by mecha standards.
Of course, a bit of cheese in one's diet is not necessarily bad, and the series does make it more palatable with a solid set of characters. Madoka's utterly unflappable optimism does sometimes becoming annoying, and she is effectively a Mary Sue given the way she unflappably handles any problem that comes up, but the relationships and interactions amongst the three girls do work; that they have all become dear friends is quite credible. More impressive is the way Kirius, Izo, and Array settle in to ordinary life with surprising smoothness and are allowed to discover that they actually like it; characters in their situation typically only begrudgingly accept such work as a means for survival and abandon it at first opportunity. Most other significant characters work reasonably well, although Yurikano, when she shows up (yes, she makes more than just flashback appearances) never really stabilizes and Dizelmine flip his personality as the story requires.
The way the plot plays out hardly strikes any new ground. The first seven episodes mostly involved reintegrating LAN and Muginami back into the picture and bringing together Dizelmine and Villagulio to end the strife between them. After that the story shifts fully to the immediately impending apocalyptic angle, complete with a long-disguised villain, a heroine crossing over into a mystical space, and a temporary body transference thrown in for good measure. While the latter element is weirdly out of place (although Valvrave the Liberator later made a habit of it, it fit the structure of its series better), the rest is typical fare borrowed from a number of previous mecha series. The only thing that differentiates this one is that it has a bit more of a sense of humor than most.
The visual of the second season largely remain consistent with those seen in the first season, which means more slickly-animated CG mecha with improbably delicate frames, more muted color schemes on anything that is not CG, more Kamogawa-area scenery, and more of the recurring colored chair gimmick. In fact, color-coding in general is a recurring gimmick throughout and perhaps even more pronounced here than in the first half. Quality control in the animation is a little better, but neither the more individualized nor massed space battle scenes have quite the flash and zing that one might expect, even when the more apocalyptic elements come into play. The only prominent character addition is the adult form of Yurikano, who adds an additional busty presence but, somewhat surprisingly, never really becomes part of the fan service; in fact, the fan service in general is much more limited this time around, as it consists of only a handful of comparatively mild scenes scattered across twelve episodes.
Musical merits are also largely unchanged – stronger in supporting the comedic parts, weaker in supporting the dramatic parts - save for the opener and closers. New opener “Marble” is the dull one this time around, while the peppier, rap-sporting “Jersey Club” comes in three versions (one featuring each of the lead trio) and alternates with the gentler, more melodic “Wasurenaiyo,” which features Yurikano.
Almost no change in cast between the two parts means that one's reaction to the English dub for the first season should also remain the same. Mugiami's airy lilt is a little more tolerable here (likely more because of conditioning than anything else) and the trio of guys and Villagulio distinguish themselves a bit more, while on the other side Liam O'Brian's Dizelmine seems lifeless. Still, his role is hardly an excitable one so it is not a big flaw.
The Blu-Ray release by Viz Media includes all twelve episodes on both disks. Included are the second set of “Kamogawa Drama” omake, five in all, which cover light-hearted targets ranging from the girls and Asteria getting into farming to Youko and Machiko reminiscing about their history together to a promotional video for the Kamogawa Girls School Film Club done in a classic military recruitment format. Only one offers any real degree of bonus fan service and all are subtitled-only. Also present are various promotional videos and clean versions of the opener and all of the closers, which can be viewed without subtitles or with English or romaji subtitles. (The latter is a very unusual option.) Not included, however, is the “Kamogawa Days” OVA side story which takes place during the interim between the two seasons. Blu-Ray audio and video quality is respectable but nothing exceptional. A DVD version is also available.
The epilogue for the series gives it a neat (if rather corny) wrap, one which leaves little room for any kind of extension. Hence the flaws in the writing do not keep the series from telling a complete story; they only interfere with it being a good one. Still, the series provides enough entertainment value to not be a waste of time.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Good CG animation, interactions of the lead trio of girls, treatment of the main trio of guys.
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