Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Lagrange - The Flower of Rin-ne
Dub Episodes 1 - 4
Madoka Kyono is a high school student living with her uncle in Kamogawa. Sole member of the “Jersey Club,” she passes her days helping anyone and everyone who needs it. One day after saving a drowning swimmer on the way to school, her uniform vanishes from the seawall. It later appears on a girl with blue hair and repressed emotions named Lan, who takes Madoka to a city ship in the harbor and encourages her to pilot a special robot. It turns out that Madoka is the only person who can fly this particularly ship, the Vox Aura, and that Lan, an alien princess, is involved in an intergalactic war that a special branch of the Japanese army is helping with. Now Madoka is involved, but what will be the consequences?
Mecha shows featuring teenage pilots are a dime a dozen. The general rule of thumb is that the chosen pilots will be boys, but there are a handful of shows, like Vandread, Simoun, or Infinite Stratos, where girls also fly the giant robots. Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne certainly follows most of these shows in terms of the basic formulas, but if it has one defining feature beyond the three main pilots being girls, it is that this show takes into consideration the fact that they are, in fact, teenagers. As anyone who was a teen or has interacted with them in tense situations can tell you, teenagers tend to be vulnerable in surprising ways and also don't always react well to absolute authority. Both of these traits come into play in Lagrange. Madoka, our do-gooder heroine, is almost obsessively protective of her town, Kamogawa. This leads to her planning her battle by where she and the (terribly phallic) mech she is fighting will do the least possible damage – a lot where a house was torn down, for example. This brings her to the next point – that she doesn't always want to respond to authority figures. The commander of the group in charge of protecting Kamogawa, and presumably Japan, from alien invasion keeps issuing orders to Madoka, things that military personnel would expect to hear, such as “go here” and “fight him.” Madoka, however, doesn't feel obligated to follow his orders. While she isn't, generally speaking, outright insubordinate, she also has the adolescent's blind faith in her own ability to make the right decision. The frustration on the part of the commander is a nice touch and gives the show an air of realism that it might otherwise lack.
Unfortunately, Lagrange's first four episodes suffer from, among other things, uneven pacing. The first three introduce us to Madoka, Lan, and Madoka's older cousin before throwing our heroine into the cockpit of the Vox Aura, where she stays for all three. All told, these episodes cover a little less than 24 hours in Madoka's life. If this was the pace the show was going to maintain, that would be fine, but the next episode slows the pace down drastically. Madoka has been given so much weight by the first three episodes that we find ourselves almost disproportionately invested in her every move, even when they aren't important. Lan's lack of emotion keeps her pretty firmly in the middle of the road in terms of likeability; the apparently random way she sometimes holds up one fist and says “woof” does not help. Equally strange is Madoka's habit of drawing a perfect circle in the air whenever something goes well. These habits have the feel of manufactured quirks, as if someone in the planning stages decided that each girl needed something “cute” to make her palatable.
Viz's dub has both its high points and its lows but is generally enjoyable. Relative newcomer Kira Buckland gives Madoka a voice that is slightly too shrill and perky at times, but by the third episode she has evened things out, maintaining a voice that gives Madoka her upbeat sensibility while allowing an annoyed edge to creep in. Sophie Roberts (in her second anime role) allows a vulnerability to color Lan's otherwise monotone delivery when she thinks about her past, helping to give the character some needed empathy points. Male alien trio Izo, Array, and Kirius (Ben Diskin, Sam Regal, and Johnny Yong Bosch) play off of each other very well and often almost steal the show, particularly in the preview for the third episode. Madoka's verbal interactions with them are also especially well done. The dub script is mostly smooth with the usual technobabble where appropriate and a slight overuse of the word “comrade.” One very nice affectation is the way that the robots are referred to as “craft,” giving a slightly naval air to the proceedings, something that both sets Lagrange apart from other mecha shows and also suits the fact that the ships are docked on a sort of aircraft carrier. At this point we don't know much about Muginami and Karen Strassman's breathless voicing of her can be a bit irritating, but given that there's clearly more to the character than meets the eye, it seems a safe bet that Strassman's range will come out soon enough.
Overall Lagrange is an interesting and smoothly dubbed show. Each character is distinctive, albeit with a squashed appearance in profile, and the details are nicely done. Madoka strides everywhere she goes, bruises don't vanish moments after they are gotten, and the aftermath of Madoka and Kirius' battle in Kamogawa is shown as the townsfolk clean up. Hints of backstory help to flesh out Lan and her nemesis, and the fact that Madoka is surprised that she will have to pilot her mech more than once is a nice touch. There seems to be some yuri subtext, which should please some viewers, at this point showing up mostly in the still shots than the actual story, and it will be interesting to see if it goes anywhere. The symbolism is a bit oblique, particularly concerning the chairs that the girls walk over in the ending theme and that are shown with the episode titles, but generally speaking, this is a show with potential. Hopefully the pacing issues will iron themselves out, because despite the fact that the title is likely to make francophones think of barns (“la grange” means “the barn”), both story and English dub have a fair amount going for them.
Overall (dub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Teenagers who react like teenagers, nice details. CPR looks like CPR and not kissing. Attractive colors and visually nice flight suit designs. Dub alien guy trio is particularly good.
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