Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne S2
Following the events of the first series, Madoka earnestly wishes to see her fellow Jersey Club compatriots (and dear friends) Lan and Muginami again ... and they soon reunite under dire circumstances, as their respective spacefaring nations are at the brink of war. Can their Jersey Club spirit bring a new and lasting peace, not just to seaside Kamogawa, but the known universe?
The review for the first season is here. To be honest, if you liked what you saw there, then you're in for a slightly deeper, somewhat more action-packed, and fairly satisfying (but again not excellent) second half.
Don't get me wrong: Lagrange is an enjoyable, likable show, and even though I was at first a little iffy on Madoka, she really grew on me, and I was happy to see the Jersey Club's adventures continue. That being said, if you thought the One True Threesome of Madoka, Lan, and Muginami was piling it on a bit in season one, be forewarned that the subtext has turned to subtitles in season two; after a while they essentially start declaring their love for one another at the drop of a hat and talking about how the three of them "are one" (and yeah, that pretty much means what you think it does). It's definitely on the cheesy side, but at least it's cheesy in a heartwarming way rather than a titillating one. (Even despite what is probably the silliest "kiss and make up" scene ever written.) There are worse things that could be used as plot points, I guess -- after all, this is the show where yuri saves the universe!
I would call that a spoiler, except that Lagrange is so incredibly predictable that what you expect to happen pretty much will. Last season's bad guys totally end up being everyone's buddies. Old friends invariably reunite. The big bad is exactly who you expect it to be. And that's the single biggest flaw in this franchise: despite the scary, apocalyptic imagery of that alternate dimension of Rin-ne, any potential for suspense or drama is pretty much nullified because you know nothing really awful is ever going to happen to these three girls -- or really, any named character at all, since about the only people you see bite it in the action scenes are redshirts. Heck, this show may be one of the few sci-fi anime I've ever seen with a negative named role body count.
But then, everything about Lagrange is lighter and softer and clearly manufactured in order to come to a neat resolution - the space opera aspect of the show is essentially an overblown quarrel with little to no political depth; the combat is essentially there to showcase the girls' peacemaking personalities; both aspects of this show quickly fall away as being very secondary to the character interactions, and ultimately any conflict ultimately feels forced and contrived and a bit too neatly compartmentalized from the rest of the narrative.
At least the characters are likable -- I have really grown to like and root for all three of the leads, and in that sense I am glad I stuck it out to see their story through to the end. Though you're not going to see huge sea changes in their personalities, you do see Madoka grow into being super-reliable and helpful not just out of obligation, but out of choice - you see Lan embracing her goofy side, but also being surprisingly devious - you see Muginami being insightful and considerate. These three girls, most importantly, learn to be as comfortable with themselves as with each other, and there's something to be said for seeing that being portrayed in any TV show.
Even the side characters end up being fun - probably the character I had the second greatest amount of misgivings over, Asteria, turns out to have much more depth than expected (and she is content to let the girls play amongst themselves rather than instigating anything this time around). We also get to see a somehow more relaxed Villagiulio, now at the helm of the De Metrio space force as its king ... at odds with Lan's uptight and high-strung big brother Dizelmine, himself the king of Le Garite. It's a bit of a bummer that we don't get to see as much of Madoka's "big sis" Yoko this time around, though.
It may seem like a weird afterthought to only now discuss the technical aspects of this show, because Lagrange is quite honestly one of the better looking television shows out there, but you'd really never know it because the mecha scenes almost seem like they would be better served in, say, some sort of Gundam or Legend of the Galactic Heroes spinoff. The space battles look awesome ... in the very brief moments when they happen. The thing is, you hardly see the girls piloting the mecha, as it's pretty clear that they're only going to use the Vox units to defend their friends ... and not in the "best defense is a strong offense" sort of way, either. Action-centered fans will not get much out of this, because as much as Neon Genesis Evangelion was really a psychological drama masquerading as a mecha show, Lagrange is really at its core a light yuri slice-of-life romance with occasional fits of science-fiction thrown in for funsies. At least the music stays good throughout.
So while Lagrange never quite even seems to aim for the stars, much less get there (metaphorically speaking, anyway), it remains a pleasant adventure with likable characters who give their rarely-piloted mecha really cutesy names.
Though to its credit, Kamogawa sounds like quite the place to go for a seaside Japanese vacation...
Watchable and likable, but never crossing over into greatness, Lagrange is a bait-and-switch show whose visually impressive science-fiction elements ultimately feel little more than superfluous. Yuri fans again get to tack on that extra star. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Like the first series, there is some fan service (again with the swimsuits since) and the requisite amount of mecha violence, mostly bloodless and plot-relevant. A couple scenes of brief nudity, though nothing detailed (this is a television series). The heaviest content advisory is that there are very heavy romantic overtones between the three female leads (more so than in the previous series, including hand-holding and kissing, the latter played half for laughs and half-seriously), and if that sort of thing bothers you then I would advise avoiding this franchise altogether, though again, it's handled more tastefully than other series out there. Teens and above should be fine with this.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source from Viz Media, English with Japanese subtitles.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne S2 © 2012 Lagrange Project
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