Rinne no Lagrange – 04

Madoka’s school grudingly approves of her piloting a robot, as long as it’s something she turly wants to do. It’s suggested they simply give the robot to the enemy, but doing so would aid their plans for interstellar conquest. The mysterious Muginami enrolls in Madoka’s class. At a swimming competition at the shore, Muginami not only wins, but saves Lan, whos boat she accidentally capsized, from drowning, and joins the jersey club. Muginami and Lan then help out at Madoka’s uncle’s restaurant. BWH. Lan then enrolls in Madoka’s class, joins the jersey club, and decides to move into BWH with Madoka and Muginami. Kirius and Izo’s ship is destroyed by Villagiulio, the leader of Kiss, who wants them to work for him. That night, Array escapes from Pharos in his ovid.

This episode sets itself apart from those that preceeded it by lacking any kind of big mecha battle, or indeed hardly any sci-fi content at all. There’s still action here, but it’s much more conventional, i.e. swimming, cafe hijinks, and a competition for Madoka’s favor. Long story short, Muginami is better than Lan at seemingly everything. Despite her obvious merits, however, we still don’t much like Muginami as a character yet, and prefer the more flawed Lan. When Mugi started waiting tables out of the blue, attracting customers with her beauty, Lan said ‘me too’ and exhibited her ridiculous klutziness, which was funny, we’ll grant, if a little out of character. We do hope Mugi gets more depth though. I mean, nobody knows anything about her.

Arguably, Madoka is the best balance between Muginami’s efficacy and Lan’s…inefficacy. It’s nice that the trio is now complete, however rushed Mugi’s introduction and assimilation felt. We should have expected a cool-down episode; after all, Madoka cares a great deal what happens to her town, and we can hardly sympathize if we don’t see the town from time to time. There’s a nice transitioning scene of the post-battle cleanup that really adds to the realism. The episode also shook up a lot of the good vibes it built by letting Array escape. No doubt he’ll team back up with his buds and be back, which may make Madoka & Co. long for these otherwise laid-back trouble-free episodes.

Rating: 3

Rinne no Lagrange – 03

Madoka is locked in battle with Kirius, and makes great pains not to cause excessive damage to Kamogawa, eventually moving the action to a vacant lot. Lan gathers up the courage to go out in Vox Lympha, but Izo’s ovid leaps out of the sea to stop her from interfering with Kirius’ fight. Madoka keeps her spirits up by singing her Jersey club fight song, and by her words helps Lan overcome her fear and unleash Lympha’s warrior mode for the first time. Faced with two Voxes, Kirius orders a retreat. Victorious, Madoka and Lan meet up and name their Voxes Midori and Orca, respectively. In his cell, Array recites the legend Lan fears, in which the three Voxes are harbingers of destruction.

Ignorance is bliss, at least in Madoka’s case. Forced to improvise against Kirius, Madoka resorts to stopping his non-lethal sword strikes with Vox’s hands, and even tries to choke his ovid with an electrical cable. Such tactics throw Kirius off, unaware of just how inexperienced his opponent really is. But that same ignorance helps Madoka press on with Vox, something Lan can’t initially do, because she knows about the legend. Will Madoka lose her edge when she learns of the foretold destruction her green Vox might cause? Who knows; for now, she’s two-for-two, thanks to her obligation to “finish what she starts”, a tenet of the Jersey club to which she belongs (translated as “Sweats club” last week).

Also, she’s helped Lan achieve what she couldn’t before, which is a big boost to her confidence. Making the princess Lan more initially flawed than the tomboy Madoka makes her more interesting, and we like how she has the same seiyu as Chihaya. We were also impressed not only with the gorgeous battle animation, but both the producers’ and Madoka’s committment not to forget where it is she’s fighting: in the middle of a densely-populated town she loves very much. Not only is she holding her own with Kirius, but she makes every effort to minimize collateral damage, and even smashes away a flying vending machine with a baseball swing to save two schoolgirls, punctuated by her trademark “Maru!” (“circle”). We like this kid!

Rating: 4

Rinne no Lagrange – 01

Able athlete and “Sweats Club” president Kyono Madoka is one day confronted by a mysterious silver-haired girl named Lan, who escorts her to an offshore installation where she’s brought face to face with a robot she’s meant to pilot. Lan was sent from space by L’Egalite to protect her from Demetria, their enemy. Madoka pilots the robot and defeats the Demetrian counterpart using a kendo move.

This Winter 2012 series has delivered the most visual punch, and if it keeps up this ambitious level of quality, it will certainly be doing battle with Moretsu Pirates, once that series gets out into space and starts flexing its muscles. Still, this series was the first to provide a big action setpiece (Madoka’s first duel), and it was quite well done. This show has a budget and knows how to use it, both in CGI and design as well as really nice use of color, light, and a really appealing futuristic techno score, all working in concert to create a sleek, slick, and optimistic setting, with darker forces lurking beneath it.

We had misgivings when heroine Madoka stripped down in the first minute (she had a swimsuit on underneath), but we found ourselves warming up to her the more we saw her. We certainly appreciate another strong female character this season. She’s great at swimming, tennis, kendo, baseball – all skills that should serve her well as a mecha pilot. She’s got nice quirky details like her track suit with one rolled-up sleave pant leg and her hair bunched by a rubber band. And while the Vox robot seems initially “icky”, she quickly gets the hang of things. It’s suggested this robot may have saved her from drowning in the past, but it seems like her older cousin would rather she not pilot Vox. We’re glad she will, though; otherwise there’d be no show!

Rating: 4