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Returning, being a superficial anime fan and Rinne no Lagrange

It’s been a while since my last post. Around a month, in fact. Through-out February, I took something of a break from anime. I’ve been keeping up with One Piece, but that’s about it. This wasn’t a planned thing, either. I just stopped watching anime.

Winter hasn’t helped, either. Although a notoriously poor time for anime anyway, there’s usually something to keep me ticking over until April. Last year, it was Madoka, this year so far, there’s simply nothing of that calibre (a high bar, admittedly.) I’m vaguely interested in Nisemonogatari, but until I’ve seen Bakemongatari, I’m stuck.

All I’ve been left with, then, is long-shots. I’ve heard a lot about how Mouretsu Pirates is decent, but nothing about it so far has caught my eye. And with Noitamina continuing to shit the bed, that was me done with anime in February.

I’m sitting here today, though, intending to write about Rinne no Lagrange. Not exactly the season’s critical darling, but then, I’m quite liking it.

So, old friend, let’s get started, shall we?

Why Rinne no Lagrange, then? Because it looks so bloody vibrant, of course! I knew absolutely nothing of this series until last Thursday, when I came across some images of episode 8. It just looked so colourful and bright, and that was all I needed. Yes, I’m seriously that superficial. I started watching Honey & Clover all those years ago for the same reason. Apparently I like bright colours in my anime.

Let’s not fool ourselves, though. There are some serious drawbacks to Lagrange that, I would suggest, can be put down to the era in which it’s being made. It’s a problem best symbolised by a character we meet in episode 8; a perverted gothic lolita who, as it turns out, is in control of everything; mine eyes were rolling. Also, in episode 7, a swimming suit-clad girl is covered in eels. The problem, obviously (and as ever, sadly,) is fan-service.

There are a lot of parallels with Gunbuster here, except that whilst Gunbuster was made in 1988, Lagrange is a product of 2012. Those 20+ years make a lot of difference: Lagrange has that same mixture of fan-service and mecha action, but the balance is off.

There’s not enough hot-blooded action, no character manly enough to be voiced by Norio Wakamoto and, as yet, no real sense of sacrifice. It could be improved tenfold by introducing something like time dilation, but the series is instead bogged down in modern anime tropes and some all too obvious, embarrassing winks to the audience: the disease of modern anime, then, claims another victim.

It’s a shame because there’s a good story waiting to happen in Lagrange. I love the idea of an all-powerful, long-feared mecha, of a God machine capable of destroying civilisations. It’s a really cool sci-fi concept that I’ve loved ever since reading about Ideon and Lagrange achieve can achieve that same kind of planet-busting scale; a flashback to a character’s youth growing-up in an apocalyptic wasteland was proof enough that it’s capable of a deeper/darker perspective.

Not that darker is always better, mind; I quite like the series’ sense of fun, I just crave some balance. Lagrange has 24 episodes planned and it’s more than capable of stepping up its game. I live in hope, always, but the one thing we can rely on, at least, is the colourful, fluid, consistent animation, and if you’re as superficial as me, you’re in for a treat.

Comments

Tuuli says:

Hmm. Hopefully you will find some interesting series to follow at some point. Have you been following Natsume Yuujinchou by the way?

bateszi says:

I’ve seen (and really liked) the first season of Natsume, but none of the rest (yet.) Talking of Natsume, though, last night I watched Hotarubi no Mori e: it was so sweet! I loved it! Reminded me of so much of what I liked about Natsume too, that gorgeous, relaxing atmosphere and heart-tugging stories.

Tuuli says:

Well, I can tell you that the rest of the seasons are really good too and have pretty much the same atmosphere the first one does. You can really see the character development too. I would really recommend you to continue watching it when you feel like it! :D
I have also noticed that Chihayafuru is a really good series with it’s different characters, about Karuta card game that’s played in japan. It takes you with it somewhat like Hikaru no Go or Shion no Ou but a little differently. Don’t know if you have or haven’t watched it this anime season.

Tuuli says:

Oh yeah! I also watched Hotarubi no Mori e recently and really liked it as well. :3 It’s no wonder it and Natsume have the same atmosphere since the original creator is the same and the people who have been doing the animations of them have really done great work with both stories. I also hope they will continue animating Natsume until the end of the manga. It would be great.

bateszi says:

I’m waiting until Chihayafuru finishes before watching it. For whatever reason, I prefer watching jousei/shoujo anime in big chunks like that, but yeah, of what I’ve seen, it looked really good. I love a good sports anime, too :D

Alterego 9 says:

Visual appearance is indeed a superficial element, in the sense that it’s the first thing that one notices first, before the plot or the characterizations, but I don’t think that it makes *us* superficial to rely on it, not in the sense that we might be shallow or ignorant.

Superficial elements are often compared to the sugarcoating on a cake’s surface, as something that shouldn’t even really matter at the end. But with another analogy, they could also be compared to the rubber on a balloon’s surface. Appealing visuals are the first, obligatory step to creating the proper atmosphere. If a show doesn’t look good, there will be no atmosphere, and no appealing show. If it at least looks good, the balloon might still be deflated, or inflated depending on it’s inner content, but at least that gives it a chance.

When selecting from a collection of holey, and deflated balloons, there is no shame in picking a semi-deflated one first, with the praise that “at least this one isn’t damaged, just a bit empty inside”.

bateszi says:

Yup, I think that’s a good way of looking at it. After all, anime is a visual medium.

What I find interesting is how different people see different things in the same series. I mean, I intuit a lot about the depth of a series from how it looks. In that way, I find Lagrange to be fairly sophisticated. If just in terms of little things like body language, the fact there’s more movement than normal really adds another layer of feeling/humanity.

kuromitsu says:

It’s nice to see you back! I was starting to get worried that even this blog would go on hiatus…

As for anime in this season, have you tried Aquarion Evol? Yes, technically it’s a sequel but the original series aired in 2004 and it was enough of a flop that Evol doesn’t depend on the viewers having seen the original. It has hot-blooded action, manly characters (not voiced by Wakamoto Norio, but Fujiwara Keiji and Suwabe Junichi are nothing to scoff at), a huge, epic and knowing Aquarion and its director, infinitely romantic backstory spanning thousands of years, likeable/quirky characters, epic music courtesy of Kanno (mostly recycled from the first season but who cares, it’s still epic), fanservice done so blatantly and so on purpose that it’s infinitely charming (and no eels, for one), and so on. The series is walking the fine line between EPIC and ridiculously stupid – and that’s exactly where it wants to be (although in this aspect it still hasn’t reached the heights of the first series). The only thing I’m wary about is the fact that it has two overlapping love triangles, but I hope they’ll be able to deal with them in a way that is not annoying or disappointing.

I know that Aquarion doesn’t have a good reputation in anime blogger circles (I have no idea WHY, though – my guess is that people didn’t recognize that it wasn’t supposed to be taken very seriously, or that they just couldn’t deal with Aquarion being basically a very romantic, Kawamori Shouji-esque Gurren Lagann back when Gurren Lagann wasn’t even a concept), but if you haven’t seen it yet you might want to try either the first series or Evol. :D

(Re: Noitamina “shitting the bed,” I take it that Thermae Romae wasn’t good? That’s a pity – the manga is great fun.)

bateszi says:

Actually, Thermae Romae seemed quite well received. I haven’t seen it yet, but you’re comment has spurred me into action (downloading the first 2 episodes right now.) I hope it’s the exception that proves the rule RE: Noitamina’s poor form of late.

As for Aquarion, I’ve come to realise that I really enjoy stuff like Geass and Lagrange for their sense of fun and adventure; seems like Aquarion Evol could be right up my street, then! Anyway, I’ve resolved to have a look at Ano Natsu de Matteru first, but Aquarion will be next on the list.

kuromitsu says:

By the way, as for being a superficial anime fan – I don’t know what this says about me but the main reason I look forward to Sakamichi no Apollon is not Watanabe or Kanno, but Hosoya Yoshimasa, owner of one of the most beautiful male voices I’ve heard lately, in what seems to be a non-stereotypical role for someone like him. (I’m just happy that after No. 6 he finally has a main role in an anime I’m actually interested in…)

bateszi says:

I can’t wait to see how Watanabe’s style has faired since Samurai Champloo. (And Yoko Kanno without Shoji Kawamori!)

Peter S says:

Well, I’m not watching Lagrange for a sense of balance, I’m watching it for many of the same reasons you are, except my description of the visuals isn’t “colorful” or “vibrant,” (though those are fine choices!) but “trippy. I think the ED sums it up. But I agree that if the show is going to have any staying power it has to bring up more dark with the light. I just hope that doesn’t mean they lose things like the gang of idiots running that offshore base, who can allow Muginomi to traipse about without setting off their security, to mention just one example. In the end I want it so Madoka and the other girls can still freely buzz the control tower with their Vox, making that guy spill his coffee, without a care in the world.

bateszi says:

Yeah, like I said, it’s just balance that the series needs. It’s fun, but it feels like it’s reaching for more. I sense there’s more to Lagrange; it’s an original anime, after all, and post-Madoka, too.

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