VIZ Media's newest acquisition, Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne, is coming to English-speaking audiences courtesy of their website, Hulu Plus, VIZ's own Neon Alley service, Amazon.com's video service, and Anime On Demand in the UK. The good folks at VIZ were kind enough to send over a screener of the first four episodes of this twelve-episode mecha-action series, and so here are our first impressions.
First off, the show comes backed with some major credentials behind it: the production studio is Studio XEBEC (the excellent Broken Blade and Martian Successor Nadesico); the animation was executed by Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex; Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings; Otogi-zoshi); the mecha designs were contributed by folks from within Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.; and the director was Tatsuo Sato (Nadesico again; Stellvia).
What's frustrating is how with all these great names behind it, Lagrange feels like the product of a new studio that's just now climbing on one of several existing bandwagons. The plot involves a 17-year-old girl, Madoka Kyono (no, not that Madoka), whose big-hearted ways are interrupted when she's drafted into piloting a giant robot named Vox that pairs closely with her.
It's hard to watch the show and not feel that so many other, previous, and better shows are being invoked one after the other. The granddaddy of the bunch is of course Neon Genesis Evangelion, without whom we wouldn't have the whole subgenre of "kids piloting mecha" in the first place. But the most immediate reminder is of shows like Infinite Stratos, where the mecha and other fantastic elements of the story are more or less subordinate to dippy comedy involving the main cast. In this case, it's Madoka and two friends she makes: Lan, the reserved-seeming alien girl who drafts Madoka into piloting the Vox; and Muginami, another alien who takes on the guise of a bubble-headed classmate as a way to infiltrate Madoka's inner circle.
If all this stuff was enjoyable to you in its incarnations from other shows, it'll most likely be enjoyable here as well. But no new ground is broken -- not with the mecha, sadly, which despite the design pedigree aren't all that intriguing to watch, and definitely not with the story. Still, this is only the first four of twelve episodes, with another season to follow after it, so a proper review will have to wait until a full season is under our belts.
Here are links to the show in all its venues:
Image: Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne © Lagrange Project. Image courtesy VIZ Media.