One of Satou Tatsuo’s series for Winter 2012, the other being Mouretsu Pirates, this one largely flew under my radar for half of its airing period. It was only later, when I was 4 episodes into Mouretsu Pirates, that I realised this had the same (production) director, and decided to give it a go.
What a great choice it was.
While Rinne won’t be winning any awards for storywriting brilliance, the sheer quality of the storytelling, visuals and characters elevate it to a level beyond that of other shows.
Tatsuo opted to completely eradicate any form of romance, choosing instead to focus the story around the friendship of the three main characters. Gone is the blatant fanservice; the show chooses to do so in as classy a manner as possible, using individual characters’ idiosyncracies as the driving force for much of the humour present throughout the story, injecting a bit of lightheartedness while giving the fans what they want: seeing their favourite characters doing more of what made them favourites in the first place.
This lightheartedness, in my opinion, is where Rinne no Lagrange excels. The show is serious, but never too much so; after all, this is a story about friendship, and how can friendships develop when all you ever face is adversity? The director, Toshimasa Suzuki, understands this and executes it masterfully, driving the humour with characters rather than situations; notably absent is the manzai routine, which can rather easily kill the mood of a show (case in point: Guilty Crown). In its place, Lagrange substitutes a variety of options, one of my favourites being the double-sided misunderstanding or double entendre, where both sides are equally misjudged about the other’s stand.
Only the viewer is privy to both sides, and cannot help but laugh at how well the conversation can go despite both sides conversing on entirely different pages. This is a masterstroke in maintaining the individual characters’ traits, never allowing them to degenerate into joke machines.
The visuals are another factor in the power of the show; aside from a couple of 3D-rendered scenes, the mecha are lovingly hand-drawn in all their exquisite detail. Characters are pleasant on the eyes, with small individual elements that allow each to stand out in their own way.
But most of all is, of course, the scenery. The first time Madoka went up in Vox Aura, the image of the sea sparkling in the sunset with twilight Kamogawa in the distance was enough to give me chills. This is a show that deserves to be watched in full 1080P definition.
In the end, however, masterful directorship and beautiful visuals are nothing if the story is weak. Lagrange’s story, while simple and easy to understand, is executed with finesse and quality far surpassing that of many more convoluted plots. Never losing sight of the focus of the story, elements other than those involving the relationships of the main characters are fleshed out to as little an extent as required to lend depth to the story and provide enough working room to generate a powerful climax and a meaningful ending, omitting details that would bog down the otherwise simple story. For example, we are occasionally cryptically reminded that the three Vox together was a premonition of destruction, and occasionally we catch a glimpse of the history of the Vox, but we are never actually given the full picture. We never need to know, either – many loose ends were left hanging, but as far as I’m concerned, they never needed to be tied up in the end, because they were intentionally never fleshed out enough for me to care. All I know is that characters that I know and care for, thanks to strong development over 12 episodes, faced adversity and overcame it through the literal power of friendship and love for fellow man. The ability to write a story is not just dependent on how well you’re able to think, develop and write; half of it comes from knowing what you have to cut. And that is where Lagrange shines.
An original series whose only unique factor at first was Nissan being in charge of mecha design, the top-notch visuals, down-to-earth story that never loses its focus and tight directorship shot it straight to the top of my weekly must-watch list. Without a doubt, Rinne no Lagrange was one of the shiniest gems of Winter 2012.