NOW things are back to normal around here and with the winter season coming to an end I have plenty of anime to review. Actually, things are really back to normal since this year followed the same pattern I've seen over the past few years, that is that I follow more one cour shows that start in the winter and two cour shows that started in the fall and are ending now so I really have more than enough to review, it's going to take a while to get through it all. So it's interesting that the first title to finish was one that I wasn't really interested in at the start of the season but ended up enjoying as the show went on. Normally I can predict fairly well from the first episode or two if I'll like a show yet it's always nice to have one turn out a bit differently than expected.
Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne
Summary: Madoka is the sole member of the Jersey Club at her school whose goal is to help out anyone and everyone out of goodwill. So when she's asked for help, albeit by a girl she's never seen before (Lan) she readily agrees, not realizing that "helping" involves piloting a mecha that she has vague memories of meeting before. What she quickly learns is that there there are three of these mechs (Vox) on Earth and two alien powers want them, Le Gartie which has allied itself with Earth (and where Lan hails from) and the rebel power De Metrio who wants the Voxes to fight Le Gartie (which introduces the third major character Muginami). There's no easy choices here but Madoka is determined at the very least that she'll protect her friends and her home with all her strength and it's that strength that everyone fears the most.
The Good: Everyone has seen a mech show before and every variation on a mech show has been done before so these days it's often for the best not to focus on the monster of the week fights and instead look at the bigger picture. This show does a good job at showing how tricky the situation is in by both showing that De Metrio are supposed to be the "bad guys" but that the "good guys" of Le Gartie seem even more manipulative and the Earth group (Novumundos* and Pharos) seems very aware of this. I'm also happy that this show avoids the trope of Earth being helpless against aliens and their weapons, the odds may be against them but time and time again they hold out on their own and it's a nice touch. What the show does really well however is the relationship between the three girls and their stories which is ultimately what holds the show together. All three of them have different reasons for being pilots with some doubts and fears and all of them have already undergone some character development which made the ending a bit brutal. Unlike the other split cour show airing now, Fate/Zero, Lagrange choose a very good place to stop and made me realize that I'm going to miss this show until it returns (hopefully this summer).
The Bad: The show did spend a bit more time than I would like close to the end on rather trivial, unimportant details like a school festival and if the three male characters from De Metrio don't become even more important in the next part then all the time focused on them will feel like a waste as well. The show has also barely explained any of it's mysteries yet and has quite a bit of backstory to still tell as well and I'm a bit worried about how all of that will fit into just another 12 episodes. The show did start to explain one or two of those mysteries but really should have taken some of that time from the more mundane details and spent them fleshing out the plot more.
The Audio: Neither the opening song nor the ending song really clicked with me, I was more focused on the imagery, but everything seemed to work fine both song and voice acting wise. It sounds like there were a few voice actors in the show playing against type, I didn't recognize any of the voice actors myself, but again, everything seemed to work fine here regardless.
The Visuals: The all important mechs were designed with Nissan and I rather like the designs, they have a rather sleek appearance and look substantially different from at least 50% of other mechs out there so great job at making they look distinctive. The character designs are much less distinctive but still work, I still think that the show looks it's best during the fight scenes with the mechs (I can't even tell if the mechs are hand-animated or done with CGI it looks so nice). Special mention also goes to the opening and closing songs which have some very pretty art which, while it looks radically different from the rest of the show works well, I'm sad that it seems to have been toned down a bit in the DVD/BR release in Japan.
So for a show I was only trying out because Viz was streaming it (sadly since they're using Hulu.com as their host the videos are US only, they really need to fix that for their also Region 1 viewers in Canada) I ended up rather enjoying the show and I can only hope that they will be streaming the second part and that it comes out this summer as originally announced.
*interestingly enough, "Novumundos" looks like bastard Latin for "The New World" and there's a story central to the plot about demons destroying the world, take from that what you will.