The latest announcement regarding Gundam: The Witch From Mercury has mecha anime fans everywhere excited. The idea of a Gundam series with a female lead has captured imaginations and caused many to go searching for other shows with a similar premise. However, the new Gundam isn't the first mecha anime to star a female protagonist -- the criminally overlooked Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne did it in 2012.
Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne was written by Shotaro Suga, who has also done scripts for Darker than Black, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Dimension W. The series was created by Production I.G, which also worked on Fena: Pirate Princess, while Xebec, the studio behind To Love Ru, produced the animation. Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne had two seasons, both of which aired throughout 2012. There was also a tie-in manga that ran from 2011-2013 in Young Gangan magazine. Here's what Lagrange is all about and why it's worth checking out while waiting for the new Gundam to arrive.
Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne follows Madoka Kyouno, a young girl who is the only member of Kamogawa Girls' High School's Jersey Club. This club aims to help anyone in need and Madoka spends her day helping out however she can. One day she meets Lan, an alien who says she is from a planet called Le Graite. Lan tells Madoka she needs her help to stop a war between Le Garite and another world called De Metrio.
To help in this fight, Lan has brought Madoka a powerful robotic aircraft called a Vox Unit and informs her that she's destined to be its pilot. Madoka is initially unsure about this but when she touches the Unit, she suddenly recalls seeing the craft when she nearly drowned ten years earlier. Madoka agrees to pilot the Vox Aura and finds that the mech can seemingly react to her emotions. After this, a military organization called Novumundus informs Madoka that it will support the girls in their missions. They also reveal there is much more they need to do -- and there will be more dangers to face. Eventually Madoka teams up with Lan, who controls the Vox Rympha.
The girls are soon joined by a third pilot in the form of transfer student Muginami. Taking control of the Vox Ignis, she joins the club and befriends the other girls. However, her backstory is soon revealed, showing that the story's conflict might not be as cut-and-dry as it appears. As the girls continue to encounter more combatants and go on increasingly dangerous missions, they learn there is more depth to the war and those fighting it than they initially thought.
The character dynamics in Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne make it stand out from other mecha anime. Madoka's idealism is uplifting but unfortunate as she is forced to confront the messy conflict she's thrown into, while Lan's struggles to adapt to Earth and a non-luxurious lifestyle show how hard it can be to integrate into a different society and culture. It also portrays how our own cultures can blind us to the struggles of others.
Muginami's internal conflicts also illustrate how misunderstandings often spiral out of control and lead to disputes. Together, this trio and their supporting cast make the story feel uniquely human and provide a solid emotional core that works to make the mecha action all the more gripping and fascinating -- all while delivering some fun slice-of-life comedy. Because of this, Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne offers a nuanced experience while remaining light-hearted.
Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne is a fantastic female-led mecha anime that deserves more attention. It combines several commonly-seen mecha elements, adds fun comedy and emotional drama and creates something quite unlike any other series. The cast will remain memorable long after finishing the story, making this the perfect anime to watch while waiting for Gundam: The Witch From Mercury to land. Thankfully the series is available to watch via RetroCrush, making it more accessible than ever.