Rinne no Lagrange and the realities of war
July 31, 2012 Leave a comment
Rinne no Lagrange was a fascinating series, one that demonstrated the cruel realities of warfare, with no apparent bad guys, but instead a murky world of intergalactic politics and diplomacy with out heroine Madoka at the centre. At the same time we see how a friendship can be created between these opposing sides, regardless of affiliation and ideals. The central theme of friendship between Lan, Muginami and Madoka, three girls with entirely different characters and attitudes towards the war clearly demonstrate this. It is this central friendship that drives the story forward, with all the other elements circling around it as if we were seeing a solar system in the form of a story.
While friendship is key to the plot of Rinne no Lagrange, it is the intergalactic politics and myths that make up the bulk of the story. The Vox mecha are beautifully stylised robots that have this almost benign appearance, but are considered to be demons that bring about death and destruction. The legend surrounding the Vox’s is a classic one, used in numerous cultures across history to tell of a great calamity that was brought about by demons or gods, or perhaps humans. But in many of these myths there is an ambiguity about them, with the ones responsible for such calamities often appearing as benign, or perhaps misunderstood. They like the Vox’s are not inherently evil, they do not simple bring about death and destruction by existing, but are instead subject to the will and the morals of their users or pilots.
Madoka’s interactions with her Vox Midori brings about a change in Lan and Muginami, and we begin to see their attitudes towards these robots change as the series progresses. At first Lan is clear that the Vox she pilots along with Midori are evil, they are the great demons that forced her people of Le Garite to flee the earth and make their home on a distant planet. Lan fears her Vox and even begins to question herself, wondering if she will bring about the destruction of her world, this stops her from truly interacting with her Vox Orca and even Madoka as a person. The story that she has been told about the power of the Vox becomes her reality, with the memory of a similar disaster happening on a neighbouring planet firmly in her mind we see her truly believe that she as a person, along with Orca are evil.
The reality of the myth is something clouded in mystery, we as viewers and they as characters in this story do not know the true meaning behind what happened. Instead the reality becomes a myth, the myth becomes a story that is told over countless generations, changing and adapting to the current political and social climate, to the point where it no longer bears any resemblance to the truth. Or perhaps we can see it as one truth, the truth that Le Garite and De Metrio wish to believe, twisting and changing this myth into something that tells of gods and monsters. When the Circle of Rin-ne is first given form we see everyone panic, believing that transpired in ancient history will once again take place. Their fear and belief in the unstoppable force of these demons overtakes all other objectives, thus demonstrating how a simple story or mistake can be changed and twisted in the retelling, becoming something far more dangerous than it once was.
There is however another side to the Vox and their apparent evil nature, and that is tools of war, symbols of absolute strength and will that can resonate throughout the galaxy. It seems clear that the arrival of Lan and then Muginami herald a new arms race, one where the control of the Vox is paramount, regardless of their apparent danger. Vilajulio shows us these conflicting opinions when he wants to gain control over a Vox using Muginami, while at the same time wishing to destroy them and all evidence relating to them before Le Garite arrive. He absolutely fears their power, but also knows and understands their symbolic and military value, wishing to use them if possible in his war with Le Garite and his campaign to destroy the planet.
We see a political game played out with the lives of Lan, Muginami and Madoka hanging in the balance. While they can control the Vox units, they have little control over their destinies, with Astelia grounding Madoka for fear of history repeating itself. While we are told by Astelia that she was responsible for the original upheaval that threatened to wipe out humanity, and therefore feels responsible in some way for the current situation. It seems as if Astelia cannot forget the past and is incapable of acknowledging the power of the friendship that Madoka, Lan and Muginami have. Similarly, the Circle of Rin-ne is something that appears to bring destruction while also giving life, reacting to the emotional state of Madoka thus demonstrating that it is not inherently evil. When we see the Rin-ne fully flower there is an ethereal beauty about it, with flowers falling from the sky and importantly, all weapons within the vicinity crystallising and thus being destroyed. If it were truly evil, all the robots and many more people would have died, but instead it is the tools of war that are turned to dust.
Madoka is a far more complicated character than she first appears, one who has a cheerful exterior that hides a much darker side, one that threatens to destroy her and her friends. Her fear of loss, along with the pressures that are being placed upon her shoulders by all those who fear, but also wish to use the Vox units nearly brings about destruction. To her, the time she spent with Lan and Muginami was the greatest time of her life, it is also the first time she has ever had true friends, people who will stick with her regardless of circumstances. Having Midori shut down and refuse to move when Lan and Muginami leave earth for their respective sides is symbolic of the turmoil and pain in Madoka’s heart. Without her friends there is little point in flying, and thus her life is spent in a strained state of shock and aimless wandering, using the Jersey Club as a crutch to support herself through her high school life.
We see that these Vox units become symbols of power within the Le Garite and De Metrio fleets, with Lan and Muginami once again on opposite sides. Vilajuilo for all his speeches on the destructive nature of the Vox that he attempted to destroy seems happy to let Muginami use it as a tool of war. She is merely a tool, someone who shows absolute loyalty to her ‘oni-chan’ and will therefore follow his orders regardless of what they are. We see this in her apparent attempt to kill Madoka at the beginning of the second half, with Vilajuilo suggesting that it’s fine as long as the orders are carried out. He does not care that she is carrying out his order to kill her friend; instead he sees it as a hindrance being taken care of in the most effective manner.
Similarly Dizelmine and Moid are equally as willing to use all tools at their disposal to bring about the eventual goals. Seeing Lan effectively tortured in order to simulate and recreate the Rin-ne illustrates his willingness to use his own sister as a test subject in order to harness this tremendous power for his own needs. While Lan may admire her brother, Dizelmine seems to be cold, calculating and manipulative, using all at his disposal regardless of their relationship and affiliation with him. By returning Lan to Kamogawa it seems clear that Dizelmine wishes to recruit Madoka, while simultaneously fending off the impending attack of Vilajulio. They both know that Madoka is at the centre of everything and is the key to unlocking the secrets and power of the Rin-ne. To use a classic saying, ‘power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’, neither character is entirely evil, but rather they are willing to use all at their disposal to bring about their ideals and dreams.
It becomes clear that the attraction of the Vox units stems from the problematic nature of both De Metrio and Le Garite. Both planets are caught in some sort of space phenomenon that threatens to pull both planets together, thus destroying them and all those who reside there. Dizelmine seems to be attempting to turn the Rin-ne into a weapon and use it to destroy De Metrio, thus stopping the phenomenon and saving his world. The goals of Vilajulio are a little hazier however, and while he is clearly against Dizelmine, he also seems to fear the Vox more than wanting to use it. That being said, he is perfectly happy to use the threat of one of the three demons in order to increase his and his planets status. We see that the war between De Metrio and Le Garite is not as simple as it first appears with atrocities on both sides and the problematic nature of their motives clearly visible.
Warfare is never truly a case of good verses evil, with evil people on both sides, but also as many innocents who are dragged along regardless. World War Two for example was fought between sides that committed atrocities, and while the Nazis were an incredibly evil force, it is unfair to suggest that all Germans who fought in that war were completely evil. Madoka is at the centre of this war because she upsets the balance, her existence, along with her ability to produce the Circle of Rin-ne is something that both sides wish to either use or prevent. Ultimately however it seems that the Rin-ne cannot possibly exist in isolation, there must be a catalyst and a coming together of all Vox in order for it to happen. This is suggested at when Midori finally awakens after a year of sleep, signalling that a change has started within Madoka at the return of Muginami and Lan.
While they fight amongst themselves it seems clear that they are doing it against their will, Muginami’s clenched mouth, along with the pensive expression on Kan suggest this. The problematic nature of their relationship is partly due to where they come, two sides that are at war and wish to use Madoka for their own ends. Neither Lan nor Muginami wish this, and yet they seem incapable of disregarding the feelings and orders of their respective brothers, their planets in effect morally bind them, even when they are emotionally tied to Madoka. The irony is that in attempting to show that the Rin-ne is not a weapon and that Madoka is not needed we see the clearest demonstration of its destructive power. Furthermore we see the complex nature of the Rin-ne and how those that have been involved with it are inevitably bound to the Vox and this power in life and in death.
In order to truly understand the effects and the symbolic nature of the Rin-ne, Madoka must first begin to question her own beliefs and attitudes towards life. Furthermore, the exact reactions and catalysts behind the Rin-ne may impact upon the power that it produces, be it death or life we see the central friendship of Madoka, Lan and Muginami as being of upmost importance. They must resolve their differences, and ultimately reject the sides that they have allied themselves with in order to discover the true meaning of the Rin-ne. Ultimately it seems that the power of the Vox was something that brought life and prosperity to the land, but it was abused and led to destruction and near extinction. The ancestors of De Metrio and Le Garite perhaps mistakenly thought that they could control this power and use it for their own selfish ends, something that led to catastrophe. It seems now that neither side has learned its lesson, nor have they learned from history, and is they are not careful, the events of the past will happen once again in the present. The disaster will not be the fault of these three girls, but because of the intransigence and hubris of those who wished to use the Vox as a weapon without understanding its true nature.