As promised, these reviews are starting to pull back as college kicks in. Nonetheless I continue forth on my crusade to wipe out as many of these shows as I possibly can in the remainder of the year. This week I take on the first season of Infinite Stratos, a show that is firmly outside what I consider my "niche", since I promised myself and you all that I'd branch out. Let's see if Infinite Stratos will play hard to get this week.
Infinite Stratos is a lighthearted comedic drama following the life of Ichika Orimura during his eventful life entering a previously all-girl Infinite Stratos academy. The IS academy trains students in the use of Infinite Stratos, which are mechanized power armor suits capable of flight and extreme combat conditions that voided conventional weapons when they were introduced. One catch though...
Only women could pilot them.
Naturally, Ichika enters a world (and a school) that was previously made up solely of women. What follows is a show that rarely takes itself entirely seriously and practically oozes fanservice and awkward moments. Is this bad? Not necessarily.
Infinite Stratos is pretty much a straight comedy with a bit of drama mixed in. The antics surrounding being the only guy in an all-girl combat school is ripe with awkward moments and hilariously bad (read: so bad its great) humor. His complex relationship with basically the entire student body (remember, they're all girls who're interested in the only guy to pilot an IS) can be a bit much sometimes, but there are at least a few moments of gold mixed into the series.
Since this is a comedy show, the series is very episodic compared to the previous series I've tackled this marathon. Most episodes consist of some pivotal plot point (a new student, a battle between two characters in the IS arena, etc.) with little relation to the other episodes. As such, the series is pretty good popcorn show that is pretty much so bad it's good.
Don't let them fool you, touching Ichika in their presence will likely be the last thing you ever do.
Of course most of the hilarious moments (and the creepy ones) belong with the main cast. Most of the conflict in the series is between the main cast over who gets Ichika. The main cast includes Houki (Ichika's old childhood friend), Cecilia (a British noblewoman going to the academy), Huang "Rin" (another childhood friend), Laura Bodewig (a strange student from Germany), and... Charles (it makes sense in context). The characters are pretty well developed for the short time we've gotten to see them on screen. Among the cast are some genuinely nice characters, others are just a bit weird.
Because of the cast, this show takes ship-to-ship warfare to a new level. In my short time within this show's community I've seen some pretty widely diverging opinions on which coupling in this show is supposed to be the "fan-official" couple. Regardless of what the real world thinks, one thing's for sure, the female cast isn't taking any chances. The mere thought of another girl getting ahead appears to be a berserk button, usually leading to Ichika getting shot at by power armor (What? You thought this show was going to be normal?). To be fair, it isn't always power armor. Sometimes Houki just likes to beat him up the old fashioned way (see .gif).
Finally, this series is very close to being fanservice central. I can't name an episode where there wasn't some kind of Gainax'ing or catering to the male audience viewership numbers. If you're into that sort of thing, have no fear, they certainly have no qualms about doing it.
This show has absolutely no shame about its plot or themes. It goes full-speed into the crazy and awkward with no regard for being "normal". From the copious amounts of fanservice, to the very-nearly-an-excuse-plot plot, to the ridiculous (and many times very violent) romantic subplots, this series never misses a chance to go over the top somehow.
I also found that it was voice acted quite well (I only have a tenuous grasp on Japanese, but what I did hear was quite good). The majority of the cast have their characters and their quirks down well. The inflections were frequently spot on and nothing ever seems too overacted. Still, when the cast is required to be crazy, they certainly deliver.
Oh Infinite Stratos, you're so crazy and gif-able.
I've gotta say though, sometimes you've got to wonder if this show is going anywhere in particular. I realize that the plot isn't exactly a selling point but come on, is there anything else here? For nearly 14 episodes now (I've seen the first two for season two) the question of why Ichika can use an IS hasn't really even been mentioned. I'm hoping that season two starts picking up the slack on this one.
Another painful one, there are so many awkward moments in this series. It just gets overwhelming. At least every other episode has one such moment played for laughs on Ichika (and is usually followed up by a girl kicking his ass, usually hilarious). This is fine for the episode-a-day crowd, but I was marathon'ing this thing.
<—Well, that escalated quickly.
Furthermore, Tsundere is everywhere. For those not privy, Tsundere is best described as a character that can go both hot and cold, usually very quickly. This tends to manifest as a character flipping from really nice to Ichika to "DEAR GOD I'LL USE THIS POWER ARMOR TO KILL YOU" in a matter of seconds. This can also be funny, but the frequency of use gets out of hand for a marathoner like myself.
So, as you can imagine, this leads to Ichika getting beaten up nearly every episode by the Tsundere-ridden cast. It happens so much that it is just barely forgivable sometimes.
It's a comedy show alright? Watching it all in one go probably isn't going to be very fun to say the least, but the show isn't bad. It has a pretty good mix of episodic content and character development (if the characters going kill-mode on Ichika is also character development, then this goes double). It has its share of flaws, some that won't be forgivable for some people.
This is best suited for people that are looking for a shamelessly fanservice-heavy series that loves to heap on the awkward moments and a bunch of crazy girls, all for the sake of lighthearted comedy.
Some parts of the show are jarring, but on the whole it rates somewhere around good. It isn't very serious and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you just need a good, fun anime. It was a nice interrupt to the cynical, introspective anime I've been marathon'ing recently and I'll be happy to keep watching the second season too.
Also, if anyone knows where Houki gets her wooden kendo Shinai from, let me know. She can go head-to-head with power armor with that sucker.
You can watch Infinite Stratos for free on Hulu.
As usual, I claim no ownership of the images. Header image credit goes to Terminator98.
There is high probability of either Eden of the East or Evangelion 1.11 next time. Stay tuned for that one.
This is part of my Anime Review Marathon that I began in October 2013 to record my thoughts as I watch a variety of anime on my ever growing backlog. These reviews won't come out on a persistent basis, they'll come out when I feel I have seen enough of a series to pass a judgement on it.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner by using the "Dex's Corner" tag.