Review: Infinite Stratos

Hello dear readers, it’s your friendly neighborhood Editor-in-Chief swinging by to do a review of the anime Infinite Stratos. If you didn’t know, the second season is currently airing now, which is why I decided to review this particular show.

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Infinite Stratos, which was adapted from a light novel and originally aired back in early 2011, is a harem comedy with mecha bits thrown in. The plot revolves around the use of powerful exoskeletons called Infinite Stratos (IS for short). Due to the possible misuse of such a weapon, the nations of the world agree not to use IS for military purposes. Also, for reasons which are never explained, women are the only ones who can pilot these powerful weapons. However, this all changes when a boy named Ichika Orimura manages to activate an IS, thereby setting the stage for the show. He is subsequently enrolled in the prestigious IS Academy in Japan, where he meets a host of beautiful girls all vying for his affection.

While I admit that most harem plots are extremely cliche, I can somewhat appreciate the fact that the setup for this particular harem is legitimate. Being the only male that can pilot an IS is a pretty handy excuse to delve into a world where all the girls want you, right? Yet despite the decent setup, this anime features many typical archetypes present in a harem such as: the idiot but hard working and nice protagonist, the childhood friend (not one, but two!), the haughty rich girl, and the disciplined one who is absolutely clueless on how to act girly.

The childhood friends are Houki Shinonono and Huang Lingyin, the Chinese Representative. The haughty rich girl is Cecilia Alcott, the British Representative. And the disciplined one is Laura Bodewig, the German Representative. I left out Charlotte Dunois, the French Representative who initially poses as a boy, since she doesn’t really fit an archetype and actually is involved in the more meaningful moments in the show. But I’ll touch on that later.

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Let’s get back to our lead though. In short, Ichika is by far one of the more unlikable male leads in a harem show. Most male leads are stupid, but it’s hard to match the levels of stupidity Ichika reaches. Despite all the very overt signs of affection the 5 main heroines display for Ichika, the guy can’t seem to get a hint. While his clueless reactions set up a lot of the comedic events throughout the show, the idiocy slowly wears on you. I consider myself a pretty patient viewer, especially since I am a fan of this genre. But even I had fits of “C’mon dude!” when one of the heroines was practically inviting him to do whatever he wanted with her. I always try to take into account the age of the characters as well, but no way a 15 year old boy with raging hormones does not pick up these signs. He’s just an idiot, sadly.

However, not all hope is lost! There are a few bright spots in the show. As I mentioned earlier, Charlotte is involved in some of the more meaningful moments in the show. Because she poses as a boy, she rooms with Ichika (and even for a bit after Ichika finds out she’s really a girl, since they keep it a secret). Through the conversations they have while rooming together, you really get a sense of their personalities. Ichika is a pretty sweet guy, and Charlotte is so cute and sincere. You really don’t see as much character development anywhere else in the show.

Other bright spots include the art and animation. Although the female character designs aren’t the most original, they’re a bit more distinct compared to the casts of some other shows. The IS suits are also superbly designed, with each one very distinct and recognizable. Additionally, all the IS are CG, and studio 8-Bit does a great job integrating 2D and CG. I guess they’re pretty used to it by now, having done 2D/CG for Aquarion Evol and Walkure Romanze, another currently airing show. What makes the CG suits stand out even more are the fantastically animated and choreographed fights. The action was definitely another bright spot.

The same can’t be said for the soundtrack unfortunately. It’s very unremarkable. The opening theme song “Straight Jet”, performed by Minami Kuribayashi, is unmemorable. However, the ending theme song “Super∞Stream” was mildly interesting because it involved the participation of the main voice actresses. However, the ones who would sing corresponded with whether or not their character was running with Ichika during the end credits. Over the course of the series, the number of girls during the end credits would increase until all 5 were present starting in episode 8. Thus, the various versions were fun listening to.

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The CG suits were really well done

The original Japanese dub featured an all-star cast of actresses. Houki is voiced by Yoko Hikasa, Cecilia by Yukana, Ling by Asami Shimoda, Charlotte by Kana Hanazawa, and Laura by Marina Inoue. Ichika is voiced by Kouki Uchiyama (who also voices Soul Eater in Soul Eater and Banagher Links in Gundam Unicorn). Of the 5 girls, I really enjoyed Kana’s performance the most, as she was able to give a fantastically cute rendition that really brought Charlotte to life.

While many English dubs are hit or miss, I really enjoyed this particular one. This was due to the actresses making an attempt to really distinguish all the foreign characters from one another. Brittney Karbowski voices Cecilia with a British accent, Shannon Emerick voices Charlotte with a French one, and Tiffany Grant voices Laura with a German one. The only ones that weren’t portrayed with accents were Houki (Monical Rial) and Ling (Hillary Haag). Of the 5, Tiffany Grant did the best job; I absolutely loved her German accent (maybe because she’s voiced another German character?).  I did appreciate the accents used by Brittney and Shannon, but I felt at certain times they weren’t as crisp as Tiffany. I will say I did like Josh Grelle’s rendition of Ichika a tad bit more than his Japanese counterpart. He really knows how to play stupid characters.

Obligatory fan service

Obligatory fan service

Sentai Filmworks licensed the show and gave it a great release. Both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions include the OVA and a CD that contains a collection of character songs sung by each of the five main voice actresses. The case included a liner insert which has all of the lyrics for these songs in both English and Japanese. Also included are three audio commentaries done by various voice actresses. Episode 4 features Hikasa and Shimoda, episode 7 features Hikasa and Hanazawa, and episode 12 features Hikasa and Yukana. Also present are the much more entertaining 41-minute-long “Radio IS” video and a 10 minute “behind the scenes” video , which features an interview with the director, Yasuhito Kikuchi. I don’t really account for extras in my score, but as a collector, I do appreciate nice extras.

Well then, as for any last words I may have about Infinite Stratos, I think it can be aptly summed in the following statement: cheap, fun entertainment for fans of harems and mecha. As a fan of both genres, I enjoyed the show, despite Ichika. It’s definitely not something I would consider “great”; it’s simply an entertaining time sink. Until next time people!

Pros:

-Great use of CG

-Awesome action

-Excellent Japanese voice cast with an above average English dub (special shout out to Tiffany Grant)

-Charlotte!

Cons:

-Non-existent plot typical of the harem genre

-Ichika

Japanese Rating: 4/5

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English Rating: 3.5/5

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Miscellaneous details:
Studio: 8-Bit
Director: Yasuhito Kikuchi
Writer: Fumihiko Shimo
Character design: okiura (original), Tomoyasu Kurashima
Music: Hikaru Nanase
Original creator: Izuru Yumizuru
Original run: January 6, 2011 – March 31, 2011

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Nick

Just a simple man, trying to find his way in the universe. Image hosted by servimg.com

3 Comments:

  1. I haven't started watching the new season, but indeed, what I like best in the previous season wasn't the plot, or the characters, or the music but the battles. It's CG, but they blended 2D sprites with 3D well, considering a portion of the IS suits are the anime characters themselves popping out, lol.

    • CG has come a long way in anime. I remember the likes of Vandread (2000) where the CG was terrible. Now we have awesome implementation of CG (besides Infinite Stratos, there's Tiger and Bunny and Gundam Unicorn as examples).

  2. Pingback: Infinite Stratos Recenzja |

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