Infinite Stratos

Title:Infinite Stratos
IS - Infinite Stratos
Keywords: , , , , ,
Notables: HIKASA Yoko
This "popular high-speed school battle romantic comedy" centers around the IS Academy: a school for training the pilots of the Infinite Stratos weapon system, which can only be used by females. The pilot candidates are plucked from countries all over the world and are brought the academy, but there is one exception - Ichika Orimura. As it turns out, Ichika is "the only male in the world who can use the IS system." His classmates include Hōki Shinonono, a childhood friend.

Based on a manga series authored by YUMIJI Izuru and illustrated by AKABOSHI Kenji.

A Winter 2011 series

12 episodes.

See also: Infinite Stratos 2
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Watch Stretch [series:2349#628]
(All episodes watched):

The description "flying power suits that can only be used by females" made me think this would be another Sky Girls (TV) sort of show, but the mecha-harem approach sounded like it might be fun; or, it could just as easily be an unambitious, fanservice-powered disappointment. So, I went into IS with my fingers crossed. At first, things seemed to go fairly well; main character Ichika seemed likeable--he has screwed up but it was hard to blame him. But it soon became clear that while the basic premise had a touch of originality, the dynamics of the one-guy-and-lots-of-girls situation were tired and overused. I'll never understand why a girl jumping to an absurd conclusion and flying off the handle is supposed to be funny--at least not when it has already been done countless times. Likewise, the abusive big sister was a major turn-off. There were no LOL jokes, and no sign of a serious plot either. Just the usual stereotypes of harem, like the 'hero' getting into an embarassing misunderstanding with the girl who will obviously be the front runner among his romantic options. This looks like it will be a 'Watch' rated show through-and-through. So, basically I find myself in the all-too-common 'high-hopes-get-dashed-and-I-settle-for-a-modest-show' situation.

The duel in episode two was kind of neat, with fast moving, fluid animation. I hope the IS machines don't wind up having more personality than their pilots, because a good deal of technobabble was dealt out. The idea that an IS somehow 'bonds' with it's pilot might be good news or bad; is there an intriguing secret behind them (shades of Evangelion), or was that comment tossed out haphazardly? Otherwise, this show is definitely heading in a harem direction.

Infinite Stratos will almost certainly be a one-watch-quick-forget sort of show. The usual jealous girls attracted to an unspectacular guy format makes that clear. But it does have a touch of humor, and in a way its stereotypical nature guarantees that while by no means outstanding, I should get a little fun out of it. Limiting it to twelve episodes was a good idea, however.

Episode four was encouraging as a mysterious enemy appears, and we have reason to believe that this won't just be a harem-in-mobile-suits sort of show. Was that thing trying to kill the characters, or was this a bad-ass informal match? Afterwards nobody seems particularly worried that more might come. Instead, we get two more foreign transfer students (no Americans yet).

Charles' 'secret' was pretty obvious right from the first (and only) clue. In a simple harem premise like this, the mere fact that the show took the trouble to set girl antics aside and drop a hint makes the only possible answer clear. Laura Bodewig's grudge against Ichika also seemed pretty corny to me. To my surprise, however, there was a hint of greater storytelling sophistication in the future, as it was implied that IS might be more than just a sport. What will be done with this is anybody's guess, but at least the show isn't just stagnating.

Episode eight was so stereotypical and unoriginal that I found it hard to maintain interest. The show seemed to be saying, 'Look how awesome this technology is! But please turn a blind eye to the abject lack of novel character development'. It seems as if someone had the idea that if the standard elements of mecha and harem were combined, then surely the show could not lose. But in fact it isn't that simple; half a unit of mecha boredom plus half a unit of harem boredom still equals one unit of boredom. The bath scene was another cheap way of trying to harvest cheap ratings success. Somehow, I feel sorry for this show; it doesn't offend me much, but it just seems to be pleading with the viewer in an undignified manner for some sort of approval. Isn't it about time that the real problem (if there is one) is revealed to us?

Episode nine--a generic 'let's go to the beach!' episode, left me feeling that this show had completely run out of originality. Was there anything in this episode which I hadn't already seen half a dozen times in other shows? Just the usual ordinary guy who somehow attracts sexy girls like a magnet attracts iron filings. And with just three episodes to go, will there be any explanation at all to the mystery behind the IS system? I fear this might be a series which takes the attitude of 'use your own imagination to create a conclusion to the story, because you won't get one from us'.

And now the climactic mission doesn't particularly excite me either. What is at risk? This seemed to come out of the blue without any link to the threats which had been encountered in previous episodes. The fight with 'Gospel' seemed corny and overblown. And what do I care about the usual 'we've known each other since we were kids' schlock? I have largely lost interest in this show, since this seems an uninteresting conclusion and there won't be time for a better one.

The final episode tries to get spiritually 'deep', but the series as a whole has been anything but deep up 'til now, so it doesn't work very well. We get a sort of explanation of what has happened in the last two episodes, but it didn't make much sense to me, and didn't seem a very intriguing explanation anyway. Was it supposed to provide 'closure' for the entire series, or was this another arc conclusion substituting for a series conclusion, because it is all based on an incomplete manga? I wish I could tell. In the end I still have little idea what secrets, if any, lie behind IS technology, or why Ichika is the only boy who can employ it (some sort of explanation was provided but again it didn't make sense to me). At least the show had the good sense to end doing what it does best, i.e, dumb harem comedy--I got a laugh out of that. If both the harem and mecha genres interest you, or you have plenty of spare time on hand, you might find Infinite Stratos worth watching. If you choose not to, you won't be missing much.

Last updated Wednesday, April 13 2011. Created Saturday, January 08 2011.

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