Infinite Stratos – Does the Series Breakdown Barriers?

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Greetings! Railgunfan75 here! One of the many ways I decide to check out a new anime series or interest is by the word of mouth of the fellow members of the geek community. In many cases, if something like an anime series is popular, then there is usually some good reason for that. There is usually something outstanding about a series which usually generates a lot of buzz, there seems to be an abundance of merchandise or there is a second season. These are usually some good indicators of a potential noteworthy series. I know many people would say that this bandwagon jumping but in the case of the anime community I have found that in most cases, many of the really popular series are also the best and I have found personal enjoyment out of them. However that is not the case with the following series that I am about to review. That series would be Infinite Stratos. 

The female characters from Infinite Stratos

 

Premise

Infinte Stratos takes place in the near future. In this future powerful robot exoskeletons have been developed with advanced weapons and technology. These exoskeletons are known as IS or Infinite Stratos and are so advanced that the world determines that they are too dangerous for military use and are instead are used for sport. These machines are also unique in the fact that only females can operate the units. This changes however when a teen by the name of Ichika Orimura is discovered to have the ability to use IS devices. As a result he joins an academy specifically for IS training, an academy which of course is attended only by girls. The series follows Ichika during his daily life at the academy.

Thoughts

There are two words which can be best used to my thoughts on the series, untapped potential. The premise of this series in itself sounds like something which would be really fun to watch. Unfortunately, the series doesn’t do anything with the interesting scenario it presents and has a fair share of flaws. One area where this series comes up short is the plot.

I will start by saying that the overall plot to this series has some good aspects to it. The premise behind the series is an interesting one and lends itself to some interesting possibilities.A series where the characters in charge are women instead of men is an interesting idea. The people in charge around Ichika are all women and that is something which Ichika has to get accustomed to. Episodes 10-12 are the highlight of the series with the main cast fighting to stop a rouge IS unit. These episodes were quite entertaining to watch. There are great action and combat sequences and many emotional moments in these episodes. In general the action sequences and the reasons behind these battles are quite well done.There are fewer action sequences than one would expect from such a series, however when the sequences do occur they are quite well done.  In addition there are a few moments where the series does shine on an emotional level. When the series does have these type of moments, they are quite enjoyable to watch. I do have to give credit to the series for this. There are some positives to be had with this series.

Unfortunately despite the positives there are many issues with the plot of the series. The first and main issue I have with the plot of the series is that the plot is just a basic harem anime and not a great one at that. Like I said earlier, the series lends itself to an interesting premise and idea. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do much with that idea. It is touched upon briefly in the beginning and then the idea is dropped completely and all you see for the majority of the series are ladies just fumbling over Ichika and Ichika not having a clue about what is going on around him. It boils down to missed potential really. The idea could of been taken in such a direction without being too serious but it chooses not to do so and it sad really. I was really hoping for something more.  The fact that the series is a harem anime is not troublesome in itself, as I have enjoyed series from this genre. The problem is that the series contrives completely absurd situations for the purposes of growing the harem and showing fan service. One example of this is simply the fact that our main character is not given separate living quarters when he arrives at the academy, instead he ends up sharing a room with one of the girls. Obviously it is meant to help create situations for the sake of comedy but this scenario is too far fetched to even be believed and the comedy is really not that funny anyway.Besides this there are some additional problems with the plot. This includes a lack of believable character development. Some of the characters do change, however it is completely out of the blue and for no real reason really. One final thing which stood out to me is the fact that series used a couple of plot twists which just ruined the previous story. There are a couple points where the series starts to pick up steam and then slams on the brakes with twists that remove the urgency and drama behind what just happened. It is a shame really.

As for the characters, they are a mixed bag. There are a couple of good and interesting characters and the rest just fall into character tropes and don’t really do much unfortunately. The cast of this series is fairly large so I will just touch upon a couple of characters.

The first character I will discuss is the main protagonist, Ichika Orimura. Ichika is the first male to ever pilot an IS unit and is the younger brother of Chifuyu Orimura a famous IS pilot. Because of who he his sister is and the fact that he is the first male to pilot an IS, he has something to prove to those around him. He has a sense of honor as many protagonists do and cares a lot about those people around him. He serves as the point of view character because of this, so we learn along with him. Unfortunately, he is your typical male protagonist in a harem anime. He is clueless as to what is going on  around him and just plain dull. I wish I could say that he stood out among protagonists but he does not.   The interesting and troublesome thing about him is that he has no idea what he is doing or how anything works. Considering who his sister is, this is quite troublesome and annoying. One would think he would have a greater knowledge of the IS units considering his family, but he does not. It’s a shame because the character could have been set up to become a character with trials and struggles because of his situation, instead he just proves to be clueless and for most of series luck into any success he achieves which is not a lot.

The second character I will discuss is Houki Shinonono.  Houki is the first female character introduced and the one character whose feels for our protagonist are not inherently obvious in the beginning. Best described as series tsundere character, she is one of the few likeable characters. She shows both signs of being a shy individual and a leader. As the sister of the inventor of the IS technology, she has to live up to expectations just Ichika. In fact the two are childhood friends. Her attitude towards Ichika is quite different than the other ladies in the series. Sure she has feelings for him, but she is also willing to put him in his place as well. By the end of the season, she undegoes considerably more character development than practically the rest of the cast. By the end she becomes more sure about who she is, has more confidence in herself and lets her feelings be known towards Ichika. She is one of the few highlights in an otherwise mediocre cast.

There are of course many additional characters but I won’t discuss them here. Unfortunately many of them really don’t have much to offer and fall under similar character types that you find in many other series. While there are a few high points with characters, the rest just really fall flat. If you are looking for unique characters, look elsewhere.

An example of the animation. It looks nice but nothing revolutionary.

The animation and sound for the series are both quite solid. I did enjoy and appreciate the animation for the series. This is another case where while you don’t have groundbreaking animation, the series looks really nice. Considering the series does shift from comedy to drama to action, the animation follows suit rather well. I do have to give credit to the animators for handling these transitions well. Also the animation seems to be at it’s best during the more intense action sequences. There were a few points where I was amazed at how nice the show looked with a lot of action going on. These sequences were clearly highlights of the series for me in terms of animation. As for the sound, considering some of the questionable dialogue, I thought the voice actors/actresses did a great job. While the material they tried to convey was head scratching at times, it was presented quite well. I have only had the pleasure of watching the Japanese dub, so my assessment is based solely on that.  The music in the series does its job, but I didn ‘t notice any memorable tracks. The soundtrack adjusts with the mood of the series quite well, but there was nothing I would want to listen to outside of the series. I wasn’t a huge fan of the opening and closing theme songs to series either. They weren’t terrible but just not that memorable.

As a said before this series can be really be summed up in two words: missed potential. While the animation is quite pleasing, the concept is interesting and a few of the characters are memorable unfortunately the series does have many problems. These problems don’t doom the series, however it stops it from being truly great. If you are a fan of harem anime, I would suggest checking this one out. However, there are more interesting harem series out there and certainly more entertaining ones.  There are some good things here and I can understand how some people would like this series, however it didn’t do much for me personally and I probably won’t check out the remaining seasons of the show.

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