Infinite Stratos Review

Anime

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Infinite Stratos

Studio: 8-Bit
Publisher: Madman Entertainment
Format: DVD (Reviewed), Blu Ray
Release Date: March 20, 2013
Price: $59.95 – Available Here

Overview
Infinite Stratos began as a light novel series written by Izuru Yumizuru, with illustrations provided by Okiura, though the mantle of illustrator has since been taken up by CHOCO. The series itself is a harem romantic comedy…that also happens to include mechs. Somewhat of a shift from other mech anime, focusing on romance more than robotic combat but hey, why not?

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Story
Infinite Stratos is centred in a world where weaponised mechanical exoskeletons, named Infinite Stratos (IS), exist. Due to the threat of the Stratos, the governments of the world penned the Alaska Treaty, prohibiting their use for military roles and requiring equal distribution of the technology throughout all countries. Eventually an international fighting tournament, the Mondo Grosso was created, for countries to show their skill and machinery to the rest of the world.  However, due to the IS only being able to be piloted by women, the world underwent a shift into a female dominated society. 

10 years later… Cue Ichika Orimura, our protagonist and the only male ever capable of piloting an IS. Ichika is thrust into a prestigious IS Academy where the worlds best gather to learn the ways of piloting in the hopes of contending in the Mondo Grosso…and hooking up with Ichika. Seriously, the minute he steps into the academy literally every single girl wants him, with the exception of his older sister who also happens to be his teacher (though her interest in him is disputed by some of the love struck students). Despite being one of the most oblivious, and apparently charismatic, protagonists of all time, Ichika is not very skilled with an IS, though over the course of the series his abilities do improve and sway more than a couple of girls over to his side. As the series progresses Ichika gains a harem of girls all vying for his affections and not subtly either. The school may as well be called Fanservice Academy.

Oh yeah, there’s mechs to. For a series set in a world of robotic invention there aren’t as many fight scenes as you’d expect. The ones that exist are done well but they are few and far between, even then most sum up to a battle vying for Ichika’s affections. Hell, one pilot even blasts through a concrete wall when yet another girl enters the romantic fray.

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Whilst there is some insight into the characters themselves it’s done with very broad strokes. There’s generally a flashback narrated by a character explaining their past and motivations then, nope that’s it. You do understand the characters more for the experience but it seems a tad shallow, a majority of their personality comes from their unwavering devotion to this one guy they met a few days ago and their hatred of competition. In their IS combat, the sole reason they attend the academy? No, that would be crazy. In their attempts to quite literally force themselves onto a guy? Now you’re getting it.

Admittedly there is something going on regarding the Stratos themselves, but that plot is pushed into the background. Two fights are based upon the concept of the IS system being used for literal combat, but that’s it. That could have been investigated a lot more thoroughly in the series, it just felt like a wasted opportunity for some much needed Stratos action, but hey, I mean all you need is love right?

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Visuals
The animation in Infinite Stratos was done well. The characters moved quite fluidly, even in the non-action romantic scenes, emphasising their personalities well. The bulk of the compliments go to the fight scenes. Using a combination of CGI for the Stratos themselves and traditional animation cells for the pilots, the series does a great job of conveying the speed and less restricted movement style the Stratos have compared to traditional mechs.  The CGI was done exceedingly well, most of the time you don’t even notice it, trust me it’s a compliment. There are a few occasions where it’s obvious that CGI is used for both Stratos and characters, though this is generally for wide angle shots where the characters aren’t actually fighting. The environment itself was also rather picturesque, featuring sunny beaches, artistic architecture and a few Japanese inspired areas, even the Academy dorm rooms were designed to look like fancy hotel rooms.

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Audio
I watched the English dub of Infinite Stratos and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The voice actors did a great job of playing their characters and expressed genuine emotion, something that doesn’t always happen in anime dubs. They sounded angry, nervous, happy or just plain insane. Something I was also particularly interested in was the accents. Yep. I haven’t actually seen too many series where a character has an accent from their country of origin. It definitely adds character to the mass of love struck females when amongst them is English, French and German accents. It’s a credit to an anime when you can close your eyes and still know who’s talking.  The music was good too, it matched well with the overall upbeat theme of the anime. The J-Pop opening and ending themes were used a few times throughout the show itself and they just kinda fit with the whole relationship side. There were some instrumental pieces used, most notably was the theme used in the climactic battle, full of trumpets and orchestral vocals, it really set the mood for a fast paced final battle.

Extras
The DVD features a few extras, mostly commentary from the Japanese voice actors on a few of the episodes. Also featured were two live action pieces: a filmed airing of Infinite Stratos Radio (two of the Japanese voice actors doing a radio show) and a behind the scenes where another of the voice actors interviews series director Yasuhito Kikuchi, before the series was released. The main extra would have to be the included OVA (it isn’t featured in the extras menu, but rather plays straight after the final episode) which is set after the series. Also included, of course, is textless versions of the opening and ending themes.

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Overall
Look, as much as I talked about the imbalance of romance to combat, and boy is there one, Infinite Stratos really isn’t a bad series. The fight scenes are done well and the Stratos themselves are awesome armour mech suits that are different from a majority of series out there. Even though some of the dialogue was pretty corny it was voice acted well enough that it was still interesting to watch. The main problem is that the series seems somewhat shallow and full of missed opportunities that could have made it great. Granted it is still a series for those who prefer romance and comedy (and a large quantity of fanservice), there’s still a little bit of action thrown in. Basically, you should definitely watch this series if you want to see a bunch of anime girls fawn over a guy, with varying degrees of intent and severity. But hey, even if that’s not your thing the series itself isn’t too bad.

6-5-capsules-out-of-10

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

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