- Release Date
- Winter 2011
- No. of Episodes
- Light Novel
Infinite Stratos is a 2011 Action, Sci-Fi, and Mecha anime series that brings its viewers on a wild ride where a lone boy is in a sea full of high school girls. With its mundane premise, will having ecchi elements make this series a beautiful creation, or will it need its exoskeleton to survive? While the series itself might not ring any bells or whistles, the studio behind it should. 8-bit has created some great shows, and like everything, some have been somewhat mediocre as well, but the most recent big hit they created was That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. Throughout this review, I believe that it is necessary to note that this series has more than one season, and since each season came out separately means we need to judge each independently.
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While the setting in the story is one of the blandest haram clichés of the anime industry where the main character is the only male in the school. Outside of that cliché, the story on paper is quite impressive, but nothing to get your hopes too high for. When it is discovered that 15-year-old Ichika Orimura is the only male in the world capable of operating an Infinite Stratos (IS), he is immediately enrolled in the Infinite Stratos Academy all-female boarding school, the students of which graduate to become IS pilots. While attending this training school, Ichika is reunited with two of his childhood friends, Houki Shinonono and Lingyin Huang, while also befriending IS representatives from different countries. Guided by the legendary pilot Chifuyu Orimura as their strict homeroom teacher… and even Ichika’s older sister. Ichika and the girls will learn that sometimes the most prominent threat can’t be solved with an IS.
The story itself is pretty slow and doesn’t have a real point A to point B flow, it just goes on like a slice of life, but with Mecha aspects. The good part about not having a hard story to follow is that one can just sit and relax and go with it as it doesn’t take a lot to understand the world and its mechanics. However, the story does have a solid rhythm of new characters added into the show and has an episode or two dealing with each character. Which is a great thing considering that most just focus on the main person in the harem. Unfortunately, that’s where the story ends due to it being so shallow and fundamental to the core.
Perhaps the most inappropriate criticism any show gets in the harem genre is that the stories are just rehashed and shapeshifted into pretty much the same aspects of different series. Which is frankly valid, and even I had thought I’d seen many scenes in various other series – one in particular I thought did it a little better – but outside of that, basing criticism off of that is irresponsible. While the series may be dull at times and even had a few too many clichés, it wasn’t a total waste of time. The few genuinely harmful elements of this story are that it has no depth, nor does it try to have it. It can’t just rely on pretty girls in skin-tight bodysuits to have a decent entertainment value outside of the overall story.
Another aspect of the story that demotes this series is that as the series goes on, the characters pretty much erase everything it’s built for instance when the girls see that there is a boy in the school, they’re pretty much enamored by him and fall head-over-heels for him. Which potentially shows that they’ve never seen a boy in their entire life. Although towards the end of the series, they show them going to stores, beaches, etc. which is strange because it clearly indicates that they have cellphones and can look up any Japanese singer and watch them anytime they wanted. Perhaps its because the series is based on a manga that is only using at most two and a half volumes totaling fifteen chapters. This could show why there wasn’t an actual storyline since the story itself wasn’t finished or whatever arc wasn’t fully complete when it was finished.
Now the art style is highly decent and almost excellent for this type of series. The colors are vibrant, the characters’ designs are unique, and don’t confuse the viewers of who is who? The action scenes are well designed and somewhat original while also being realistically pleasing. Now the one thing I loved about the art in this series is that the creators did a great job with the coloring and matching characters to the right color combos, academy uniforms have some of the best designs I’ve ever seen in a Mecha series. On a side note, this uniform would be manageable to cosplay, which is a potentially high aspect of any series that I believe many shows don’t think about.
While I can praise it for doing something that I feel most series fails at, I can’t deny that there aren’t any pitfalls present. For instance, the style, although it does fit with this series, is pretty bland within itself. There isn’t anything to offer the viewer outside of the high flying exoskeletons and good-looking girls. Which to be quite fair is undeniable shoddy methods to keep the viewer watching, but I digress. Another potentially hurtful aspect of the series is that many of the “background” characters that are just there for filler and not much else have no real characteristics that are different.
The animation quality of this series is a mixed bag of emotions, but mainly on the okay side of things. There are some great scenes where the art style and the animation are the perfect mixtures, like during the fight scenes. Unfortunately, the problems with this anime are no longer hidden when the fights are over. The animation budget clearly reveals it went to the fight scenes, but since this series uses them as a story accessory, there isn’t much to show that it was worth it. Although the majority of the series that is produced is decent at best, when the problems mentioned above are seen, it drops the show’s unfortunate value.
One exciting aspect of this show has is that the characters in the show are unique, but not all that uncommon. Ichika, a first-year student, is a very kind person who will go to great lengths to achieve anything that he’s set his mind to. While Ichika took part in the going-home-after-school-club when Houki moved, she continued to practice Kendo as that was her only link to him. She is a strong female who tends to get jealous when other girls are around him. Cecilia is an IS Representative of the United Kingdom but is somewhat full of herself as she is part of the British nobility. Unfortunately, these two girls are moderately forgotten during parts of the series, mainly due to having their stories completed early on and not making a comeback until the final episode.
Next is Lingyin, the second childhood friend of Ichika, and is also a IS representative of China. Her main characteristics are her snaggletooth and her pigtails. Her personality is somewhat hostile and even made a promise to Ichika that although it was implied that if she becomes a better cook, he’ll become her boyfriend. Then there’s Charlotte, the IS representative of France, and even entered the school pretending to be a male to spy on Ichika. While Charlotte is one of the better characters in the series, the final female is the last stop on this European tour. Laura, an IS representative of Germany and was genetically-engineered super-solider. It is clear that the previous two characters are the story’s main favorites, and after episode five, it’s pretty much their show.
The worst aspect of the show is that its only male character is the worst of the show. If the show didn’t have Ichika, I’m sure the series would be better off, and perhaps even a decent show. One surprisingly impressive aspect of this series is that the secondary characters are amusing and enjoyable. While I particularly don’t enjoy the numerous national stereotypes and the number of clichés that would be able to kill any viewer under its sheer weight. I did find that this series was enjoyable, but the amount of ecchi and stereotypes used in it hardened the value of the show. If you are into series that are high in ecchi themes and little to no story, then this is for you, but outside of this then it was just a mediocre series that just pandered to the male viewers with skin-tight bodysuits and “it’s not what it looks like” moments. If you are low on energy or don’t have anything left in your “to be watched” section, then give this a try; if not, you won’t be missing anything.
Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.