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Apr 012011

Episode 12 Final – Your Name Is… – 君の名は(ユア・ネーム・イズ) (kimi no na ha(Yua Neemu Izu))

Erm, well, this finale turned out to be rather awkward. The battle between the IS users and the rogue Gospel IS was rather interesting to watch, but what in the world exactly happened with Ichika and his weird daydream? I have a strong feeling the anime failed to explain something from the light novels, because there is little to no explanation for his miraculous revival. There is a single, brief, hint saying that it was Ichika’s IS that made everything happen, but if so it’s kind of a disappointing deux ex machina.

What was a rather nice touch here was how the creators tried to set Ichika up with Houki (which in itself is a surprise ending for a harem anime like this), BUT I do think the execution was very lacking. Then again, it’s not like you should expect anything really amazing in terms of plot for this series.

The plot for this episode was pretty terribly written though, with a bunch of deux ex machinas kind of killing the plot progression. The battle between the four girls and the Gospel IS was rather well animated and well paced, but what’s up with Ichika’s random daydream with the odd girl and the unknown IS pilot? I mean, I’m fine with character background building, but this episode definitely stretched the limits of my suspension of disbelief here. To top it all off, this daydream and Ichika’s “feelings” somehow managed to revive him from a near death state, which in itself just screams  “Deux ex Machina”.

Houki’s energy powerup wasn’t much better, with her “feelings” somehow fully restoring her shield energy. The sheer absurdity of the idea (and the utter convenience of it) makes the fight feel kind of one sided, with the good guys getting all of the help, powerups, benefits, etc al.

Overall Enjoyment: 2.7/5

Final Impressions

Anyways, aside from my ranting about how the story was poorly written (or at least, improperly explained), the episode did maintain a bit of it’s entertainment value. What was the most surprising to me is how there were some very strong hints at a relationship between Houki and Ichika by the end of the episode, which is definitely worth noting considering how Ichika is a harem lead. In the end though, this episode did take the safe route where Ichika hasn’t officially “decided” on any girls yet.

Overall, the Infinite Stratos series as a whole was rather lacking. It had never really tried to go beyond the typical harem + mech genres, and while the show was entertaining at times, as a whole the series had much less substance than I would have liked. Then again, I may have just had my expectations for this show too high.

The character development in this show went on and off, with some good character-centric moments, and others that were completely off or forced. The constant change in focus from one heroine to another also created a lot of gaps in between character development, which led to how each of the main cast feels as if they could have used more character development. The sudden changes also kills a lot of momentum built up around a heroine, leading to mediocre character development across the board, as opposed to one or character’s who are getting the most attention and gaining a good amount of recognition.

In the end, though, if you were looking for a harem-setup that is kind of entertaining, though with some flawed writing and bad character developments. The plot progression is rather lacking a lot of the times, and the levels of fanservice in this show certainly isn’t  welcome all the time. Unfortunately, the second half for this series killed any sort of potential I could see in the characters, and the story never really improved a whole lot.

In the end though, it’s pretty obvious that this show was designed for entertainment, and in that sense, this show did a fairly decent job. Infinite Stratos isn’t remarkable by any means, but it certainly got it’s goals accomplished for the most part. Then again, you do have to be able to stomach a lot of the stereotypes with the harem genre to get some entertainment value out of this.

Animation/Art: 8.0/10

Music: 5.5/10

Characters: 6.5/10

Story/setting: 5.0/10

Overall Enjoyment: 6.3/10

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Mar 242011

Episode 11 – Get Ready – ゲット・レディ (Getto Redi)

Meh, definitely not the best episode of Infinite stratos here, but not exactly bad either. The battle sequences had a rather raw, fast paced actiony feel to them, but the completely sudden change focusing in on Houki’s infatuation with her newfound power felt rather awkward. I mean, the last thing I expected was for a life-or-death battle to be interrupted by Houki and Ichika all naked and glowing in some sort of imagined up world discussing how Houki was being too indulgent in her newfound IS machine. While I do appreciate having some sort of character development for Houki here, the way in which it was done felt completely awkward, and not to mention, felt rather rushed as well.

The action sequences were decently done here, with some quick paced sword slashes and laser beams really keeping up a rather tense atmosphere between the opposing IS and the Ichika x Houki combo. There wasn’t really much detail on the close range, hand to hand combat though, which made the fight a bit more tame than otherwise. The major thing here, though, was how the episode kept blatantly hinting at how Houki was eager to show off her new, powerful IS.

It was rather obvious from the very start that Houki would somehow take some emotional damage based on her attitude towards the mission, but the way in which it happened felt a little random. All the drama around Houki this episode contrasts with the rather calm, level-headed image that this show has built up around Houki, and made the entire situation rather unbelievable. There have been occasional hints at her infatuation with power, but the sudden development of it here in this episode made her backstory feel shallow and poorly built up.

It’s rather obvious that we’re close to the end of the series, mainly due to the painfully high levels of drama here. While I don’t particularly mind the story trying to develop Houki a bit, the sudden way in which it happened certainly isn’t going to get any praise. This episode wasn’t particularly bad though, it’s just that it had nothing really worth noting either. The brief scene towards the end that brought the harem together as allies, as well as bring a predictable end to all the Houki drama, does hint at a big battle in the next episode (which we saw a glimpse of back in episode 1). Hopefully the studio changes the final fight a bit so that we won’t be rewatching the same scene from back then.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.4/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Mar 112011

Episode 10 – Thin Red Line – その境界線の上に立ち(シン・レッド・ライン) (Shin Reddo Rain)

The first half to this episode, in all honestly, was just a bunch of fanservice. It was entertaining at times, although Houki getting more involved in the harem feels kind of sudden in a way. When I had lost all hope that this show would get out of it’s filler-esque phase it was in, the second half turned things around with a much more interesting (yet still kind of slow) buildup around an upcoming IS fight. After a lack of good IS mech fights in the most recent episodes, the fact that we’re finally going to maybe see one in the final few episodes certainly gets my hopes up. Then again, this feels kind of like the creators for this show were like “oh, the show is ending soon, we have to throw in a mech fight somehow”. The turn of events is a bit predictable, but who said I watch this show for it’s plot?

Ignoring the fanservice filled first half (it’s not very difficult to imagine what happened there), the second half proved to be much more interesting. Houki finally got her own personal IS, and based on it’s specs, I’d assume that it will play a crucial role in the upcoming battle against the autonomous US built IS that is approaching Japan. That being said, this does make me curious about Ichika’s own IS, which apparently is the only one suitable for taking out the rogue opposing IS. I’d assume that Ichika’s Byakushiki is rather old, which makes me wonder why his older IS is more capable than the newer ones that the rest of the cast owns.

There was pretty much just a large amount of buildup towards that mech battle that we saw at the beginning of this series. The sudden change from the first half to the second half was rather unexpected, perhaps a too sudden change in pace and story. It did a fine job at hinting what is to come though, with the next episode preview definitely hyping a more action packed final arc.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.3/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Mar 032011

Episode 09 – Eleven O’clock arrives at Sea (Ocean Eleven)!
海に着いたら十一時(オーシャンズ・イレブン)! (Umi ni tsuitara juu ichiji (Ooshanzuirebun)! )

Well, what else is there to say besides that this was your typical beach episode? And for a harem series like this, all a beach episode means is that all the girls will try to hog our main protagonists attention (in this case, Ichika). They did try to add a few things that might be more relevant to the overall story, but for the most part you got your standard fanservicey beach episode, complete with beach volleyball and sun tanning. I guess there was some decent comedy, but there definitely wasn’t much plot here.

The story was pretty much just each girl worrying about the intensifying competition for Ichika, with Lin and Cecilia increasingly worried about their chances with him (especially with Charlotte walking around with him). This ended up with every girl fighting for Ichika’s attention at the beach, with events such as the “put the suntan oil on Cecilia” event, the “save a drowning Lin” event, and eventually the “play beach volleyball with Charlotte” event.

All in all, the episode was a rather normal, generic harem beach episode, which was somewhat entertaining yet a little disturbing in a sense. For one, Laura (the german girl) has seriously made a complete personality change, almost absurdly different from her character an episode or two ago. It’s almost scary how different Laura acts in comparison to before. And of course, there’s the usual “sigh, our main harem lead is clueless about girls” that applies to Ichika here.

Now the only hint of future events was the brief mentioning of Houki potentially getting her own IS suit from her older sister (finally). Besides that, though, there was literally zero plot worth mentioning. At least there was some decent comedy, even with the characters acting oddly out of place sometimes (especially Laura).

Overall Enjoyment: 2.9/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Feb 242011

Episode 08 – Find Out My Mind – ファインド・アウト・マイ・マインド (Faindo Auto Mai Maindo)

It looks like that, indeed, Laura was destined to be part of the harem too. I guess I kind of saw it coming, but her sudden change in attitude was pretty darn drastic. That being said, the episode itself was pretty action packed with a surprisingly decent battle, though that all went down the drain towards the end when Laura randomly activated some sort of “valkyrie mode”. We did learn a bit about Laura’s past, but it’s nothing particularly special worth noting.

Unsurprisingly, Laura was rather arrogant with regards to her own skills, and refused to coordinate as a team player with Houki. That ended up causing Laura to take quite a heavy beating from Charles and Ichika (that is, once Charles took Houki out of commission).

In the end, the battle just came down to which group had the better teamwork, which in this case Ichika and Charles dominated. They worked quite well together in applying pressure, alternating attacks, and forcing Laura on the defensive for a large portion of the battle, and eventually overwhelming her.

Her brief flashback about how she was trained to be a member of the military since her childhood was kind of generic, but it did pave the way for her reasonings behind respecting Ichika’s sister so much. What was a little odd was after the flashback, where Laura ended up getting consumed by rage and transforming into a very weird “vakyrie form” mode that resembles Ichika’s sister (well, kind of). The valkyrie mode didn’t last very long, though, and it ends up with Ichika rescuing her.

The more significant event in this episode would be how Charles finally decides to ask Ichika to call her by her real name, Charlotte, which meant that she would be officially revealing her status as a girl to the rest of the school. While it was a rather cute, sweet move on Charlotte’s part, it looks like she won’t have things easy. For one, now that Lin, Houki, and Cecilia know Charlotte is a girl, expect things to get rather messy rather fast.

Not to mention, the fact that Laura is now in the race for Ichika’s attention (you know, labeling her belongings with a kiss… >.>; ) means that the harem just got even more competitive; as the saying goes, all is fair in love and war, and in this case, Laura definitely seems to be trying to take a headstart. I mean, nobody has confessed to Ichika yet, but Laura’s kiss pretty much is equivalent to a confession, which means she’s already made more progress than the rest of Ichika’s harem. As for the episode itself, it was rather predictable at times, but the action was pretty decent, and now that we’ve finally got the entire main cast completed (or at least I hope so. We don’t need even more members to the harem), I’m expecting the story to start delving into the story regarding that rogue black IS that attacked a few episodes.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.8/5

P.S. In the end, Charlotte is still my favorite out of the group, with Houki coming in as a close second. I don’t really expect any sort of major changes in Ichika’s relationships with the harem girls, but go France-tan! :P

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Feb 172011

Episode 07 – Blue Days / Red Switch – ブルー・デイズ/レッド・スイッチ (Buruu Deizu/Reddo Suitchi)

Pacing was a bit of an issue this episode, but if you ignore that, this episode was a pretty good, though predictable, buildup episode. The introduction of Laura a few episodes ago really changed a lot of things up, mainly by introducing a source of tension to the previous very lax story. Laura has been consistently being setup as an overconfident, spoiled power hungry IS pilot in previous episodes, but this episode blatant supports this claim. The AIC system introduced this episode was a bit….overpowered, which certainly didn’t help make the battle interesting in any way, but it does forebode for a rather interesting conflict in the future.

The start of the story here focuses in on how the rumor that Ichika will go out with the winner of the upcoming tournament is spreading like wildfire. Of course, Houki knows that she had meant for her little bet to be only for her, but the rest of the school misinterprets it all as a free for all thing. While this was a little pointless, it did lead up to delving a bit deeper into Houki’s past, in which we get a brief glimpse of how she was a cold, heartless, ruthless person in the past, and how she has changed since then.

While Houki’s background may not seem to have relevance at first, it becomes fairly obvious that it’s meant to draw up a comparison between Houki and the German girl Laura. It’s quite blatantly hinted that Laura is similar to what Houki once was, which Houki certainly dislikes. This will probably turn into a major point of conflict in the next episode, especially with Laura and Houki paired up in the tournament.

As for Laura’s battle with Ms. England and Ms. China (aka Cecilia and Lin), her new AIC system totally dominated their battle tactics. Seriously, that weapon system made the entire battle rather predictable; all Laura had to do was wave her hand, and most attacks couldn’t even scratch her. Laura’s one sided battle did up the tension amongst our main characters though, which certainly should prove to be exciting in the future.

Either ways, while this episode had a lot of tension in the atmosphere, it was essentially a buildup episode that enlightened us a bit about Houki, as well as increased the tension between Laura and the rest of the main cast. On the light hearted side, Charlotte once again served as the comedic relief here which was stereotypically fanservicey but still entertaining. I honestly think Charlotte is making the most progress here with Ichika, no offense to Houki and the rest of the harem; their secret regarding Charlotte’s gender really seems to be driving progress with regards to their relationship, though I’m not really against that >:3

Overall Enjoyment: 3.8/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Feb 102011

Episode 06 – My Roommate is a Blond Gentleman – ルームメイトはブロンド貴公子 (Ruumumeito wa Burondo Jentoru)

IT’S A TRAPPPP… Meh, not really. I honestly could say that the revelation that “Charles” ended up being a girl was not surprising at all. Her very feminine reactions to Ichika’s changing out of his outfit and stuff practically gave away that “he” was a) either a female in disguise or b) a guy that’s into guys. That being said, it’s a bit awkward to call her “Charles”, considering Charles is normally a guy’s name. Either ways, the new German girl seems rather overconfident and kind of spoiled, but I guess she does make things more interesting. Nothing major really happens this episode, but it is building up towards a climactic confrontation between Ichika and the new girl.

Not too much really happened this episode, though there was some buildup with regards to a future fight brewing between Ichika and the German girl. That being said, the main attraction here would be the surprisingly cute “guy” Charles. Her feminine antics are rather cute to watch, but in the end she really doesn’t play an important role (for now, at least). We are introduced a bit to the politics of the IS world, but it’s rather brief and involves simple development rights of IS machines. I do wonder exactly how these development rights word in this show, and provokes my curiosity about exactly how these IS machines are manufactured. They seem to be manufactured in a rather odd way, or at least that’s what this show is hinting at. Perhaps this has something to do with that rogue black colored IS machine that appeared in a previous episode.

An interesting little development here was how Charles is being setup as the opponent to the German girl along with Ichika, though France vs Germany isn’t anything new (and we all know how that always turns out…). As usual, Ichika is as dense as most harem leads are when it concerns relationships; he’s seriously clueless about the feelings of the girls that are practically clinging to the guy. Even when Houki and Ceclilia are literally hanging off his arms he doesn’t seem have any potential romantic feelings towards them.

On the other hand, he does seem to be more aware of Charles as a girl, which might be a subtle hint at them becoming more involved with each other. If anything, Cecilia, Rin, and Houki all feel like side characters with no importance in this arc. The conflict is building up by focusing in on the German girl, Charles, Ichika, and his sister, which will turn out into a rather ferocious battle next week (or at least, I’d like to hope).Typical Harem comedy aside, this episode did a decent job of building up towards the future conflict.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.6/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Jan 282011

Episode 04 – Decisive Battle! The Class League Match – 決戦!クラス対抗戦 (Kessen! Kurasu taikou-sen)

Hmm, well this episode turned out differently from what I expected. While Ichika continues to build up his little harem of girls, we actual got some hints at an actual main plot, with the inclusion of an unknown and hostile Infinite Stratos machine. The action this episode was decent, with much less of the slice of life and comedy that has been more common to this show so far. While the actual enemy here was really lacking in details (as in, we learn virtually nothing about it), it still did spice up the story a bit. While the story is still generic as hell, this episode was actually a rather entertaining watch.

Lingyin in her Infinite Stratos suit seems to actually be a rather competent fighter (or, at least, her IS seems rather powerful). That being said, any “skill” she had certainly didn’t show when the unknown mech entered the scene. From then on, she pretty much just played sidekick to Ichika, and not to mention, she does very little in helping defeat the intruder. Seriously, all she did was act as a battery pack for Ichika’s energy-lacking mech.

There was quite a bit of action though, and while not all of the action was well choreographed, the fights were actually a good watch. I did get a little skeptical at times with certain aspects of the fights, and the barrier thing kept popping up too much. I do appreciate how the creators placed an actual operational time limit on these IS machines through the “barrier” system, which does make the fights a bit more tactical at times.

On a side note, I did get a few laughs out of the generic harem interactions/jealousy between Lin, Houki, and Cecilia. I guess I haven’t seen a generic non-fanservice harem in such a long time that I’m actually kind of entertained by them, though Infinite Stratos definitely is not the best comedy this season by any means. That being said, the characters themselves don’t really get much development. Lin does get some backstory to her, which was actually somewhat serious in tone, and definitely improves my impressions of her to a degree.

Either ways, this episode was probably the best of Infinite Stratos so far, though the characterization is still weak and the plot is painfully predictable. Seeing where the story goes from here on out with the new enemy could prove to be interesting, though I’m kind of worried the “new enemy” will end up being really stereotypical. I guess I’m just nitpicking at little points here, though.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.6/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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