Starring: Kouki Uchiyama, Josh Grelle, Yoko Hikasa, Monica Rial, Asami Shimoda, Hilary Haag, Kana Hanazawa, Shannon Emerick, Makoto Yasumura, Chris Ayres, Marina Inoue, Tiffany Grant
Running Time: 325 minutes
Harem and mecha, together at last! When originality is hard to come by, why not just shove two popular genres of anime into one? INFINITE STRATOS is a argument both for and against such a tactic, as it may showcase the optimistic and fun tropes of the genres, but it also has twice the limitations, constantly highlighting the generic twists and turns.
INFINITE STRATOS is the name of a mechanical suit that would be perfect for war. Interestingly enough, this universe has outlawed the machines as such weapons and so they are used exclusively for sports. That’s the most fascinating thing about the show, as it takes large weaponised creations and reduces their sinister edge. Stars of the IS are trained at elite academies, where we meet Ichika, the only male capable of piloting the machines. As you can imagine, the show then descends into male fantasy, where the upstanding and bland protagonist is constantly set upon by the girls, or has his good intentions confused with acts of perversion.
The formula is as basic as you can imagine, but the setting of the school, rather than a confined house, does mean there is more scope and greater exploration. The history of the IS also adds a more complex mythology as well as storring action sequences. Still, there’s no getting over the predictable beats and familiar characters.
As always, the comfortable narrative will appeal to many, and the writing balances humour, romance, and action quite well. You never have to wait too long for a change in pace, and the overall plot does hint at bigger things to come. With some cracking use of sound as well as furious colours and dynamic shots, the action set-pieces do become the stars, but as the fights have less at stake, the amount the audience will connect with such battles may be underwhelming.
There’s nothing wrong with INFINITE STRATOS, and if you find some harem’s too overbearing or crude, this certainly slots into the lower end of the male fantasy spectrum. The vocal work is mixed, with the Japanese cast all sounding Japanese despite an international cast of characters, and the English dub providing differentiated, but stereotypical interpretations of accents. Predictable? Sure! But if you want both a new mech show AND a new harem show, but want to save some time, then INFINITE STRATOS is worth checking out.
[usr=3] INFINITE STRATOS is released on DVD on 17th February via MVM.