Original Run: January 7, 2011 - April 1, 2011 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Harem, Mecha, Romance, Science Fiction Based on the Series Created By: Izuru Yumizuru, okiura, and CHOCO
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Infinite Stratos. Reader discretion is advised.***
Humans achieved the height of technological advancement when they developed the high-tech exoskeleton suits known as the Infinite Stratos. However, the immense destructive power of these devices was so great that the nations of the world outlawed them from becoming tools of war.
Now, the Infinite Stratos are used in popular combative tournaments the world over.
One of the critical aspects of the Infinite Stratos system is the fact they can only be piloted by women. Therefore, it becomes international news when Ichika Orimura (voiced by Koki Uchiyama) is the first man capable of operating one of these machines.
Along with turning into an instant celebrity, Ichika now finds himself as the sole male at Japan’s Infinite Stratos Academy. Being the complete center of everyone’s attention has brought forth many rivals for Ichika to face. Or, at least, rivals were how everyone started out.
Through skill and personality, Ichika builds himself an ever-growing pool of admirers. And he is going to need all the help he can get because it would seem there are some who hope to use the Infinite Stratos as the weapons they truly are.
For a quick behind-the-scenes, I maintain a running list of anime I have watched; most of which are marked as either recommendable (R) or skippable (S).
(I say “most” because the recommend/skip designation was a detail added much later, and there are some series I simply have no recollection of ever viewing)
On said list, Infinite Stratos had with it an S. Too bad current me, sitting down to re-watch, had no idea why past me made that note. It wasn’t that I doubted myself, I just had completely forgotten everything about this series.
Before even reaching the ten-minute mark of episode one, a creeping fear began to overtake me. Maybe Infinite Stratos wasn’t a series I had failed to remember. Maybe it was something worse. Having now sat through this show again, I can confirm that suspicion.
This wasn’t an anime I forgot. This was an anime I blocked out of my mind. Infinite Stratos was atrocious. Past me tried to warn current me.
This series was bad. There is no way around that. However, was there anything good?
First off, “good” is a strong word. Any amount of good in Infinite Stratos wasn’t competing against much. What this show may have done well might not have been as praiseworthy had literally anything else worked.
With that said, the fight scene animations and CGI weren’t awful. The Infinite Stratos anime had recently turned eight-years-old at the time of the posting of this review, and I was shocked by how much these moments held up.
But as stated, had Infinite Stratos either produced a better story, had more interesting characters, or if it had merely taken its head out of its own ass for two seconds, then this series’ animation – I suspect – would have only warranted a passing comment.
Unfortunately, since none of that stuff happened, saying Infinite Stratos had decent CGI and action is sort of like someone blissfully reminiscing about the time they survived a shipwreck at the equator. The entire event was pure chaos and everything sank fast, but at least the water was warm.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume episodes two through twelve of Infinite Stratos weren’t trash. Let’s pretend they were tolerable. Had that been the situation, the totality of this series would have been in full damage-control mode.
While it won’t paint the full picture of why this was a chore to sit through, episode one of Infinite Stratos is a brilliant example of how NOT to start a series.
Infinite Stratos was crap at conveying information, and the first episode was nothing except pure exposition.
If a story is even somewhat decent, that probably means it understands that there are details an audience can infer about characters and the nature of the narrative themselves. Therefore, when a story feels it needs to hold people’s hands just to get through simple introductions, that’s often a telltale sign that whatever follows will be a jumbled mess.
Here’s an example straight from episode one. For context: This moment came when Ichika Orimura realized his older sister, Chifuyu (voiced by Megumi Toyoguchi), was to be his homeroom teacher. This is what he said:
Why is Chifuyu here anyway? My real older sister, who only comes home once or twice a month, and no one knows what she does for a living.
So, why was that annoying?
For starters, that was what Ichika said in his head. That leads us to ask, who could he have been addressing? Since Ichika was Chifuyu’s brother, he already knew all that stuff, and thus, he would have had no reason to be as weirdly specific as he was. And since no one could read his thoughts, who was left? The only people Ichika could have been talking to was us – the audience.
A story, any story, must find ways of formulating its world and the people who inhabit it. However, the strategy employed by Infinite Stratos was more like a classroom lecture, and this series was preparing to quiz us at the end.
I usually don’t like commenting on what a series should have done because it’s the easiest thing in the world to plot out a story in hindsight. Unfortunately, Infinite Stratos shot itself in the foot so badly when it did this because it took away a ton of possible character building opportunities from occurring later on in the show.
In my opinion, a far more effective response would have been:
Why is Chifuyu here?
And then Ichika would say no more.
Suddenly, Infinite Stratos could have used what was not said during conversations between Ichika and other characters. Rather than an over-and-done-with inner monologue, there could have been a full series’ worth of interactions. We could have been methodically exposed to what drove Ichika to be the type of person he was.
Instead, Infinite Stratos only succeeded in creating an artificial sibling connection between Ichika and Chifuyu. I would forget these two were brother and sister. The few instances where I was aware of their relationship were times such as when all the other female characters were eavesdropping on the pair while they were making easily misinterpreted, highly suggestive sounds.
Ah, good one show. Incests jokes are always a f@#$ing riot.
Did I mention this was only what the series did in episode one? Again, we were assuming the rest of this show was decent. I can tell you right now, it wasn’t.
The rest of the Infinite Stratos story was hard to follow because of one particular flaw.
The titular Infinite Stratos machines – the pinnacles of human achievement – were relegated to simple sporting equipment. According to this show, the countries of the world realized that the Infinite Stratos would bring about mutually assured destruction, and that is why they agreed to ban them as weapons of war.
Why not just ban them altogether?
Given how every country continued to develop Infinite Stratos to be more advanced – a.k.a., faster and capable of carrying a much heavier payload – and seeing how Ichika’s school was run like a military operation, who in their right mind believed the goal was to foster sportsmanship?
That said, Infinite Stratos did possess a cast of characters I can totally see thinking such a notion was precisely what was going on.
Without a doubt, the characters of Infinite Stratos were this series’ greatest disaster. Since discussing everyone at length will give me nothing but a headache, I will only focus on Ichika.
Ichika was exceedingly dense. He was the kind of protagonist who could not take a hint. None of the members of his little harem were subtle about their feelings towards him. Nevertheless, Ichika utterly failed to notice.
To go extreme, it would not surprise me if there was a scenario where Ichika asked for advice concerning what one of his admirers’ intentions could possibly have been after they shoved his face into their breasts and told him he could have done anything he wanted. And making matters worse, Ichika would seek this advice from another one of his admirers who had already offered – point blank – to do the very same thing to him. Ichika would then wonder why he was suddenly slapped in the face and called an idiot.
Just to be clear, that never happened in Infinite Stratos. The only reason I went in that direction is because if it had taken place, Ichika would still not be my least favorite character from this show.
I think I made a huge mistake by returning to this one. Not because it was painful to sit through – even though that wasn’t fun. No, now I’ve obligated myself to re-watch and review season two.
Take it from someone who decided to return to this show after ignoring their own warning notes. This is not worth your time.
Although there were, admittedly, some decent action sequences, they were no consolation. To get to those moments, you will have to tread through a broken story, awful characters, and a lot of other pure nonsensical happenings.
Don’t do that to yourself.
Infinite Stratos is a series you can skip. And I am saying that to you as much as I am saying it to a possible future me who made the mistake of forgetting again.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Infinite Stratos? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.