Starts interesting; snoozes in the middle; ends with a bang.
What They Say:
Infinite Stratos (or IS for short) has quickly become at once the greatest tool and deadliest enemy during world conflicts. Unique for the IS, however, is it's limitations: only women are able to pilot them. Enter Ichika Orimura, brother of one of the greatest IS pilots in history, and after coming in contact with an IS at 15, oddly capable of piloting one himself. This strange occurrence opens up new worlds for him, and he is immediately enrolled in a school that specializes in IS pilot training. A school...of just girls. Is this a dream come true, or a nightmare come to life? The greatest ride of your life awaits you, as comic mischief and daring dogfights combine in INFINITE STRATOS!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a few weeks of delays following the earthquakes in Japan, Infinite Stratos returned last week to kick off its final two episodes. I happened to not be paying attention, so I caught up with both episodes tonight. In Episode 11, Houki and Ichika leave for their mission to stop a mysterious, unmanned IS that was invading Japan's airspace. Their initial assault does not quite go as planned, but they seem to have the fight in hand when they are distracted by the presence of ship of poachers Ichika is determined to protect. In the ensuing confusion, he is wounded and the mission ends in failure. Thankfully, the enemy IS is temporarily disabled too.
After allowing herself some time to kick herself for allowing Ichika to be injured, Houki ultimately joins the rest of the girls as they disobey orders and hunt down the unmanned IS. During the fight, the unconscious Ichika is faced with an existential question concerning his motives. What is important is that he be able to sort out what is important to him in time to help protect the comrades that are fighting for him.
As Infinite Stratos comes to a close, I'm left pondering the question: What did I think of it? My answer, and I feel very strongly about this, is that I am unsure. The last three episodes were really good. Nice intrigue, great action, and (in general) a satisfying conclusion. There are still a lot of questions that I have that were never answered (like, what was up with these random rogue IS anyway?), but I always expected that of a short anime based on a still ongoing series of light novels. So, from that perspective, I am not too bothered that I never got the questions answered.
What is interesting is that we did seem to get the answer to the question that Infinite Stratos was determined was the most important one, and that is which girl will Ichika end up with? While still somewhat open ended when it was done, there was an obvious direction the series was leaning in, and that I can appreciate. Nothing bothers me more about harem series than when that problem is not even addressed, let alone answered.
Of course, my issue with this series is that the overall premise was interesting enough that Ichika's love life was the least of my interests. When Infinite Stratos started up, I was expecting an action based series with some harem-type comedy on the side to keep things light. Instead, it wanted to be a harem-based comedy with a bit of action on the side to spice things up.
From that perspective, it was a perfectly acceptable anime, but I really had a hard time accepting it for that. I wanted to hold it to a higher standard, because when it gave us some serious plot like in the last two episodes, it did it really well. Unfortunately for me, that is not what Infinite Stratos wanted to be.
Before I sign off on this review, I want to make note of one last thing, though. I have mentioned it a couple times throughout these reviews, but I do want to make special note of the animation in this series. To say I was dazzled by it would be an understatement. The action scenes were so beautifully rendered that at times I had to remind myself that I was watching a TV series and not a movie; in particular, the extended battle sequences over the ocean in the last two episodes were just gorgeous. To put this kind of attention into a series that basically has a throwaway plot is fantastic, and frankly, it increases my frustrations with the direction of the plot as I wanted them to show off their skills all the more.
Infinite Stratos ends with two action packed episodes which just underscores my desire to have seen more like it throughout instead of what we got. Ultimately, I just have to accept that what I want and what Infinite Stratos wants are two different things. If, like me, you sit and nitpick everything it does and hold it to a higher standard, you are likely to walk away frustrated that it did not do more with what it had to work with. If, instead, you accept it for what it is, then you will find it to be a fun snapshot into the lives of these characters. Either way, there are lots of cute girls running around doing cute girl things, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Somewhat recommended; I'll let you figure out if I am recommending it to you.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles