So, he's at an otherwise all-girls boarding school for potential mecha pilots, and his hot, childhood friend who has a thing for him is his roommate? What a fascinatingly original plot!
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)
Infinite Stratos is based on a light novel series by the same name, and after a brief delay is now being simulcast by The Anime Network. This Sunday, January 23, saw the airing of the third episode in Japan, and as of that time, the first three episodes have been made available for registered users at AN. After watching those three episodes, it was obvious that the creators were trying to play on every cliché they could get their hands on, and yet I still remained entertained throughout.
In some indeterminate near future, powerful combat mecha known as Infinite Stratos, or IS, have been created, but in an odd quirk of their design, only females are able to sync with the systems and control them. As you might be able to imagine, this has flipped the traditional gender roles as a single IS is far more powerful than any other weaponry in the known world. The IS are so powerful, in fact, that international treaty has banned them for military use, relegating them instead to athletic and skills competitions. Still, countries who know their stuff are well prepared for worst case scenarios.
Enter Ichika Orimura, on the surface a regular Japanese school boy with no real ambition. On his way to his high school entrance exams, he gets lost and finds himself face-to-face with a dormant IS. While checking it out, he becomes the first male in history to be able to activate and use IS, making him eligible to attend the prestigious Infinite Stratos Academy'"a school designed specifically to train future IS pilots.
But, as you might imagine, since he is the only male to be able to pilot an IS, IS Academy is an otherwise all-girls school. And as the only guy at an all-girls school (even the faculty are all-female, as men would not be able to teach IS skills anyway), he is the object of much fascination.
And did I mention that IS Academy is a boarding school? As you might imagine, because fate always works out this way, despite Orimura being the opposite sex, he is still forced to have a roommate. Enter Houki Shinonono, Orimura's incredibly attractive childhood friend and now high school roommate. At first Houki is none too impressed to be his roommate, but gets over it quickly when she realizes that she has the hots for him (surprise, surprise). Some guys have all the luck. Of course, Orimura is completely clueless as to Houki's feelings, just as he is clueless in everything else.
To make matters worse for Houki, his celebrity sees him the object of affection for plenty of other girls in the school. Soon upon matriculating, he finds himself at odds with Cecelia Alcott, the resident combatant (i.e. elite pilot) for England over the class presidency which he does not really want (but when did that stop anybody?). And since this is IS Academy, rather than put the matter to a simple vote with Orimura would win easily, they decide an IS duel would be more apropos. Though Orimura ultimately loses, he performs really well against Alcott, one of the world's top pilots, and would have won if not confined to the rules of the encounter. So, as is only natural, she falls in love with him too. As you might guess, her forceful personality does not sit well with the more demure Houki.
The third episode sees another paramour enter the scene with the arrival of a Chinese transfer student named Lin, who is another of Orimura's childhood friends. She is also a resident combatant like Alcott, and as such has a similar forceful personality. Her previous friendship with Orimura drives both Houki and Alcott insane as Lin uses it as a way to ingratiate herself with Orimura. But Orimura, being the shmuck that he is, misunderstands her intentions too, driving her to also make a bet with him based on the outcome of an IS duel. Whomever loses has to do one thing for the winner.
I groaned through much of the first fifteen minutes of Infinite Stratos as I was able to predict everything that was going to happen. Of course Orimura would be at an all-girls school (where all the girls are also attractive). Of course his overbearing, world famous sister would also be his overbearing, incredibly popular homeroom teacher who likes to pick on him. Of course he would be 'forced' to room with his childhood friend who wants nothing more than to be his girlfriend. Etc. Etc. Etc. It was all so cliché.
And with all of the girls surrounding him, it was inevitable that a sort of harem situation would start up, along with all that entails. Though the details are still getting hammered out, the basic structure for it is there already with Houki, Alcott, and Lin. And just like any good harem females, regardless of how intelligent and competent they might be in everything else in life, they are just as clueless with relationships as Orimura is. At one point before she admits to herself that she loves Orimura, Houki agrees to help him train with his IS after school and has a Freudian slip where she realizes it will be an opportunity to spend time alone with him. My immediate reaction to that was something along the lines of, 'You're his roommate. You spend every night alone with him. How much more alone time do you need?' Then I remembered I was watching anime and logic need not apply, so I let it go.
But at about the mid-point of the first episode, I sucked it up and got on with watching it and not thinking about it too much, and I found myself pretty entertained by it overall. Yes, it is nonsense, but it is fun nonsense. The characters, though stereotypical, are well-defined and likeable; the IS action scenes are a blast to watch; and the humor is carried out well. Add to it that the show has some great character and IS designs and the animation is gorgeous, and I could find plenty worse ways to occupy my time. And I have to say that for all its faults, I am looking forward to my weekly engagement with it. I hope it keeps it up.
Infinite Stratos is predictably entertaining. So far, there is nothing here that has not been done before plenty of times. But still, I found myself having a lot of fun with it. I do not yet have a sense of where it is going overall, but what I have seen has been decent. I do not expect it to be mind-blowing, but as long as it stays the course and keeps entertaining, I will be perfectly happy. Mildly recommended so far.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles