This is quite a nostalgic course for me. I first viewed Infinite Stratos in its entirety in July of 2012, over seven years ago. It was one of the twenty members of the first Summer of Anime block that started my rekindled fascination with the anime medium. I have grown substantially since then, with my expectations of anime fitting far more within a certain criteria than before, when I would consume practically anything. One thing that hasn’t changed is that Infinite Stratos was one of the few low spots of that first Summer. Why would my thoughts change seeing as even back then I felt the anime was lacking? It may surprise you to know that my thoughts have changed… for the better.
Let’s put things into perspective. Infinite Stratos is ranked within the 4000’s on MAL’s database based on average score. Its second season, which I’ve watched, is absolute garbage. While not always the case, any low quality anime I viewed in the past I was pretty lenient on when compared to my current standards. I had every reason in the world to think that this rewatch would convince me that this would be just as terrible as its sequel edition. Turns out, it wasn’t, and I actually grew to appreciate my older self for understanding the good things it does when the stupid stuff isn’t being highlighted. Even still, Infinite Stratos is not very good.
One clear positive I was floored by was just how good the animation is. Not always, mind you, as several shortcuts are taken, such as zoomed out scenes and standstills, throughout. But when it comes to its action sequences, with high-flying suits of armor sporting sci-fi-esque weapons of combat, it’s genuinely engrossing. Say what you will about CGI, I think it’s done pretty well here. Even the dumb downtime scenes have a little flair of effort poured into it, if just for ecchi slop. Infinite Stratos looks pretty, especially for a 2011 title.
On the topic of harem/ecchi anime, my opinion has varied tremendously as time has gone by. At first, I hated it because it felt like it got in the way of “more important aspects” (like character development or story progression). Later on, I wasn’t too harsh on it, considering it a certain flavor for general anime viewers. Now I find it sexist, as per my SJW heel turn, but I won’t elaborate on it more than that. Infinite Stratos is a male fantasy of the highest degree, with every female student pining for the male lead’s attention and his being thrust into the “Savior” role of unshakable OP-ness. There are even a few comments on how one has to “be a man,” which only adds to the questionable fantasy. A good portion of this series is the male lead (Ichika) simply being harassed by the women in his class while a select few get more attention because they’re good at piloting the aforementioned high-flying suits of armor (IS).
It’s a double dosage of disdain from me with this aspect, as I loathe self-indulgent writing and have grown to shudder at the sexualization of women in fictional media. And yet, I almost prefer these dumb scenes over when Infinite Stratos tries to be serious, because trying to go both ways on the serious scale is a sure sign of dysfunction. Its first two episodes are fine; a tad goofy, but situations are explained adequately and characters are introduced to give each episode a certain spice of personality. From there, it hovers around being exclusively ecchi garbage and a serious implementation of IS-themed learning bits and character… “development.” The quotes are indicative of the series’s bizarre narrative decisions when it comes to said development, as it’s apt to explain everything a character’s dwelling with on the inside, then erases their past and makes them part of the goofy “I-want-Ichika-and-no-one-will-stop-me” fan club.
A perfect example of how this fails is the first part of the final episode, which I won’t spoil in case anyone actually wants to watch this unfold. It is uproariously stupid, and almost as oblivious as Ichika is to the women’s advances in its self-awareness. Or maybe it isn’t? I can’t even tell. A world in danger, things on the brink of destruction, weird dreams and a bunch of deep, mind-boggling dialogue from ghosts… An episode and a half prior, we were on a beach rubbing suntan oil on a busty teenager’s back while she made sexually-suggestive noises in response. What the hell is all this now? Hard to take seriously would be an understatement.
There’s a certain beauty to it, too. Plot-wise, it’s a mess. It gives zero shit about its characters aside from their use in pulling in horny viewers, evidenced by its bare minimum, bare reward development strategy. The animation is pretty good, and the only saving grace of the serious atmosphere attributed to battles. Whatever appeal it has is in its ironic tendencies as a good-bad subject. I was never bored watching Infinite Stratos, except at the very end when things got super serious because that’s what all anime does. I would even recommend it as an example of the dumb absurdity anime can offer, if only for shock value or “scientific research.” Doesn’t mean it’s good, but it has that “popcorn movie” factor that keeps people watching.
So, in some bizarre sense, I was pleasantly surprised by this re-watch. I think it’s better than the first time, though only because I was expecting it to be complete garbage, just to have it be kinda bad. Infinite Stratos, underneath its problematic scenario and regard for its female characters, is like a tangled jungle of wires off of hundreds of different wired objects, forever entrenched in a puzzle that will never be solved. Those wires are different intentions, and the constriction is the manner in which it further exacerbates the ridiculousness of throwing too much in at one time. It will only be entertaining for those who want mindless entertainment, or enjoy the chaotic eccentricity of sheer ineptitude. Not sure which comes closer to visual nirvana.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
If you’d like to see more reviews like this, feel free to look at my full list of anime reviews!
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.
2 thoughts on “Merry Days of Anime: Infinite Stratos (Season One; Re-Watch)”
IS has always been a harmless harem, but fuck do I wish Ichika (in my view, the worst harem male lead starring in a halfway decent series) was given just one ounce of self-awareness.