Infinite Stratos 2
Ichika Orimura occasionally spices up his harem lifestyle with some practice with his Infinite Stratos mecha, but not that often, and when he DOES practice, thieves keep showing up, so he has to waste his time on real battles instead of his important fake ones.
WARNING: SPOILERS HERE FOR BOTH SEASONS OF THE SHOW. But since the series is already pretty rotten, how bad can some additional spoilage be?
Infinite Stratos 2 is everything Infinite Stratos 1 was, but more so, and that's hardly a good thing. To wit:
(1) IT FEATURES POORLY-CHARACTERIZED VILLAINS. Persons who waded through Season One will remember that in that one it was unclear whether there was an actual villain at all, or just some allegedly intelligent individual playing stupid games. This time we do have an actual group of female villains, called Phantom Task, who seem to specialize in stealing IS units- and greatly improving on them, apparently; it usually takes our entire group of heroes to fight one of their machines to a draw, which cries out for THIS solution: "Don't lock 'em up- hire 'em as engineers!" Other than large breasts and bombastic attitudes, there's not much you can say about them, which makes them indistinguishable from most of our heroes, come to think of it. One of the villains DOES like to wear a low-cut evening dress as her working clothes, which brings us to Point 2:
(2) FOR A HAREM ANIME, IT'S SURPRISINGLY RETICENT ABOUT FANSERVICE. I think I noted this same thing about Season One, but Season One did have some nudity. This time we have another fawner on Ichika, one Tatenashi Sarashiki, who's supposedly class president and whose hobby seems to be arranging elaborate cosplays in which the girls compete for Ichika's attention. (The Cinderella one must have cost the Infinite Stratos Academy a truckload of money to stage- do class presidents in Japan really command budgets like that?) Another was intended for the girls to demonstrate their domestic skills to Ichika, and I believe some lingerie might be seen there, but by and large the Second Season is even more coy about fanservice than the first was. For example, here we have THE dumbest bit of scripting I've EVER seen: ALL the students (and remember, except for Ichika, they're ALL girls) want Ichika to take their measurements for the school physical. (Don't ANY of these girls have any other interests?- like, say, actually learning how to use an IS?- or at least have a boyfriend back home?) Ichika, being the upstanding guy that he is, won't shame them by looking at them in their undies (even though they're obviously already shameless), so he decides to take their measurements while blindfolded.
In any event, there was a lot of blank screen, a lot of girls squealing, and the audience, I guess, is supposed to be titillated by all that female flesh that neither Ichika nor the audience can see.
And sorry fanboys, when Ichika CAN see it, it's not necessarily better for YOU. Later in the series, one of the girls is bending over to retrieve something for Ichika, and he comments that he can see her panties-but the audience can't. A harem anime that skimps on fanservice would seem to have little reason for existing at all, unless there were particularly good characters, honestly good jokes, or some other genuinely positive thing about the show. But it's nope, nope, and nope. Aiden has commented about the male leads in harems being indecisive, and Ichika certainly resembles that remark- while this show has always had one girl who's the one I think he's supposed to get in the end because she cares more deeply for him than the others, there's no evidence that he cares more about HER than the others. And he's dumb as (or maybe just as insensitive as) a bag of rocks- the girls traipse around with him as a mob because they don't want any one of their number spending more time with him than they do, but he can't understand why they get mad at him when he wants to spend a lot of time privately with one girl. But the girls aren't much better:
(3) EVEN WHEN THE GIRLS AREN'T ANNOYING ON THEIR OWN, THEIR OBSESSION WITH ICHIKA DEMEANS THEIR CHARACTERS. I grew to HATE the voice actress of "Cecilia Alcott"; I know that a high-pitched female voice is considered attractive in Japan, but she seems to have been trying for an edge here by sucking on helium. Most of the others- Lingyin Huang (formerly Rinin Fang; the Chinese may have complained about the transliteration) and Houki herself are here reduced to ciphers; even Laura Bodewig has finally shed her militaristic bravado and become as meek and submissive in the presence of the Great Ichika as all the others. The major exception is in the aforementioned cosplay contests, where the girls get to shed their "-dere" and become as "tsun-" as ever.
The one semi-exception has been Charlotte. Poor, poor Charlotte. The only one of the girls I actually half liked, at her best she's a modest, gentle soul and yet a competent warrior, qualities which reminded me a lot of Sailor Moon's Ami Mizuno. Unfortunately, Charlotte is as afflicted with Ichika-itis as the rest, and her reward for being the least overbearing of the girls is to be the definite dark horse here, and to have one humiliation after another heaped on her.
THIS time we also have the sister thing. Perhaps finally conscious of the lack of interesting drama in the First Season, this one is framed by quarrels between sisters. First we have one between Tatenashi and her sister, Kanzashi; supposedly Kanzashi has problems with "self-esteem" but her real issue seemed to me simple cowardice. Some quarrel between Tabane and Houki is referenced as well, but I'm having more problems accepting Tabane as a character than ever; she's back, complete with her rabbit ears (which she can flex), her "space cadet" manner (despite her alleged extreme intelligence), and now she's added a superpower- the nimbleness of Spiderman. Any interest in the Tabane-Houki quarrel (whatever it is) that I might have is negated by the inability to take Tabane seriously as a human being. Given Tabane's silliness, the ears, and her newfound spryness, it would be very like trying to take a brotherly quarrel seriously if one brother was human, and the other was Bugs Bunny. (Roger Rabbit I could believe as the brother, but Bugs, no.)
OK, SPOILER ALERT- another sisterly quarrel in this series should lead to a final confrontation, but it doesn't quite happen in the 12 episodes streamed, and that's absolutely all I know. (I don't know if it's resolved in a 13th episode, or if - PLEASE GOD, NO!!!- there's a third season of this planned. I can only speak about what I saw. )
The show's opening and closing songs are as lively, and as utterly forgettable, as ever. I wanted to end this review on a positive note, but I'm afraid it's a mixed one:
(4) FOR SOME REASON, SOME OF THE BACKGROUND ART IS LOVELY AGAIN, AND THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW MINOR IMPROVEMENTS. A CG rendition of an autumn forest in Episode 11 is simply gorgeous. The IS units seem to have gotten a facelift too, and the battles this time are more intricately detailed, but the latter is at the expense of having fewer of them. The character art is as mediocre as ever. Perhaps the team doing the background art feels guilty about being involved in what is otherwise such an utter piece of crap, and feel they should put SOMETHING good in it.
But too late, and far too little, guys. Sorry. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Oddly, the most passionate sexuality here is between two girls, but there's enough innuendo to make this Not For Kids. Older teens and up OK as long as they nevertheless have an adolescent male mentality, and an easily satisfied one at that.
Version(s) Viewed: Stream courtesy of The Anime Network.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Infinite Stratos 2 © 2013 Lantis, Project IS.
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