Soukou no Strain – 01
When she was young, Sara Werec’s brother Ralph left home for military duty, leaving her a pendant with a music box inside. He had danced with her one last time, but she had been too distraught by the idea that he was going 130 light years away. Sara had cried until Ralph had to go, at which point she vowed to go to where her brother went. Ralph’s parting words told her that only she can accomplish what she decides to do, and that if she has those feelings, then there’s nothing she cannot do. Five years later, Sara is on a training mission taking out training bots at the Glabella Space Armored Infantry Science Institute with her three wingmen Colin, Mary, and Cedie (short for Cedric) in their Strain mecha. Cedric has feelings for her, but he’s unable to express them clearly, and Sara is too preoccupied with her now-famous brother to notice. It seems that in this period of time, Ralph has made a name for himself as a top pilot who gained the privilege of piloting a Gloire-class Strain. They live in a universe where humanity has developed ways to approach the speed of light, but a dispute that occurred with the expansion of their living space divided the human race into two: the Union and the Deague. The two sides have been fighting forever, and the Union side uses Strains and their pilots, called Reasoners.
On the way home, the Sara and her friends talk about the sub-light-speed maneuver they get to do for graduation. Sara in particular wants is looking forward to being able to go to where her brother is. Along the way, the four of them see a downcast boy named Higgins leaving with his bags packed. Apparently he damaged his Mimic recently. As their instructor explains later, Mimics are cultivated from people’s brains before they are born. Losing their Mimics means the end of them being Reasoners since the Mimics are used to control Strains. That night, Sara is listening to her pendant on the roof of the school when Cedie comes to see her. She convinces him to dance with her to the music, but then notices something falling in the sky. Explosion soon erupt in the horizon, alerting them to the fact that something is going on. After they see a Strain go down in flames, they realize that enemy Tumors are attacking. The two of them go to the hanger where their own Strains are kept and find Colin and Mary waiting for them. Mary has figured out that for Deague to be attacking them here, someone on their Union side must have betrayed them. The four then launch and find themselves up against a sky filled with Tumors.
Their battle starts with the Strains destroying several of the enemy, but Cedie soon notices a Gloire-class Strain falling through the atmosphere. He feels that something is strange about it, but before he can react, the Gloire destroys Colin’s Strain. It makes just as quick work of Mary, which infuriates Sara into attacking. However, she is no match for it either and almost dies, but is saved when Cedie knocks her out of the way. Unfortunately, this gets him killed in the process. After seeing Sara’s damaged Strain crash into the ground, the Gloire-class Strain heads off. As she gets out of the cockpit, an unhurt Sara realizes that the enemy is after an old military laboratory. Indeed, that’s where the Gloire arrives and its pilot disembarks at. This white-haired Reasoner makes his way inside and activates a room with a floor that opens up, causing a liquid-filled capsule to rise up. Inside is a girl who has strange markings on her skin. Sara meanwhile makes her way to the building and draws her weapon, but the shock of losing her friends suddenly hits her. Before she can grieve for too long, the sound of footsteps alerts her to the enemy’s presence. She finds the Reasoner about to re-board his Strain, so she fires a warning shot to stop him.
At first, Sara refuses to forgive him because he betrayed everyone, including Colin, Mary, and Cedie, but then a nearby explosion illuminates the area. It reveals the man’s face to be just like Ralph’s, except with white hair and a scar over his left eye. As Sara is standing shocked at the sight of her brother, the girl in his arms wakes up, smiles at him, and wraps her arms around him. Sara watches as he takes off in his Strain, so she borrows the Strain of a nearby dead pilot. She attempts to hold onto him, but the enemy Strain pierces through her armor into her cockpit, but the strike does not kill her. Instead, it cuts apart the necklace that held the pendant Ralph gave her. Sara’s Strain breaks into pieces and falls into the lake where she eventually emerges the next day. With tears in her eyes, Sara crumples to her knees and starts screaming into the morning sky.
ED: 「海のオパール」 (Umi no Opal) by Sema
Watch the ED! Mirror 1 Mirror 2 (4.4MB, XviD)
I’ve only listened to the ending song a few times, but I don’t really like it. The ending sequence that accompanies it is also rather uneventful because it features just Sara and someone else walking along.
The late entry into this season is WOWOW’s newest mecha-oriented series, Soukou no Strain. The first episode spent some time explaining the situation, but then really gets into the thick of things in terms of action and plot progression. I’m pretty impressed that they managed to kill off all three of Sara’s friends in the course of about 30 seconds. This was especially surprising given how they had been building up Cedie’s feelings for Sara, but I guess that just intensifies the impact of his death. I kind of wish I hadn’t read the series’ website a while back because it spoiled the fact that Ralph was going to be a bad guy. Still, there were plenty of clues in the episode – with all of the Ralph glorification going on – that I probably could have guessed the same thing if I didn’t already know.
In any case, I was pretty impressed with what the story so far and the Strain battles. The animation quality wasn’t the greatest, but it’s not bad either; it’s about what I’d expect for a show on WOWOW done by Studio Fantasia. As for the music, they seemed to use several variations of the theme from the pendant, which actually got stuck in my head once I heard it so many times. And for whatever reason, I’ve been really liking Kawasumi Ayako‘s work recently, so her voicing Sara was definitely a plus.
Because of it’s late premiere date and my own busy schedule, I’m just now getting around to blogging this. Honestly, I originally thought that I wouldn’t have time to write about Soukou no Strain, but watching it convinced me that perhaps I should try to make some time. That doesn’t mean that I’m definitely going to continue with it, but if I can manage to do some catching up on this show in the next week or so, then the odds are pretty good.