IS Infinite Stratos – 02
「クラス代表決定戦！」 (Kurasu Daihyou Ketteisen!)
“Decisive Battle for Class Representative!”
As the title indicates, this second episode was all Ichika’s IS battle with Cecilia, yet the absolute highlight for me came from his interactions with Houki. He’s not a complete pushover and treats her like the childhood friend that she is, which leads to some interesting scenarios in the face of her tough and seemingly cold demeanor. Disregarding the “high-speed” and “battle” portions of the series’ tag line, the “romantic comedy” part of it is starting give me some good looks, and I’m already starting to think Ichika and Houki make a really cute couple. I can safely say that he wears the pants in the relationship like he does his uniform, after Houki refuses his invitation to have lunch together and he nonchalantly gets her to come along anyway. The best part is that Ichika clearly isn’t interested in Houki romantically just yet, and is merely confiding in her as the only familiar face in an all-girls school that makes him extremely uncomfortable. He’s a normal respectable guy, and understandably oblivious to Houki’s feelings due to the brash treatment he receives from her. All the while, he doesn’t try to act cool in front of her, but still manages to say and do all the right things to keep himself on her mind.
So far, their developing relationship comes off fairly natural and doesn’t feel forced nor reliant on any third-party help, and even manages to avoid falling into the trap of having Houki constantly abuse Ichika to hide her own embarrassment. In fact, she seemed to feel bad about knocking him over in this episode, and that led to her helping resharpen his kendo skills after he slacked off three years in middle school in the “Go Home Club” (i.e. no club activities). Rather than simply hitting him for no reason, Houki copes with her feelings for Ichika by being strict with him, knowing what he was capable of in kendo, so I find her unbelievably cute when those emotions are written all over the face. She constantly turns away from him too, which I perceive as her way of avoiding eye contact and potentially getting flustered because of it. She’s given almost every indication of a girl in love and that alone makes her a lot of fun to watch. They say a girl in love gives off a very different kind of aura after all, and Houki’s very perfectly-balanced tsundere personality does just that, especially when Ichika manages to push all the right buttons without even trying. I realize there isn’t much competition in the romantic comedy department this season, but even if there were, Infinite Stratos would likely be at the top of my list since it has all the makings of what I look for in one.
Taking into consideration the high-speed battle side of things really turns this series into something else altogether, and I’ve already grown fond of Cecilia’s snobby character after her battle with Ichika. Despite losing by using the double-edged sword “Yukihira” that uses shield energy to power its blade, Ichika manages to cause a lot of unrest in her by holding his own in his Byakushiki, when it hadn’t even completed a “Format Fitting” customization for him as the new pilot. That’s on top of him being an absolute rookie against a self-proclaimed elite. It would probably rub Cecilia’s ego the wrong way even more if she learned that Ichika’s new personal IS is actually an incomplete “defective” unit with various caveats. In any case, it’s nice to see one side drive the other in this mash-up of genres, with Cecilia taking an interest in Ichika now. Incidentally, I like the way his fourth-generation IS has been made out to be shoddy, since it also bears a lot of unknown potential due to its similarities to his sister’s first-generation. It makes Chifuyu’s unrelenting attitude towards Ichika’s rather interesting, seeing as she understands both her little brother (i.e. his tendencies) and the IS he’s piloting really well.
As for the battle itself, once I saw Cecilia fire off the funnel-like weapons from her Blue Tears IS and Ichika evading what is arguably the most overpowered weaponry in the Gundam franchise, plus his Yukihira beam saber and “I can see it” (mieru zo) line, I was pretty sold on the IS battle side of things. In addition to the capabilities of each of the IS, I really like the uniqueness in each of their designs, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the other 467 units that Houki’s missing older sister Tabane (Tamura Yukari) developed the cores for. Next episode should be the precursor to another battle, as Ichika’s friend from middle school, the Chinese representative Fan Rinin (Shimoda Asami), makes her formal debut to the series. The only thing better than one childhood friend in a series is two, especially when the second one happens to be a cute foreigner.
It looks like I’ll be prepping a new ending video every week, as the song adds another seiyuu to the mix after an episode focuses on her character. This is probably the first time I’ve heard Hikasa Youko singing with Yukana, so it was an interesting duet for that reason alone, even with Yukana singing in character as Cecilia.