IS Infinite Stratos – 12 (END)
「君の名は（ユア・ネーム・イズ）」 (Kimi no Na wa (Yua Neemu Izu))
“Your Name Is”
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Charlotte just as much as the next person after seeing the amazing chemistry she had with Ichika, but deep-down inside I have to root for the girl who’s loved Ichika the longest and suddenly had to deal with a swarm of foreigners flocking around him. Poor Houki didn’t have a personal IS to stand on even ground for the longest time and spent the entire beach episode alone, so I was pretty happy when the stars aligned on her July 7th birthday and she got the final moment with Ichika as jealousy fumed from the sidelines.
In reality, there’s almost never a winner in harem anime, but I did like the way they saved Houki for last to emphasize that she is the “main” heroine of the story. Her fourth gen Akatsubaki also has something the other girls’ don’t — the ability to recharge Ichika’s “battery” and get his teenage hormones really pumping. I’ll be the first to admit that when they interfaced IS’s, I was left with a resounding thought that Houki can recharge my “batteries” any day. “Genran Butou” translates to “Flowery Dance” after all, so that could easily be misunderstood as something else. *cough* Combined with her gesture of happiness over Ichika seeing her as a girl, I was almost tempted to say Houki made the most progress overall, but that honor still goes to Laura as the only girl who actually kissed him.
On the IS side of things, the inner voice of Byakushiki (Miyamoto Yume) offering Ichika power had me wondering if there were some contractual terms involved. Luckily it was some regenerative ability that Tabane wasn’t even aware of, and mostly mirrored last episode’s instantaneous moment of understanding, which I’m inclined to believe was something Houki imagined Ichika would say to her, rather than something he actually said and distracted her with during their failed mission. It’s the only thing that seems to make sense in light of how Ichika thought Houki froze because her IS was out of energy, and how Houki feels responsible for having him protect her. In support of that idea, there was no indication that Ichika was aware of what happened when he gave her a new ribbon as her birthday gift, plus he doesn’t seem like the type to simply brush off something he’s responsible for. I agree he’s pretty oblivious to the girls’ feelings for him, but he’s been an otherwise respectable male lead with the way he stands firm for what he believes in. As such, it could very well be that a lot of unwarranted hate went Ichika’s way because of that ambiguous Newtype-like scene.
As for the high-speed action, there was actually a fair bit of new footage outside the inevitable conclusion that we saw three months ago as part of the premiere episode’s cold open. Byakushiki’s upgraded form “Setsura” didn’t really do anything special, so it was mostly the Gospel’s glowing angel wings that made the aerial battle a lot of fun to watch. It was befitting of a finale since everyone got involved in some way, but what actually caught my interest the most was the hypothetical discussion between Chifuyu and Tabane at the very end. Chifuyu implied that Tabane purposely lead Ichika to IS Academy to make it seem like he could operate an IS, only to find out that Byakushiki really did react to him, and went on to suggest that this whole berserk unmanned IS incident was Tabane’s doing to showcase what Houki can do with a fourth gen IS. The latter revelation took away from everything that’s happened, but not entirely because Tabane didn’t brush it off as a mere prank. When a normally carefree character talks in a calm and composed manner, I just can’t help but take notice. (What is Tabane really up to?)
Much like romantic high school comedies are known for, we’re left with another fairly open-ended conclusion. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with it because most of the appeal of these shows come from the characters interactions along the way and not the actual ending. It’s almost like slice-of-life, except with romance as the theme. I’m not opposed to something more coming from them, but I’m never the least bit disappointed when nothing does. In Infinite Stratos’s case, it’s been nothing but good times every week.
There isn’t a lot to sum up with this series, so I’ll simply reiterate the one impression I had that carried throughout the entire season — Infinite Stratos is harem anime done right. All the girls fall into various stereotypes but with subtle differences (e.g. a tsundere who can restrain herself at times), which changes things ever so slightly when they’re all vying for the male lead’s affection. Throw in a high-speed battle twist to that and the end result is a mash-up of two of my favorite genres. The cast is chock-full of some of my favorite seiyuus, namely Hikasa Youko, Yukana, Shimoda Asami, Hanazawa Kana, Inoue Marina, and stars the increasingly popular Uchiyama Kouki at the center of it all. I was very please with director Kikuchi Yasuhito and studio 8-Bit’s work, even though it’s hard to say how much of their previous work on Macross Frontier helped here.
If I were to nitpick on one aspect, it would be the heavy reliance on 3D animated character models for the distant shots of the IS’s, which wasn’t as seamlessly blended into the animation as STRIKE WITCHES 2. In execution, these cost-cutting measures didn’t terribly detract from the experience, but they were glaringly obvious every time they were used. However, that didn’t change the fact that this was my most favorite show of the season. I’m well aware that it’s not a stand-out series and wouldn’t even recommend it to most people, but I loved the characters and it provided endless amounts of entertainment. When it comes to anime, that’s all that really matters to me.