「クラスメイトは全員女」 (Kurasumeito wa Zenin Onna)
“The Classmates Are All Girls”
As with most premieres, the start of Infinite Stratos was primarily about character introductions and establishing the plot, most of which I already mentioned in the Winter 2011 Preview. What was nice though was the cold opening of some IS training that helped offset the lack of any scrimmages for the rest of the episode. In most part, this premiere mainly reiterated the impression I got from the promotional videos. A lot of the scenes and dialogue were taken from this first episode after all, so there wasn’t much in the way of surprises. I had a good idea of type of series I was getting into and I got a good first taste of it.
Looking back, the pacing felt somewhat slow due to the relatively uneventful nature of this first showing, but I like how it eased me into the series. With Orimura Ichika (Uchiyama Kouki) already attending IS Academy as the only male in the world to be able to pilot the Japanese-developed exoskeletons, it felt like I was watching the second episode, so I appreciated the extra time spent familiarizing us with his childhood friend Shinonono Houki, and making the uneasiness he feels in a school full of girls who are interested in him for various “reasons” apparent. I rather enjoyed seeing our tsundere childhood friend character showing her brash yet girlish side right away, as it made it really easy to take a liking to Houki, even without taking Hikasa Youko‘s acting into consideration. In contrast, Ichika’s older sister Chifuyu, who’s both their homeroom teacher, dormitory leader, and the talk of the school due to her championship in the first IS world tournament, provided most of the actual abuse that Ichika had to endure. Voiced by Toyoguchi Megumi, Chifuyu’s stern attitude with her easygoing little brother is something that grabbed my attention almost immediately, since it featured Megumi in a prominent role again and took away some of Ichika’s poor treatment from Houki.
I was prepared for an abusive relationship between our hero and heroine, but deep down inside I was hoping Houki would have a better balance of her polar personalities. Luckily, that appears to be the case so far, considering how she lashed out at Ichika out of embarrassment more than anything else upon finding out that he’s her roommate, and out of a bit of jealousy upon seeing how popular he is among the girls — two reasons I can accept. Whatever the case, the interactions between those two should be the center of attention for most of the series, so if you haven’t found them amiable and fun to watch yet, then there’s a good possibility that this “high-speed school battle romantic comedy” may not be for you.
In terms of progression, it seems like we’re going to get slowly introduced to more of the cast as we go, starting off with Britain’s proud elite representative, Cecilia Alcott. In light of her superior and self-centered complex, Ichika’s stupidity and nonchalant attitude was a breath of fresh air since he unintentionally put her in her place by saying that he also beat a teacher in battle, and later wondering what sort of handicap he shoud give her in their upcoming scrim to determine the class representative. Given my anticipation of hearing Yukana in another high school role, I have to admit that Cecilia left me with mixed feelings. I still love her roles, but here she was obviously cast for the haughty princess-like personality she can portray, similar to the one she used for Mashiro in Mai-Otome. It does double as a bless in disguise however, since various parts of Infinite Stratos’ premise reminds me of a lot of Sunrise’s series. e.g. Girls in powered suits, opening theme by Kuribayashi Minami.
Anyway, I like what I’ve seen so far despite the arguably slow start. We’re guaranteed at least one IS battle next time with Ichika up against Cecilia to decide the class rep though, so those wanting to see more high-speed aerial battles (myself included) will have something to look forward to. My guess is that Ichika will continue to do what he did here and bring Cecilia back down to Earth, which should be interesting since he’s shown that he’s terribly unprepared for piloting an IS. On a production-related note, some people may not like the use of CG for a lot of the battle sequences, but I find a similar approach for the distant shots in STRIKE WITCHES 2 worked well. It’s not too surprising that 8-Bit chose to go that route, when Macross Frontier also used a fair bit of CG.