「転校生はセカンド幼なじみ」 (Tenkousei wa Sekando Osananajimi)
“The Transfer Student is the Second Childhood Friend”
If an anime is only as good as the sum of its parts, then Infinite Stratos’ formula is pretty sketchy with the inclusion of two childhood friends. What’s more, the recipe seems to go on the assumption that one tsundere isn’t enough, and adds two more for good measure. The setup sounds ridiculously lopsided, but it’s executed well and surprisingly works. Japanese not your thing? How about British? If that doesn’t work for you either, then we have Chinese, along with the stereotypical sweet and sour pork. Why does it always have to be sweet and sour pork when it comes to Chinese food?
While there were some IS training exercises in this episode, including Ichika showing us his “awesome” nosedive, the romantic comedy side of things absolutely stole the show and I was loving every minute of it. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the full twenty minutes and laughed out loud on four separate occasions. To that end, Ichika deserves all the credit in the world for being a respectable male lead in a paradise full of beautiful girls, where his denseness towards their feelings is a true blessing to me as the viewer. Kicking things off was Cecilia’s complete overnight bipolar turnaround, which was actually cute in its own way because her “Ichika-san” advances backed by Yukana’s voice came off like a girl helplessly in love. What was even better was the fact that she was helplessly in love with some competition, namely Houki, and was only further brushed off to the sidelines when the Chinese representative and Ichika’s second childhood friend, Fan Rinin (Shimoda Asami), made her dramatic entrance.
Shorter than the competition in a petite frame with a spunky attitude, twin-tail hairstyle, fang tooth, and shoulderless uniform, Rin was the fan-service of the episode as far as I was concerned. While all the other girls were trying to determine what sort of a relationship she has with Ichika, Houki and Cecilia peering from the next table over in the cafeteria was inexplicably amusing to me. (lol #1) Thus far, those two girls have made their feelings towards Ichika pretty obvious, yet haven’t resorted to slapping him around because he’s slow to catch on. Because of that, his lunch date with Rin to catch up on things led to a lot of quirky misunderstandings, such as how Ichika’s eaten over at her “place” many times in the past (i.e. her family restaurant). They were subsequently cleared up right away, but hearing Houki counter as the more “senior” childhood friend made that entire scene worthwhile. Cecilia was quickly ignored, while Houki’s reaction to being the first childhood friend set me off laughing. (lol #2) The best part of it is that it goes both ways, with Rin’s misunderstanding about Ichika’s talk about Houki and her using the shower first was just golden. “What does being a childhood friend have to do with showering!?” (lol #3) Last but not least was her marriage implication on treating Ichika to sweet and sour pork every day once her cooking’s good enough, which he clearly didn’t get and it was too embarrassing for her to spell it out for him. (lol #4)
Not to be forgotten, Houki does manage to keep her jealously in check relatively well, and vents her female frustration through some harsh “training” with Ichika. Seeing as there was a fight over who gets to be Ichika’s training partner, I was a bit surprised to see her work in tandem with Cecilia too. Where she draws the line is evidently being his roommate, which of course has the perk of getting Ichika’s hormones pumping when she inadvertently teases him by changing into her sleepwear. (That uniform zipper is scandalous I tell you!) I really like the way she didn’t back down, and didn’t she get flustered when childhood friend #2 tried to take over her space. To me, that level of composure goes a long way in keeping this series from crossing the line where all the girls are just throwing themselves at the main character, and maintains a respectable pretense on both sides of the equation.
Continuing on the thought above, it’s kind of cute how Cecilia has joined Houki in Ichika’s corner now that she’s “let him” become the class representative. I’m also looking forward to the fight against Rin’s Shenlong next time, simply because she’s proven to be a fairly capable pilot with a personal IS of her own, plus she has a wager with Ichika on the line. From their bickering I would imagine that she wants to order him to marry her, though I can’t see her being that forward about her feelings even if she does win. At this point, I’d say it’s unlikely she will win, but either outcome should lead to an interesting scenario since Ichika’s demanding an explanation on the sweet and sour pork thing if he comes out on top. All of the above simply reiterates to me how Infinite Stratos is quickly shaping out to be a harem series done right like I hoped it would be. Not only that, it’s an international harem series done right, with French and German girls still on the way.
* Note: I’ve decided to go with “Rinin” over “Lin Yin” in light of seeing that spelling used in the show. Also, there was no new variation of the ending theme with Shimoda Asami, so we’ll likely see one next episode.