「海に着いたら十一時（オーシャンズ・イレブン）」 (Umi ni Tsuitara Juuichi-ji (Ooshanzu Irebun))
“Arriving at the Ocean at Eleven O’Clock (Oceans Eleven)”
I think I need to add a favorite beach/hot spring episode to the year-end post, because Infinite Stratos’ one reminded me of what it means to have a perfect balance between plot, character development, and fan-service. It also highlighted how cute the series’ female cast is and avoided the pitfall of having a completely senseless battle on the beach for Ichika’s affection. All the girls except Houki had an opportunity to make a daring statement with their swimsuits and the only bit of contention was all in good fun, care of our dejected Cecilia/Rin duo and their love/hate relationship. The last time I enjoyed a romantic comedy with a harem spin this much was in Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls and before that, Asu no Yoichi, so I’d recommend checking those two out if you like what you see here.
If I were to try and assess the compatibility rankings this week, I’d say Charlotte’s running away with the lead thanks to her bold changing room move to shake off their followers. That’s on top of being the first to get an affectionate name from Ichika himself. Laura kind of slipped in undetected (…right into Ichika’s bed) and was the first to willingly bare it all, which probably places her second judging from Ichika’s reaction. Cecilia with her seemingly promiscuous ways and enjoyment from taking away Ichika’s first-time experiences would be next, largely in part to her sun oil tactic followed by an inadvertent flashing. Rin on the other hand is swimming pretty deep in the dreaded “friend zone”, so much that even throwing herself at Ichika for incidental contact still doesn’t make Ichika see her as a girl. She’s walking pretty hand-in-hand with Ran, who for the life of her, can’t get him to notice her either.
That was more or less the impression I got, until Chifuyu showed up and took top honors with her lingerie-like bikini. The sister complex in Ichika seems to run strong, so much that even “Char” quickly acknowledged her as competition. It’s funny, because Charlotte didn’t seem to be worried about Laura when she brought her to Ichika so she could show him the swimsuit that fellow compatriot Clarissa Harfouch (Mizusawa Kei) “armed” her with. I guess she knew where she stood in relation and didn’t see Laura as a threat. I wonder if she’d feel the same way after learning about how she slept naked with him, much like Houki got the displeasure of finding out first-hand.
This brings me to Houki herself, who remains the one unknown as far as I’m concerned. As the other childhood friend, she’s pretty much in the same rut as Rin, except she hasn’t really done as much as the other girls to try and get noticed. She made that stipulation for the inter-class tournament, but outside of that she’s been relatively low-key and not clingy nor stalkerish like Cecilia and Rin tend to be. She was noticeably absent in all the antics this time around and instead served as the driving factor in the plot department. Incidentally, her reserved nature is the one subtle aspect of her character that I really like, changing her ever so slightly from our typical tsundere, even though I get the feeling she’s been less inclined to join in because she doesn’t possess a personal IS like the rest of them. It’s like how guys might use their car as a measuring stick to see how well they stack up to the competition, and would feel inferior if they don’t have the same status. Here, it’s girls and their IS.
Of course, that’s all about to change with Tabane (Tamura Yukari) finally showing up and bringing her little sister the Akatsubaki we saw her using in the premiere’s cold open. This felt like an “ask and you shall receive” situation, since I was just talking about Houki’s personal IS in the Retrospective Look for February. Overshadowed by all this is the fact that the next episode will be a continuation of the beach episode, plus how it’ll be about Houki’s birthday. The episode hinted at it, but in case anyone wasn’t sure, July 7th is Houki’s birthday. Tabane probably plans to give her Akatsubaki, so the real question is what Ichika bought her when he went off for a moment without Charlotte. It was a small box and whatever’s inside may just propel Houki up the rankings. 🙂
* There was a very subtle change in the opening sequence. Charlotte now wears a female pilot suit instead of the male one.
* I slaved away a bit on the images this time, putting together some full-length ones that required redrawing, or simply shouldn’t have been put together in the first place because of blurring or lighting effects. See images 04, 11, 15, 17, 21, 23, 30, 32, 34, 37, 39, 42. I even managed a little something special for preview 03. Say no to episode title text.