Oestrogen onslaught

An Infinite Stratos 2 review

One of the odder bits of history for me is that the original series of Infinite Stratos broke me out of a slump with anime that had, until then, lasted for several months. It was brain-dead entertainment with few, if any, redeeming features and I was happy to assign watching it as aberrant behaviour. After all the story just ends without conclusion or explanation which isn’t surprising when it is the epitome of the harem setup; but whatever the first anime series did half-heartedly, the second (with the oh-so confusing title, Infinite Stratos 2) does with ferociously awful gusto.

just a hostage situation in a maid cafe and invites to fun-times at an amusement park

Not content with five girls all chasing the sole male, Ichika, two more are added (sisters, natch) and join the queue for wooing the dunderheaded lead. After all, this isn’t the story of a boy being able to pilot a heavily armed mechanical exoskeleton when only girls have been able to do it before. This isn’t even the story of a secret shadowy organisation trying to do… something nefarious. It’s about five, then seven, sexually frustrated girls trying to impose their own vision of lusty romance onto a boy whose obliviousness to their overtures borders on the mentally deficient. All the pesky and sporadically engaging CG combat just gets in the way of cooking for him! Or celebrating his birthday! Or going on play dates with him! Or just outright chasing him!

The first episode lays the groundwork for what is to come with no hint of the last series’ events, just a hostage situation in a maid cafe and invites to fun-times at an amusement park. It isn’t until deep into the fourth episode, a third through the series, that something other than doe-eyed fawning comes along. What could have been an interesting close quarters scuffle - quite apart from the expansive sky-rending shoot-outs seen before - is instead protracted and achingly wordy. Certainly the crude character models nestled in the otherwise detailed CG exoskeletons aren’t ready for their close-ups, but none of the benefits of using CG are utilised. The fights are woefully directed and have no sense of rhythm or danger.

None of the lead cast can die or even be wounded of course; in fact none of the secondary cast can either, or any of the antagonists… The only truly dangerous occupation is to be one of the nameless “military” exoskeletons that are chopped down with surprising regularity and little fanfare. Surprising given none of the lead cast have any skill in battle either and any kind of progression promised by Ichika’s training regimen is quickly forgotten about. That happens only slightly before the animators forget about huge swathes of the final episodes, which itself is preceded by the director wrongly assuming there was more running time than there actually was.

Apart from incompetence, there’s no other explanation for plot points being wholesale ignored. If the series wanted to go down the light-comedy, fan-service route it would have been better served not bothering bringing them up. Likewise if a gripping tale of family and friends in a time of future combat was on the cards, why bother with an extended storyline on a shy girl being smitten by the dullard Ichika? Instead, the series ends up being atrocious at both with insipid characters and a setup banishing what should have been an easy win with girls in skin-tight suits bashing the tar out of one another.

There is a scene midway through the series when Charlotte - whose introductory storyline last time involved the importance of her pretending to be male - is afflicted with disappearing underwear for reasons ill-explained and likely too tedious to enumerate. She is about to lift her skirt to show Ichika her lack of underwear but is interrupted, thinking to herself afterwards: “What was I doing?”

I asked myself the same thing after every episode: I could feel my IQ leaking out and yet I still continued watching. Not for the hope of some saving grace, but for all its faults, Infinite Stratos 2 is entirely unaware and somewhat unpretentious at just how stupid it is. That makes it as equally easy to watch as it does to cast aspersions on it. A palette cleanser and a time waster, the series is all but impossible to recommend when after a total of twenty four episodes and two abrupt endings nothing worth noting has been resolved, changed, defeated, investigated, progressed, romanced or even just unceremoniously mounted.

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