There was once a time in the early years of the 2000s where Harem shows were one of the more popular genres of anime even in a few parts of the western world with titles such as Tenchi Muyo and Love Hina. Though the former wasn’t loved because of this specific trope, the latter show had indeed put the genre more focus on the anime community at large with its quirky cast of characters. Nowadays the harem genre isn’t as it once was, not really in terms of merit but in popularity so to speak. Once in a while we get one that does try to put different ideas in how to view the genre in terms of parody, comedy, and character development. But there are some that don’t try to do anything unique to the genre as a whole and most likely felt like could’ve been a lost harem idea back in say, 2002 at most.
Now we have the 2nd season of Infinite Stratos. A series that the majority of people, even fans of Harem, show no restraint in voicing their own hatred of it. Yet somehow, it has gone to sell like hotcakes despite its lack of authenticity of being anything more than drab and generic. Now, even with all of this in mind, the one thing that makes me question on this whole thing is: Why is this show getting all of the attention from people buying up all the OVAs and BDs when there are better harem shows out there and are even still continuing to this day?
Some that come to mind are Hentai Ouji, Sora no Otoshimono, To Love Ru Darkness, Kore wa Zombie, and Haganai. All of which have the infinite amount of personality and creativity to its own comedic writing and overall creative charisma that the series could ever have in its own little world. But, of course, I’d have to explain why I think of Infinite Stratos this way but the only reason I bring this whole comparison thing up is just because….there really isn’t that much to say about this next installment in the franchise, other than the fact that it pales in comparison to shows like it.
There are certainly some awful characteristics to be made public about Infinite Stratos. It’s quite obvious to see how badly written the story is for something like Infinite Stratos, but what makes it even more perplexing is just how there’s so little plot to begin with. What little serious drama that they do make comes across as muddled and overly not well-paced at all. All it is is just the characters going through separate kinds of problems that typically might involve Ichika to help them that eventually leads to him in a suggestive situation involving him getting kicked or beaten to a bloody pulp for accidentally peaking on them changing or saying something that made them blush. From what you could get out of from this description I made, you might think of it as a good thing that they’re sacrificing plot in order to put more emphasis on comedy that can succeed. Unfortunately this sacrifice only provided a lukewarm reception in all aspects.
The way to describe the comedy in Infinite Stratos in one word is “haphazard.” There’s hardly any clever gags to most of the jokes to the point where it’s almost as if the writers just copy-and-pasted the jokes on the scene in question and prayed that the audience would get a laugh from it. A few do garner a little chuckle here and there but the vast majority don’t even deserve a snicker in the slightest. We’ve all seen the typical Onsen and accidental peeking scene in every harem show in existence, so why keep milking it to the people who are already tired of it? I’m sure there are many people who don’t mind that kind of humor but there comes a time when they need to at least inject new kind of life into these kinds of jokes or else it’s going to be the equivalent of getting your face getting passively slapped multiple times by the people who come up with this day after day.
Not only do the writers not put in any new effort into the jokes themselves, but even the jokes that they wrote are so muddled and confused on its own reason for existing in the first place. One prime example is when Charlotte forgot to wear her panties and she’s too embarrassed to tell it to Ichika, for some reason that is never explained. When she finds out later that they are back on, after being noted by Laura, she pulls up her skirt and even tells Ichika to look at them even though he didn’t want to. Despite this, she still feels embarrassed and calls him a pervert, even though beforehand she had no problem to tell him to look. It’s almost as if the one of the writers forgot what the punchline was supposed to be and, what I assume in a desperate attempt at trying to be clever, just with the generic route of letting Charlotte call him a pervert for no reason. Good job on that one guys…
With the writing automatically becoming a one trick pony, the overall character cast don’t provide better reception but there are a few that do get some laughs. The new character Sarashiki is quite humorous in her attempts on being sneaky and conniving in messing with Ichika and his romances, even with her muddled reasoning for liking Ichika in the first place. But the charms pretty much stops there in the 2nd half when her appearances are only brief and we have to sit through her sister who just doesn’t have anything going for her other than that she’s there to fill out the 2nd to last arc that hardly amounts to anything other than her being Ichika’s next girl in his harem. As for the rest, they don’t really improve on from the 1st season nor do they really decline in quality either since they weren’t even that strong to being with other than being cute girls. Strangely enough, Lingyin hardly makes an impression in this season, which might indicate that she might have been the least popular of the girls, even though personally Cecilla would’ve been the more reasonable choice.
Then we have Ichika, the main protagonist, who is just about the by-the-book harem protagonist that you could ever find out of the entire catalog of dense male protagonist. It’s safe to say that Ichika represents what most otaku love to see, a poor guy that acts so brainless to his own male hormones that he can’t even muster up the courage to express his true emotions so that they can feel better about themselves. Here’s a pretty unique idea: How about a strong male protagonist who actually acts like how an actual male at his age would do at that typical scenario? Now I’m not saying that being a total pervert openly is a good thing nor does this indicate that we need more protagonist to think of females as nothing but sex objects. But when you’re like me and you constantly see someone like Ichika that does the same shtick where he always acts like he doesn’t have any interest in any of the girls yet somehow later on does and he can’t find the courage to admit it openly, you’d think that we would be tired of this kind of thing around 2005, but nope.
The technical prowess of the show aren’t of any special value because of the generic designs of the mechs, the really average attempts on CG, and the average character designs; though admittedly the girl designs are definitely colorful and nice to look at. Not to mention the opening and ending animation is almost like they recycled some of the animation that we saw in the previous ones in the first season. Then we have the ensemble cast, to which I must ask how in the name of all that is good and decent did these talented seiyuus signed up again for this? I mean granted Kana Hanazawa is in every show that comes out these days, but actresses like Yoko Hikasa, Chiwa Saito, and Inoue Marina really deserved better to be in something else than this. They do their best attempts at trying to be charming as usual, but even with those in mind it doesn’t really dull out the pain of going through mediocrity.
This could’ve been an attempt at trying to pull out a full-blown rant into tearing this show apart like some of my colleagues are willing to do but in all honesty, as far as harems go, you could sit through way worse. You could probably dig deeper into the lost collection of thrown out harem shows that have even been dumped by the studios themselves in the past and see how so much worse they can be. However, since Infinite Stratos is headed by a well-known studio as of now, it can definitely be seen as a high-profile failure in trying to reboot the series that was in dire straits of regaining some merit, if there was ever one to be found to begin with. Not something that I would ever in my life ever watch fully again, maybe only a few amusing clips of it, but as I said before, I’ve seen way worse.