A note on Infinite Stratos's Laura (and Ichika)
[...] The best shows of the genre have always had quirky, interesting characters injected into their relatively stock situation ([...]). IS has, well, Charlotte and an honorable mention in Laura.
It is also curious how our psychopath haremette gets points from Chris. My tastes lay, or actually run at full speed, in the opposite direction
The short answer is that I differentiate between attractive characters and interesting ones. I don't think that Laura is necessarily an attractive character; as Author mentions, she's more than a little bit off. But she's not a standard haremette straight from central casting, as many of the others are (childhood friend, stuck up rich girl, tsundere, etc). Her crazyness (and the resulting lack of genuine attractiveness) is why she only gets an honorable mention in comparison to Charlotte.
I would say that Ichika is far from stereotypical in the way harem leads usually are not. If they are not doormats, they are assholes, and there's nothing else.
First off, I have to admit that I don't actually remember much of what Ichika did in IS.
To me, Ichika falls into the general category of romance leads who just sort of muddle along in an undistinguished manner (much like the protagonist in, say, Otome Youkai Zakuro). Ichika is not a passive doormat, but he clearly didn't make much of an impression and I don't remember him doing anything much to take charge of the chaos around him. 'Did decently well for a teenaged boy' doesn't make him interesting.
(Mind you, it's hard for a male lead to do much in a harem setting without destroying the setting since he can't exactly pick someone and tell the rest of the girls to go away. Sustaining the 'harem' bit intrinsically requires that the character at the center not do anything definite. I suspect that this is one reason the genre fell out of favour, since it requires things to spend a lot of time not going anywhere.)
Reconsidering Infinite Stratos
Primarily due to Author's quiet advocacy, I've been thinking back about my view of Infinite Stratos for a while now. I've come to think that I (and the echo chamber of the anime blogosphere) may have been unduly dismissive, so I've decided to take another pass at what I think about it.
Stripped of its particular setting, Infinite Stratos is an old fashioned harem action/comedy show done pretty much straight, of a kind that we don't see very much any more (it's firmly in a genre that runs all the way back to, say, Tenchi Muyo! at least). The reason we don't see these sort of shows much any more is that they've been out of favour for a while, partly because the genre used to be overused by a lot of generic shows of this nature.
(I think this genre issue is part of the general dismissive reaction to IS.)
Despite the disfavour there's nothing wrong with the genre as such, and the genre means that IS is a cheerful action show of a sort that isn't very common these days (as Author notes). It's even relatively free of fanservice (which seems to be an ingredient that gets put into everything these days, much like salt and sugar). However, within its genre I think that IS is average. What brings it down to average is most of the characters, who are decidedly ordinary and even stereotypical (some of them almost painfully literally so, such as the pushy childhood friend). The best shows of the genre have always had quirky, interesting characters injected into their relatively stock situation (who could forget Tenchi Muyo's Ryoko and Ayeka, for example). IS has, well, Charlotte and an honorable mention in Laura.
(I don't think it's any accident that Charlotte is a fan favorite; she's one of the few interesting, non-standard characters in IS. That she's aware and smart is an extra bonus, since aware people are rare in harem action shows.)
What's in IS's favour is that it's unusual for today. Genuinely lighthearted action shows are uncommon right now; even something like this year's Sacred Seven had tragedies and death in the backstory. IS skips all of that, at least in what got animated, and that made it (as Author puts it) joyful and live.
(You should ignore my quibbles about the setting; they apply only if you take the show's background seriously, which I think you shouldn't. The background is just an excuse for the harem action fun.)
My short form summary is that IS is an average show, but shows in its genre aren't being done very much today and even an average harem action show is a nice contrast from much of today's anime.