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.
Written on 30 December 2011.