Let it be clear, my fellow people of the interwebs; I am a fan of anime. But even I have a firm understanding of what makes an anime terrible. And unfortunately, my curiosity led to an especially terrible piece known as:
Please note, there will spoilers abound.
Here’s the foundation: some time in the future, someone in Japan invents a sort of powered exoskeleton suit that eventually becomes the next mainstream weapon, the eponymous Infinite Stratos (I.S. for short). The said weapon is powerful enough to render conventional military weapons into Swiss cheese, leading the many nations around to world to adopt its use. The catch? Only women can pilot I.S.’s… until protagonist Ichika Orimura stumbles on an I.S. and it activates for him, earning his one-way ticket to IS school, A.K.A. every guy’s dream school because… well… I.S.’s are piloted only by females. Whoa, wait! What’s the plot then?! Oh, nothing much. All there really is to the show is just accounting for his life of having to be the only guy in an all-girl academy, and therefore put up with the apparent raging hormones that every human has at his age. Oh, and someone for some reason is out to steal his I.S. core; did I mention that?
Anyway, I decided to check this out after I hit a roadblock concerning the female characters in my writings. I’m no misogynist, but I’m no feminist either, and it can be pretty tough trying to create likable female characters that feel like they’re women, and aren’t just eyecandy or harbingers of destruction. Being a follower of Extra Credits, seeing their episode “True Female Characters” helped me get a better idea of what making a good female character means. Well, I should have just left it at that.
But I’ve also come to realize something. Just like that episode of Extra Credits pointed out, you can create an entirely different society, and that’s what Infinite Stratos did. But the execution of it left me with a bitter aftertaste. Think of how Black Lagoon made the main hitter Revy in order to show how the crime world shows no discrimination in violence when it comes to sex. And if her violent urges aren’t enough, just look many times Revy says “Fuck” in that show.
Now, open up another tab, and go watch an episode of Infinite Stratos. Chances are, you’ve noticed how Infinite Stratos still suffers from the many cliches and stereotypes that you find in the typical Harem-genre anime. The male protagonist is a borderline good-for-nothing loser. There is a lack of a regular male foil. All of the female characters, whether main or just in the background, show a shallow love interest in him. No, seriously.
At a glance, the show suffers from the same problem as Infinite Undiscovery as pointed out in my last post. But in fact, I’d say it suffers from a bigger problem. Infinite Stratos just created a world where you could probably get into depth with the themes of feminism, gender equality, and societal pressures that have now been placed on the sexes. Instead, the characters have little presence as actual people of gender, only taking in the fact that nearly everyone in the series is of the female sex, thereby letting the potential it had go to waste. It then becomes clear that the main point of this series is simply to see how many different kinds of fetishes can you activate within your audience. Tsundere ice queen childhood friend? Check. British twit with a thing for men capable of conquering her? Check. Flat Chinese other childhood friend you (unknowingly) promised to marry with a habit of resorting to murder? Check. French reverse trap(!) who is the sweetest, gentlest, sanest, normalest girl of the cast? Check. German albino that starts off as being Ax Crazy before melting down to just being a girl with marriage fantasy? Check. Sole male protagonist with the common sense of a barnacle, especially when it comes to women and romance?
Normally, I say that whoever wrote this series in the first place is a complete fucking jackass. Until I found that that he’s struggling with his own health. I’ll admit, I felt like a complete fucking asshole for thinking that whoever made Infinite Stratos was just another moron who fell victim to catering the fetishes to the general audience. I can’t say that Yumizuru has been fully redeemed though, since the series is still just catering the fetishes to the audience. In the end, despite the action that Infinite Stratos offered, it suffers from flip-flopping between pro-feminism and pro-misogyny. The girls are obviously far stronger than the male lead, and yet they fall for the good-for-nothing jackass as if they themselves don’t have a brain. It’s like having to choose between simply sucking or being an ass.
Look, I understand it’s tough to make a harem-genre game/anime/manga that’s actually likable from multiple points of view. And I’ll admit, there are some bits and pieces belonging to the harem genre that I actually like (Koihime, Sekirei, Rosario + Vampire). But, seriously, not everyone is gonna be an adolescent slave to his own hormones forever. I’ve already grown out of lusting over fictional characters a loooong time ago, and its about time people come to realize this too.
Edit as of 6/5/12
If you had the interest of looking at this blog post, please give my other attention starved posts a look. I know that I probably made a point (or not) about this series, but it’s already a year since the end of the anime. Really. Please give the rest of my blog a look?