I have absolutely no problem with formulaic plotlines. Damn good series, whether they’re anime or otherwise, can be created out of the most generic of situations. All you need to do is toss in some neat stylistic flourishes, have some clever dialogue, and make the audience give a damn about what’s going on and you have yourself a winner. Shit like Air Master and Cobra follow your standard faire action movie storylines, while popular shit like One Piece and whatnot have drunk the proverbial shounen fighting series kool aid from the getgo and never veer away from that concoction, but peeps love this shit because these series finds ways to make that formula fun.
Judging from the first episode, Infinite Stratos isn’t interested in adding these little tidbits that change the generic into the awesome. Nope. It just wants to wallow in the same old shit.
I will give the series this: The main dude ain’t half bad. He isn’t a pushover that caves in to the whims of the hordes of chicks around him. He sticks up for himself without coming off as a prick, and I gotta give him props for that. He doesn’t flip out over the slightest hint of sexual contact with a female or anything like that. No fucking nosebleeds or tripping over and “accidentally” fondling chicks or any of that bullshit. If anything, he comes off as a halfway normal dude who just happens to be in the most fucking stereotypical anime ever made.
Everything else in the first episode follows the usual beats you expect from a harem anime. The childhood friend is coolly distant but still harbors obvious emotions for the dude. There’s the spoiled brat princess, who is conveniently from another country, and who has all of the same entitlement issues that are the trademark of such characters. The dude just happens to be the lone dude in a gaggle of gals, this time being the lone dude capable of piloting this world’s mecha equivalents. Because, you know, you have to isolate this dude from any male competition so the “romance” is completely void of drama outside of “who will he choose.”
It’s your typical harem situation, down to every last detail. Not a single bit of information strays from this path, save for the main dude having something resembling a backbone, and that fact alone isn’t enough to make this series stick out from the pack. Infinite Stratos seems content with being yet another mass-produced commodity churned out to an audience that doesn’t seem to care much if something tries to do its own thing so long as it hits all the same notes as every other series that’s come before it. It’s your typical anime crapshoot, where it’s yet another die roll looking to see if it’s the one that the hordes of undiscerning fans choose to latch onto and make their own. And if it fails, well, they’ll just try again next season and roll them bones one more time. The more you roll, the better your odds. You’ll get those insane sales eventually, and they’ll more than make up for the times you crap out getting there.
But yeah, every now and then something awesome comes out of that crapshoot. Someone gets some balls and bets on something other than the pass line. Maybe they bet on a hard eight and manage to roll those double fours. You’re still playing the same damn game, but you’re taking risks. That’s what many good series do. Like I said before, Air Master ain’t much different from any other fighting anime, but it manages to transcend those trappings with all of the little things it does right. It’s willing to stick with that formulaic game, but it’s also willing to make the riskier bets.
That’s all anime needs to do to be awesome. You can play the same old shitty game, just so long as you’re willing to take those risks. But judging from this one episode, Infinite Stratos doesn’t seem to be willing to do anything but pass. Meh.
And yeah, this craps metaphor would have been far more appropriate for Rio, but at least Rio had the guts to have some crazy flourishes towards the end of its first episode.