The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry

Title: Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry aka Souko no Strain
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Studio Fantasia
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 1 Nov 2006 – 14 Feb 2007

Synopsis: Sara Werec is a 16 year old pilot trainee of her nation’s most powerful weapon, the Strain. Following in the footsteps of her brother, Ralph Werec, Sara dreams of becoming a professional Reasoner and joining her brother in combat within the deepest reaches of space. Her dreams, however, are quickly shattered when her planet is attacked by her brother who has betrayed his mission, his country, and his beloved sister.

The Highlights
Characters: A rather uncommon setup for an all too common group of clichés.
Drama: The willingness to kill main characters is interesting; the primary conflict is not.

Studio Sunrise is and always has been a standard for the anime industry. Its ideas and innovations have been reused time and time again (most zealously by fellow Sunrise staff members) that they have become ingrained within the very fabrics of the anime culture. For instance, Soukou no Strain is Studio Fantasia‘s take on Gundam except with a dash of moe and a ham-fisted attempt at drama.

I suppose changing the lead character from an angst-filled male to a stoic female and changing the primary antagonist from a masked man with a troubled past to said female protagonist’s older brother can alter the dynamics of character interactions and create a whole new product, but the war drama that ensues is at best lukewarm. Pardon the pun, but the creators seem to be strained when it comes to creating those meaningful breather moments where characters can just be themselves. Introspection is either clichéd or forced, and the comedy is completely out of place. Jumping into the main story from episode 1 has its strengths, but with so many characters fighting and dying without proper development, the conflicts feel overly melodramatic and are ineffectual.

To the show’s credit, the anime’s willingness to kill off primary characters makes the show far more engaging than it should be. Even the obligatory, episodic fight scenes come across as somewhat tense since any stray bullet can be a character’s last. Though the animation is generic, the CGI is good enough to make the mecha fight scenes watchable, and the music is decent.

The primary problem I have with the show is its main source of drama: the conflict between Sara and her brother. While the brother/sister conflicts can be interesting, the one presented in Souko no Strain fails to come across as genuine. Sunrise always made sure that their antagonists were something of an enigma, so that when they eventually conclude that destroying Earth with some doomsday device will bring about world peace, there is enough wiggle room to concoct some sort of reasoning behind the antagonists’ actions. Souko no Strain spends so much time showing that Ralph is a loving, caring person who only wanted to give his little sister the world that it becomes extremely difficult to believe that he would become so warped except out of sheer plot convenience.

I would like to say that this anime is a diamond in the rough, a show that could become great with a bit of polish, but virtually everything this series offers has already been buffed to mirror shine by a vast multitude of other shows that there’s no reason to give this that benefit of the doubt. Souko no Strain is a mediocre war drama that tries to and fails at creating a likable cast from its already clichéd characters, which ultimately dooms the production into deserved obscurity.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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