Infinite Stratos at its best is a whimsical harem series with a bland protagonist who comes good in spots and the real focus is on the girls who have affection for him. This formula worked well enough in the first season for the fact that it kept the story and character development as simple as possible. With enough demand for more IS, a second season was ordered up and ready to go into one of the most packed seasons in recent memory. I wouldn’t be the first person to say that it has been a disappointment even by the first season’s low standards, but why did it have to be this way?
I think it’s best to start off from the beginning in the first season. The formula as I said before was simple. Ichika, as the only male capable of piloting one of the IS suits, is entered into a training academy filled with girls and their raging hormones and curiosities about their new classmate. Then there is the main circle of romantic interests which are also quite simple characters. There’s the tsundere childhood friend (Houki), the ojousama (Cecilia), the flat-chested childhood friend with a complex about it (Lin), a girl with a complete misunderstanding of Japanese culture (Laura) and the girl who had to hide as a boy until Ichika convinced her to live on her own terms (Charlotte). Through the common harem trope of his being able to make any girl fall in love with him, there were many close romantic encounters that were close enough to draw the girls closer to him without having an end result. The points of conflict in the series were either between the group above which would be resolved by becoming Ichika’s romantic interest, or a faceless organization that attacked periodically.
Now in the second season, there has been this need to make the series more complex. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that there are actually three different stories happening that feel like they are being held together with duct tape since they do not naturally go together.
There’s still that harem series that worked in the first season showing up in patches. The best example of that being the party episode celebrating Ichika’s birthday. Then there are the 2 new elements. The most noticeable of those is the enemies now being humanized. Phantom Task doesn’t really seem to serve a purpose on a collective level other than the fact they all seem to have a gripe with Chifuyu. Whenever any of them appear, it turns into an entirely different and pointlessly darker show as well. These are the people who kidnapped Ichika when he was younger and for the most part they seem to be popping pills and angry for some reason. One of them even claims to be the younger sister of Ichika and Chifuyu, but that just seems to get glossed over or brought up at random times after that came out.
The other new portion is really two new girls to add to Ichika’s harem. The student council president Tatenashi, didn’t appear until now and suddenly becomes a contender as the older sister type girl. She’s also overpowered to absurd levels in everything she does and manages to become the latest to be Ichika’s roommate. Because plot. Anyway, she’s got a younger sister who hates Ichika for reasons completely out of his control and you probably know where this is going. They already did this with Laura, and one cannot go back and repeat the exact same conversion from hating harem lead to falling in love with him. If there’s anything more to show that this series is out of ideas, it is the character of Kanzashi, and she’s only been in one episode.
So in summary, Infinite Stratos falls victim to one of the easiest things that comes with success. The fact is that the end of the first season was a perfectly good way to wrap things up, but the chance to get more money from making the same thing is really human nature. I think the Phantom Task angle was something they had to address from the first season, but not much thought went into it beyond making them angry at something. The two sisters is just an attempt to replicate what happened in the first season, but the cast exceedingly looks too large to support what made that work.
It may be easy to say that I should drop this, but despite the numerous flaws this second season still provides me with enough entertainment to keep me watching. Yes, even someone like me who blogs about anime can still get caught up in continuously thinking about who the best girl is even as the rest of the show collapses in on itself in failure.