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Infinite Stratos II Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

11 min read

Infinite Stratos II DVDThe school days roll on with the addition of a few new characters and a side threat that looms large.

What They Say:
There are probably worse things that could have happened to Ichika Orimura than being the only guy in a training academy filled with military hardware and several battalions of highly competitive and extremely boy-crazed teenage girls. Being caught in a five-girl crossfire between his obsessive childhood friends Lingyin and Houki and the even more zealous British, German and French pilots Cecillia, Laura and Charlotte, at least turned out to be survivable. But surely Ichika’s finally put all his female troubles behind him, right? Oh, don’t be ridiculous.

None of the femmes fatales in his life have canceled their conquest scenarios. There’s double trouble arriving in the form of the Sarashiki sisters, the rest of the school is still waiting in line to take their shot. and when a whole new set of female pilots working for the bad guys shows up with a new generation of stolen IS hardware, things are about to get utterly lethal!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series is rather straightforward as we get the original Japanese language track as well as the new English language track, both of which are in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. The show is one that, while having an action component to it, is rather simple because it plays at being a high school comedy/fanservice piece in a lot of ways. When it does hit the action, it does do it rather well, though outside of the bookend aspects here and a nod or two in between, it’s mostly all about the character comedy and situations. Those have their moments of using the forward soundstage well as some wacky things do happen, but it’s mostly a traditional mix with the dialogue being center channel based with a few nods here and there where appropriate. It comes across well and the bits of placement work in its favor, though there’s not much depth to work with. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and the only really warm areas are the opening and closing sequences.

Video:
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across three discs in a three/five/four format that works because of some of the bonus materials. The first episode is almost double length and that disc has a full length bonus episode on it. Animated by 8-Bit once again, the show has a solid, consistent look to it that definitely plays to its strengths in the character designs and the color palette for it – especially skin tones in several scenes. The standard definition presentation here is pretty decent all around, though there is a certain softness to a lot of it at times that keeps it from feeling crisp and vibrant. The last episode in particular suffers a bit more because it’s mostly at night where the action takes place and some of the design elements fosters this feeling even more with the noise. In general, it’s a decent presentation for a DVD release, but that’s about the extent of what you can say about it.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release is one that’s certainly truth in advertising in a way with the cover art here. The release is done with a standard sized DVD case with a hinge inside that holds two of the three discs. The front cover artwork is one that has the familiar logo and hex design along the top while the rest of it is given over to all the main girls of the show. Ichika doesn’t make an appearance here, which of course reinforces his importance in the series overall. The artwork is good and I love the designs, so it certainly works in the sense of highlighting this part of the cast. The back cover plays the hex material a bit more with a blue and white design that works, though I hate that the bulk of the text here is done at a slight angle. As are the shots from the show. They’re good shots with a look at the design of the characters and colors which makes it appealing. The premise is well covered and we get a very good breakdown of the extras and episode formating. Round it out with the production credits and a clean technical grid and it’s all good.

Menu:
The menus for this release work well as we get a solid overall layout to it that fits into the theme of the show nicely while changing out character artwork of each volume, though someone always gets left out. THe look uses the blues and greens from the cover artwork, in a more vibrant way, with some angles and futuristic designs to it so we get the navigation along the left while the right has the artwork. The layout works nicely and it definitely has a polished look about it. Submenus load quickly and easily and we had no problems in setting things up or moving about during regular playback.

Extras:
The extras for this release are quite good overall, though in a backwards kind of way. We get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences across each of the volumes as there are differences along the way and I’m always glad when we get those in full. The big extra here isn’t really here in a way as what’s in this section is the broadcast version of the first episode. Getting that included is definitely a plus since it’s what most of us saw. Using the director’s cut version of the episode as the main one is the right choice, since it’s about fifteen minutes longer overall, and that episode is fun in that it expands the fanservice and fun that exists within the cast. It doesn’t add more depth, but it adds what the fans want. So I’m definitely glad that we got it and that Sentai placed it as the primary episode while also ensuring that we get the original on-air episode here as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novels by Izuru Yumizuru, Infinite Stratos 2 is the follow-up to the 2011 series of the same name. With 8-Bit coming back for the animation, it’s a seamless transition between the two seasons even with a couple of years between them and the show is still largely the same. Which can be a bit of a mixed bag depending on how you view it. I had liked the original season pretty well as it introduced us to Ichika, the sole male student in the academy who ended up getting in due to both family connections and the fact that they thought he was a girl based on his name. And because the IS exoskeletons they all wear can only be used by women, which is part of the shift in how society works. Not that we see it though since the academy and everyone on screen is a woman, which isn’t all that different from a lot of series of this nature with a hapless male lead thrust into an awkward situation.

With this season, which comes after an OVA released just prior to it that was not streamed for North American viewers, Infinite Stratos 2 works with two main storylines. One of them is mostly just more simple school based comedy material while the other is the more serious one. We’ll cover that one first since it’s the shortest and smallest part of the series, one that’s just barely in here overall and doesn’t even end satisfactorly. Because of the way the world is setup in how nations all have equal numbers of IS units in order to avoid any one nation dominating the other, there’s obviously going to be some wrangling to try and change that balance. Enter the Phantom Task group that is trying to upset the balance by doing some work themselves in investigating the academy, which leads to some small amount of subterfuge in a few episodes that seems kind of pointless and leads to the only real action of note in the final episode. All told, it takes about three episodes worth of material to cover the story and two of them it’s just part of the story. Suffice to say, the big picture is not an important part of this season.

The quirk of this part of the storyline is that while we have a few characters within Phantom Task that are running things as a small part of a bigger project, the main one that it spends its time focusing on is a character named M. Who we figure out pretty quickly is Madoka Oriumura, Ichika and Chifuyu’s younger sister. Not that Ichika knew he had a sister and not that Madoka admits to it for the most part. And it’s not something that Chifuyu wants to talk about either. But Ichika figures it out easily enough just looking at Madoka and is really curious and uncertain about it but doesn’t push it far since either Madoka is trying to kill him or he’s dealing with Chifuyu, which is like going up against a brick wall. It’s an interesting addition to the series and I like that it wasn’t overused here, and that Madoka isn’t dealt with in a huge way regularly, but I wanted a bit more to come from it all than we actually got here.

So where does that leave the other nine episodes of the series? In the same place as most series at this stage – introducing new girls. While the first episode focuses largely on Charlotte and Laura as Charlotte takes her out shopping so she has clothes to wear beyond just her uniform, an almost unending episode really, the school year is what dominates here as we’re introduced to the student president, Tatenashi Sarashiki. She’s similar to the other girls in a lot of ways, a bit shorter, but because she’s the student president it also means that she’s the toughest one there and the most capable. While she was absent from the first season, she’s making up for lost time here by taking Ichika under her personal tutelage for many things and is making it all the more important by orchestrating events so that she moves into his dorm room with him. She’s a bit of a spitfire in her own way, but largely a by the book character who often ends up in compromising positions with him.

And naturally, that sets a fair bit of competition with the other girls since they all want to get closer to Ichika as well. It’s a situation where it does make sense to a good degree since we see that a lot of girls in the academy are interested in him since he is the only boy there. That makes him a very worthwhile prize, but it keeps its focus on about half a dozen characters overall that we saw mostly from the first season. Tatenashi adds a little more fun to it as you can see her manipulating the others – when she gives them the time of day – but mostly it’s more of the same. Where it takes a bigger turn in regards to adding another character though is when Tatenashi manipulates Ichika into participating in a tag tournament competition with her sister, the very shy and indifferent Kanzashi. She spends a good bit of her time early on just pushing away Ichika, but he’s so pleasantly persistent that she ends up being drawn into his web without realizing it and having to deal with it – and finding out that her sister orchestrated it.

All this school based material is fluffy in the fluffiest kind of fluffy way. It’s light and largely forgettable as it goes through the goofiness of the school festival aspect and more. We get the tag tournament that adds a bit in the final act before it goes into the main Phantom Task storyline and we get the couple of incursions earlier on as well, but mostly there’s not much here to really latch onto. So much so that hours after watching it, I find myself hard pressed to really remember anything of any merit. You get some trying to teach others to cook since they want to impress Ichika, you get the school trip to Kyoto that has all the girls wanting to be with Ichika but finding out that he has other assignments but we still get a lot of the usual travelogue material. And we get a lot of the usual kinds of sitting around chit chatting material on campus that can pad things out. It’s fairly straightforward and it serves to show the bonds between the characters and the kinds of interactions they have, but it’s not backed up by a stronger overarching storyline.

In Summary:
Revisiting the show is something that I definitely enjoyed here, though seeing it in standard definition after the high definition streaming and the Blu-ray of the first season reminds you just what a difference the presentation makes. The premise of the original series was one that I liked and it was a light and fun romp overall, which this one tries to replicate while adding a few new things. It has some good action sequences along the way and I really liked how well the CG blended with the animation as it looks sharp but doesn’t feel so disconnected from it that it’s jarring. Shows like this tend to have the weakest of male lead characters, but I do like how Ichika handles the situations and keeps the flow of things going along while deflecting the girls as best as he can. I liked the story that was brewing through the season that we get here, but it’s just the start of it and it feels like it all ends far too soon when it comes to that side of it. The school side is fun but forgettable, though I at least found that the Sarashiki sisters didn’t bother me as much as I tend to find most additions in a series. The first season wasn’t a big show for me in a lot of ways but I liked it. This one doesn’t reach that level, though it certainly has some fun moments and I look forward to revisiting it hopefully sometime next year with the OVA and on Blu-ray.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, One Summer’s Memories (Broadcast Version), Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 9th, 2014
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 315 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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