This show is my biggest hidden gem ever. I’m serious about this. One day years ago when I was at a Best Buy to purchase anime, I bought the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. With no idea what I was getting into, I also bought Strain on DVD on the fly. I didn’t have all the money, but I felt like trying something that day. What I got changed my life forever in ways I never expected. This show is a reason why I sometimes buy things I haven’t watched before just to get this sort of feeling again. I have felt like this for a few times now. This show is the one that made me want more female pilots in mecha because this show just flips the basic gender script at ease. At some point I’m going to fully review this, but I am not ready to rewatch it for the 15th time. Not just yet, this is my rainy day show. A show I need when I lose faith in anime for some reason. I haven’t needed it for a while now.
Strain – Strategic Armored Infantry takes place in 6000 AD where humanity has spread throughout the galaxy without Faster Than Light travel. In this future two factions of humanity are at war, the Union and the Deague. Two sets of people with different methods of sub FTL travel. In this universe, a certain girl named Sara Werac is orphaned with her older brother, Ralph, who goes to war in space. She lives the perfect Shoujo life style with dating/not dating a guy and piloting mecha to chase after her brother whose fighting somewhere in the galaxy. Of course, all of that changes when her academy is destroyed for some reason by a very changed Ralph Werac and Sara is the only person left alive. That’s the prologue.
This show has two types of mecha units. The reasoners are people who have their brains copied to pilot a faster and more efficient mecha while the other are the standard mecha pilots. Once you lose your brain copy, you can’t be a Reasoner and that’s what happened to Sara. On a training ship, she’s still working her butt off on a standard mecha in hopes of finding Ralph once again and ask him what’s going on. She has an incredible and believable arc where she is a frozen ice queen from PTSD to where she slowly raises up out of her funk and becomes the best of friends with the group of pilots around her. Her life returns to her in a different way and she wants to protect everyone in her new life because what happened to her could happen again.
The overarching plot itself is pretty simple with some good surprises along the way. Sara is on a training ship, right? I’ve already said that. The training ship itself is a part of the Union and is attacked constantly by the Deague and I bet you would know who is leading the charge. Her brother. Alongside Sara’s story, this show is about a group of rookies slowly turn into war veterans as time goes on because they lose more and more over time. No one knows why, but I should mention that time dilation and instantaneous travel are parts of the main plot and the reason why this is happening. This show does all of this world building and even time dilation in a very interesting way that I enjoy. Man, I saw this before Gunbuster. This show took so much surprise away from other popular works.
With all those good things, this show does have some weaknesses too. This show is only one cour in length meaning that it has to cheap some things. A lot of the other girls are stereotypes in some way because of the need to develop a cast in a short amount of time. There is the butch girl, the girl that diets all the time, and a psycho lesbian amongst other things. There is also the logistics of this war happening in the first place because of the lack of FTL travel, but I don’t mind considering that’s the focus of the show itself. Otherwise, I really love this show. It’s late 2000’s mecha CG that actually looks pretty decent and has such a warm heart to it all. Man. Maybe I should review this fully eventually. Five paragraphs probably isn’t enough to describe all of my feelings for this.