Soukou no Strain

is a show about young men and women who pilot robots IN THE FUTURE. It is ostensibly about war, sibling rivalry, and cool mechs blowing each other up, but for the three episodes that I've seen so far there's another, darker theme that runs the course.

Most every mecha anime stereotype is touched on here, and a few more generic ones for good measure. The heroine grows up worshiping her older brother, the greatest Giant Robot Pilot in the Super Space Robot Pilot Corps or whatever it's called. Naturally she vows to someday be as ultra-cool as he is. Brother goes off to fight in the Big War, and sis is left behind to train up and sail through the military academy.

Spoilers follow, in the off chance that anyone but me is reading this. Ya right.

A few mechanical details must be cleared up first: the mechs are called STRAINs, at least, the cool ones are. They're made of glass, you see, and it glows and looks cool when they're all flying around cutting up target drones. I actually kind of like the design, it looks more like something an elf would build than a super-giga-Transformer thingie. In order to pilot these STRAINs, the young whippersnappers use MIMICs which are cloned from their tissues at birth - you lose your MIMIC, you never fly again. At least, not the cool ones.

Our Girl Sara is a top pilot at the academy when next we see her. She has many friends who are all top pilots too, and they all have secret crushes and whatnots. Drama and relationships are hinted at. Training is all well and good, until the Bad Guys open a can of Surprise You've Been Betrayed By Someone Whoop-Ass on the home planet and Sara's friends are the only pilots who can fight back against the sneak attack. So gallantly they go a-running to their STRAINs, suit up, and head out into danger and the first real chance to prove themselves.

THEN THEY ALL FUCKING DIE. No shit. That other theme I mentioned earlier? No amount of pluck and pep and talent will keep you from getting your ass killed on the battlefield in a war. The entire first episode is a set-up where you're introduced to all the sterotypical anime hero characters, they're thrown into an impossible situation and have to fight against overwhelming odds, and they completely fail to save the day. Even Sara, the bestest of her merry band, barely escapes alive, and still she ends up with a Giant Robot Spike Arm right through her MIMIC, ensuring that she'll never ever be the best Giant Robot Pilot like her brother. Things are further complicated when a semi-predictable plot twist reveals that it's Sara's bro (back with a genuine Bad Guy Scar) that betrayed the Corp, killed her friends, destroyed her future, and disgraced her and her family.

That's all just the first episode. In order to stay in the military, Sara changes her name and joins up to pilot GAMBEEs, the slower, uglier, shittier mechs that you don't need a second-brain-in-a-jar to fly. The rest is a heartwarming story about how Sara now has to beat the odds, rise through the ranks, defy expectations and regain her once-secure spot on the top Giant Robot Pilot list. And defeat her brother, the best GRP ever who has the best Giant Robot ever and is also evil.

There, that was fun. A semi-regular Anime Series Review. Maybe I'll write more about it... IN THE FUTURE!

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