“You can’t fool the ever-vigilant eye of Pronin. I saw right through that ruse.” —Cr1t1kal in Captain Pronin The Talented
Here it is, the (mostly) long-awaited OVA to Infinite Stratos²; the original TV series finished airing a year ago, and when it concluded, the second season left a weaker impression than its predecessor, advancing neither the character-driven aspects (i.e. Ichika’s lack of awareness that there’s a veritable army of girls after his heart) or the world-building behind the IS platforms themselves, as well as what Phantom Task’s affiliation and objectives were. While these caveats broke the series for some viewers, I still found it to be passable, and upon hearing that there was another OVA for the second season, decided to check that out. The premise was seemingly simple: the OVA would be about a “program called “World Purge” [that] sends illusions to all the girls about their ideal fantasies”. While this sounds like an excuse to maximise exposure (pun deliberate) to each of the girls, it turns out that there is something else driving everything: a hacking attempt from Tabane and a simultaneous intrusion from an unidentified American unit prompts Chifuyu and Maya to stop the hostiles, while ordering the girls into their school’s network via a virtual reality uplink to restore the school’s processes. Of course, this is easier said than done, and through Chloe Chronicle’s interference, the girls’ fantasies turn into nightmares.
This seemingly-frivolous OVA was full of surprises, and while it was advertised for its supposedly-frequent depiction of anime-style human anatomy in HD glory, the actual OVA itself manages to be a fine balance between showcasing the extent of Tatenashi’s and Chifuyu’s combat capabilities and making use of the virtual reality system to depict how Rin, Cecilia, Charlotte, Laura and Houki view Ichika. In particular, even though the dialogue is minimal during each of the simulated moments, the use of environments and visuals conveys how each girl views Ichika. Because Rin’s VR shows her and Ichika as middle school students, Rin seems to be longing to have spent more time with Ichika prior to enrolling at the IS academy. In Cecilia’s fantasy, Ichika is someone working under her, suggesting that despite being very much in love with Ichika, she seems to subconsciously view him as being of a lower social status. Conversely, Charlotte sees Ichika as a guardian of sorts and as such, is his maid in her virtual reality. Laura’s fantasy shows her being happily married to Ichika; of all the girls, she jumps straight to the conclusion that marriage follows after falling in love, and this fantasy reflects on her naïveté with regards to Japanese culture. The fact that each of their simulated realities succumbs to external influence from Chloe suggests that they desire to be close to him for less nobel reasons compared to Houki: in Houki’s case, her ideal fantasy is to find an equal sparring partner who shares her love of Kendo and will marry into her family through a traditional Japanese wedding. Contrasting the other girls, Houki’s ideal is one of proper love and happiness, and as such, does not succumb to the woes that everyone else experiences. The OVA seems to reinforce that of everyone, Houki’s love for Ichika seems to be the strongest, beyond the comparatively superficial reasons the other girls seem to convey.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This puny collection of screenshots only numbers twenty-five. and while it’s not really enough to really convey the sort of stuff that happens in the OVA, there were two facts influencing the number of screenshots. First, some moments in this OVA are, unsurprisingly, not suitable for all audiences. The second is that I don’t think I can come up with enough figure captions for thirty images, and twenty isn’t enough to fully capture the OVA’s spirit, so I settled for a nice compromise. The page quote comes from Cr1t1kal’s Captain Pronin The Talented, and was inspired by the OVA’s unexpected, but welcomed, performance.
- Despite being presented as an energetic, cheerful individual, Tabane is directly responsible for almost everything that’s happened in Infinite Stratos. The OVA’s introduction sees her provide one Chloe Chronicle with instructions on a package delivery. I believe last time, I mentioned that Tabane’s aura had a Chobits-like feel to it, and then noted that I’d never actually watched Chobits before. At this point in time, I’ve finished, and found it to be surprisingly good.
- Charlotte and Rin relax during their downtime, with Rin’s obvious longing for Ichika noticed by the former. However, this peace is broken when an unknown faction compromises the systems at the Infinite Stratos academy and forces each of the girls to enter the network in an attempt to fix it. This makes absolutely no sense from a technical perspective: if the tactical network went down, it would require the attention of IT specialists rather than the special forces to fix.
- Hikaruno Kagaribi is introduced as the director of the Kuromochi Research Center; her role is the repair and analysis of IS frames, and here, she expresses an unwholesome keenness in doing things to Ichika, which is unsuitable for further discussion here. The World Purge-hen is supposed to be a condensation of the entire eighth volume of the light novel into forty-five minutes: there are nine volumes, and with writing suspended, a third season is probably not going to be a reality any time soon. I might just check out the light novels, but that remains something to be decided in the future.
- The IS themselves bear a strong resemblance to Gundams, and I find that the Byakushiki greatly resembles the 00 Raiser. I started noticing an increase in the search terms “Infinite Stratos” somewhere back in 2009, and initially though that people were looking up “Lockon Stratos” and “Infinite Zenith”. It may be arrogant of me to presume thus, but I’m quite tempted to believe that, because the light novels were written in 2009, Izuru Yumizuru somehow came across the Infinite Zenith and created Infinite Stratos from a portmanteau of the two terms.
- It seems that virtual realities are all the range in anime at present: in a afternoon break a few days ago, I was discussing this with several members of the lab, and it’s not improbable that the science-fiction novel series by Tad Williams, Otherland, likely inspired many of the things that we see today in anime, including a world where the technology remains largely familiar save the presence of highly-evolved virtual reality systems.
- World Purge-hen itself is on-par with Upotte! and the first Infinite Stratos OVA as far as questionable contents go (only being out-done by Yosuga no Sora), and I’ve exercised due caution here to ensure that I am not including fanservice-type images that are downright unacceptable.
- Subtle use of angling in the simulated Ichika’s eyes suggests that things are slightly off. While the OVA’s premise was “fantasies”, the promotions was actually a clever disguise that betrayed none of the other things that were going to occur within World Purge-hen. As noted in the discussions above, each “fantasy” world is built upon how each girl views Ichika. I’ll just note that after the simulated Ichikas begin going Turbo and the girls find themselves saved by the original Ichika, the network problems just magically go away.
- Now that I’m actually here writing about things, it’s actually quite tough to come up with witticisms for the different virtual reality scenes, save for the fact that I watched the OVA with my back to a wall to prevent any misunderstandings from happening.
- While the girls are trying to restore their computer grid (and failing), Chifuyu and Tatenashi intercept the intruders; specified as Americans, the OVA leaves ambiguous their exact intents and objectives, along with their relationship with Tabane’s attack on the school’s network. The novel will be required here to clarify things. Despite finding herself up against a full IS, Chifuyu manages to fight it to a standstill in the school’s service tunnels.
- Back in the Matrix, Charlotte’s vision has Ichika propose to her. There’ve been claims that the simulated segments feel like something that came out of a particularly ill-conceived fanfiction, and for the most part, this is not an inaccurate assessment: the imagery and choices of fantasy for each girl appear to be deliberately crafted to maximise the number of superficial moments so that the so-called ‘shippers’ can be satisfied. Take note, this is not how to build things in general.
- While the VR segments might be a little hard on the eyes and mind, the combat sequences retain all of their glory from the original TV anime, and while the incursions appear as an excuse to give the girls a reason to enter the virtual reality environment, they are nonetheless quite well done. In particular, it was entertaining to see Chifuyu hold off against an IS with nothing more than a quartet of swords.
- Laura’s simulated world seems the most normal, and although things begin well enough, her ideal Ichika soon deteriorates into perversion, as well. Disappointed viewers have noticed that Houki seems to have a reduced presence in World Purge-hen, but that’s probably because they’d forgotten about the first OVA, which gave her a fair bit of alone time with Ichika at the episode’s end.
- How Ichika manages to sense that the others were in trouble is never explained: Ichika, though voiced by Kōki Uchiyama (who is better known for his role as Gundam Unicorn‘s Banagher Links), does not have any Newtype powers to speak of, so it comes across as being a little crazy that this moment could be worked in. I’m sure the light novels worked something out, but if we suspend this, we are treated to the real Ichika dispensing the hurt on the simulated variants, returning everyone back to reality.
- For the present, one must assume that the network probably did internal diagnostics and fixed itself after Ichika defeated all of the Doppelgängers of himself are wiped out. Alternatively, once the source of the intrusion was removed, Kanzashi and the others would have worked towards repairing things. Either way, the “World purge” aspect ends here, and while there are a couple of questionable moments in the simulations, things remain quite restrained in their reality.
- Cecelia and Rin react moderately well after Ichika recovers them from the simulated worlds, but Charlotte gives Icika the old-fashioned eye poke. Despite being a virtual world, there must be plugins or components for pain simulation, although one would wonder what would happen if anyone had actually died inside the simulated environment. In The Matrix, death is final.
- According to the novel, the American forces were operating independently of Tabane and Chloe; their intentions were to recapture hidden IS cores that were present at the academy. After using an IS with a quad Gatling-style gun, Maya and Chifuyu decide to let the American forces go, but not before the IS pilot and Chifuyu exchange contact information.
- The reason Houki’s simulated realities didn’t have anything unusual happening is probably a direct consequence of how she sees Ichika: whereas the other girls have more risqué interpretations, Houki’s ideal is one of purity: of all the girls, she sees Ichika as an equal, someone who is suited to accompany her through life and time. The other girls have a much more superficial interest in Ichika, accounting for why Houki alone experiences a simulation that is more normal.
- I’m going to light fuse, run away, when I say that World Purge-hen implies that Houki is the best match for Ichika: this point was a part of the previous OVA, and I say it is thus only because as far as personalities go, Ichika seems to be the yang for Houki’s yin. I’m rocking a solid explanation for why I feel this to be the case…I am quite curious to hear the rationale from those who support other pairings.
- As with my Utopia post from back in September, I can say with total conviction that this is the only World Purge-hen talk out there on the internet. From a semantics perspective, this hold true because this post is reasonably detailed concerning the OVA. From a technical perspective, there is another site (with an orange triangle for its logo) that got a talk out ahead of me, but because their entire discussion was only fifty-three words in length (and because the site’s authors are uncultured, incompetent writers), it doesn’t count as a post on World Purge-hen, let alone one that’s worth reading.
- Goaded past endurance, Rin lines up a kick against Kanzashi, but instead, bounces off Chifuyu harmlessly after she appears. The first episode to Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow was released today, and as per usual, the folks at the orange triangle have a photo-post out ahead of everyone else. I will try to have a proper discussion drafted out before Christmas Eve by the latest, and failing that, the framework for the post (that is, the discussion paragraphs and the screenshots).
- I’m actually quite surprised that a prima facie fanservice-laden OVA could have actually lent itself to the discussion that it did, and that the OVA turned out to be a remarkably focused, self-contained story that was executed with more finesse than the second season. After everyone is pulled from the school’s network, the remainder of the OVA takes on a more light-hearted tone, with one minor exception at the end that leads to the question of whether or not a continuation will be made.
- Tatenashi, despite not given any screentime in the virtual reality environment, manages to create a few interesting moments of her own. Compared to the others (except maybe Laura), Tatenashi is very forwards to Ichika and often messes with him for the sake of messing with him. She reveals her real name to Ichika, and although this is significant (especially given the cultural context of given names in Japan), the implications of this won’t be explored in the foreseeable future.
- With the OVA now over, and the post reaching its terminus, I’ll do my usual “what’s next” spiel. Readers may have noticed that posting frequency has gone up, but this is temporary: with lectures and tutorials over, I have a little bit of extra time I can direct towards blogging, and for one reason or another, there’s been a lot of OVAs and bonus materials released over the past while. The next two posts I do will be the first Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow episode and Tari Tari‘s 7-minute short. Circumstances may force me to do partial posts for them, but should that happen, I will return before the end of mid-January to finish the commentary that accompanies the screenshots.
- The ending of World Purge-hen has Chifuyu display a fearsome level of combat prowess, even managing to intimidate Chloe into withdrawing her efforts to take down the former. Chloe Chronicle’s identity and relationship with Tabane is unexplored, and in an OVA that does a fine job with the established characters, the addition of elements that demand future exploration is a move of questionable value: on one hand, it could elevate anticipation, but we also know that the anime has caught up to the Infinite Stratos light novels, which are on hiatus. The significance of the new characters, and Tabane’s intentions are going to be something for the future, although this is probably something that viewers may have to buckle down and wait for.
In conjunction with the fight scenes, and the implication that Tabane is playing the world for fools, the World Purge-hen OVA proved to be quite enjoyable that managed to fit all of the different pieces together neatly. There are limitations, such as the dramatic transitions between the serious and the comedic, and some characters (who’ve I’ve only seen for the first time) will necessitate additional exploration. Moreover, the justification for having a virtual reality environment may be dubious. However, the effects ties in well with the cause (Tabane’s actions and the coincidental arrival of an unknown infiltrator), and the end result is an OVA that manages to tell a concise story for the World Purge-hen volume in the light novels. and surprisingly, was remarkably restrained with respect to fanservice. Granted, there are a few scenes that would immediate make the OVA R-rated, but these are only short moments and do not appear with the same forwardness as moments in something like Yosuga no Sora. As such, rather than being 45 minutes of watching anatomy getting shoved in one’s face, World Purge-hen succeeds in telling a self-contained story that bears the style unique to Infinite Stratos. Of course, the presence of new plot points (specifically, dealing with Tabane and Chloe) now leads to the question of whether or not there will be a future continuation, and provided that the light novel has run into considerable difficulty, the only possible conclusion is that the anime will reach a stop for the present.