In the distant future, mankind is divided into two factions: Union and Deague. They have waged a war against each other for so long that no one remembers when it first began. The backbone of the Union military is the manned weapons system Strain, while the Deague uses an unmanned version, the Tumoru.
Sara Werec, the daughter of a respectable family, is a 16-yearold girl who attends Grapera Space Armed Soldier Academy located in the Cranial Solar System, where she is training to become a full-fledged Reasoner (a Strain pilot).
Her brother, Ralph Werec, had been sent to the frontline 130 light-years away to accomplish a special mission when she was 11 years old, a distance that requires 400 years of objective time to traverse by even the fastest Union spacecraft. However, in accordance with the theory of relativity, this corresponds to only two subjective years (time as experienced by those within the spacecraft).
The two of them had lost their parents when they were young and the bond between the two is very close. It is Sara’s dearest wish to be reunited with her brother. To do that, she must travel to the battlefield where he is.
One day, Sara’s planet is suddenly assaulted by Deague forces. To her surprise, her brother, Ralph, turns out to be one of the raiders who successfully kidnap a mysterious girl sleeping in a capsule.
In order to find the truth, Sara gets in a Strain and chases after him. However, she is attacked by Ralph, and the Mimic, a copy of the pilot’s brain which is essential to controlling the Strain, is damaged.
Soukou no Strain is without a doubt one of the best sci-fiction series out there. The series isn\'t heavily focused on the war itself and between regular mecha battles but instead its primarily focus is on Sara Werc, on how she cope with the loss of her friends and the betrayal of her brother.
Clearly the first episode is what drives us towards the edge of our seats. With the lost of Sara friends and the shocking revelation of being betrayed by her own brother, it instantly give us the questions into why he betrayed her? what made him betrayed her? etc. and in addition, who
is the strange \"cute\" girl being taken by her brother? what is his intentions with her? whats his purpose in taking her? etc. etc. All these questions and many more are being answered constantly as we progress throughout each episode while new questions are being brought out and answered towards the very end.
The storyline is excellent! We can not ask for a better storyline (with no cliche) full with drama and thrills and seeing there are no \'fillers\' along the way, there is never a dull moment from start to finish.
While the series may not be for everyones taste or it does not live up to your average mecha series, I sincerely hope you give ep. 1 a try because it intensity reaches at a climax point towards the end. With great character development and full of mysteries and suprises ahead, the series lives up towards it hype and no viewer will walk away without a smile on their face.
This is quite simply one of my favorite anime series, ever. It's amazing how much tension, mystery, drama, romance, and anguish it packs into just 13 episodes. Occasional comedic interludes underscore the generally serious nature of the show.
So, what is it about? Set in a far-off future, it tells the story of a fascinating young girl named Sara Werec. She is smart and competitive, yet kind and caring. She is also completely devoted to her older brother Ralph, who is all the family she has in the entire galaxy. Unfortunately Ralph, a mecha pilot, has been sent to the
opposite end of said galaxy to fight. Because of the time-distorting effects of near-lightspeed travel, the only way Sara will ever see her brother again is by becoming a pilot herself.
Of course if things could work out that easily, this series wouldn't be nearly as exciting as it is. Soukou no Strain is full of unexpected twists and turns, perfectly delivered. However, unlike other series that execute decent plots with cliche casts, this anime derives its impact from its strong and varied characters. Sara, Ralph, and a few others make up the core. The development of this group over the course of the series is in turns pleasant and horrifying, but always dramatic and interesting to watch. Even the support characters stick out in my mind; though superficially stereotypical, they are put in trying situations that expose an inner layer of thoughts and emotions. Ultimately the focus of this story is on the characters, and therein lies its power.
At the same time, Soukou no Strain is a well thought out piece of science fiction. It uses non-trivial scientific concepts (ie. consequences of relativity) in a credible manner. The beautifully designed mechas are smoothly animated. Action sequences are exciting and involve an array of interesting tactics. There is actual thinking involved!
If you are a fan of thrilling stories, real characters, or intelligent science fiction, you owe it to yourself to see Soukou no Strain. The first few episodes are especially intense, and I have no doubt that they will get you hooked. I re-watch them more often than anything else from any other series. Particularly, the scream at the end of episode 1 gives me shivers just from thinking about it.
Incidentally, the character names and storyline of Soukou no Strain are loosely (and I mean, loosely) based off of Francis Hodgson Burnett's 1905 book "A Little Princess". Watching this anime inspired me to check it out at the library. I was delightfully surprised by a charming tale that wormed its way into my heart and remains a cherished favorite. I believe you can find the text online; I highly recommend you give it a try as well.
Suffice it to say, I wasn't too impressed with this show and felt Soukou no Strain was a bunch of wasted potential wrapped into a 13 episode series with an identity crisis.
Story: The main problem with the story was that the show didn't know what it wanted to be until episode 8. Episode 1 was a very dramatic episode that set up the plot in one of the best first episodes I've seen so far. Episodes 2-6 became a comedy-drama revolving around the interactions between Sara Werec and the other pilots on the Union training ship, the Libertad. Episode 7 was nothing more than a
shameful, tacked on fanservice episode that was so bad in my mind, that if it wasn't for one plot development at the end, it would have been competely worthless and a waste of time. Episodes 8-13 took a more serious turn and to be honest, the series got better towards the end with some of the motives behind Ralph's actions throughout the series.
If the show had decided that it was going to be a serious mecha anime from episode 1, then maybe the writers would have better explained why the Union is at war with the Deague and why the viewer should want the Union to succeed. Likewise, if the writers wanted to make a fanservice anime with some mech action, then the instances of fanservice may have been thought out better, more original and much funnier. But as it is, Strain's indecisiveness hurt the show, but not as bad as the characters did.
Characters: The lack of character development was the absolute worst problem the show had. Sara's a decent protagonist, but she had no facets to her personality other than her drive to confront Ralph. Lottie was a near carbon copy of Sara. They were both the top Strain pilots, both were driven to kill Ralph Werec because of his actions harming their lives, and Lottie eventually learns to bend the rules for what is right, just like Sara had done since the beginning.
Then there's Lavinia, the token fanservice character. She has pretty much no purpose other than to try to hook up with Sara, which culminated in the awful episode 7. She was a one trick pony with a clearly tacked on lesbian subplot to boot. The other characters really didn't add anything either. The only interesting character was Ralph Werec himself because of the motives behind his actions. It's like the creators didn't care that compelling characters are a big part of the enjoyment of an anime series.
Art: The series used CGI for the fight scenes, and while it looked nice, it felt like they used similar sequencing (or similar camera angles) for the sequenced where the Strains are avoiding the exploding Tumor units, so a lot of the sequences looked the same. I am a fan of the Strain design as it's definitely unique. The 2D animation was blindingly average, so average that there's not much else to say about it. The music had one good song in my opinion, but the rest was forgettable.
Overall, I wouldn't say avoid Soukou no Strain, but I wouldn't recommend it either. Personally, I feel like my time was better spent watching a different mecha series.
In the future there are giant robots (shocking, eh?). Humanity has been forced into a civil war (for some reason) and is battling each other in space (wow). There are two factions, arbitrarily named the Union and the Deague; about the only noticeable difference is that the Union uses robots called Strains, which have to be piloted by a cannon-fodder teenager--in this series named after characters from The Little Princess. The Deague is smarter and uses unmanned drones. Oh, yes, to pilot a Strain, you also need a mysterious black box which is the crucial plot element in this story.
So, there's Sara Crews, Cruz, Werec,
whatever. She wants to be a strain pilot. Her dream is dashed when her batshit crazy brother, Ralph, steals something from a research facility, pwns her and starts off a rather amusing trend of killing off characters you've just met. So Sara goes into space, now piloting a more ghetto cannon fodder robot, because she can't use her black box thingy, in search of her brother for revenge, reconciliation, big brother complex, whatever.
What's more to say.
There are stock characters with names from the Little Princess who otherwise share no commonality with the book, unless the part about giant robots was left out by my mother when she read it to me. There's an entire lesbian episode that does nothing to further the plot. Sara is obsessed with a mysterious doll she finds, which along with a superpowered Strain collecting dust in the ship seem to be the most coveniently placed deus ex machina elements in the story.
The plot is clumsy and vascillates between people hating Sara, Sara being emo and withdrawn, pining for her brother, obsessing over her doll, and of course space battles which rely on a creative misiterpretation of time dilation. We're supposed to care, but with the throwaway chracters, lesbianity and streaking coming out of nowhere in a "serious" anime, and the critical plot "twist" of why Ralph went batshit insane in the first place which is poorly paced and thrown in near the end, and the show all falls apart.
Sara and Ralph, and the rest of the cast, are terribly one dimensional. Oh, yes, and then there's the lolis.
Without adding spoilers, there are these mysterious space lolis and how the show deals with that element is also cliched and tries to teach a lesson about humanity that is an overused and recurrent theme.
This is a casual space robot jockey anime pretending to be serious. It'll make you laugh at all of the wrong times. It's beautifully drawn, tho, and the Strains are a strange and new mech design.