With an ending as open as Infinite Stratos's was, there was a lot to expect when the sequel was announced a little over a year later. As with most sequels, people come to expect that with the introductions and character building out of the way, a fresh start can open new possibilities for the title to showcase with more air time. Unfortunately, there are titles that take advantage of this gargantuan amount of free space and use it to try and attract a larger audience through obscene amounts of fan service and the unnecessary plot devices that arise out of it. While these types of sequels are fine and dandy toward those who expect nothing of the series, Infinite Stratos 2 tries to do the unthinkable: combine illogically contrived fan service with a full-fledged plot focus.
Infinite Stratos 2 starts off where the debut season ended; with Ichika Orimura and his band of merry miracles flying through their schoolwork as if it didn't mean a thing, and to all fairness, it probably doesn't. What this anime likes to portray, especially in this current season, is the mirage of a typical harem/slice of life series with some added robotic plot devices for good measure. However, later on, it tries to force itself into a plotline involving an unknown team of evil-doers that really have no purpose in the series except for driving Ichika, the bland, uninspiring main male character, to show off his use in times of dire need; in typical shounen fashion. When a large amount of time spent on a series is contributed to fan service and moments of unrivaled bliss, it's hard to incorporate a necessary dose of serious scenarios to it. With Infinite Stratos 2, it's the equivalent of driving a monster truck into a library; it's loud, obnoxious, and ultimately as far a match as anyone could imagine.
To spice up more of the fun that is Infinite Stratos, the series takes it upon itself to introduce two new characters: Tatenashi and Kanzashi Sarashiki. Conveniently enough, these two characters are sisters, which only provides an excuse to give some characterization to the younger of the two, Kanzashi. Somewhat of an instigator of the fan service that arises, Tatenashi is the self-proclaimed student body president of the school that all of the original characters attend. With that symbol of invincibility, Tatenashi places Ichika into inconvenient situations that most other males of his age group would probably trade for anything. As Tatenashi causes trouble for our hero, Kanzashi is the complete opposite, as most series like to portray this template for sisters. Kanzashi is timid, vulnerable, an introvert, and a whiz with computers. She gets the most amount of character development than any other character in the series, but only for a limited time, as is typical of harems. While Kanzashi's entire arc feels natural and fresh, Tatenashi seems to pop up out of nowhere whenever both trouble and an instance for fan service comes to fruition. Overall, they're mostly remembered for their blue hair.
Of course, all of the fan service can't be compared to the original source of the madness. Cecilia, Laura, Charlotte, Houki, and Lingyin are as presentable as ever whenever meaningless plot shows its ugly face. Throughout this season, however, each of these character don't get an equal amount of screen time. During the first season, Ichika's childhood friend, Houki, was focused on as the prime suitor for Ichika's affection, and it seemed as though she had a good shot at him as a romantic interest. Unfortunately for those who cared, Houki is barely even shown outside of scenes where Ichika is placed in a precariously obscene situation. Lingyin is also noticeably missing from most of the series as well, with her being the least shown original character out of all of them. Cecilia, Charlotte, and Laura all get their own individual arcs of varying lengths and substance. All of them are forgettable to a point and laughably silly. It seems that Infinite Stratos 2 wanted to put more emphasis on the original characters' assets and Tatenashi moving the chaos along than trying to develop these characters into more than simply plastic.
With this series being notorious for fan service, it's safe to say that the art suits the desires of those who view it. With two years difference, Infinite Stratos 2's artwork is noticeably more full of shine than its predecessor. The character designs remain the same, as though the series wanted to remain nostalgic, with the student uniforms and shaky CGI looking as though they were cut straight from the first season. What was noticeable to a point, however, was the CGI itself. What's different about the CGI within the second season is that the quality isn't different whatsoever. During minimal movements, the machines are still shaky and lazily bulky. The animation comes to shine when the action comes into view. Although, with the amount of time spent on the characters' assets, those watching could forget that the IS machines even exist. For those who are expecting any action from this series could look forward to the ending sequences of this anime. Whether or not the ending disappoints you, at least it will look presentable.
Why not try and make it better? While fan service and an overexaggerated amount of female body parts isn't enough to completely disregard an anime's effort, it's hard not to cringe when an anime tries too hard to be something it isn't. Infinite Stratos 2 wants to be something fantastic, something so fantastic that it can combine fan service and dramatic, life-threatening predicaments into a giant heap of animated excellence. The harder it tries, the easier it is to expose its flaws, and it certainly has them; lots of them. Perhaps if this series tried to be one or the other, maybe it wouldn't seem so forced. Instead, it's everything in one and it couldn't feel any more like wasted potential.