A Little Topic Drift: Infinite Stratos

I was going to post this in a thread at Chizumatic, but realized it would constitute topic drift, and Steven hates that. But posting it here allows me to wander further afield anyway.

To Steven’s remark:

I think this is one of the big mistakes that mecha shows in general, and Infinite Stratos in particular, made. Ichika is being set up as a target of audience envy, not audience admiration. There is a degree to which he is admirable, but not enough, and the way all those girls throw themselves at him just isn’t plausible to me, even with a degree of suspension-of-disbelief.

Fantasy wish-fulfilment also isn’t the same as admiration.

Muon replied:

As for Ichika, he did demonstrate bravery in saving his comrades like Laura and even protected poachers at risk to himself. The other main reason for his attracting girls is hypergamy. Like Cecilia’s story in the novels, (Her father was a spoiled and timid man who had little influence both inside and outside the Alcott family which made her swore to never marry a weak man {A difficulty due to the shift in social status}), it will be almost impossible for the girls to meet men of equal status to themselves. Ichika’s their best shot.

I don’t think I’m being a misogynist in noting that, under the circumstances that existed, Ichika would attract girls like mad. He is the ONLY male in the world that can operate an IS, the strongest weapon known. He’s lucky not to be locked up in a lab somewhere, frankly. That many girls, one guy; Ichika is famous and a bit glamorous (whether he wants to be or not) — between endorsements, book deals, public speaking appearances (after he puts a little polish on), not to mention a government stipend/job), he’s set for life. Muon’s point is well taken. If you consider their “class” to be “IS operators, scientists, and technicians” he is the top candidate. The ones that wouldn’t be trying would go unnoticed among the ones that would be. He is, bluntly, the most eligible bachelor in the world. Even if they didn’t want to ‘sex him up’ most of the female students would be curious and want to know more about him. Remember, they were also after “Charles” too, during the pairs tourney. (And why she didn’t earn the hatred of every girl in the place after she outed herself, I’ll never know.)

The hard-to-believe part is the sheer quality of his harem. I think it may be one of the best (within it’s world-context) of any series. There are no weak sisters. There’s no loli; Laura and… um, whats-her-face-the-Chinese-girl are both DFC’s, but still 15 like the rest. Houki’s got issues, but unknown to her, Tabane is addressing them. Laura is a military commander (if of an oddball unit) and the German candidate rep, Cecelia (British candidate rep) and Charles are related to rich families and both notorious/famous themselves. Count it up: two childhood friends, the sister of the IS inventor, and three national rep candidates among the harem. For that matter, that a ‘stable’ harem would form is odd, rather than one girl being the primary partner. Then again, every one of them has or develops a reason to go for him, and given that level of competition, that’s a group that could pretty much close ranks and intimidate the rest. Note how Houki chased off the senior in episode 1, and she wasn’t even sure she was in the chase at that point. And don’t forget, there’s a third childhood friend who’s tested out on IS and will be his kouhai next year; she’s definitely got him in her sights too.

But the original point: Is Ichika admirable? Well… no. Frankly, he’s too much of a dumbass; that’s where the show loses out. There is NO WAY short of being retarded that he can miss the signals these girls are giving him. Whether it’s through Laura’s brazen naked wrestling, Charlotte’s subtle campaigning, or Cecelia’s doting, all the girls (even Houki) make it obvious that all he’s got to do is say the word, and they’re his. Yet he seems so oblivious, it can’t be an act. He’s only ever tempted once to kiss one of them. Dumb. Ass. The emotion Ichika engenders isn’t envy, it’s contempt. “Hey, moron, how can you be so blind and stupid — you’re hurting the girls, you idiot!” Hell, even Houki whacks him once or twice for being so dumb.

So maybe I do envy him a bit, but he’s too much of an idiot to be a hero.

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4 Responses to A Little Topic Drift: Infinite Stratos

  1. Compare him in your mind to Sai Akuto. Akuto has a real personality, above and beyond the fact that he’s the daimaou. But I never really felt like Ichika did. What sets him apart is the fact that he can operate an IS. Take that away, though, and he’s completely generic. He’s a decent guy. But there really isn’t anything to him, aside from the fact that he can pilot an IS, and that he has a witch for a sister.

  2. AvatarADV says:

    Honestly, I think the problem is simpler than even that.

    Ichika is a theme-park hero. He’s not a pilot because of any specific virtue. I don’t have an issue with the popularity, though yes, he’s implausibly dense when it comes to dealing with it. But he doesn’t really… DO much special, either, and then the few modest heroic accomplishments he had got cut out from under him pretty brutally by the end-of-series reveal. Stalwart defenders against the unknown and upholders of righteousness? Nah, the entire thing was probably ginned up by Houki’s sis to hook her up with the friend she was too shy/tsun to ask out! (And more than one person got hurt along the way, implying pretty strongly that Tabane is actually a terrible person.)

    That might be going too far, but it’s definitely fair to say that it’s difficult to separate the genuine problems he’s had to overcome from ones that were manufactured by Tabane for the specific purpose of him overcoming them.

    Sai’s just operating in a completely different storyline. Sai has honest-to-goodness obstacles to overcome, ones that have every probability of killing him, or at least present him with the threat of having to become the demon lord in truth. Sai’s harem is a LOT less friendly and he’s got a much better excuse for not picking one (i.e. several of them want to manipulate him, Junko’s family would definitely try to end his life, and the only nice one is not entirely compos mentis, y’know?)

    But at least Ichika’s failings (aside from, you know, his complete impotence when it comes to romance) aren’t reflective of horrible personal failings – he’d probably stack up okay if, y’know, Infinite Stratos had an actual plot for him to shine through.

  3. It’s true. Akuto has several opportunities to demonstrate genuine heroism, such as fighting to save Fujiko, and fighting to save Keena, and fighting against one of his best friends.

    Ichika doesn’t, simply because there isn’t anything going on in Infinite Stratos. There’s no enemy. I wrote once that “Great power must be challenged by great adversity in contention for great stakes. Power without challenge is just crass spectacle.” And crass spectacle is what we see in Infinite Stratos.

    There’s no opportunity for heroism in a crass spectacle.

  4. Ubu Roi says:

    Necroposting here, but hey, it’s my blog.

    If they’d made a second season, getting further into the books would have changed that pretty fast. The thing I don’t get is that there are more attacks on the school or Ichika later, but there doesn’t seem to be ANY security whatsoever. Every time, it’s left to the 1st year personal-IS owners to settle it. (There are about three others in 2nd and 3rd year — it’s remarked that having seven in the first year is unprecedented.*)

    One other thing; it’s later established that having a personal IS pretty much makes you a representative candidate< .i> automatically, but the “non-nationality” of the school kicks in — the students can be a candidate for anyone. One of the other three is Russia’s, even though she’s Japanese. And she’s the actual representative, not just a candidate like all the others.

    *The seventh first year emerges in the last novel — she’s the Japanese representative candidate, but the reason she hasn’t had a personal IS before is because her team and hardware were diverted to complete Ichika’s IS.

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