Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry

Alt title: Soukou no Strain

TV (13 eps)
2006 - 2007
Fall 2006
3.545 out of 5 from 1,840 votes
Rank #4,505

In the future, mankind is divided between two powers: Union, and Deague. For the young Sarah Werec, watching her dearest brother Ralph depart for the front lines of the war was a fate worse than death; for even if he were to survive, the 130 light year distance between them dictates that even if he were to return, she would be long since deceased. Thus, in an effort to see her brother again, Sarah sets out to become a pilot of the Strain – Union’s mecha force; but on the eve of reaching the first step to her goal, her only chance to succeed is stripped from her. Haunted by the many ghosts of her memories, Sarah must now endure an endless series of sacrifices as she struggles to discover the truth about her brother...

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Reviews

HarioSagara
6.4

 A mecha space adventure that's better than the average mecha out there, though nowhere near as good as some of the better mecha anime. Featuring decent characters, decent storyline and decent action, this show is definetely decent, but not much better than that. Story: 6 Sarah Werec has joined the Strain (Strategic Armored Infantry) academy in order to chase after her brother a famous Strain pilot. While things seem to be going well for her, the academy is hit by a surprise attack led by her brother! The rest of the anime is about Sarah joining a space fleet and trying to figure out what made her brother betray everyone in the union. The motivations and intentions of the original enemy, the Deague, is never explained. Being only 13 episodes, the storyline to this show is not very intricate. After her brother attacks her academy Sarah becomes kind of a melancholic loner. The only thing that brings her any joy is a doll that also happens to be a key component to her new strain. This doll also happens to be consequential in the storyline. Overall, not a bad storyline, but not a very consistent one either. Animation: 7 For a space mecha anime, Strain does a pretty decent job with the action sequences. A lot more exciting than several other space mecha counterparts. The strains have cool designs and the battles are fun to watch. Nevertheless the anime isn't anything too far out of the ordinary and nothing too spectacular. Sound: 7 The opening is average and somewhat forgetable and the closing is even more so. The voice actors did a pretty good job and several of the characters were made more interesting by good voice acting. Characters: 7 The characters are kind of a mixed bag. Some characters you'll like, some you'll hate, and some will annoy the hell out of you. Our heroine, Sarah Werec, has a one track mind that stays focussed on her brother throughout the anime, with the exception of the time she spends talking to her doll. She seemed like she was going to be an interesting character in the first episode, but she was a let down. Several characters have limited personalities and Sarah's would be boyfriends don't really have much of a chance for character developement in this show. As such none of the male characters ever have a chance for full character development, not even Sarah's revenge obsessed brother, Ralph Werec. I enjoyed the performance of most of the other strain pilots, including Lottie, who was the only initial character that tried to snap Sarah out of her perpetual funk. She goes through similar experiences as Sarah, but doesn't become introverted like Sarah does. Overall: 6.4 This show is fun to watch, had interesting characters and decent fight scenes. The story didn't have much of an impact, however. It seemed to only exist in order to create conflict between Sarah and her brother. While this show does have it's faults I'd say it's still better than half the other mecha anime out there, but only half. <div id="_dyhb23rg4374"> </div>

Epimondas
5.5

Strain looks common and cliched in many ways but it utilizes many of them in much better ways than the usual mecha type anime.  In the first episode, you can already see how common the setting, theme, and basic story are.  Yet even though it is a pretty common story, it successfully pulls you in enough to want to see more.  The drama might not be the best in every way, however, it is good enough to spark interest and keep that spark ignited over successive episodes.  Sara captures viewer attention and keeps them in her world through out the series.  You can sense her pain and torment after her traumatic past turned her into the cold dispassionate person she is now.   There are a few major inconsistancies and serious logic errors though such as the Deague ship that can launch thousands of AI bot ships to no apparent end.  No matter how many they lose they never seem to run out.  Some scenes have ship bulkheads exposed to open space but there is no vacuum, freezing temperatures, nor anyone getting sucked out.  Sara suffers at least one major flaw in how unemotionally she seems to ignore all the friends including best friends and boy friends she's lost to the murderous traitor.  That unfortunately does alot to undermine all the good work and positive ascpects spent in developing her character.  The fact they totally forget perhaps the single biggest thing about her past altogether and how it seems to have no impact or effect on her or her new friends is just mindboggling.  Not even when she finally discloses her past does what happened to her friends and her school come into play.  It would have sharpened the bond with the queen character and her new crew but it was a massive lost opportunity.  Instead if feels as if the show created a monster of an enemy character and tried to foolishly back track all his misdeeds by downplaying the horror and the pain he caused to Sara at the school and later at the supply station.  Bad form.  Though Sara does mention some of these loses breifly in the last episode but, that is a classic case of "too little, too late" because at that point it has no impact.  She is so casual and breif about it even though she is screaming like in pain, it just doesn't sound genuine at that point.  In a way, it makes the fact she never discloses the full story to any of her new friends even more pronounced how strongly a great missed chance it was to have done so.  Sadly, I have to deduct several points after seeing this miserable display and lost chances despite having initiallly rated it fairly highly from its many good points.  These serious gigantic flaws are too severe to let pass however so I must drop the score. The ending is a bit lame and tacky.   Ralph as a character as a few flaws of his own such as the reason he did the things he did sort of condradict why he was motivated to do them consideirng his background and the emotional flashbacks that clearly indicated who he was thinking of when he wanted to save the girls he found.  His reasons were never that profound or strong either given how long ago much of it happened and the fact that most he saw as responsible had no knowledge of it whatsoever.  It makes him look like a complete fool.  This is shown more so when talking to the ones he wanted to save and their response and reaction to his actions.  There isn't really enough backstory or emotional draw or connection to establish any kind of strong understanding or attachment to his character.  Nor do I find sufficient comprehensible within light of the full story as to why he ends up doing the things he does.  Queen has an even breifer backstory but a connection to her is far stronger and more understandable than Ralph's and almost as much as Sara's since despite all her backstory not all of it is used wisely within the story to fully take advantage of her complex past and role in her present.  Carris was used to establish a new connection to Sara's current life and friends but was underused and his part of the story was concluded before a much more dramatic connection could even be established which would have made her more emotionally invested in her current life.  You see a vague half hearted attempt at showing this but since he wasn't utilzed as properly as he could have been it is another lost opportunity. The situation with Emily while very dramatic and painful in it's own right is so quickly run through with so little emotional or dramatic of a pull, that it fails to fully demonstrate what kind of an effect a feedback of her memories would have caused.  This in turn lessens the impact and understanding why the main enemy took the path taken.  Another and perhaps the single worst lost opportunity or exploit of a character is what happens to Isabella, I did not even know her fate until nearly an episode or two later.  I would say Sara's connection to other characters is flat but it isn't even as good as flat.  Her character and dramatically traumatic introduciton is more than enough to link her with the viewers and pull you into the story but her distance from others is too heavily played on so that when she finally does begin to open you, you won't feel anything since so many chances to really establish how powerful of an influence all that was is mostly a collection of lost shots to do so. Strain is worth watching at least once. You may miss out on the full story because of how poorly so many side stories and chances to create a powerful emotional story failed to be exploited for the great additions they all could have been.

NettoSaito
10

Strain is a short "Mecha, Military, Psychological" anime series which originally ran from 1 November 2006 – 14 February 2007, and was then brought to the US back in 2009. Unlike other mecha series though, it had a much stronger focus on the emotions of the main character. Although it was short lived, and not as popular as other mecha series, it is still one of them series that will leave a lasting impression on you, and it will most likely keep you coming back for more. The Story: When Strain opens up we get to see two character's talking, one is an older man in a military suit, while the other is a little girl. It turns out the two are brother and sister, and that this is the last time they will most likely ever see each other. The older man is a man named Ralph Werec, and he is the best "Strain" pilot the "Galactic Union" has, and because of that he is being sent away to war. Before leaving however, Ralph decides to dance once more with his little sister Sara, and he then gives her a necklace to always remember him by.  After this, Sara happily accepts, and then tells her brother that she will follow him to space one day. Years later Sara is now a Strain pilot at a military school, and she is finally about to graduate. Basically a "Strain" is a very unique mech which can only be controlled by people called "reasoners." Reasoners are people who had their brain cells harvested before birth, and then put into devices known as a "mimic." By using the mimic these special pilots are able to take complete control over the strongest mechs to ever be created, but there's also a catch. If a mimic is damaged, it's dead forever. Since it is made up of brain cells from the pilot, there is just no way to fix a damaged one. After showing off her pilot skills, Sara decides to hang out with her friends the night before they graduate and most likely never see each other again. Although all of them are excited to finally be moving on, they are also sad to know that they were finally ready to move on. At least, that was the plan. While dancing with her best friend, Sara looks up into the sky and sees what she thought was a battle test; however, it turns out that wasn't the case. Her brother, the world famous Ralph Werec, had finally returned, but with only one goal in mind. To kill everyone. Sara watches in horror with her friends as she sees the entire school go up in flames, with everyone being killed within just seconds. With no other option, she decides to run off with her friends, get in her Strain, and stop the "unknown" Strain. Not too long after Sara once again is forced to watch in horror as her friends die in front of her face, and she is left as the last one to be alive. Sara then decides to confront the Strain's pilot on foot, when she finally sees who it is. Her brother. After seeing her brother, Sara just about loses it. She once again gets in her Strain to take him down, but in the end she fails. After her Strain gets stabbed through the cockpit, Sara's mimic is damaged, and she is forced to crash land. Now having lost everything, including her ability to pilot a strain, Sara cries out knowing that her life was basically over. Jump ahead and Sara is now a completely changed woman. She changed her last name to hide her identity as being Ralph Werec's sister, she cut her long hair, and she also moved onto a new training school in space, but this time as a "Gambee Unit" pilot. (A Gambee Unit is a lower class mech which anyone can pilot, but it doesn't have that great of combat skills.) Also due to everything she had to go through, Sara also suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. She keeps to herself, and avoids becoming close to everyone, but also because of that everyone hates her. She is always told how she sucks as a pilot, other students love to hit her or rip up her cloths, and she is basically just treated as the unfit trash of their group of students. Even so, Sara tries her hardest to fly through her training so she can finally be one step closer to her brother, who she now knows she must stop at all costs. But then, everything changes. One day after coming back to her locker to put her cloths on, Sara finds that her cloths have been ripped up (again), but also the very important necklace her brother gave her was gone as well. This is when Sara finally hits her breaking point and snaps. She searches everywhere for her necklace, and just about goes mad looking for it, but then she comes across something else instead. A life size human doll named "Emily." Although Emily is a doll, she is also someone's mimic. In short, it is a doll, with someone's brain cells in her. Apparently Emily was going to be a test subject for a brand new strain two young mechanics were working on, but up until that point it still wasn't finished. Even so, Sara feels a strange connection to this doll, and slowly over time, she starts to revert to her old self as she spends time with it. That is when Sara's life once again changes forever. Not too long after finding Emily, their ship goes under attack, and Sara tries a very risky move. She takes Emily, puts her in the unfinished Strain, links up with her, and takes to the battle field. Normally it is 100% impossible to link up with someone elses' mimic, but Sara somehow pulls it off, and she once again finds herself face to face with her brother. After that battle Sara is then switched over from her Gambee Unit to the Strain, but that still doesn't help her out with the rest of the students. Although her new teammates treat her nicely, the rest of the students still hate her guts; even more so now since they blame her for the deaths of their friends in the last battle. Even so, Sara continues to push on despite what everyone else thinks of her, and she still continues to fight for them no matter how many times they beat her up. Still, what is with that mimic? Why can Sara link up with it? Why did Sara's brother attack them? Still Sara ever come to terms with what happened to her? Will the students ever respect her? Will she win her fight? The opening of the show leaves so many unanswered questions that you can't help but to continue watching. Sara Werec: Normally I would dedicate this section to the main characters, but when it comes to Strain, Sara is really the only character that you will care about. Sure there are other characters, most of which you will hate due to how they treat Sara, but as for the others, they are mostly there just to support Sara. Sure they are important characters, but they take the back seat most of the time, and their character development is spread out throughout the series. To avoid spoilers, I'm not even going to mention them here. Anyway, Sara really is an interesting character, and one you will care about. Now the first time you see her, I'm not going to lie, you might actually hate her. In the first episode she is that standard stupid anime girl who is full of herself, thinks she's the best, runs around completely oblivious to the world around her, and well, just acts like a little girl. She's a lot like a 13-14 year old who basically just got into high school, and thinks she's the best. Really, Sara is the reason I thought I was going to hate the anime, and almost shut it off; still I decided to give the show a shot, and keep watching. Man I'm glad I did. After Sara watches her friends die (whom she really cared about), and after she loses her mimic and finds out her brother was behind the attack, she really changes. From the second episode onward she goes from being that stupid standard anime girl, to one who is more realistic and down to earth. She's focused on her goal, she understands she isn't the best, but even so she decides to never give up. She comes off a bit cold since she tries to distance herself from others, but she also has a very good reason to. On top of that she is willing to do anything to help others, no matter what they do to her in return. For example there's one girl who is always running her down, and always doing anything she can to hurt Sara, but Sara still saves her life... Even though her "thank you" was basically another slap to the face. Really the show does a very good job telling Sara's story, and you can really understand where she is coming from. She watched her brother kill everyone she knew, she lost her ability to pilot a strain (which is what she lived for), everyone seems to hate her, and the few people who are nice to her just feel sorry for her and seem to not truly care. It really is no wonder Sara is the way she is, but you also can't help but like her because of it. While the viewers get to see the real her, the rest of the characters just see her as trash/the one who should have died in their first battle. Even so, I never expected the girl I hated in the first episode, would be the main reason I kept coming back episode after episode. Her character development is really great, and you can't help but want to follow her story. The Setting: For the most part, Strain takes place on their ship in space. You're going to be seeing a lot of the same places (the warehouse where Sara's strain is kept, the training area, the lunch room, the hall ways, the shower, etc), but it never really gets old. Sure there are changes from time to time to keep things interesting, but basically they couldn't have picked a more fitting setting than their ship. The entire story has a more "at home" type of feel to it, and that really helps show off the main character's daily life. She's not running around thousands of planets exploring ruins and shooting aliens, she's working as hard as she can at her academy ship so she can go take down her brother. Unlike other shows which have a "mother ship" as the main setting, this one never gets old. There are some changes for the second half of the series, but like I said at the beginning, I'm going to avoid talking about it to avoid spoilers. The TV MA Rating: This is something else I thought I should share as more of a warning/explanation. Strains is in fact another TV MA rated show (as in 18 years or older), but there's only one reason for it. Basically the entire show switches back and for from being rated PG and TV14, but there's a single episode which bumped up the rating... Episode 7. While the show does contain some light nudity (naked backs, naked necks/top of breasts), there really isn't much that would offend anyone or turn them off from watching. You'll basically see the same amount of fan service (if not MORE) in this that you would see in other PG rated shows, or movies. There's also a few scenes where it's implied that the two main villain have sex, but even that doesn't show anything. It simply shows them kiss, then fall off screen as the scene changes. Once again, you'll see worse/hear worse from many of them "family shows" you'll see on TV now days. Heck, just turn on TV land and you'll see what I'm talking about. HOWEVER, there is one case where the show truly deserves a TV MA rating. Like I said, episode 7 of the series is basically the whole reason for it's higher age rating. It's a completely random episode, with a completely random scene which goes against the rest of the series, and I'm actually shocked it was in there. Basically in episode 7 one of the minor characters, who just happens to be gay, decides to try and make the main character love her. How is she going to do this? Well, I wont spoil the episode, but at one part of the episode Sara is taking a shower, and this girl decides to go in with her. The girl pulls her cloths off (which shows just about full nudity, except for the lower half which no "detail" is drawn for), and she rushes in. Well, it turns out Sara isn't in the shower, and after seeing someone else inside, she runs out screaming. The scenes that follow feature the naked girl running down the hall ways trying to find her cloths, as everyone else watches with a stunned look on their face. That 2-3 minute long scene was FILLED with fan service and nudity, and I really have NO idea why the heck they even bothered to include that. It was completely pointless, and I actually found myself looking away from the screen because I was tired of seeing her breasts bouncing allover the screen as she ran. It was just flat out SCREWED UP, and I personally feel that they should have just left that crap out. The GOOD news is, that's basically the only time you will ever see something like this in the show. If it offends you, I recommend just looking away for a few minutes, and then go on watching it like it had never happened. (Yep, that about sums up the look on your face after you see that scene.) Also the intro shows Sara topless for about a second, but it isn't in a sexual way. If you have ever watched other mecha series such as Gundam, Full Metal Panic, or Eureka Seven, it's basically the same thing. It's used for a dramatic opening effect (it's a transparent image of her floating in space), and it really isn't bad enough to give it more than a TV 14 rating. Heck, just open up a history book and look at the renaissance era. you'll see more graphic content in them paintings than you will in this show's opening. In Conclusion: Although not everyone is a mecha fan, and although many mecha series do the whole "mecha" thing better, that really isn't the main focus of Strain, and it really shouldn't turn you off from the show. This is a show about a young woman who lost everything she had, and is now doing everything possible to get her life back. The show is filled with mystery, it has great character development, the fight scenes are actually pretty cool, and the overall story telling is just great. Sadly the show is only 13 episodes, but you know what they say about short animes:"The short ones, are normally the best ones," and that remains true here. Also because its so short there really aren't any filler episodes either. All of the episodes are jam packed with story development, and everything flows together nicely. The only downsides this show really has is that the first episode might turn many people away, but the fact is that it's 100% different from the rest of the series. It's a really great intro, and I love the back story it creates, but it even almost turned me away when I first started watching it. It's just that the characters seemed kind of stupid, and the show just didn't seem like it was going anywhere... Until it did go somewhere and it became a non stop roller coaster ride to the finish! Another thing you may notice is that the animation is just a little bit dated. I mean the show came back in 2006 so it's understandable, but if you're watching it post 2012, you may expect a little bit more. Now I'm not saying that it isn't good, it actually is, but if you're used to the more detailed animes it might take a bit of time getting used to. For the most part though, everything is drawn well, the animations are nice and fluid, and like some series (such as Ghost in the Shell), they try to keep the "anime faces" to a minimal. So yeah, don't go expecting to see funny X shaped eyes, or tear drops floating in the sky. Not saying it isn't there, but it isn't plastered allover the episodes like in a lot of shows. Now that may be a minus for some of you, but that's a plus in my book. Other than the random fan service episode, I really don't have anything truly bad to say about this one. Sure I do wish it could have been longer, but if it was it might have lost some of it's solid story telling, so really, I'm glad it is what it is. As of right now Strain can be watched both in English and in Japanese, so really it is up to you to decide which version you think is best. While the English dub really isn't bad, the voice actors do a good job showing emotion, if you just don't care for them, you should just stick with the original Japanese version. Recommended Age Group: 14 + (18 + for Episode 7)Number of Episodes: 13Gender it Most Appeals to: Both Male and FemaleNettoSaito's Rating: 10/10

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