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Stratos 4 #1: Blast Off PDF Print E-mail
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R1 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 15 September 2004 00:00
Stratos 4: Volume 1Stratos 4 is another series from Studio Fantasia, the folks who brought you Najica Blitz Tactics. They weren't quite so obsessed with pantsu when they did this show, at least not at the beginning of the series...

1 - Initial Point
This Earth future's not so bright - the planet is being threatened by a swarm of comets that are on collison course with Earth, so the UN has set up the Cosmic Emergency Management Agency to deal with the threat. CEMA has two arms: the Comet Blasters, operating from space stations above the Earth & tasked with destroying the comets before they hit the planet; and the Meteor Sweepers, Earth-based fighter teams whose job is to clean up the pieces after the Comet Blasters have done their job. Anyone wanting to join the Comet Blasters has to work up through the Meteor Sweepers, and that's just what young girl Mikaze and her friends are determined to do. The theory side of training is proving a problem, though, and she's beginning to have her doubts...

2 - Fox One
Mikaze's still depressed & doubting her ability to achieve her dream - or is the problem more that it's her family's dream, rather than her own? No time for doubts, though, as the base fighters are scrambled to intercept some comet fragments that the CB tream missed - giving Mikaze what should be her first taste of action. But on the way to her fighter she suffers a bad case of cold feet, and freezes...

3 - Decision Height
Mikaze's got herself a renewed sense of purpose now that her first mission is out of the way, and to say everyone's surprised at her new-found dedication would be an understatement. Now just to see if it's just a passing phase, or if she can keep it up. Then there's the matter of the altitude record for MS flights - which Mikaze decides to take a shot at during a training flight...

4 - Tally Ho!
In the eternal battle between the boys & the girls, the girls have taken the lead, with the boys reduced to being backup pilots - just as one of the largest comets the CB team have dealt with so far approaches Earth. It's almost a cert that the MS teams will be needed to deal with this one, which is a prospect that excites Mikaze no end. She's brought back down to Earth, though, when she's challenged to a sharpshooting contest - and good aim's one of the most important requirements for a Meteor Sweeper pilot, right?

Take the 'day-in-the-high-school-life' formula that is an anime staple, and add something out of the ordinary to give the show some spice. Last show I saw that did that was GunParade March, and it did a good job of it, so Stratos 4 has a bit to live up to. Studio Fantasia's past work makes it look promising, too - while Najica was a fanservice festival at heart, the underlying James Bond-style story was pretty good - enough so that some people who would normally have been put off by the pantsu still managed to watch, and enjoy, it.

So. Cute female leads - check. Put-upon secondary male characters - check. Action (in the form if the CB scenes) - check. There's even a large dose of character development, mainly dealing with Mikaze and her motivations for wanting to get into space, and a hint at something darker at the end of the disc when the comets stop behaving as you'd expect a chunk of rock to behave. All the elements are in place for a good show, and they've been tied together well enough to make it enjoyable to watch, too.

Fantasia's penchant for fanservice hasn't entirely been erased, but it's fairly low key here (by their usual standards, anyway) and won't distract from the show itself. With a decent story and likeable characters, it adds up to a worthwhile show.

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