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Stratos 4 #4: Interception PDF Print E-mail
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R1 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 29 June 2005 12:35
Stratos 4 - Volume 4 (Cover Art)It's the final volume of Stratos 4, and I just knew Studio Fantasia wouldn't be able to keep up their good behaviour for the whole season - some zero-g combat scenes featuring women in short dresses gives them the opportunity to revisit their pantsu-flashing ways.  We'll allow them their fun, though, as these final episodes of the TV series (two OVA series to come, remember) manage to tie things up quite nicely...

11 - Target Merge
Karin's been taken away after falling ill, but nobody seems to know where to (she's not at the hospital they were told she'd been taken to), there's still no word from the orbital stations, and the base is on 24-hour standby to deal with the approaching comet shower - which makes it all the more surprising that Mikaze and Shizuha have been given time off to go look for her.  Back in the city, they're handed some information that she's been taken to a CEMA research facility, and turn to the conspiracy theory mob to help get her out.  They've been hearing stories of 'Star Seed' - an alien life form that has been using the comets to come to Earth - and it seems Karin's kidnapping may have something to do with it.  They have a plan to rescue Karin, but while it seems the girls are expected, help comes from an unexpected source, who finally gives them an explanation of what's been going on.  It seems that if they truly want to save Karin, they'll need to go into space to do it...

Stratos 4 - Sealing the barricadesStratos 4 - Mikaze and Shizuha run into trouble

12 - Engage
Up in space, the 'invaders' are making their plans for spreading down to the surface during the next comet's approach - it's a real monster, so they're hoping CEMA will be more focussed on stopping the meteor than preventing their ships from landing.  Meanwhile, Mikaze and Shizuha are doing their best to get a ride up to Orbital Station 7, where the remaining crew who haven't been taken over by the invaders broadcast a warning to the surface about what's been happening on board.  Special forces have taken over the girls' base, trying to find out what their plans are, while Karin awakens in orbit...

Stratos 4 - Stratos 4 - Karin wakes up in space

13 - Final Approach
Karin's confused - she knows she's one of the 'invaders' and should have their lack of emotion, but ever since she became friends with Mikaze and the others her emotions have begun to surface again - is she human or not?  Whose side should she be on?  Meanwhile, Mikaze and the others arrive in orbit courtesy of a cargo shuttle, just in time to join the battle between the invaders are the remaining free crew-members.  As if taking care of the invaders isn't enough, the largest comet yet has to be destroyed before it reaches Earth - giving Mikaze her first mission as a Comet Blaster...

Stratos 4 - Mikaze finds zero-g isn't easyStratos 4 - Mikaze and Karin take on their first Comet Blaster mission

All I'll say about the increased fanservice level is: yay!  Not that it's at all essential to enjoying this volume - as someone once said, "Fanservice is just anime gravy", but it really wouldn't have felt right for a Studio Fantasia series to have been completely well-behaved.

A lot of the escapades here are more than a little far-fetched - how likely is it that two teenage girls are going to be able to break into top-security facilities, or work in zero-g without any experience or training?  But that's not really the point - what Mikaze and Shizuha get up to on their way to save Karin just give these epsiodes a really fun feeling to them that makes them very enjoyable to watch.

The explanation of the Star Seed also helps tie up the story of the takeover of the orbital stations, and Karin's almost emotionless personality for most of the series, in a way that works quite well for a SF show.  Wrapping the whole thing up with Mikaze and the other girls finally getting their chance to pilot the Comet Blasters gives an opportunity to cheer them on one last time.  The final episode is left in such a way that the possibility is there that the girls didn't make it home, which might have been a downer of an ending if the follow-up OVA series hadn't already been announced.  Personally, I would have hated to be left thinking they had died.

Overall, Stratos 4 has been 13 episodes of lightweight, low-maintenance fun.  There isn't a lot here that really stands out on its own, but the series hangs together well, the characters have been great fun to watch, and it's even got re-watch value to boot.  Well worth checking out.

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