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Stratos4 Vol. 1
Author: Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.

Stratos4 Vol. 1

14 May 2005

Following the exploits of a group of student pilots, Stratos4 is set in a world where the threat of Comets colliding with Earth is so commonplace that an agency exists with the sole purpose of destroying them with advanced weaponry. The front line is manned with the best pilots available, whilst trainees man bases across the planet charged with destroying comet fragments.

Mikaze Honjou comes from a long line of ace pilots, and is stationed on Shimoji island as part of the Japanese contingent of Comet Busters. Initially she's reluctant to apply herself to her training, despite beating off competition for her place in this elite training facility, but as the four epsiodes on this disc progress, she begins to realise her ambitions, and pushes herself to the limits of her abilities.

Stratos4 is the latest offering from Studio Fantasia, the studio best known for their fan-service heavy titles Agent Aika and Najica Blitz Tactics. True to form, the series features its fair share of scantily clad young maidens, but without the pointless violence that always marred their predecessors.

The production values are pretty good, with effective use of both CGI and traditional animation. Though not as smooth as Gonzo's efforts, its good enough to remain unobtrusive. The music is remiscent of the Ace Combat series of Playstation games, and the occasional mission screens seem to be taken direct from the game as well. Perhaps the Studio are fans! (I know I am).

As with most series of this length, Stratos4 relies heavily on its characters to entertain whilst it builds up to more action-oriented episodes. Thankfully the cast are engaging - Top Gun style rivalries develop across the 4 episodes, promising heated engagements in the future, and the tension mounts as successive missions introduce the trainees to increased danger. By the final episode on this disc the series loses some of its innocence and hints of darker things begin to surface.

Although the initial sugary premise wasn't to my tastes, events towards the end flag this as a series with plenty of potential.

Initially sweet and unchallenging, the series hints at great things to come.
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