Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.
Stratos4 Vol. 2
Date 15 Jul 2005
The second volume of Stratos4 opens with Mikaze under interrogation for her actions at the end of volume 1, with her friends following her to the city to try and help.
The sudden change from lightweight comedy to serious drama doesn't really convince, but this is the start of a background plot that will eventually come to the fore in volume 3, so its worth paying attention and looking for even minor details which will make a big difference later on.
After the first episode, we're back to the usual hi-jinx of life at Shimoji island, with the stand out episode concentrating on the adventures of the cat known as The Admiral, who unwittingly ends up carrying an important data disc on its collar, forcing the entire base into a manic cat-hunt which creates a plethora of bizarre and unusual lures...
There's also an episode which introduces a "parents day" at the base, which seems bizarre - the fate of the Earth in the hands of people young enough to host an open day is a truly scary thought, but if you can suspend disbelief long enough it becomes an entertaining episode.
Stratos4 is an odd one to judge. Technically, its fine - the characters are likable enough, the episodes are fun, but nothing stands out, and it really introduces nothing new. The series may look lovely and boast some polished CGI, but 801 TTS Airbats in particular does everything Stratos4 does, only better thanks to superior writing.
This series also suffers from a healthy anime market - are you really going to buy this over, say, Gundam Seed? Witch Hunter Robin? Full Metal Alchemist? With anime in this country seeing some incredibly strong releases, Startos4's biggest problem is its own mediocrity, and in a market swamped with quality releases, that's fatal.
Lightweight and fun, but falls short in the face of superior releases.