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Anime: Soukou No Strain

Take A Little Princess, put it in space, add Humongous Mecha and a lot of angst, twist the characters around and throw in some Fanservice to keep the fanboys with low attention spans.

Sara Werec (a jumbled "Sara Crewe") has been groomed from birth as an elite Reasoner, pilot of a mecha called a Strain. Only those who were chosen before they were born can pilot one (the thing relies on a psychic connection with a power core that includes the user's own brain cells), generally meaning the upper crust military families. Her main reason for joining the army is to find her beloved brother, over whom the staff at Grabera Academy gushes. She's just about to graduate and take the side of the galactic Union in an ancient war against the empire of Deague...

Then in come Deague forces, led by a stolen, modified Strain piloted by Sara's dear brother. The entire school is destroyed. No one except Sera is left alive.

Several months later, she takes another identity, goes to another school and starts training as a grunt pilot, having lost said brain cell core in the attack. But a mysterious doll with a psychic aura changes everything again, and soon Sara's back in the fray, although nothing will let her go that easily. Her goal: to find her brother and figure out just why he would do something so horrible. And when she does, can she face him?

The English language localization release is titled STR.A.IN.: STRategic Armored INfantry.

Aside from its rather shocking beginning, the series has become notable for being chosen as one of the series to headline the launch of Funimation's own Internet video-on-demand service, allowing the entire series to be legally viewable online in fairly high-quality standard-definition for free, with higher-quality single-episode purchases and DVD purchases available. Anyone interested (and living in America) can see the series here.

This show provides examples of:

  • Aesoptinum: The Emilys
  • Against the Setting Sun: First episode; after the big tragedy, such speeches happen gazing out at space.
  • Almost Kiss: Interrupted once by an enemy attack and once by a phone call. Both are immediately followed by the death of one of the would-be participants.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: While Sara was popular at Grabera, she's picked on in Basion.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Ralph, of course.
  • Alpha Bitch: Isabella, towards Sara. She doesn't last more than a few episodes, and afterwards her posse continues to harass Sara, blaming her for Isabella's death. A later episode has Isabella's friend as the new leader, but this girl ends up bullying her close to death. Not even Funimation's Youtube channel has this episode as part of it.
  • Alternative Calendar: The first episode takes place in 7008 S.E. (Standard Era), and the rest in various years around that time.
  • Anyone Can Die: Made clear in the first few episodes, where the cast is pruned from hundreds of extras to double- and single-digits.
  • Arc Words: The page quote.
  • Badass Longcoat: Ralph.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Played straight early on, subverted with Lavinia in episode 7. Particularly embarrassing for her as she unintentionally runs out of the shower naked after accidentally kissing Jessie, then runs through the ship in her birthday suit in shock.
  • Berserk Button: Lottie's gets pressed accidentally by Sara at the end of episode 8 when she hears Sara calling Ralph her brother.
  • Beta Baddie
  • Big Brother Attraction/Big Brother Worship: Both Sara and Lottie.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sara does a couple of these.
  • Black Box: The invention of Strains and Mimics.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Happens to Ralph later in the series.
  • Book Ends: Sara's and Ralph's matching musical pendants being snapped off as they destroy each other's Strains.
  • Bottle Episode: Quite a few.
  • Breather Episode: Episode 6 and 7. Enjoy it while you can, because the story really goes downhill from there.
  • Broken Pedestal: Ralph was Sara's inspiration up until he slaughtered her classmates.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Sara losing her first Mimic.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Melchi and Carmichael, the two mechanics. Melchi especially tends to be a bit eccentric, but his superiors seem to overlook it because he does some genuinely useful things that end up saving a lot of lives.
  • Cain and Abel: Ralph and Sara.
  • Captured Super Entity: Both Emilies.
  • Cartwright Curse: Sara's two serious love interests both get killed in battle.
  • Char Clone: The show's been called "Gundam starring Sayla". Some would argue, though, that Sara is as much or more of a Char than Ralph is.
  • The Cheerleader: The Gambee pilots act like this towards Sara, which progressively gets worse when the Strain pilots try to befriend her and when she gets Ram-Dass. Comes to a head after Isabella is killed in battle, at which point Mariette lures Sara to an isolated portion of the ship and starts harassing her, before she starts actually beating Sara up. Thankfully, at about the point where she goes for a large lead pipe, the Strain pilots intervene and shut the incident down.
  • Chekhov's Gun: the Emilies.
  • Collapsing Lair: Inverted with the Kunrun. Medlock activates the Self-Destruct Mechanism before any of the heroes are anywhere near it, to try and trap Ralph inside. Only after that does Ralph take the controls and ram the ship into the Libertad.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Strains other than Sara's Ram-Dass (magenta and blue) and Ralph's modified Gloire (brown and gold) are mass-produced, so there's a lot of this; the trainees at Grabera used yellow and green Flyssas, while the ones for the trainees in Basion are green, and the instructors and higher-ups at Basion are briefly seen with purple Strains of an unknown model. Ralph's first Gloire was blue and white, as are those belonging to the instructors at Grabera.
    • The uniforms at Basion are colour-coded, too. Orange for Gambee pilots, powder blue for Reasoners, teal for Bridge Bunnies, white for medics.
  • Competence Zone: The entire Basion force is made up of teenagers, although it is based at a school that was drawn into the battle, and they do keep calling for adult backup.
  • Cool Ship: Both the good guy's and the bad guy's main ship in the series.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: When the Reasoners are fighting thousands of Tumors, they cut through them like butter. When there's only a few Tumors around on the other hand, they have a lot of trouble with them.
    • A blatantly hilarious example happens in the beginning of episode 12, when Lottie and her remaining crew manage to destroy what looks like tens of thousands of them in a few moments. Then there's 2 left, and she's unable to get them off without Sara's help.
  • Conspicuous CG: The Strain fights. They're still pretty rad-looking, but, compared to the actual animation, they're obviously computer-generated.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Pretty much any fight that Ralph participates in, until episode 13.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Lavinia's Lovely Plot"
  • Dead Star Walking: Mary and Isabella were both played by the same, fairly famous, VA.
  • Defector from Decadence: Ralph.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Sara herself.
  • Ditto Aliens: The Emilies.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Every one of Sara's love interests at least starts out as this. Lavinia, the Gender Flip version, plays the concept truest.
  • Doomed Hometown: Grabera.
  • Dragon: Arguable subversion; Ralph is clearly Medlock's Dragon for much of the series, but he, not her, is always presented as the "villain".
  • Dying as Yourself: Ralph, as crazy as he was, gets a moment to recognize his sister and entrust her with Emily's care just before he dies.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Emily wears lolita dresses.
  • Emotionless Girl: Sara tries to come off as this, but her facade breaks throughout the course of the series.
  • Empathic Weapon: Mimics are created from the user's brain cells and are made to synchronize with the user and run their mecha.
  • The Empire: Deague is implied to be this; if you look carefully during the first episode where the lecturer is explaining the war, you will see the word "DIGUO." D gu is the Mandarin word for "empire." Additionally, on the series' official website, Deague is written with the Chinese characters for "empire," 帝国.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Bitch Brigade is fine harassing Sara in all sorts of ways, but when Mariette gets into actual violence, the other girls say it's going too far and beg her to stop.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Grabera again.
  • Evil Counterpart: Sara and Ralph.
  • Explosive Decompression: Well-done in the first attack on the Libertad, where the bridge is ripped open and becomes a vacuum — people have time to at least get to safety. However, in later episodes, TUMORs and mechs rip into the ship and whole conversations are had with the big hole to hard vacuum in the background.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Ralph, of course.
  • Facial Markings: The living Emily.
  • Fallen Princess: Sara. The show's based off A Little Princess, even.
  • Falling into the Cockpit: At least she's a trained pilot.
  • Fanservice: Quite a bit; it comes to the surface in the form of showers, change rooms and, well, Lavinia.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Not actually present. The effects of relativity causes some interesting time distortion effects that basically shape the whole plot.
  • Finger-Suck Healing: Lavinia tries to invoke this trope with Sara but fails.
  • First Episode Spoiler: Ohhhh boy.
  • Flat Character: Martha's sole personality trait is "Likes meat."
  • Forgotten Childhood Friend: Ralph resembles this, despite most certainly not being forgotten.
  • Fun with Acronyms: STRAIN: STRategic Armoured INfantry (also the show's official English title). Many other terms — like GAMBEE — are actually acronyms.
    • TUMOR is apparently an acronym (Tactical Unmanned Maneuver ORb, for the record), but more of a Meaningful Name.
  • Genre Shift: It seems to be a shoujo-ish mecha series, odd as that may sound (or maybe not). Then everyone's dead.
  • Girl in a Box: The doll Emily is a Doll In A Store Room and the living Emily is a Girl In A Stasis Pod, each taken in by one of the Werec siblings. A third Emily is a Girl In A Mech found in much the same way. She doesn't survive.
  • Girl Posse: The Gambee pilots at Basion.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Happens to Ralph, when he discovers that an "unmanned" robot he was fighting turns out to have what looks like a little girl inside. She then reveals how the girls share all their thoughts and memories with each other over vast distances, and gives him the same feelings. Which then causes an immense guilt trip when he discovers the Union performed hideous secret experiments on the little girls, effectively torturing their entire species.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Ralph has an Evil Scar over his eye.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Every time Ralph kills someone on the Deague ship Kunrun.
  • Grail in the Garbage: Sara finds the doll Emily in what looks like a scrap junkyard portion of the ship. She immediately grows attached to it.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: The Union uses Gratuitous English naming schemes (although all the characters have English names, so it would be less realistic if the machines and locations had Japanese names), while Deague names places and things in Anglicized versions of Chinese words (including "Deague" itself, which comes from "diguo" for "empire").
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Isabella and her friends are a bit jealous at how skilled the "new recruit" Sara is, and continually try to undermine her as much as they can. They even go so far as to steal her pendant, berate her, and tear her uniform, and later Mariette nearly kills Sara after Isabella died in an earlier battle, and blames Sara not helping out sooner in that fight.
  • Hair Colors: Blue, maroon, pink, and purple. Ralph's white appears to be caused by trauma, since his natural hair colour is blond.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Medlock and the living Emily.
  • Heroic BSOD: Sara is in this mode for much of the series, actually.
    • Happens to Lottie in episode 9, and she nearly kills Sara over it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Cedie in the first episode. Averted with Melchi and Dufarge. They were unable to stop the self-destruct of the enemy ship, so decided instead to move it as far away from the Libertad as possible. But then Lottie flies in to pull them out of there.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Ralph.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Explicable in some cases — they're in space, after all.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Lightspeed.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Medlock, killed by her own Tumors once Ralph deletes her from the ship's recognition system.
  • Humans Are Bastards: When Ralph learns what the Union did to the little girls, he swears to avenge them, hence why he goes around killing as many humans as he can.
  • Humongous Mecha: Strains are the actual humongous variety. Gambees are only slightly bigger than their pilots.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Sara's got the Cartwright Curse; who do you think this applies to?
  • Imagine Spot: Lavinia has a couple of these in episode 7.
  • Important Haircut: Sara chops off her hair between episodes one and two.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum
  • Improbably Female Cast (Basion Tactical Training School at least started with an equal number of male and female pilots, but the mass slaughter of most of the students ended up with a squad of pilots mostly composed of cute girls and all reporting to male officers too old to be a ship threat. Only two male Reasoners are left, one dies later, and the other spends the last battle on the sidelines with a broken arm.)
  • Is That Cute Kid Yours?: The living Emily on Sara and Carris' "date".
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: Or at least it did at James and Annie Werec's funeral.
  • It's All My Fault: Sara blames herself for Grabera's destruction. Lavinia later blames herself for Carris' death, as she lost the important item that he was searching for when Ralph killed him.
  • It's Personal: Both Sara and Lottie have personal motivations for fighting in the war and for wanting to defeat Ralph.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sara mid-series.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot
  • Karmic Death: Happens to Isabella. She seemed impatient at getting out into the battle, and as a result, was one of the first Gambee's attacked and killed.
  • Kiai
  • Killed Off for Real: Might be easier to just list survivors considering the high body count in this series.
  • Kill 'em All: Eventual aversion.
  • Last of His Kind: The two Emilys, one of whom you couldn't really call alive.
  • Like That Show but with Mecha: It's based on A Little Princess.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Lavinia, oh, so much.
  • Little Miss Badass: Lottie may not be child, but her flat chest and shortness were enough to give her the Fan Nickname. Also subverted by the army of Emilys, actual lolis in mechs, who went down like... well, dolls.
  • Loophole Abuse: The enemy ship chasing down the Libertad has sensors that closes off portions of a ship to unauthorized personnel. Emily tries walking around at first, but keeps getting locked off. Later, when Ralph returns to the room and takes a shower, she puts his jacket on, and while it's clearly too big for her, it lets her pass, and she's able to board one of the transport shuttles to head towards Gala.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Subverted, somewhat.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away...
  • Lost Technology
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: First episode.
  • Luminescent Blush: Lavinia.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Arguable subversion; see Dragon.
  • Mad Love: Ralph to Vivian. Or at least she thinks so. It ends up going the other way around.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: After Lavinia's aged and Sara hasn't, she still has that crush on her.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Surprisingly averted. Women die just as often (and pointlessly) as the men do in this series.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: Sara's mimic and Strain mech is destroyed in the first episode, but she gets replacements in episode 4, which are much tougher.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Ralph Werec.
  • Mistaken for Spies: Sara creates a new identity to avoid this. For good reason — once she's outed, everyone believes she's a spy for the Deague anyway.
  • Modesty Towel: Medlock first operates and then escapes from the Kunrun wearing nothing but one after Ralph kills the rest of the crew while she was locked in her shower. Justified in that her security pass is incorporated into her clothing, and depriving her of it leaves her dependent on Ralph.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: While some stuff is on the soft side of this scale, other aspects border on the harder parts, such as when they travel in close to lightspeed, they age slower than people in normal time. In one episode, an instructor mentions that four days have passed for them, while back on their home planet, a month has passed. Also, when they reach Gala, Carris mentions having a little brother, who is actually physically older than him due to the amount of time Carris spent in at relativistic speeds.
    • A quick glance at the displays in Sarah's STRAIN shows that her final sublight battle with Ralph took five years of relative time, supported by her friends wearing full military (as opposed to cadet) uniforms when they come to rescue her in The Stinger.
  • Mood Lighting
  • Mood Whiplash: Again, episode seven.
  • Morality Pet: The living Emily. It doesn't work.
  • Motive Decay: Ralph's insanity makes him go from "make things right" to "make the Union pay" to "kill all the humans ever".
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lavinia. She even gets her own episode where she fantasizes about Sara, kisses Jessie in the shower, and runs around naked.
  • My Greatest Failure
  • Nave Everygirl: Sara, to a point.
  • Narrator: Sara narrates the beginning and end of some episodes, although, in a few cases, she might be talking to Emily.
  • New Meat: Sara once she joins the Spatial Armour Division.
  • New Transfer Student: Sara in episode 2.
  • Never Grew Up: See Really 700 Years Old below.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Lavinia in episode 7 when she tries hiding Emily in the hopes that helping Sara "find" her would help win her over. Unfortunately she put her in the garbage room, and the doll got knocked into the trash chute. Which then got sent into a garbage truck, which is also speeding away from the ship to take out the trash.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Ralph Werec.
  • Non-Indicative First Episode: As you can see.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Ram-Dass. In their defense, creating custom mecha was illegal, and the Union made an exception on the spot.
  • Not a Date: Episode eight.
  • Not So Different: Lottie is a young girl who entered the military in order to follow in the footsteps of her beloved big brother — just like Sara. The main difference is that Lottie's brother was killed by Sara's, which results in Lottie demanding answers from Sara at gunpoint once her identity is revealed. The realization that they really aren't so different convinces Lottie not to shoot her. This is even lampshaded by the title of the episode where we learn all this: "Like Looking At Myself".
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Sara and Lottie both claim this right against Ralph.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Sara's and Ralph's matching musical pendants.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: How did Sara's hair divorce and new last name fool anybody!?
  • Parental Abandonment: Sara's parents are dead, and nobody else's are mentioned.
  • Phlebotinum Analogy
  • Playboy Bunny: Lavinia owns a pink Playboy Bunny suit. She wears it in one of her many, many failed Sara-seduction plans.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: The last episode.
  • Post Episode Trailer
  • Pre-Explosion Glow
  • The Promise: Sara and Lottie promise to meet their brothers in the army. It doesn't go well.
  • Psycho Supporter: Ralph to Vivian. Although not entirely: he is insane, and he does hate the Union, but he also hates the Deague and all other humans. He's just pretending to support the Deague because it's convenient for him.
  • Rain Aura
  • Ramming Always Works: Done in episode 12.
  • Really 700 Years Old: in its truest sense, the Emilys, Melchisedec and Carmichael; due to sub-lightspeed travel, just about everybody.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The captain on the Libertad. He actually takes suggestions and advice given to him by his subordinates, such as giving the crew some time off on Gala, and when he learns of Sara's true background, he tries to understand why she did what she did without throwing random, baseless accusations.
  • Reliable Traitor: Subverted — he's killed by yet another traitor before he can enact his plot.
  • Retirony: graduation, not retirement.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Martha and Ermengarde, who would have every appearance of being lovers but are probably straight.
  • Rule of Cool
  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: Lavinia and Jessie; the classic stereotypes subverted by Martha and Ermengarde, who seem to be very much straight.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Medlock has one installed on the Kunrun. A subplot in the last few episodes is devoted to first engaging it and then trying to disengage it.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Pretty much anyone who dies in this series. None of them really get to do anything heroic, they're just another casualty as far as the bad guy is concerned.
  • Sliding Scale of Living Toys: Emily's at Level 0.
  • Snow Means Death: Used by juxtaposing happy Snow Means Love scenes with serious battles in the end.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Melchi, who seemingly can't go a single conversation without mentioning how much of a genius he is.
  • Snow Means Love: Hopefully not siscon.
  • Space Opera
  • Spell My Name with an S: Is Sara's home planet Grabera or Glabella? The manga and the official subs use the former, but official art and the website use the latter. Also, "Deague" is pretty consistent for the most part, but "Diguo" is used once, and it has an actual meaning. Looks like, in both cases, other gratuitous foreign languages were transformed to look like Gratuitous English to match the rest of the series' terms.
    • Another question is whether "Strain" and other acronyms should be capitalized or not. (The official release doesn't capitalize them.)
  • Spiritual Successor: Shares many themes with Gunbuster.
  • Spoiler Opening: At first; eventually subverted by the death of a character in the OP and the survival of some that didn't make the cut.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: The living Emily does this to Carris and Sara in episode 8 when at the open air restaurant.
  • Survivor Guilt
  • Synchronization: Reasoners and Mimics.
  • Team Spirit
  • There Are No Therapists: Or at least Sara didn't go see one before changing her name and running off to join the army.
  • Time Dilation
  • Time Travel: Oh, theory of relativity, you drive this entire plot.
  • Token Yuri Girls:
    • Lavinia and Jessie. They never do get together in the end, or at least it's left open-ended, despite having a very close encounter due to a misunderstanding. Which is rather strange, since Jessie seemed very responsive, yet she never brings up the incident again afterward.
    • Also contains some mindbreaking hints at a possible relationship between Sara and her doll Emily. Things get worse when we discover that the "doll" actually contains the living brain of an alien girl. Whose race shares a common hive mind. So by acting nice to her, Sara acts nice to a whole goddamn One-Gender Race. Is this someone's weirdest yuri harem fantasy or what?
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Martha and Ermengarde.
  • Tomboyish Sidetails: Sara.
  • Took A Level In Bad Ass: While Sara was pretty competent as a Strain pilot, her brother absolutely stomps her the two times she tries to fight him in episode 1. As the series goes on, she's gradually able to withstand him a little better, and finally can stand toe to toe with him in episode 13.
    • And in episode 4 she would have curb-stomped him if she wasn't trying her hardest not to. Which is awkward.
  • Training from Hell: Mostly self-inflicted.
  • Tron Lines: Mercurion circuits in Strains.
  • True Companions: Lottie makes it clear that her team are this, and Sara is going to treat them like equals.
  • A Twinkle in the Sky: The first time Sara launches Ram-Dass, she speeds off into space, twinkles, and comes right back.
  • 2-D Space: Formations all seem to rely upon it.
  • Vapor Wear: the first episode makes a point of showing that Sarah doesn't wear anything under her flight suit.
  • Villainous Break Down: Ralph seems to suffer one after Emily refuses to go with him because she didn't want him going on another killing spree.
  • War Is Hell: While they don't preach it, many characters suffer relatively pointless and non-dramatic deaths. They seem important in one scene, then get caught in an explosion or stabbed/sliced apart by Ralph in the next.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Ermy to Dickon.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ralph feels what humans did to the little girls is unforgivable, and will stop at nothing to wipe them out. Hence his Face-Heel Turn.
  • Wham Episode: The very first episode. You think you know what's going on and then there's a brick to the face. And then the third episode, and then... heck, the show basically tosses a solid object at your anatomy every other episode.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Mariette and her posse in episode 5. At first they're extremely angry at Sara somehow being responsible for Isabella's death, but as Mariette continues her beating, even the other girls begin to get a little disgusted by how far she's taking it. It's likely she would've killed Sara with the lead pipe had Lotte and the other Reasoners not of intervened.
  • The Wrong Right Thing
  • Unfortunate Names: Sara's Strain is actually named Ram-Dass. Yeah, it's a literary allusion, but seriously?
  • X Meets Y: A Little Princess meets Gunbuster. With a little bit of Gundam
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Medlock.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: The female cadet uniforms aboard the Libertad default to an outfit with thigh-high stockings, a miniskirt, and about a handsbreadth of space between the two — Grade A, in other words.

Strike WitchesCreator/FU NimationSummer Wars
Soredemo Sekai Wa UtsukushiiAnimeSoul Eater
Mundane AfterlifeImageSource/Anime & MangaLike That Show but with Mecha

alternative title(s): Strain Strategic Armored Infantry; Soukou No Strain
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