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"Only you can do what you've decided to do. If you keep that in mind, nothing is impossible."
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Soukou no Strain — the English language localization release is stylized as Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry, is a 2006 Mecha Anime series by Happinet and Studio Fantasia.

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 Sara is left alive.

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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 (called Emily) 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 (who now works for Deague Captain Vivian Medlock) and figure out just why he would do something so horrible. And when she does, can she face him?

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. This later became industry standard for almost any licensed anime. Anyone interested (and living in America) can see the series here.

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Tropes:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The Strain fights. They're still pretty rad-looking, but, compared to the actual animation, they're obviously computer-generated.
  • Ace Pilot: Ralph is considered the best Reasoner in the Union, having taken down ten warships singlehandedly and being the youngest Reasoner to be granted a Gloire model at just 18. He's just as competent if not more so when he's older and on the Deague side, albeit hampered by the fuel and repair issues that come with siding with an army that doesn't use Strains.
  • Adaptational Nonsapience: This is an anime based on A Little Princess with characters from other Frances Hodgson Burnett books (Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden) appearing as well. Most of the characters have little in common with their book counterparts.
    • Ram Dass is an Indian assistant to the rich man who saved Sara from Miss Minchin's abuse in the book. In the anime, Ram-Dass is a Humongous Mecha. In a way, it retains its role as Sara's protector.
    • Zigzagged with Emily, who's just a doll in the book. In the anime, the Emily that Sara found is a Mimic, a machine fused with brain cells taken from a Reasoner before birth. To further explain the Technobabble, Reasoners are mecha pilots while Mimics are "keys" for the titular Strains, which are Humongous Mecha biometrically locked to those with Mimics and superior to those mecha that don't require it. The Mimic enables a Psychic Link with the person from whom the brain cells are taken from. A Reasoner who lost their Mimic can no longer pilot a Strain. Sara lost her personal Mimic but, somehow, she was able to use the Emily Mimic to pilot the Ram-Dass Strain. It's then revealed that Emily is a Mimic of an alien race who consisted of pale-skinned identical girls, all of whom share a telepathic connection to one another and the Emily Mimic that Sara found contains the mind of one of two surviving Emilys.
  • Aesoptinum: The Strains are derived from research done on aliens that look exactly like little human girls, and the research is supposed to continue (though they don't really finish that plot thread) so they can achieve instantaneous communication and more with the further dissection and possible brain removal of said girls. Naturally, Ralph didn't like this, so he decided it would be best to punish humanity for this.
  • 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 ridiculed in Basion.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Ralph is quite aloof towards his little sister Sarah, especially after his betrayal.
  • Alpha Bitch: Isabella often insults Sara. She doesn't last more than a few episodes, and afterwards her allies continues to harass Sara, blaming her for Isabella's death. In episode 5, Isabella's friend Mariette becomes the new leader, and ends up ridiculing Sara to the point that she is about to kill her. 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: "Only you can do what you've decided to do. If you keep that in mind, nothing is impossible."
  • Back for the Finale: Mariette and the Gambee pilots return for the final episode.
  • Badass Longcoat: Ralph's outfit is a black long coat.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Played straight when Reasoners are shown linking with their Mimics or inside their Strains (they're not actually naked, but it's used to signify the link); however, the nudity in the OP and episode 7 is uncensored.
  • Berserk Button: Lottie's gets pressed accidentally by Sara at the end of episode 8 when she hears Sara calling Ralph her brother.
  • Big Bad: Captain Vivian Medlock, who runs the Deague ship that the heroines' Union ship comes into combat with, is technically this; however, she is mostly in the background, as the show focuses more on her enforcer Ralph Werec, once a star pilot and beloved brother of Sara until he defected. Ralph ultimately turns out to be the real threat when he betrays and kills Vivian to accomplish his goal - eliminate humanity as revenge for their treatment of the little girl aliens called the Emilies.
  • Big Brother Worship: Sara used to feel this way about Ralph, until he betrayed the Union. Lottie, on the other hand, still feels this way about her own brother, who was murdered by Ralph.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Towards the end of episode 5, the Reasoners stop the Gambee pilots from beating up Sara.
  • Black Box: The invention of Strains and Mimics.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Happens to Ralph later in the series.
  • Bookends: Sara's and Ralph's matching musical pendants being snapped off as they destroy each other's Strains.
  • Bottle Episode: A good number of the episodes don't leave the Libertad and/or surrounding area.
  • Breather Episode: Episode 6, in which the crew holds a party, and episode 7, in which the Fanservice is turned Up to Eleven as Lavina attempts to seduce Sara.
  • 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 as the evil older brother and Sara as the good younger sister.
  • Captured Super-Entity: A large sample size of an entire alien race was captured and vivisected to study their powers and steal their technology. This is where Strains and Mimics came from.
  • Cartwright Curse: Sara's two serious love interests both get killed in battle.
  • Catchphrase: Melchisedec's "Shut up, Carmichael" whenever she teases him or says something he doesn't agree with.
  • Character Narrator: Sara narrates the beginning and end of some episodes, although, in a few cases, she might be talking to Emily.
  • Char Clone: The show's been called "Gundam starring Sayla". Ralph himself looks exactly like Zechs Merquise (plus a scar), who's viewed as the most blatant Char Clone in Gundam.
  • 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. However, at about the point where she goes for a large lead pipe, the Reasoners intervene.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Episode 1 mentions a number of things you'll only notice on a rewatch, like Ralph talking about the rescue mission he's been sent on (which we see in flashbacks in episodes 10 and 11, detailing his Start of Darkness) and the instructors at Glabella asking what the orbital forces are doing during the attack (where Lottie's brother was stationed, and he and his entire squad were killed just before). In episode 2, Sara walks by the cloaked Ram-Dass before she finds Emily.
  • 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: Subverted. Nearly the entire Basion force is made up of teenagers, but only because they are cadets on a training cruise, and a good number of the teachers died in the first battle protecting the students. Many of the cadets die due to inexperience, and they do keep calling for adult backup and set out to try and reach the actual army, which they only can't because the platoon they were supposed to meet up with went to fight the Deague forces that were on the way.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Ralph dominates any fight that he participates in, save for the Final Battle.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Lavinia's Lovely Plot" for Plucky Comic Relief Lavina, as she tries and fails to seduce Sara.
  • Deadly Bath: Captain Medlock is showering when Ralph betrays her by trapping her in the bathroom and leaving her there freezing as he takes out the rest of her crew] while she's helpless.
  • Dead Star Walking: Mary and Isabella were both played by the same, fairly famous, VA.
  • Defector from Decadence: Ralph was a celebrated war hero, but defected when he discovered the horrifying research that led to Strains and the war crimes he was being instructed to do to cover it up.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Sara herself resists getting close to anyone after she cuts her hair and changes her name, but slowly, the Spatial Armour Division starts to bring her around,
  • Ditto Aliens: Emily (both of them) come from a Hive Mind of identical alien children.
  • 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: Sara's school and home planet suffer devastating attacks in the first episode.
  • 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." Dì guó 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 Gambee pilots are 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: By the end of the first episode, Sara is the only survivor of her entire school, and as we learn, nearby military outposts (like the one Lottie's brother was stationed at) suffered a similar fate.
  • Evil Counterpart: Ralph, like Sara, loses everything and discovers the Awful Truth about the Union, but Ralph turns against them and humanity in general, whereas Sara stays loyal and fights to prevent any more death.
  • 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, with onlky the excuse that a Strain is plugging up the hole in the ship.
  • Expy: Vivian Medlock and Ralph Werec are essentially Shinzen Tennozu and Chouji Suitengu Recycled IN SPACE!. Both are a villainous couple, with the sultry, domineering woman serving as the Big Bad and the tall, white-haired man serving as The Dragon whom the show focuses much more on; who are shown about to make love multiple times, until the man betrays and kills the woman, then reveals himself as the real villain — except he then reveals that he is a Well-Intentioned Extremist and has good reasons to do what he is doing, and a sympathetic backstory as well. The main differences are that Ralph isn't portrayed as ultimately being in the right, and doesn't win in the end.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Ralph in the backstory, setting up for the rest of the show.
  • Facial Markings: The living Emily has strange markings on her face, as does the rest of her race.
  • Fallen Princess: Sara. The show's based off A Little Princess, and fittingly, Sara goes from a prodigy from a rich family who's constantly praised and held up to her brother to a nobody who's lost everything and can't even pilot a Strain anymore, tormented by bullies who set out to take everything that makes her happy.
  • Falling into the Cockpit: At least she's a trained pilot, but Sara ends up in the cockpit of Ram-Dass thanks to a psychic call and the drunk and despondent engineers just deciding to let her because they've given up anyway.
  • Fanservice: Quite a bit; it comes to the surface in the form of Shower Scenes usually showing the girls Shoulders-Up Nudity or Scenery Censor (but not always) or in their underwear and Modesty Towels in the changing rooms. Lavinia is by far the character that presents it the most, having quite a few Sexy Whatever Outfit options in her wardrobe.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Not actually present, since the ships' maximum speed is still sub-lightspeed. 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 Twist: Sara's friends all end up getting killed... and the culprit is Sara's beloved older brother Ralph.
  • Flat Character: Most of the Spatial Armour Division have only a handful of character traits.
  • Forgotten Childhood Friend: Ralph resembles this, despite most certainly not being forgotten.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • Str.A.In.: 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 starts off focusing on school life and romance, with the assurance that the war won't be much of a problem in comparison. 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 bully Sara relentlessly when she's in their division and even for some time after she transfers, considering her gloomy, antisocial behaviour "creepy" and berating her for not following orders, "sucking up" to Reasoners (when Lottie takes an interest in her), and being a poor Gambee pilot (as she still fights like she's in a Strain).
  • 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.
    • Medlock is brutally killed by her own security system in this manner. We only see her being picked by the Tumors tentacles before the scene cuts away to the floor where we see the silhouette of the tentacles start vivisecting her as she screams in anguish.
  • 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. Even Melchi, who created the doll as a prototype Mimic casing, found the original Mimic inside and decided to use it for the doll as he'd assumed it was a useless Mimic that didn't have a Reasoner anymore; he had no idea where it had come from.
  • 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.
  • The Heavy: The two villains are Ralph Werec, the protagonist's once-idolized brother and the best pilot either side of the war has ever had, and Vivian Medlock, the immediate superior he's got around his finger. Ralph is clearly Medlock's Dragon for much of the series, but he, not her, is always presented as the main antagonist. Ralph ultimately leads the Final Battle, while Medlock gets screwed over.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Medlock after Ralph betrays her 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 hides his true intentions from the rest of Deague, and the Union can only guess at why he defected.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Explicable in some cases — they're in space, after all.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Lightspeed. There's a lot of not only dodging speed shots but also Tumors swarming after the Strains.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Medlock is killed by her own Tumors once Ralph deletes her from the ship's recognition system.
  • Humiliation Conga: Lavinia suffers one in episode 7. After many failed attempts at seducing Sara, Lavinia decides to be bold and breaks into the bathroom while she's showering and kisses her. Only it turns out to actually accidentally kissing Jessie in the shower and Sara walks up behind her seeing Lavinia fully naked and making a fool of herself. Embarrassed, she unintentionally runs out of the showers into the halls full of students. When she notices she's naked in front of a cheering crowd, she has a Naked Freak-Out and tries to rush back in, only to find herself locked out. She then goes Streaking through the academy, crying and doing her best to cover herself. This is all played for laughs.
  • 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.
  • Humans Are White: Weird for an Asian show, but maybe not considering the source material. Most of the cast is human and the vast majority are either confirmed or probably supposed to be white; Dickon and a few extras are Ambiguously Brown, and there are background characters named Chie and Lin, but that's about it.
  • Humongous Mecha: Strains are the actual humongous variety. Gambees are only slightly bigger than their pilots.
  • Hypocrite: Isabella calls Sara out for refusing to work as a team, but that describes Isabella herself just as well if not better. She dies due to a combination of not taking Sara's advice (continuing to cherry-pick easy targets and not watching out for something that blindsides her) and not taking her own advice (she refused to work as a team, sabotaging Sara's Gambee and ignoring directions to be a glory hog).
  • 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, all involving Sara retuning her affections.
  • Important Haircut: Sara chops off her hair between episodes one and two.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Strains were stolen and reverse-engineered from the weapons of an alien race the Union vivisected to study and covered up.
  • 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: Bits of foreshadowing come as the show goes on, but we're just as in the dark as Sara about what Ralph is doing and why.
  • Karmic Death: Happens to Isabella. She seemed impatient at getting out into the battle, and as a result, was one of the first Gambees attacked and killed.
  • Kiai: There is a lot of spirited yelling during fight scenes.
  • Killed Off for Real: Might be easier to just list survivors considering the high body count in this series.
  • Last of His Kind: The two Emilys, one of whom you couldn't really call alive.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Ram-Dass is extremely fast and a match for any Gloire strength-wise, including Ralph's custom; its biggest weakness is fuel consumption.
  • Like That Show, But with Mecha: It's based on A Little Princess.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Lavinia is attracted to girls and is one of the most traditional females in the cast.
  • Little Miss Badass: The army of Emilys, alien children in mechs, but they still 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 Gall.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Subverted, somewhat.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: In the first episode, Sara confronts the traitor who killed all her friends, only for him to turn around and reveal that he's her brother.
  • Luminescent Blush: Lavinia whenever she's daydreaming about Sara.
  • Mad Love: Ralph to Medlock. 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.
  • Meaningful Name: "Tumor" is a backronym, but it's also a good descriptor of mindless identical drones that overwhelm and tear apart their targets. Similarly, "Mimic" is also a backronym, and when we learn about their origins, we discover that the reason Strains require Mimics harvested from cells to clone the Reasoner's brain is because it's mimicking the connection that the original Strains used; since the aliens were psychic, they could just link to their machines, but humans had to create Mimics to get the same result.
  • 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 despises humanity for what they did to Emily. He defects to Deague in order to kill as many Union soldiers as he can as well as retrieve any survivors of Emily's race, but actually wants to turn on Deague and kill them all too.
  • 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 Deague anyway.
  • Modesty Towel:
    • Several scenes in the locker room show Sara and the other girls wearing towels.
    • This is all Captain Medlock is allowed to wear after Ralph betrays her, locking her in the shower and killing the rest of the Kunrun crew. When he goes back to take her prisoner, he only hands her a towel having disposed of all her clothes since her security pass is incorporated into her clothing, and depriving her of it leaves her dependent on Ralph. When she manages to flee from the Kunrun via an escape pod, she's still only clad in the towel and the heroes make fun of her when they arrest her.
  • 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. Sara also took five years of relative time to get from Glabella to Basion without aging a day, since the attack occurred in 7008 and the show takes place in 7012. Also, when they reach Gall, Carris meets his little brother, who is actually physically older than him due to the amount of time Carris spent at relativistic speeds. A quick glance at the displays in Sara's STRAIN shows that her final sublight battle with Ralph took over 100 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: During Sara's Darkest Hour in episode 1, the sun has just set. Episode 2 (when Sara's given up on finding her pendant), 5 (when the Girl Posse calls her into the boiler room and nearly beats her to death), and 9 (when Lottie confronts her in solitary confinement) also have dark and painful scenes where the lights have all gone out.
  • Mood Whiplash: Again, episode seven.
  • Morality Pet: The living Emily, to Ralph; the fact that he's protective of her and treats her like a person makes it easy to sympathize with him over Barrow, who treats her like a tool and a way to get back at Ralph. It still doesn't work to redeem him, though — he gets worse when he can't help Emily and when she discovers the extent of what he's done and sides with Sara instead — until he finally accepts defeat just before he dies.
  • 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: Sara has a bad case of PTSD and blames herself for not stopping Ralph at Grabera.
  • Naïve Everygirl: Sara, to a point. Much like the original Sara Crewe, while her suffering is far from her fault, she's "not an angel," prone to despair and self-destructive behaviour like cutting herself off from other people.
  • New Meat: Sara once she joins the Spatial Armour Division.
  • New Transfer Student: Sara at the academy 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.
  • Non-Indicative First Episode: Episode 1 starts out like it's going to be a happy school drama about changing the face of an endless war. Then comes the First-Episode Twist, where most of the cast is killed off and the stakes change from defeating Deague to the more personal finding out what happened to Ralph.
  • 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, where Sara and Carris, while looking for Emily, end up going for lunch, mistaken for a married couple, and take a break to watch the degaussing light show.
  • 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.
  • 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: In the last episode, the rest of the Spatial Armour Division shows up older, having followed Sara into sub-lightspeed.
  • Post-Episode Trailer: Every episode has one, save for the first, since the show premiered with the first two episodes back-to-back.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: Jessie is in a daze after Lavinia kisses her (mistaking Jessie for Sara).
  • Pre-Explosion Glow: Lots of things blow up in this series, and usually with the same lighting up before blowing up in an orange ball.
  • 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 Deague and all other humans. He's just pretending to support Deague because it's convenient for him.
  • Rain Aura: Seen in the flashback to James and Annie Werec's funeral.
  • Ramming Always Works: Done in episode 12, where the approaching Kunrun rams the Libertad and is about to explode.
  • Really 700 Years Old: In its truest sense, the Emilys, as well as Melchisedec and Carmichael, who look like children but are treated as adults and don't appear to age; 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 Gall, and when he learns of Sara's true background, he tries to understand why she did what she did without throwing random, baseless accusations.
  • Retirony: Graduation, not retirement; Sara's friends discuss graduation plans and how they're about to be assigned to different areas just before they all die instead.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Sara and Lottie grow into this, becoming one another's most important people on the ship aside from their Mimics after Sara loses another would-be boyfriend. Martha and Ermengarde don't get much development, so we don't know if they're actually dating, but they're always together, one is very feminine while the other is very masculine, and their entire personalities suggest Opposites Attract.
  • Running Gag: Lavinia is constantly attempting to seduce Sara, usually featuring her wearing many Fanservice Costumes, but something always ends up foiling her attempts, usually in a comedic and embarrassing manner.
  • Say My Name: Sara cries out her friends' names in episode 1 when they're struck down, Craven calls out for Jake as he gets sucked out of the ship when the Tumors break in, and Ralph is screaming Sara's name in rage in their fight at the end of the series.
  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: Lavinia and Jessie at least, and possibly Martha and Ermy too.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In episode 5, Mariette and the Gambee pilots hightail it out of here after the Strain pilots rescue Sara.
  • 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.
  • Sex God: Heavily implied to be the case with Ralph and it's how he manipulates Medlock, who, despite usually being a cold and domineering woman, turns into putty whenever he starts getting intimate with her.
  • 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.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot:
    • In episode 5, Captain Medlock in a rove and Ralph start kissing when they both fall behind the sofa out of the viewer's view as the screen Fade to Black.
    • Episode 7 also has a scene with Ralph throwing Medlock in bed before getting on top of her, with the scene ending with a Fade to Black and we hear her have The Modest Orgasm.
  • Sexy Silhouette: Lavinia eyes up Sara's in episode 7, and even strips down to join her in the shower with the intent of seducing her. But when she does, it turns out it was actually Jessie's Sexy Silhouette in the shower, turning the whole thing into a Shower of Awkward.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: After Lavinia's focus episode, she starts to fade out of the show and barely appears by the end, as the story's gotten more serious again and her brand of comic relief caused enough problems.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Ralph is in a sexual relationship with his superior officer, Captain Medlock as a means to an end.
  • Sliding Scale of Living Toys: Emily's at Level 0.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Melchi, who seemingly can't go a single conversation without mentioning how much of a genius he is.
  • Snow Means Death: Used by juxtaposing happy Snow Means Love scenes with serious battles in the end.
  • Snow Means Love: On Sara and Lottie's home planets, snow means brother-sister love.
  • Space Opera: An adventure set in space in the midst of a war.
  • Spanner in the Works: The Libertad wouldn't have stood a chance if Sara had gotten into her Gambee as planned, but Isabella cutting the wires as part of her bullying left Sara free to heed Emily's call and pilot the experimental Strain in the engineering bay. Isabella still isn't sympathetic or celebrated for it, of course.
  • Spell My Name with an "S":
    • Is Sara's home planet Grabera or Glabella? The manga and the English release use the former, but official art and the website use the latter, and Glabella fits the Theme Naming. Also, "Deague" is pretty consistent for the most part, but "Diguo" is used once, and it has an actual meaning.
    • The story takes place in the Cranial System, hence the planets being named for parts of the head. A screen in episode 1 shows it as the Clanial System.
    • 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, such as sub-lightspeed Time Dilation, a Romantic Two-Girl Friendship with a side of killing off male love interests, and lost family.
  • 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: Pushes Sara to work herself to the bone and shut out anyone else.
  • Synchronization: Reasoners and Mimics. A Mimic is a clone of the Reasoner's brain (with the plot-relevant exception of Emily) that links up with said Reasoner and allows them to pilot the Strain.
  • Team Spirit: Lottie insists that the Spatial Armour Division needs to work together and treat one another as True Companions in order to survive. As much as Sara initially rejects it, she comes around.
  • Terrible Artist: Sara's drawings are unrecognizable (she designs a dress and the boys assume it's either a space monster or some kind of abstract art). Somehow, Carmichael can still figure out what they are.
  • Theme Naming: Most characters are named for characters from A Little Princess and occasionally its author's other works. Locations in Union territory are named for body parts (Basion, Gall, Glabella, Bregma, Cranial System). Deague and its military ships have names in anglicized Chinese.
  • 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: Sub-lightspeed travel has the effect of moving unaging characters into the future.
  • 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.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Martha and Ermengarde.
  • Took a Level in Badass: 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 (albeit clearly holding back at one point in episode 4) and finally can stand toe to toe with him in episode 13.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Isabella's impatience in battle ends up doing her in.
  • Training from Hell: Mostly self-inflicted, as Sara proposes and actually follows a schedule that puts her in training every waking moment so she can catch up with her classmates and get to sub-light training faster.
  • 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 Sara doesn't wear anything under her flight suit.
  • Villainous Breakdown: 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 shuts down Dickon every time he hits on her, giving him this attitude.
  • 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. There is a Breather Episode. Which is also a Wham 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 Lottie and the other Reasoners not of intervened.
  • The Wrong Right Thing: The dying first Emily whom Ralph meets shares what the Union did to her species and opens a Baxter Gate to send him back to the past to try to right things. Unfortunately, showing him the truth breaks him and he becomes omnicidal.
  • Unfortunate Names: Sara's Strain is actually named Ram-Dass. Yeah, it's a literary allusion, but seriously?
  • Unholy Matrimony: The main antagonists are the villainous couple Captain Vivian Medlock and Ralph Werec. It soon become very clear that while she truly loves him, he's simply using her.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Ralph betrays Medlock and her crew once he's close enough to retrieving Sara's Emily. He keeps Medlock alive for a while though.

Alternative Title(s): Soukou No Strain

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