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Anime / Stratos 4

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Saving The World With Fanservicenote 

Fifty years before the start of the series, scientists learned that a group of comets would enter the Solar System on a collision course with Earth. The United Countries set up a two-tiered global defense system against the threat: the primary one being the space-based Comet Blasters, who ride out on spaceships and deploy special missiles that vaporize most of each comet, and the secondary one being the ground-based Meteor Sweepers, who ride up on high-altitude airplanes to blast what's left of the comet to bits.

Most of the series takes place on an airbase on Shimoji Island (a.k.a. Shimojishima or Shimojijima) in 2024, where Mikaze Honjou and three friends are Meteor Sweepers, and trainees to become Comet Blasters. Mikaze, despite coming from a family of aircraft pilots, initially feels kinda down about training and going to space, despite her original enthusiasm for the program. But she's soon convinced to be the high achiever, leading her team into a strange web of conspiracies and secrets...

The series consists of the following:

  • First season: thirteen episodes, with an ending that offers relatively little closure
  • A non-canon humorous 5-minute short
  • A two-part (two episode lengths) OVA following the first season
  • A "Log Book" episode (1 episode length) summarizing the first season
  • A second season, Stratos 4 Advance: six episodes, released as OVA, ending on a cliffhanger, and expanding on and explaining a lot of the loose threads left over from the first season.
    • Two more episodes, finishing the plot arcs much more conclusively, and tying up far more loose ends.
  • A one-volume manga drawn by Kirishima Takeru

It's strongly recommended that you watch more than just the first season, due to the fact that the plot really doesn't end with it.

Stratos 4 is an anime series produced by Studio Fantasia, and directed by Takeshi Mori (who also did Vandread). Theme songs were written/performed by Melocure, except for the last one which is only by Megumi Hinata (as Melocure's other member had passed away). Not related to Infinite Stratos or the character Lockon Stratos.

Now with a Character Sheet in the making! Feel free to contribute!

This series provides examples of:

  • Above the Influence: Karin, who realizes that she has been infected by The Virus, forcefully stops herself from kissing Mikaze, which is the primary way of infecting other humans due to The Power of Friendship.
  • Ace Pilot: The Comet Blasters, the Instructors in Shimoji Island, and later, Mikaze and her friends.
  • Airbase Festival
  • Aloof Big Sister: Mikaze has one, appearing during the Airbase Festival episode. She is never seen again afterwards.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: The three non-Japanese Comet Blaster pilots from Orbital Station #7 are Annette Kerry, Betty Boozeman, and Chris Calman.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Tsukino, the chain-smoking agent of the Intelligence Bureau; so ambiguous he wasn't given a name until Advance. He is often seen in the shadows, present during Mikaze's court-martial, and speaks very little, but time and time again, he is seen helping Mikaze and co., often directly. Apparently, he personally knew Karin when she was only little and raised in a space station, which may explain his motivations, but none was ever confirmed.
  • Artistic Age: None of the Meteor Sweepers could be any older than 19, and yet they must have clocked more than thousands of flight hours, not to mention piloting rocket-boosted weapons of meteor destruction.
  • Big Eater: A very rare Played for Drama example: Those infected with The Virus displays this as the symptoms of their "incubating" phase.
    • Later, after Karin's infection was determined to be asymptomatic (or at least, she learned how to co-exist with it), her Big Eater tendencies are Played for Laughs.
  • Cats Are Mean: Alice/Admiral. Later, General, a stray kitten that Alice "adopted", picks up on the bad habit.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Hits early and hits hard, when Mikaze disobeyed orders and let a meteor fragment to fall on Earth due to her rashness. This, combined with the Court-Martial episode afterwards serves as the catalyst to the whole alien virus invasion plot.
  • Changing of the Guard: (In)gloriously subverted. With the two male rookies getting a Test Pilot job and the four heroines off to take their Comet Blasters exam and the introduction of the three new rookies, the Advance OVA seems set to start with brand new characters. Cue the news that the 4 main characters have failed their exam and has to return back to Shimoji island. This also meant that the aforementioned trio were reduced to the usual Plucky Comic Relief.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: A group of four are shown regularly as rocketry otakus, and the main characters met them during the Hot Springs Episode. Unlike most examples, they surprisingly became the four heroines' greatest asset when facing off against the Organization's Evolutionist Faction.
  • Combining Mecha: Appears in the non-canon 5-minute bonus episode. The resulting mecha somehow manages to be just as fanservice-y as some of the human characters.
  • Compilation Movie: One of the movies summarizes the events of the first season and other movies.
  • Cool Plane: The anime never shies in depicting "repurposed" old technology. In fact, the sheer amount of jets employed in the anime is a fanservice all unto its own for aviation enthusiasts. For example:
    • BAC TSR-2MS, a Cold War British strategic, high speed bomber repurposed as high altitude interceptors firing guided missiles into meteor fragments.
    • Yak-28MS, a Soviet Cold War bomber repurposed as a trainer, complete with glazed nose tip.
    • Later in the OVA series, the MiG-31MS, a redesigned Cold War interceptor was employed in Meteor Sweeper duties.
    • Vickers Type 559, a British real-life prototype interceptor, was air-launched from an American Convair YB-60 strategic bomber.
  • Emotionless Girl: Deconstructed and then reconstructed with Karin. She's introduced as a rather emotionless, logical girl. Then we learn it's because of her dormant alien virus infection. Then, after apparently successfully coexisting with the Virus, her emotionless state is mostly Played for Laughs.
    • Emotion Suppression: What The Virus does. In the first OVA, we witness how Miharu, then married to Sako gradually changed from a caring wife/mother to a coldly logical commander.
  • Expy:
  • Fan Disservice: Horrifyingly subverted when Commander Miharu forcefully kisses Betty when she showers. The infection method for The Virus is through a kiss.
  • Fanservice: It's Studio Fantasia of Najica Blitz Tactics fame, after all. The official manga further amps it up, showing the girls topless (nipples and all, unlike the anime) at various points.
  • Gainax Ending: Season 1.
  • Glory Hound: Downplayed, but Commander Earhart in Orbital Station 8 in the Advance OVA series shows signs of this.
  • Government Conspiracy: The Cosmic Emergency Management Agency is, apparently, aware that the comets actually contain some sort of an alien virus that can infect human beings. They are however, split between the Protectors, who see it as irrelevant as their job is to destroy the comets anyway, and the Evolutionists, who believe that the Infection may be beneficial.
  • Heroic BSoD: Betty and Chris, who were once infected members of Comet Blasters were so affected by what they have done that they get traumatic flashbacks when seeing food or showers.
  • Hot Springs Episode: The Meteor Sweepers get this as their holiday.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Shizuha's entire schtick. She has a qualification for just about anything, especially things that should be irrelevant to jet piloting.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Between the Comet Blasters and the Meteor Sweepers, and Intelligence and the rest of the Organisation.
  • Kiss of Death: How The Virus propagates.
  • Latex Space Suit: Played very straight. Subverted with high-rank pilots from Shimojijima who use a (only slightly) less skintight pilot suits.
    • On a rather interesting twist, even males use said space suit (well, pilot suits).
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Dita Liebely and Meia Gisborn actually appear briefly in one episode of the original series.
    • Made more friendly by the fact that the directors are the same and the voice actors for both characters also played a role in this anime.
  • Left Hanging: Sadly, even the end of Advance Final did not resolve all of the remaining plotlines, such as the fate of Rei, Sako Kouichirou and Miharu's previously said to be unborn child and the relationship between Tsukino and Karin, given the few clues of flashbacks that he had.
  • Leitmotif: If you pay attention to the soundtrack, you might pick up on a tune that appears every so often, in several different forms, and usually in a minor key. (The major key version is in fact officially named "Mikaze's theme".) It turns out that these are all based on the second ending theme, which is used in the final episodes of each season, and is quite pretty.
  • Male Gaze: Whenever female pilots get into prone position when piloting their Meteor Sweeper jets, expect a lot of shots panning towards their lovely behinds. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Meaningful Name: Most of them have names related to wind or flight. Mikaze is a standout example, as her name has "kaze" - "wind" - on it.
  • Mildly Military: The Interception Base (or at least Shimoji Island's) operation is explicitly said to not be military at all, and as such, Shimoji Island Base doubles as a flight school, and their pilot candidates still has to earn their keep being waitresses at the local watering hole. That, and the skirt uniforms.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: The four heroines are named after World War 2 Japanese aircraft designers.
    • Honjou Mikaze refers to Honjo Kiro, the designer for Mitsubishi.
    • Doi Shizuha refers to Doi Takeo, designer of Kawasaki Ki-61 "Hien".
    • Kikuhara Karin refers to Kikuhara Shizuo (Japanese wikipedia), an engineer for Kawanishi, designer for Kawanishi H8K flying boat and later designed Japan's post-war Shin Meiwa US-1A amphibious plane.
    • Nakamura Ayamo refers to Nakamura Katsuji, the designer for Nakajima J1N Gekko, also known as Irving note .
    • The Japanese Comet Blaster team member, Kubo Chizuru, refers to Kubo Ryogo, a mathematician. The rest of her team also refers to mathematicians and aerospace engineers (see Spell My Name with an S entry below).
    • Commander Earhart in Stratos 4 Advance is named after Amelia Earhart.
  • People Jars: Karin was put inside one. Later, Miharu was put there too by Mikaze. She persisted in that state until the climax of Advance and Advance Final
  • Phenotype Stereotype: Subverted. Due to how every character looks, it's hard to know without knowing their names that Commander Robert Reynolds of Shimoji Island Base is British.
    • Same deal with Advance and Advance Final character Ludwig Mitterhuber. He looks exactly the same as almost every other character despite being German.
  • Running Gag:
    • Mikaze napping in the Mr. Sako's engine. Gets subverted when Sayaka naps there one day.
    • The new trainees' training getting shoved aside for more plot-important factors. And their complaining that they should be the main characters.
    • Alice's (and later, General's) stowing away in things. Later, they even try multiple times to stow away inside planes and even rockets!
    • And of course, Karin is always scared still seeing the two cats.
    • Speaking of Karin, she always eats. Always.
    • The love chain roughly goes like this: Kei chases after Sayaka, Sayaka chases after Kazuma, and Kazuma chases after Ran. Nobody ever gains any progress, and much laughs were had.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Shimoji Island Base is filled with rather charismatic group of Misfits. It works to their advantage, gaining them some rather powerful allies. Including the Comet Blasters.
  • Real-Place Background: Shimoji Island actually exists. The eagle statue with the broken right wing that Mikaze usually visits early in the series also exists (with the difference being that the wing is not broken in real life). Shimoji Island Base is the island's real-life civilian airport, and looks exactly the same as well, even down to the wooden pier at the end of the runway and the control tower as well (with the obvious difference that it is very much not a base for rocket-powered, meteor-shooting fighter jets). More of the comparisons can be found here.
  • Retired Badass: Commander Reynolds and Mikuriya Rin were implied to be heroes in their days. Yes, Mikuriya Rin, the elderly owner of the Chinese Restaurant Kouchin, is apparently so legendary that even the Comet Blasters revere her, referring to her old callsign "Jet" Rin.
  • Shower Scene: Many of the Comet Blasters members were forcefully infected with The Virus while showering, so much that it emotionally scars one of the characters.
  • Shout-Out: The Cosmic Emergency Management Agency is the English translation of the organization in-universenote , which shares its name with a certain Agency in Green Lantern.
    • The entirety of Episode 5 of Advance is a Whole-Plot Reference to The Right Stuff. They even recreate the dialogue between Chuck Yeager and Jack Ridley (the "you got any Beemans" scene, to be exact).
  • Shown Their Work: The planes, while fictionalized, are based on real life planes - especially the TSR-2MS.
    • Also, episode names refer to flight jargons. One OVA episode is named "Cross-wind takeoff", a rather turbulent maneuver that foreshadows the contents of the episode.
  • Slice of Life: What some of the episodes aim to show—what life is like on a pretty isolated island where the local Chinese restaurant is the local watering hole, enough that it's tradition that trainees board there, and work there to pay their rent.
  • Spell My Name with an S: The last names for Annette Kerry note , Betty Boozemannote , and Chris Calmannote  can be romanized as Cayley, Busemann, and Kármán respectively, referring to famous mathematicians and aerospace engineers. See Named After Somebody Famous entry above.
  • The Ditz: Mikaze. Oh so often.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: ''Does the plot sound suspiciously similar to some Bruce Willis movie?''
  • The Virus: The driving force of the first season.
  • The Resenter: Tsubasa couldn't accept that "someone so unmotivated" like Mikaze beats him in being the Number One flight. The rivalry got up to the point that they both are competing in shooting targets. However, the plotline was quickly ended when Mikaze, possibly because of the rivalry, messed up really bad and had to be Court-Martialed.
  • The Stoic: The alien virus infection does this to people.
    • Not So Stoic: Unfortunately, the effect is not total. Miharu was so attached to her wedding ring that it gave Mikaze mere moments of distraction before incapacitating her during the climactic battle in the finale of the original series.
  • Theme-and-Variations Soundtrack: A number of tracks, including one labeled "Mikaze's Theme" (for the lead main character), that all share a tune. At the last episode, this is revealed to be the tune of the second ending theme (which is used for the ends of whole seasons).
  • The Power of Friendship: Played straight, deconstructed, and then reconstructed at the same time. The Organization, who knew about Karin's infected status deliberately put her in Shimoji Island Base to observe what she would do. They did not expect that her infection stayed dormant; it was suppressed precisely because her bonds of friendship is strong enough, and later, it can be determined with great certainty that she could even achieve a level of coexistence.
  • Third-Person Person:
    Karin: " hungry."
  • Those Two Guys: Miyazaki Tsubasa and Ikeda Sora. However, as time went on, their role became greatly expanded, especially in Advance OVA series.
    • Fujitani Kei and Iwasaki Kazuma, the two male instructors fit the bill more. After Advance, the three newbies generally get the same treatment.
  • Token Minority: Mana from Advance
  • Tomboyish Name: Chris Karman.