Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry

Strain is a mecha anime without all the religious pretenses. In the distant future ( over 7000 ce), humans have colonized large swaths of the local galaxy. Divided into 2 warring factions, the Union and the Deague, humans continue their long experiment with empire. Humans appear to be alone in the universe so far…

Sara Werec is a Reasoner, a pilot of mecha called Strains. Her elder brother, Ralph, is a legend and a traitor.

Strain follows Sara as she tries to unravel exactly why her brother betrayed the Union and herself. Most of the story takes place around an Academy vessel that trains Reasoners and regular pilots.

Strain feels more like a high school anime than a standard mecha. The academy is divided into various cliques: namely Reasoners and Gambee pilots. Sara is caught between the 2 groups as she struggles to come to terms with her brother’s betrayal. She hides her identity because of her brother’s betrayal. A good portion of the anime is Sara overcoming what looks to be PTSD and making friends. Again, it feels more like a high school drama than a sci-fi mecha anime.

Strain often feels strained. Sara’s obsession with her elder brother feels creepy. Her fellow trainees often seem to go out of their way to bully her. The training ship has very few teachers, and they have little reservations about putting inexperienced students into harms way. The mecha are also, surprisingly, not the focus of the anime.

There are some deep psychological elements: PTSD, coping with the loss of comrades, and the question of human life in relation to the greater universe. Strain just glosses over most of these elements. It doesn’t try to get lofty or deep. I rather liked that part of it.

The part of Strain I liked most wasn’t the CGI fights or the characters (surprising for my regular readers). I liked the way they handled space travel. The space ships travel at sub-light speeds. According to relativity, traveling at such speeds slows time down for the ship. That is reflected in the anime. One friend of Sara’s has a younger brother that is actually biologically much older. They often mentioned how long it took for anyone to travel to the front line of the war. Whenever someone enlisted, they basically outlive all their family members back on their home world.  It took something like 100 years or so of planet time to travel to the front lines. Just a few months in sub-light speed time.

Strain spends a lot of time explaining and illustrating physics ideas. I liked that. The anime has some major dubbing problems, however. It reminded me of watching the old Godzilla flicks with how poorly the lips synced to voice. The action scenes were repetitive and unimpressive too.  The characters feel pretty flat. Even Sara isn’t that likeable.

Strain is simply okay. The science is interesting in the anime, but it is just a one time watch. If you don’t decide to watch you only really miss out on an interesting take on space travel.