Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation
by Lauren Orsini,
On the heels of a mediocre first episode, Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is beginning to show some promise. If episode one raised a lot of questions, episode two answered them—before pummeling the viewer with plenty of head scratching new questions of its own.
The first episode escalated quickly, from “I'm just an ordinary guy” to “...but I also time travel and am really handy with a gun.” It may have ended on a cliffhanger, but its dangling threads get resolved within minutes in the next episode. So what do you do when you meet your doppelganger? In Gunslinger Stratos, you battle him or her. The plot is quickly revealed from there—elite personnel are “fighting to save this world from ourselves.” At first glimpse, I love this concept. In a future where humans have created the ultimate super society, the only enemies we could possibly have left are ourselves. It has the potential to be a deep premise if executed well.
On the other hand, as Tohru notes, from the organized battling to the time travel, “this is all insane.” After all, this was a video game first, and now the anime is tasked with building up reasons for the fighting. For some reason, all the battles take place in Japan, 2015. A mysterious authority called the Timekeepers, represented only by crows, has given fighters on both sides access to an energy cube which regularly upgrades their weapons. Nobody sees evidence of this because of an elaborate government coverup. It's all too opportune, and viewers are right to pick up on that. This episode answers the first episode's questions too perfectly, too quickly, and it's bound to unravel sooner rather than later.
Now Tohru and Kyouka have literally fallen into a group of elites that is at once familiar and foreign. In their time, these people are classmates, instructors, and siblings. After they've all been revealed as time-traveling fighters, new relationships, rivalries, and intrigues are appearing around the group from all sides. I had a difficult time catching up on all of it, and a relationship chart between the characters of this show might already resemble a spider's web. What makes the characters especially eye-catching is the juxtaposition between their design and animation—they are animated simply, with few lines and shadows, but designed elaborately, with striking costumes. Against fancy futuristic backdrops, this stylistic choice makes for immediate character recognition, but I'm not sure how I feel about it beyond that yet.
I was surprised when I paused the episode at one point, expecting it to be almost over, but noted it had only been eleven minutes. This was unexpected not because it was dragging, but the opposite—it felt like they'd already packed in enough plot for 30 minutes by then. Gunslinger Stratos is going to be a wild ride, but we'll have to wait until episode three to see if it can maintain its momentum.
Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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