Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry (奏光のストレイン Sōkō no Sutorein?) is a mecha anime series by Studio Fantasia. It premiered across Japan on WOWOW from November 1, 2006. A manga adaptation is being serialized in the Dragon Age magazine. The concept of the series is loosely based upon Frances Hodgson Burnett's novels, most notably A Little Princess, but also Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden. On May 15, 2008, Texas-based licensor FUNimation Entertainment announced its licensing of Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry (also known as Soko no Strain or Soukou no Strain). The anime was available in a complete DVD release on January 27, 2009 across North America.
In the distant future, the galactic Union is in a war with the mysterious Deague. The Union's strongest force is made up of mecha called Strains, operated by users called Reasoners. These Strains as well as many other ships, are capable of going into "Sub-lightspeed travel". To be a Reasoner, you must have a Mimic, a machine fused with the brain cells from the reasoner before the reasoner was even born.
Sara Werec, an orphan, is the focus of the story. In the first episode, she despairs that her brother Ralph, an incredible Reasoner, will be going 130 light years away to the front line, and according to general relativity, even if he survives, when he comes back home, she'll be long dead. She decides that when she grows up, she will join the war, too, just to see her brother again.
Sara grows up to be the star Reasoner of her academy. One day, the planet is suddenly attacked by the Deague. The enemy force is headed by a strangely powerful Strain, whom Sara attempts to engage. The pilot takes out Sara (destroying her Strain and Mimic) and kills all of her friends. Sara escapes from her Strain alive and follows the enemy pilot into a forgotten lab near the Academy. The pilot retrieves a little girl in stasis and Sara recognizes the pilot as her brother. She calls to her brother, who barely seems to recognize her as he returns to his Strain and leaves. She declares that she will find out the truth of what caused her brother to become this way.
Stripped of her ability to control a Strain, she devotes herself to training under the pseudonym Sara Cruz. She seems to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder throughout most of the series from this point on. She is very quiet, allows people to push her around and beat her up, and seems very uncomfortable with people. She is repeatedly haunted by memories of her brother, and of her dead friends. Part of her antisocial behavior also seems to be a fear of connecting with anyone and then losing them like she lost everyone else.
At first, Sara is rejected by the other pilots. Because of her lack of a Mimic, she cannot pilot a Strain, so she joins the Gambee pilots. Because of her antisocial awkwardness, obsessive training, and talent that seems to come from nowhere, she is disliked and bullied by the other Gambee pilots. Everyone seems attracted to her both for the mystery of who she is and for their jealousy towards her.
Eventually Sara is taken under the wing of a very talented and headstrong Reasoner named Lottie, despite not being a Reasoner. Being rejected and not quite feeling like she fits in with anyone she spends much of her time in a Storeroom filled with junk. It is in here that she finds a doll that she calls Emily. This doll, being human like, seems to be a safe thing for her to connect with and she spends a lot of time talking to it and taking care of it.(Which, in turn makes her even stranger and more disliked by her crew-mates).
In that same Storeroom Sara later meets Melchi and Carmichael who are rebuilding a ruined Strain. Sara discovers that Melchi found a Mimic and created that doll around it. When the two are ready to test the Strain they use Emily as the Mimic and Sara as the pilot. Somehow she is able to connect with the Strain despite the fact that is isn't "her" Mimic. Despite some initial resistance from command, she is allowed to be a Strain pilot for the army. This causes even more resentment from the other Gambee pilots since being a Strain pilot is seen as more prestigious and it feels to them as though she cheated to get it, and also because her abilities piloting a Strain could have saved lives.
Later, in scenes following Ralph, it is discovered that the little girl whom he took is named Emily as well. Towards the end of the series it is revealed that Emily is a member of an alien race that lived 600 years ago. Due to the effect of Sub-Light Speed Travel Ralph was able to actually witness the race when it was alive. The race consisted of pale skinned identical girls, all of whom had a sort of telepathic connection to one another. When this race was discovered, all the girls were kidnapped and most were dissected to study their telepathic connection. Some, like Ralph's Emily were put into stasis and forgotten. The Deague are after all dead and living samples of the Emily's.
It is for this reason that Ralph later chases Sara's crew and ship, because the Emily Mimic that Sara found, contains the mind of one of the Emily's and is detected by Ralph's Emily.
Almost every character has been adapted from a Hodgson Burnett character. Though the first names of many characters are retained from A Little Princess and the other novels, the last names are scrambled, such as Crewe=Werec, or otherwise altered, such as St. John=Johannitz.
- Sara Werec (セーラ·ウィーレック Sēra Wirekku)?)
- Voiced by: Ayako Kawasumi (Japanese), Caitlin Glass (English)
- She begins a happy, well-liked and bright girl, the star graduate student of the elite Grabera Spatial Armoured Infantry Research Institute. Her parents, James and Annie Werec, are dead and she clings to the notion of seeing her beloved brother again. However, when her friends, her teachers and her Mimic are destroyed by none other than Ralph himself, she becomes a brooding, blunt, taciturn girl reduced to piloting unremarkable Gambee units.
- She appears to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite her defeat and disgrace instigated by her traitorous brother (which she escapes by cutting her hair, renaming herself Sara Cruz and transferring to another academy) and the bullying she endures from the bitter and confused Gambee pilots, Sara is completely focused on learning the truth. Her most precious possession is a musical pendant given to her by Ralph, until it is stolen (presumably by the jealous Isabella) in episode 2, after which she finds her Emily. Soon afterwards, Sara discovers that, against all expectations, Emily allows her to pilot a Strain again and she takes control of the Ink Strain Ram-Dass. She considers Emily to be her last hope to find out the truth and hopes that Ralph will revert to the kind and loving brother he once was.
- Sara's name comes from the novel's Sara Crewe.
- Ralph Werec (ラルフ·ウィーレック Rarufu Wirekku)?)
- Voiced by: Takashi Kondo (Japanese), Robert McCollum (English)
- Ralph was a dutiful soldier, the star student of Grabera Academy and the youngest person ever to pilot a Gloire Strain. Sara last saw him promising on his parents' grave not to let the family down. Six years later, he reappears in disguise with a scar on his face, having done just that and joined the Deague. He even coldly destroys Sara's home, friends and Mimic. Sara is driven by the mystery of why he has done so, and promises to face him again. Ralph's true motivation is partially out of compassion and partially from insanity.
- Ralph Crewe in the novel was Sara's father, who died and his fortune disappeared; this led to Sara Crewe's ruin, as this Ralph's defection did to Sara Werec.
The gaps in the air dates are attributed to two two-week hiatuses for a tennis tournament in late December-January, and the early premiere of Rocket Girls.
|Episode #||Title||Air Date|
|01||Prelude of Despair
|Sara is about to graduate with her close friends, but a surprise attack on the school changes everything.|
|Sara fights to qualify for higher training. When her precious pendant is stolen, she comes upon a chance she never thought she would have.|
|03||Sub-Light Speed Demon
|A battle at sub-light speed, an ability that Sara has just qualified to use, comes with both costly and miraculous results.|
|Sara duels with her brother and meets the other Reasoners.|
|Sara deals with her new status as a Reasoner, the aftermath of the last battle, and Mariette's vengeance.|
|06||Silently Walking Away
|Sara returns to the fray of battle and grows a fondness for her team.|
|07||Lavinia's Beautiful Trap
|Lavinia attempts to attract Sara, but makes a costly mistake.|
|08||Gall Space Repair Station
|Sara goes out to Gall, a space station, to look for Emily. However, she isn't the only one looking.|
|09||The Myself Before My Eyes
|Sara's secret is out, and Lottie wants to know why.|
|Detailing the truth of the Emilys, the war and Ralph's defection.|
|11||The Beginning of Revelry
|Sara and the Union prepare for battle, while Medlock sees the truth in Ralph's madness.|
|12||Offense and Defence of the Libertad
|Sara, Reasoners, Gambee pilots, and even Medlock and Emily mobilize-- but will they be enough to stop Ralph?|
|13||The Last Waltz
|Sara and Ralph fight to the death after their last connection is severed.|
- "Message" performed by Yoko
- "Umi no Opal" performed by Sema (episodes 1-8, 10-13)
- "Aurora ~a ray of dawn~" performed by Yoko (episode 9)
- The English logo reads Str.A.In: Strategic Armored Infantry, but FUNimation press material refers to it as Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry.
- FUNimation Entertainment Acquires Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry from Happinet
- Funimations Adds Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry
- Strain - The Official Anime Website from FUNimation