Stratos 4 Volume 3

I’ve tried to enjoy Stratos4, I really have, all the ingredients for a terrific series are there, bubbly characters, a better than average plot and appealing if basic animation. Unfortunately the series lacks edge, it’s too syrupy to stand out from the crowd, leaving us with a pleasant but ultimately unexciting show.

Infected by a strange alien organism, giving them a monstrous appetite and an unnatural urge to get intimate with one another; the lovely ladies aboard Station 7 break off communication with earth, leaving the planet defenceless against Nigel-87, a huge comet on a collision course with Japan. Meanwhile Mizake and the rest of the Meteor Sweepers are put on high alert and are about to head into the skies when Karin, is taken ill and abducted by some sinister looking suits. Afraid her friend may be in danger Mizake takes leave of the base in pursuit of Karin, a journey that will lead our young heroine to some shocking truths.

In actuality the last volume of Stratos 4 is a step in the right direction, eschewing the out and out fluff of previous instalments the final 4 episodes on this disc make quite an impression. Taking a welcome detour into X-Files, territory the final arc of the series finds the gang at the centre of a government conspiracy, which owes more to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ than “Top Gun’.

What follows is a surprisingly enjoyable hour and a half’s worth of entertainment that sees the series going down a more action heavy route. Literally anything goes in these last four episodes, with everything from conspiracy theorists, alien invaders and space-set skirmishes getting a look in. Regrettably, it’s a case of, too little too late, and the series still finds itself back in schmaltzy territory once to often making it hard to sustain any sense of urgency.

Still it’s a huge improvement over previous entries in the series, ensuring, if anything, the series goes out with a bang rather than a whimper. The alien invasion plot may seem a trifle forced, but it’s b-movie trappings made for a nice change of pace. For the first time I actually found myself intrigued, not to mention entertained.  And for a while I was able to forget about the paper-thin characters, sit back and just enjoy Stratos 4 for what it is.

On the animation side Stratos4 looks as good as ever, the animation can be a little basic but the designs manage to stay just the right side of dull thanks to a daring pallet and liberal sprinkling of eye-catching 3D effects. It’s not so kind on the ears though; featuring a score that sounds like it’s been ripped straight from an 80’s arcade game. With its bleeping keyboards and expanses of ominous sounding synth it’s got a decidedly retro feel, more suited to a trashy horror series than a light hearted, comedic adventure.

For the last volume of Stratos4 Beez have come up trumps, putting together a great little package, complete with a reversible cover, allowing fans to choose between fully clothed and scantily clad images of their favourite characters. There’s also a 5+ page booklet, providing information on the space faring craft seen in the show. Whilst it’s not a DVD extra per se, it’s a nifty freebie that will no doubt please fans of the show.

In Summary

Stratos4 reaches the ends of it UK residency with a surprisingly enjoyable quartet of action packed episodes that drag the series off in a startling new direction. It’s a shame then that the series can’t quite shake off the stigma of oppressive pleasantness and cutesy storytelling established in volumes one and two. All things considered it’s a likeable enough series, by turns silly and exciting but in the end too average to be completely essential.

7 / 10