Those who recall my Stratos 4 TV review will know that I was none too impressed by the series; aside from the presence of fat cat the Admiral, I had few positive things to say to it. Nonetheless, with the spectre of completion looming over me, I decided that I may as well try my luck at the continuation of the series- ten episodes released across three OVAs. These episodes promised more fanservice, more fat cats, and a continuation of the various weak story threads that Stratos 4 is forced to call a plot.
To be fair, the OVAs are more enjoyable than the TV series that preceded them, and whilst this may not seem to saying much, it is the difference between falling asleep in front of the television and staying alert enough to watch the whole thing. In some ways, it feels as if the writers have realised the ridiculousness of their initial plot about alien parasites, and have done their best to drag it into more respectable and less paper-thin territory. Admittedly, it doesn’t always work, with some plot points (such as the shadowy motives of Headquarters) feeling more tiresome than interesting, but despite the sense that the story isn’t finished even now, there are still some interesting threads.
Perhaps surprisingly, however, the series is at its best when it isn’t bothering about the plot at all; not because of any fanservice, but simply due to a sense of nostalgia for the likes of Top Gun. Regardless of their reason for going up there, seeing the pilots undertake their missions is oddly addictive; I’d even go so far as to say that were it a standalone series about individual piloting missions, I might enjoy it even more.
One of my complaints after the original TV series was that there were too many characters to possibly develop over the course of thirteen episodes, and at first glance, it seems as if the OVAs only exacerbate this problem by introducing yet more additions to the cast. Fortunately, despite the lack of any overtly character-based stories, it is finally possible to get a handle on the supporting cast, to the extent of even remembering their names after the show has finished.
Visually, the OVAs retain the clean, bright but somewhat generic looking designs that characterised the TV series. Background music and the OP are also carried over- after all, it wouldn’t be Stratos 4 without Melocure singing ‘First Priority’ at the beginning.
Naturally, no review of anything Stratos 4 related would be complete without mention of chubby feline the Admiral and her continuing efforts to get taken into space. Veterans of the TV series will recall that the Admiral gained a kitten protégé named Shogun/General way back in episode six, and now a somewhat chubbier Shogun accompanies the Admiral on all her exploits. Of course, the fat cat content is not quite as high as it could be, but it is of course better than nothing.
Although it is hardly going to be remembered as anything particularly special, the Stratos 4 OVAs are at least an improvement on the original TV series, and as such just about fall into the category of light entertainment. Despite the disquieting feeling that there are going to have to be more episodes to continue the story, the OVAs do at least offer a low impact way of occupying some spare hours.