AYAKO DOCTRINE invoked.
Soukou no Strain came at me entirely under the radar. I had never even heard of it, but after discovering two episodes on the loose and finding that the series boasted an Ayako Kawasumi-voiced mecha pilot as its lead character, I was sold.
Soukou no Strain opens with some backstory on its lead, Sara, and a little information about the persistent war at the heart of the series. From there it leaps forward and races relentlessly. The first episode is pitched with battle and action, and does not dwell long on the character elements. This pace works well and keeps the story engaging coming out of the gate, saving the character-driven moments for the second episode. (Also, damn, those bitches better back the Hell off of Sara.)
Some have favorably compared the C.G. mecha battles to VanDread. I think this is fairly accurate. The style of fighting is very reminiscent of VanDread, indeed, with quick, darting attacks and lunges.
The fan service is nowhere near as high as in VanDread, though. However, we do discover that Sara's snug flight suit lacks sufficient space to permit a brassiere. (Well, there's also some creepy nudity in the OP.)
I don't care for the mecha cockpits. These entirely encase the pilots up to their necks, Captain Christoper Pike-style. This reduces most of the in-cockpit battle cuts to stills of motionless heads screaming senselessly. I must conclude that this is grossly inferior to the favored practice of allowing full freedom of movement so that a mecha pilot can shove a lever forward at full force while bellowing the colorful name of the intended attack.
In addition to doing a fair amount of hollering and screaming in Soukou no Strain, Ayako Kawasumi also does the next-episode previews and the sponsor messages. Oh, and Tanaka Rie and Yukana are both also in Soukou no Strain if you care about that sort of thing.
Allegedly, Soukou no Strain is loosely based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Wait, what?