As you’ve noticed, I’ve got a lot of retro anime in Mecha March yet again. Maybe ones that people remember because how can you not remember Escaflowne and some more advanced editions of retro series to bring them up to the public consciousness again. Star Driver is the only mecha show that I’ve featured on Mecha March since I’ve featured this year that can be considered modern and it’s from 2010 so it’s still kind of old. That’s pretty special thing for this edition of Mecha March really. Or all of them. Yeah, I could go for all of them because of my focus on retro titles. In the future, I should look into posting more modern series like Knights of Sidonia, Code Geass, Eureka 7, and such. For now, I think you should all be happy with this one. Does that make this series good considering its special status or is this the token modern series? Read on to find out.
Star Driver takes place on an island far from Japan’s mainland called Southern Cross Isle. It’s not just a throw away island out in the middle of the ocean boonies. Southern Cross has its own sort of civilization with a city, mall, and a school where a certain select group of the student body who wear suggestive outfits at night and plot the doom of all mankind. Basic anime stuff really. During the day, Southern Cross High is a very normal school with teenagers that feel like teenagers, at night you better watch out. Evil is coming to town in plains of existence beyond normal understanding. Most anime series have all of those things. mean, even slice of life series must have a secret high school group of evil off screen for reasons or a powerful student council whose morales are questionable? Is that just me? Oh well, we can all have some sort of imagination to make already good series a little more interesting.
Anyway, I feel like Star Driver’s plot is one of those things that can only happen in anime. After our red-haired protagonist swims from the mainland to Southern Cross because he was supposedly late for a ferry ride onto the island and was afraid, he wouldn’t make it to the opening ceremony on time. After found unconscious on the mainland, he is woken up by the kind, Southern Maiden Wako and her fiance Sugata. His appearance forms a love triangle that permeates the series with Wako’s “which one will she choose” problem. The series really takes off completely when Wako is captured by the secret villain group Kiraboshi Order of the Cross, Takuto goes to save her, and we jump into what is called Zero Time. A plain beyond existence. This is where the robot fights happen in this series and most of them are glorious.
If you ever looked at complete subtitle of The Sparkling Takuto and this first zero time is where it makes its appearance. Takuto isn’t just another bishonen character. He’s the galactic pretty boy with his own robot/cybody. THE Bishonen character. That means he is the one opposing force to Kiraboshi’s evil doing to make their robots, called cybodies, make an appearance in real life for some reason. The four shrine maidens are the ones who stop this from happening in a lot of phases. If the four shrine maiden’s seals are broken, Kiraboshi wins. To protect them, Takuto takes them on one by one in super robot combat. You see, a lot like the duels in Utena but with Giant Robots instead. How weird is that? Believe me when I say that’s not even peak weirdness. There is some time travel and science fiction stuff that the series casually has on the side that does and doesn’t matter at all. I’m ok with all of that.
In this series, the bad guys lose a lot. It’s kind of the reason for why things don’t progress that fast and they have to go to much more larger, complicated, and sometimes more sinister means to achieve their goal. It leads to the show’s length feeling like being stretched a bit. If a Kiroboshi pilot for that night of Zero Time loses, their badge of honor is taken away and the cybody they piloted was completely destroyed. That leaves Kiroboshi in a situation where they need to take drastic measures to continue their fighting. Shrine maidens need to be captured and have their seals broke for their mecha to get more powerful. Also, regenerating their cybodies is a hard task, but it’s doable. In the end that isn’t enough and they must summon the ultimate evil mecha. Takuto really does put the villains in a hard place and it all makes sense.
I think the structure of this anime is where people will either lose complete interest in it or just find no interested in at all. I’ve already mentioned Utena already and yeah, that’s a good point and a down fall. Each episode has a day segment where we see our characters interacting normally in a school environment and ran around the island doing some and fleshing out when suddenly the world changes when zero time and giant robot fights happen. The plot and characters slowly develop over time and some things you may see from a few episodes earlier in a background event might become a major things in the current episode. So yeah, it’s formulaic and slow in some ways with the engine roaring in the background. If you don’t enjoy all the character interactions and things slowly unfolding, then you are going to have a problem with this series. I found it a little slow myself, but very satisfactory on multiple levels to me because the robot fights are just so cool.
The same sort of thing applies with the main characters too. There are plenty of complaints about them being not as interesting as the rest of the cast and that is kind of right and kind of isn’t. I think there is a point to it. You need a little purity in a world of people that are very flirty and have secret identities when wandering around in their evil underwear at night. Ok, the male evil people don’t wander around in their night underwear, but the females own it. Anyway, Takuto is the embodiment of purity and youthful energy that everyone wants to have. He’s the Galactic bishonen, the shining light. It makes sense in the context of the series for him to not be interesting. I don’t think he develops that much, but I still appreciate him and the little crush he has on Wako because it’s so cute. Wako is another purely fun characters and Sugata is the more reserved balanced with his own tragic past that shows up from time to time. The trio’s interplay was pretty fun considering that Wako would ship Takuto and Sugata together in her mind at times. Makes perfect sense for something like this
The series is completely self aware about Takuto and the female cast’s interest in him. Well, him and bishonen men in general. Takuto joins the drama club which is already known as fanservice. At least, that’s why they stretch and practice outside. In joining the drama club, his role is usually the mascot character and appeal to get audiences interested in paying attention to them. The best part of that drama club is that it plays an important part to the plot too. Not to mention all sorts of flirting, peaking on him by certain characters, possible porn scenarios that don’t happen, and the quite a few moments when the cast wants to see him in the buff in different situations. It’s fanservice and I don’t mind because it’s pretty equal for both sexes and it really does play into the plot in interesting ways. Youthful energy is a thing here. I think of it as something Utena would be like if the TV restrictions weren’t there. Well, almost. Sex doesn’t happen on screen in this and there are very few scenes were Takuto shows much. Whatever the case is, it works so well here.
I do have to mention some more of the female cast, right? You know, with their multi faceted personalities, their fanservice and everything. I’m glad to say that Star Driver has a great female cast who are not completely defined by their flirting if they do flirt. Ok, one is but they play an important part because of their power. One of my favorite characters in Star Driver is Mrs. Watanabe. A character who is married to a rich, old guy very far away and uses that guys money and stocks to fund Kiraboshi’s many evil projects. She’s flirty for sure by kissing guys with the glass and spends most of her screen time not wearing much (especially on her yacht around other people), but she’s also very intelligent, knows her way around stocks and bonds,thans a yacht for more reasons than just owning a yacht, and is very caring about the people that work for her. Mrs. Watanabe’s sexuality is only one part of what defines her. Benio, the R.A. of the dorm is another one with her flirtation towards Takuto and her characterization. Not every female character is flirty and wears a fanservice outfit because there are more innocent and plot relevant ones too. I do think that the male cast, besides the head of Kiraboshi, are kind of flat and uninteresting though. Not a lot of time is spent on them. Same with the sense of a little bit of a trans character sense with female galactic pretty boys. Not enough time, sigh.
With that, we jump into Star Driver’s wonderful visual design and artistic work. I feel like I could say Studio Bones and just not have to say anything, but that doesn’t make for a good review right? Plus, there is a lot more then that here. I do think the character designs are pretty much close to clamp designs from Code Geass with the similar faces and things, but they do wear clothes that fit their own styles out of school and there are a wide variety of body types. Kind of makes that more unique here. Plus, the character animation and character movements are pretty fluid and give each specific character their own personality. Besides some clearly used stock footage, it’s all really well done. Plus, the color used in all the characters and the backgrounds give Star Driver a lot of life and energy. It fits perfectly with the show’s themes and story elements. Not much to complain about.
All of those positive aspects and criticisms go towards the cybodies and their fighting too. I really do like all of the designs. Takuto’s Tauburn is very reminiscent of a lot of super robot series with a gundam paint color so I can’t help but really love it. It really fits with Takuto’s awesome sense of energy and peace. Plus, the star swords are a really cool sort of design. Same with the other cybodies. I may not know some of the pilots as well as I could, but I feel like I know them from their mecha in some way. It would be nice if there wasn’t a lot of stock footage from repeated special attacks against these enemy mecha, but that’s a general super robot stuff and saves the funds for more important scenes. That’s how the genre has survived (and is now in decline) for so long. Robots are hard to draw. The moments when the stock footage completely disappears and we see some new and exciting scenes in important moments are the hypest moments possible. There are some new, memorable robot fighting scenes which I will never get out of my head and I’d like to thank Star Driver for that.
With all those thoughts put together, I feel like Star Driver fits the rating of good for me. It does have a lot of things that anime fans won’t like and enjoy these days like too well-structured and slower narrative and a slower pace, but it worked for me. A person who is into mecha series and really like Revolutionary Girl Utena since I watched it recently, Star Driver fit a lot of spots for me that I didn’t expect it too. I don’t think it’s iconic as Utena in a lot of ways, but that doesn’t make this mecha anime bad at all. Infact it’s pretty good. Plus, I really just dug all of these characters and their plights. The character stuff in the day segments were simple, but really helped elevate these characters for the better and the worst. I know those elements aren’t going to work for everyone and that’s ok. This anime is like the visual designs to me. It looks beautiful in all departments except there is obvious stock footage in a lot of spots. Still a more then worth it watch though with the obvious caveats I mentioned.
This certainly came out during my anime hiatus, so I had never heard of this. Star Driver does sound like a quirky little series.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yeah, it came out when I wasn’t onto the seasonal scene and probably had my head stuck in Gundam land to be honest.
It is. I was kind of surprised by how much I really enjoyed it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Gotcha. I lost track of the seasonal scene since the mid 00s. Haha! Gundam land doesn’t sound like a bad place to be.
Very cool. I’ve felt that way with some movies I reviewed that I have planned in the next few weeks.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ahh, Star Driver. If you played me Monochrome (the North Maiden’s song), I’ll instantly remember it because that’s the song that made me fall for the anime for good. Its fandom’s become quite empty though, as far as I know.
“Utena with mechs” is actually pretty apt, now that you make me think about it (and I haven’t finished Utena – curse the licensors for that one).
I don’t think there was meant to be a trans vibe there – I think I saw it explained somewhere that Ginga Bishonen (Galactic Pretty Boy) is a title, so it does not necessarily indicate a desire to be trans.
Did you watch the movie? I hear it’s mostly recap.
LikeLiked by 2 people
It is a pretty incredible song, so I can definitely see why 😁. Infact, ah the maiden songs we get are great.
I do feel bad about having more ways to watch Utena in the United States, but I don’t have control over the rights unfortunately.
I wasn’t sure about that aspect. It’s kind of hard to figure out sometimes.
Unfortunately not, it’s not streaming anywhere for me.
LikeLiked by 1 person