Saturday, April 9, 2011

Anime Review: Star Driver

Back when Star Driver was announced, last spring or so, someone on the ANN forums made the comment that, with BONES, "they never have just a regular mecha story" so I expected something in the vein of Eureka 7 from them (other people had already looked at the staff listing and were predicting something Revolutionary Girl Utena-ish). They were closer than I was in the end actually (and, having seen Revolutionary Girl Utena now as well, I don't think we will ever get another story just like that, so I'm puzzled by all the grumbling that it wasn't even more similar) but you certainly don't need to have seen one to see the other, Star Driver is a ton of fun all on it's own. 

Star Driver

Summary: Takuto is newly come to Southern Cross Island and determined to live his high school life to the fullest. Accompanied by Wako and Sugata, natives to the island, they quickly become a trio and find they have more in common than they first though (ie, the ablilty to pilot giant robots in a space removed from time and oppose the evil and fabulous organization, the Glittering Crux Brigade, from unleashing these mechas upon the world).

The Good: This was just a really fun series to watch.  The show abandons a few traditional mecha clich├ęs which I found fun (your milage may vary however) and the pairing that happened in the ending was a bit of an unconventional one (and the one I had been rooting for which made me doubly pleased). Like Revolutionary Girl Utena, the show spends time fleshing out the side characters and the story is largely character driven but there's more than enough central plot to keep the story tied together. The pacing was good and most of those side characters were interesting and sympathetic once they had some time in the limelight (as well as our main characters of course). 

The Bad: The ending however really needed a two minute or so epilogue, I think everyone who enjoyed the series agrees on that so I hope the DVD/BR release includes something like that. I actually wish the show had been one episode longer so that the side characters could play a bigger role in the ending (since, if you are going to develop the characters that much it’s a shame to not use them again, I thought Utena made this same mistake as well). I also feel that if the story had been written a little differently, just a little differently (and possibly didn't have the "no one will die" rule) the story could have been even greater. I loved the series the way it was but I do feel like there was something just a bit better that they could've achieved as well.

The Art: It’s BONES so you know that the show is going to look good (except for an episode or two when Takuto’s hair looked, erm, more wonky than usual and that’s saying something), although it’s clear which battle sequences they poured their budget into. It’s a colorful show, you have to give it that, I thought it was really fun to look at even if some of the mecha battles suddenly switched to a different art style (these weren’t subtle shifts either). I would like to know who did the some of the outfit designs and yell at them however, some of the Glittering Crux Brigade’s “uniforms” defy description and must be seen to be believed.

The Music: Like Utena, SD had several insert songs played during or during the lead up to the mecha fights and I liked them quite a bit, although of course my favorite was Monocrhome (the first song)*. Don’t feel as strongly about the opening or closing themes however, I just thought they were less interesting than the insert songs.

 In short, I loved this show from start to finish. I also love how anime-original shows let you speculate endlessly about what the plot will do next (I still can’t believe that some of my crazy theories were RIGHT^). And, if anyone felt like the background information for the show was a little lacking, I recommend reading some of the interviews translated over here since there's some pretty neat stuff. Star Driver is not streaming (I only started the show because I thought it would be streamed and I was only three episodes in when I realized it wasn't, so this has been my only fansub for months actually) but it looks like Bandai will be announcing this title in a few weeks time, so yay for a license! Also, I just made a huge comparison post between Utena and SD so if anyone was wondering what people were going on about them being similar that should help clear some things up!

*also, the sheer randomness of having a self proclaimed insomniac, lavender haired man tell a girl in a cage (called Fish Girl at that) to sing and then hear her sing (without subtitles so I had no idea what she was even singing) and see it trigger a mecha fight, that definitely made me go WTH several times.
^the theory in question, SPOILER, was that I randomly decided that Sarina was an alien just because she was apparently more important than she appeared to be and aliens had been mentioned in the show once before. And then the play episode happened and holy cow I was right! 

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