To the south of Japan, there lies a lush green island called Southern Cross Isle. One night, a boy by the name of Takuto Tsunashi washes up on the shore of the island. Having swum from the mainland alone and without any possessions, he enrolls in the senior high level in the school on the island - Southern Cross High School.
With his bright and positive personality, he starts to mix with various students in the school and builds relationships with many of them, including Wako Agemaki and Sugata Shindou. But this school hides a deep secret. There are sleeping giants hidden under the ground called "Cybodies".
There are about 20 of these giants, and they are just some of the various secrets kept by everyone on the island: The secret movements of the mysterious organization known as Glittering Crux. The songs of the shrine maidens. And even Takuto himself will soon come to embrace a great secret...
This island in the southern territories surrounded by the blue sea and the blue skies is the stage where the "Eulogy of Youth" filled with love, dreams and friendships, will begin.
Adaptations are becoming a bit of a thorny issue in anime these days, which is a bit odd considering how many are produced every year. The constant conversion of stories from other media is a pretty lucrative business as there's already an established market for the end product and its merchandise, regardless of how good the show actually is. Like anything in life though, there's a price to pay, and there are increasing concerns about the impact adaptations are having on original works. The resulting negative effect on script and screen writers is beginning to be felt throughout the industry as studios everywhere are finding that their creative teams are slowly becoming unable to develop original concepts into viable storylines. The reason for this is purely because in comparative terms, it takes more effort, imagination and skill to make something original than it does to rework something that already exists, and if one doesn't regularly exercise their "mental muscles" in a substantial manner, then their creativity will begin to stagnate.
And that's the reason why we get anime like Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto (Takuto of the Radiance).
The series begins with Agemaki Wako and Shindo Sugata as the pair take a moonlit stroll along a beach on the fictional Southern Cross Island. Along the way Wako detects the scent of of someone she doesn't know, and following the trail, she and Sugata find a young man who has been washed ashore. He is Tsunashi Takuto, and his arrival on the island will awaken his destiny.
Well, that all sounds pretty heroic, but that's about as far as it goes. Star Driver may initially seem like an interesting proposition, but many of the plot themes are never fully realised, which only exacerbates the fact that there is simply too much going on in the storyline. The series makes some rather nice subtextual introductions at certain points, but no matter how important these may be to plot or character development, they're never fully utilised and thus become the equivalent of the human appendix (i.e. totally useless).
The storyline progression is handled in the standard "fight of the week" manner that is so prevalent in shounen anime and manga, but alongside that Enokido Yoji (series composition and script writer), and director Igarashi Takuya (Soul Eater, Ashita no Nadja, Doremi), have seen fit to add a number of themes that only serve to confuse the audience. In addition to this there are a number of questions that remain unanswered come the end of the series, which may hint at an attempt to have the viewer infer the relevant information rather than outright carelessness.
That doesn't mean the storyline is bad though. While there may be a degree of confusion, Star Driver does offer up some interesting ideas that could have taken the show in a new direction.
Visually the series is a bit of an odd blend as while the concept is predominantly shounen, several of the male characters have a decidedly bishounen look to them. Star Driver seems to play on this by naming Takuto's alter ego the Galactic Pretty Boy, but it's difficult to tell if this is an attempt to parody the character style. That said, there's a mundanity to the overall design that no amount of beautification can remove, partly because everyone is supposed to look good, but mainly because there seems to be a limited range of expressions.
While there are a few scenes that depict specific feelings rather well, the majority of the time the characters display very little emotion, and many of the more expressive moments can seem forced or contrived. In addition to this, the complicated and overly sexualised costumes of Glittering Star, the weird posturing, the rather odd mahou shoujo style transformation sequence when Takuto summons Tauburn, and even the design of Tauburn itself, all promote the idea that Star Driver is a parody anime, and this conflicts with the serious tone of the show.
Speaking of Tauburn ...
The conceptualisation of the cybodies is interesting in that it highlights a degree of innovation and originality, which is odd when one considers the slightly banal approach to character design. There's a novelty to the mechas that's nice to see, especially Tauburn's rather obvious court dandy/musketeer influenced look, so the obvious question is why the same innovative approach wasn't taken with the characters themselves. The backgrounds also suffer from a similar mundanity, which is a little disconcerting given the nicely surreal overtones of Zero Time.
As for the animation, the character movements are pretty standard, but the action sequences are often fluid and well choreographed. Unfortunately this is overshadowed by the the fact that specific scenes have simply been re-used to the point where viewers may find themselves skipping particular moments, and while this tends to be a fairly common practice in "fight of the week" shows, it still smacks of laziness.
Which neatly leads me on to the audio side of the series.
Star Driver initially seems to be well served in the acting department thanks to the experience of Miyano Mamoru (Takuto), Hayami Saori (Wako), Fukuyama Jun (Sugata), and the rest of the cast, so it's a bit strange that many of the roles seem shallow and forced. Part of the reason for this is the lack of facial response on the characters themselves as this gives the impression that the seiyuu are trying too hard, but the script is also to blame as much of the dialogue seems to have been written just to fill in the gaps. All of this makes the voice acting a much more difficult proposition as the seiyuu are often forced to compensate for poor writing.
On the other hand the effects are well timed and very clear, and one of the nice things about this show is how it doesn't use music, as background tracks are often reserved for occasions of emotive importance or action sequences. There are also two opening and ending themes for the series, and while they tend to have a slightly upbeat feel to them, they seem to work well with Star Driver's major theme.
Possibly the biggest issue though, is the lack of substantial development on the part of the characters, which could have been somewhat offset had they been clearly defined from the start. Unfortunately this is not the case, and while viewers are given the facade of progression through interactions, conversations, and even action sequences, in reality there is only one thing learned throughout the whole show, and this only occurs in the final episode. In addition to this there are few explanations forthcoming about why the members of Glittering Star are so determined to use the cybodies, and the only thing that seems to tie their actions into the story is something called The Departure (which is another thing that isn't properly explained).
But that's not the worst part.
In a nutshell, the characters are dumb, and leading the idiocy is Takuto. The very first episode has him entering the enemy base, but for some reason he "forgets" that he's been to the heart of Glittering Star's operation, and so the secret society is left to continue their work relatively unimpeded. This is possibly the biggest hole in the plot as at that point Takuto is aware of the enemy, knows where they and who their target is, and could very easily expedite a much simpler and shorter resolution. Because of this the so-called past traumas, the posturing, the banality of the high school setting, pretty much everything used to define the characters in some manner, all become slightly ridiculous.
So, where does that leave us? Well, on the surface this seems like a pretty solid proposition, especially with Enokido Yoji (who wrote the screenplay for Diebuster), taking part on the production side, and there are some enjoyable moments that occur throughout the series. Star Driver is nothing if not an interesting idea that tries to approach certain concepts from a different angle, and the little touches of innovation here and there add a pleasing quirkiness to proceedings.
Sadly, it's not enough as the series retains a ridiculous quality that isn't helped by a decidedly sub-par script, seemingly emotionless characters, and the lack of any substantial explanations. Star Driver tries to do too much with too little, and the apparent attempts at parodying certain themes only adds to the confusion and makes the plot more convoluted and overly complicated.
This may not be an adaptation of any sort, but that doesn't mean that it's automatically good, regardless of who worked on it. There are some positives within the series, but ultimately this is nothing more than mediocrity at its finest.
The fault lies solely with Bones, who in the last two years have produced one original anime franchise (Tokyo Magnitude 8.0). Everything else has been an extension of an existing title, or an adaptation from another medium. Unfortunately they're just one studio out of many that continue to try and cash in on the popularity of something else, with no regard for the effect this has on the viewer or the industry itself. After all, it's easier to blame things like fansubs for falling sales rather than admit that what you've produced is nothing more than average.read more
Star Driver has been one hell of a polarizing anime since day 1. Some people were initially on board because it looked like a throw-back to old school mecha. Some watched it because it looked like a full on parody of 90's anime with the ridiculous nature of the show combined with the over-the-top style. And even more watched it because it was penned by the same guy who did the composition for Revolutionary Girl Utena, Yoji Enokido. Yet when the credits rolled at the end of episode 25, it was obvious to me and to anyone who stuck with the show that Star Driver was its own beast so to speak. It incorporated elements of the things I mentioned above yet it never really followed through with any one idea. Surely a mish-mash of these ideas would create schizophrenic anime which tries to do everything and succeeds at nothing, correct? Any other circumstance, I'd tell all of you yes, because there's absolutely no way an anime like that could ever be good. Yet against all odds, I found myself enjoying Star Driver more and more as the weeks went along until I reached the startling conclusion that hey, Star Driver was good! Not just good but pretty damn awesome and compelling! I wrapped my brain around why I was enjoying it so much, when virtually every aspect of the show was working against it. I mean what kind of anime has the audacity to take itself seriously when the main character's title is "Galactic Pretty Boy"? The answer is: Star Driver, an anime that somehow manages to pull it all off, and pulls it off with a healthy dosage of fabulousity.
SD's story isn't really something out of the ordinary. A secret organization made up of high schoolers are bent on taking over the world with giant robots that are sealed in a pocket of space/time while some random Mary Sue shows up to thwart them with his own ridiculous giant robot while sporting an equally ridiculous costume and Mahou Shoujo-esque transformation scene. While this is the basic premise of SD (and pretty much every episode), many people will think it gets repetitive pretty soon (and believe me, it does). So why would anyone like it? Well my answer is derived solely from one aspect of the show and that's primarily the subtlety of the execution. The subtle way exposition is fed to the audience, the subtle way characters are presented and written, it makes for a really compelling style. Its one of aspects that made Utena as good and popular as it was. Now I know BONES' anime have a notorious reputation of not holding the audience's hand at all when it comes to story-telling and much of it becomes read in-between the lines or not addressed at all. Star Driver also does this, but only to a degree. It's not so vague that it becomes frustrating but its mysterious enough to compel the audience to continue watching. It gives the audience a chance to think about the plot and characters by themselves and tactfully delivers the answers later at an appropriate time. This is a grand form of storytelling not because the story itself is good but mainly because of the way its presented. Unfortunately while the storytelling borders on masterful, there are some really annoying pacing problems with the whole package. Case in point, most people will drop this in the first 5 or so episodes. I wouldn't blame them because the show has very weak start, where characters are very slowly introduced and the show pretty much relies on the mecha fights to carry it for 20 minutes. Didn't help that the fights were usually only 1-2 minutes long. It slowly builds itself up and it really gets better after episode 7 but I can't really look favorably at the beginning since it could have played up the shows strength which is characterization instead of lolhijinks and boring-as-hell mecha fights. The show also drags towards the end which is honestly baffling to me since there was plenty of material they could have used to make things interesting. Yup, around the end it sort of reverts back to the formula used at the beginning, but thankfully gets its shit together and ends on a strong note.
Now like I said earlier, SD's characters are its strongest point. Even when nothing but high school antics are happening on the screen, there is a sense that everything that happens has some meaning behind it. So when characters often start talking about inane or seemingly pointless topics, it can turn out to be euphemism or a metaphor that has relevance to the plot. Now I don't mean all the antics and comedy have some ulterior theme to them, sometimes there really are comedy scenes to make the audience laugh but more often then not, you'll be thinking about some lines of dialogue long after they've been said. This brings me to another element that SD does really well and that's character interactions. Instead of long flashbacks about something or other, character's personalities are revealed through the way they act around each other, especially when the tone becomes serious. And these are probably the best parts of the show, Sugata's conflict with Takuto, Mizuno general interactions with her sister, Kanoko's demeanor and attitude towards the Glittering Crux and Wako's internal struggle between Takuto and Sugata are all great. Even more impressive is the fact that SD goes out of it's way to characterize minor characters as well as major characters. You can probably argue that Takuto himself is the Mary Sue and isn't characterized worth shit but at the same time you could probably write papers on how his real personality is implied in juxtaposition of the Mary Sue front he shows to all the characters and even the audience. Hell you could even write an essay on how his first phase ability makes him the main character of the show with his catch-phrase "Dazzling the stage" as proof of how meta things can appear. It doesn't go as far as Utena does but it certainly isn't a slouch slouch in that regard.
As per all BONES anime, the art and animation is done very well. There are loads of awesome sakuga cuts for all the animation fans out there. Generally the fights can be very repetitive with Takuto winning all the time but the animation can make them very exciting sometimes. It doesn't happen too often since I can count the number of times where everything aligns on one hand but when the art, animation, plot and music are all synched in excellence, it becomes very awesome. But be warned, this isn't really an anime where the mecha fights are the most important part of the show, most of the backlash towards the beginning happened because the mecha bits were actually the worst parts. Mostly because the fights are nothing more than a tool for characterization in the end and you're enjoyment of it will revolve around how much you care for the character that fights Takuto. I won't say the mecha aspect is downright terrible, but I honestly think they could have better implemented the Cybody fights to coincide more with the plot than the characters. Some of the best episodes in the show don't even have any fights in them. The sound on the other hand is really good and is strong throughout the show. SD has some of the best insert songs I've heard in quite a while (like Monochrome) and uses them very efficiently. The other tracks manage to keep up with the vocal ones as well, so its not like the rest of the OST is bleh in comparison. The voice work is also typically good, the best performances come from Jun Fukuyama as Sugata, Ayano Niina as Kanako and Akira Ishida as Head. Can't say I'm not sick of Mamoru Miyano after watching a lot of animu but he pulls off Takuto's happy-go-lucky attitude well enough and still manages to convey his more serious moments with the appropriate tension.
Star Driver really turned out to be that one show you liked but couldn't really point out why. Kudos to all those people who stuck with it through thick and thin, god knows it tried our patience many times. But for all its apparent shortcomings like derp pacing, flaky mecha moments and wasted potential, it still manged to be one hell of an anime, and a great ride. I'll definitely miss the Saturdays where I stayed up all night into the wee hours of Sunday morning discussing the newest episode and whatnot. If you haven't watched it, I recommend really pushing through those first couple episodes because they're not the best this anime has to offer. Star Driver offers a really unique experience that I haven't seen in much-if any anime, so I strongly recommend it.
You know how, like when you were a kid, you'd ask for a bedtime story that wasn't from the book? For me, that's what Star Driver is. It's one of those stories that's just... different. Maybe there are animes that could be similar, but this one just stands out.
If you think about it, the story is simple. The Galactic Pretty Boy has to defeat the Glittering Crux Brigade, in order to... well, we're looking for 'save the world', I guess? Other than the names, it sounds pretty generic, but I gave it a perfect 10. Not because of some sort of game-breaking plot device that ultimately makes the plot 10 times cooler, but it's simply how they pull it off. Even if some parts are cliche, it's still pretty original.
Now, art. I just have to say, Tauburn is the pimping-est looking mecha in the history of ever. All the mechas (or Cybodys) have very vivid and special qualities, making them different to each other. All with very good color schemes, and unique designs. The characters are pretty well done. Sort of like Code Geass, where they go for the tall skinny characters. But unlike Code Geass, characters are younger, and for me, are a bit more proportioned. I give it a 10.
Voice acting, opening theme song, ending theme song, background music, sound effects... Oh, and a special song that plays whenever they fight.... It suits the anime perfectly. There's really not much to say here. No complaints whatsoever. 10.
Well, since I don't want to name names and spoil anything, I shall just refer to them by the color of their hair. Red is the lively and upbeat type of person. Believes in good, yadda yadda, all that jazz. Common in a main character, so no complaints there. Yellow is the normal-ish clueless one, and Blue is the quiet and mysterious ones. Alright, the mains are a bit generic, but as I said earlier, it's how they pull them off. The supporting cast are a colorful (Both hair-color-wise and personality-wise) set really able to help tell the story of Star Driver. Plus, the development with all of them, God, it's just freaking good... (Yes, I can be creepy)
Overall, I really like the anime. I enjoy every episode, and I think a lot more people should watch it. There are currently nine episodes right now, and each one is good. It's an unusual mecha anime, of which the likes I haven't seen in awhile, and of which I hope to see more of soon.
I've never seen an anime get so many high ratings for reviews, while I think it's pretty crappy. I saw this anime in the January 2011 copy of the Japanese Newtype, and thought it seemed interesting enough so I decided to watch it. I liked how the characters looked, and it seemed vaguely interesting, but my high hopes were soon shot down. I don't know if I am missing the pure genius of this anime, or if I just see past all the jiggling boobs and girls who want to tap everything, and see the series for the pile of nonsense it is. SPOILERS, KINDA SORTA, DOWN THERE VVVV.
The series had a good start, but after seeing a scene where maids randomly had cat ears and 4 foot bunny ears on, I grew worried of the fate of this series in my eyes. Yada yada, school stuff, yada yada. "DON'T GO TO THE OLD GOLD MINE KIDS" -cut scene to gold mine with girl in her discount sexy time outfit- . Why they decided to buy out a circus and Mardi Gras surplus store, and make the girls dress like they are at a S&M club is beyond me. I just can't really take characters seriously if they are looking like a jester reject while wearing a cheesy gold mask with a beak. Just the whole lair in the gold mine thing just baffles me, everything about it. It just seems so stupid to me. Every time they'd have one of their evil group meetings, I'd be forced to wait through 4 minutes of all the girls re-crossing their legs 40 times, and shots of their legs and garters. God forbid we see their faces. There also sometimes would be random cheering or booing from what I will assume are 100 fat old hairy men lurking in the shadows, since They never really show any of the other members.
In the first 2 episodes, they decided to reuse several scenes like 5 times, and made jokes about 4 times of how wacko, oh i mean Wako is always hungry. There is also really awkward staring scenes between our hero GALACTIC PRETTY BOY and Wako, and throughout the next 4 episodes they try to show that the two are crushing on each other (uh, hello, you already made that clear in the first episode). I thought the mecha stuff was pretty cool, but in the course of 2 episodes having the same type of fights, and the same ending was kind of over kill I think. I'M GOING TO WIN, GRRRRR. -gets destroyed after a few seconds- OH NOO, -stumbles out- FIRST THINGS FIRST, WE ARE TAKING YOUR LITTLE BADGE THING, GET OUT OF HERE AND GO WORK OUT IN YOUR DARK ROOM, YOU AREN'T IN OUR CLUB ANYMORE. Also, what was the point of kidnapping Wako in the first place, if she magically appears in her little bubble thing whenever a fight is going to occur while she is doing random things. Let's just pray that she isn't taking a dump one day, and she is force bubbled into a fight scene. At only 4 episodes in, they don't really explain what all this maiden and mecha stuff is very much. Why do these things even exist? How do only certain people have the power to control them, and why do they have to use those ugly masks?
Oh, and apparently every time someone is about to fight, the random fish girl in the cage has to start singing. After 3 or 4 times of this, I had enough. I have no idea who this fish girl is, or why she is in a cage or anything. All she does is just play with a chain, and tell really boring stories to some guy that uses way too much hair gel and just rolls around on some couch.
Me being a girl, and not a lesbian, the naked scenes, boob jiggling, random make out scenes, and panty shots didn't really win me over. Apparently to be in the villain club and a girl, you need to show everyone you are horny, and either make out with people, try to rape them, or be about to kiss them. Apparently the thing to do is to kiss through glass. A moment that made me "wut" was when the stacked green hair girl starts regaling the class (while the teacher is talking) about how she is married to some 65 year old and how she gets "lonely" at night. Who does this. No on in real life for sure. She also decides to get a hair cut (it doesn't look different) in the middle of the classroom during lunch time.
Why she lives on a cruise boat and has a alligator in some dirty pool, I have no idea. LOL DON'T WORRY GUIS HE IS A FRIENDLY ALLIGATOR!
Overall, this series had the basis for something really cool, but IN MY OPINION fan service and just trying too hard made this series pretty sucky. I really liked the opening though, so props for that. Too bad I don't like the series. It was pretty bland, and could be a lot more interesting. It was also really confusing at times, and I felt as if parts were cut out or that there was a really sudden scene change. The characters had personality, but some of them showed none or only stood out because of there hair color. Maybe this series gets better in the later episodes, but I think I'll pass on this series.
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Please keep in mind, there are some major spoilers included!