Star Driver takes place on the fictional Southern Cross Isle. One night, a boy named Takuto washes up on shore swimming from the mainland. He later enrolls in Southern Cross High School as a freshman and makes new friends.
This is Star Driver the Movie. The series this film is based on is hands-down one of my top three favorite anime, filled with mecha, awesome alphabets (Phoenician), lovely music, and amazing characters-- all things that captivate my attention. I'd like to embellish on the synopsis of the movie, just a bit since it isn't as detailed as it is for the series, in order to provide a better idea of how well this branches from the series:
The film follows a similar vein as the Gurren Lagann film in structure. It does not stand alone, but actually highlights the story of Star Driver, focusing
on the four shrine maidens. There is some unique footage in the film that is not in the series, such as the opening scene, which we are to assume takes place after the events of the series... It's just that it doesn't make much sense following the series nor is it explained; it only acts as a starting point to look backward.
Almost everything from the maidens' arcs is in the movie-- only a few important elements regarding Mizuno/Marino have been removed. Since the series has over 20 cybodies, it follows a "monster of the week" style of show to focus on the cybody and driver in detail. Star Driver the Movie cuts out almost all cybody battles, save for the maiden battles and the final battle. A selection of other battles are meshed into a montage toward the beginning of the movie just to show what Takuto has to deal with to get stronger. It does not do justice to those characters, though, so watching the series is highly recommended for completing the picture and getting into all of the details.
The story is wonderful. I won't go into it, but Star Driver the Movie does a great job of presenting the core ideas of the series in 2.5 hours. Those unfamiliar with the series who enjoy mechs will hopefully go on to watch the series afterward. Some chronological elements are different as well: where as a few events between the school and the Glittering Crux are out of order from how the series presents them, but in the context of the film, this is negligible.
The pacing of the movie is not very good, however. New viewers and those familiar with the series should find themselves either confused or disappointed by how much occurs in the first 30 minutes of the film, as many minor characters are washed over very quickly, covering what the series spent at least 10 episodes building up. Pacing gets better later on with the introduction of Mizuno, but it still is awkward. To be honest, the final 25 minutes are taken directly from the final episode of the series with only a few lines and moments of animation added/removed.
The artwork is very nice. The new footage at the beginning of the movie is wonderful and many people who don't like the film seem to think this opening scene alone redeems it. Almost all the footage is taken from the series. However, there are a few original scenes or "touched up" moments of animation. A couple 3D effects slip into the movie as well. Overall, the artwork is bright and fits the dichotomy of "island paradise" and "mysterious otherworld" perfectly. Each character stands out, given great detail to identify them from the others, especially when many of them are wearing masks and hiding their identities.
I gave sound a 6 due to "selection" rather than the actual music. The music in Star Driver is aamzing. I got the sound track shortly after watching the series for the first time. Star Driver the movie uses songs from the series as well as a new insert song (which might be considered an alternative "spring" song) and a new ending: "Colorful," which I personally feel is not as good as "Pride" which is used in the series. Anyway, why a 6? Well, most of Star Driver the Movie seems to not have any music used at all, if anything very mellow background music is used where vibrant music from the series was played. There are moments where whole scenes from the series are used, but the music has been stripped out. I was left very disappointed by the lack of music, expecting to hear at least one of my favorite songs: "Fate" during one of Sugata's scenes. I am not sure if music was removed for dramatic effect, but I feel that the opposite was achieved: it left me wondering when the next downbeat would start.
Star Driver the Movie is spunky, combining a great deal of elements into it that might not normally fall into an anime of this genre. If anything, I feel the series is rather deconstructional, and the film captures that effort well, especially with the original footage regarding the new insert song, quickly summarizing how the three main characters become friends so easily on the island, enjoying the beach, etc. The opening and credits roll are also very interesting, bringing forth new questions, which I doubt will be answered. Star Driver the Movie will at least be able to keep its viewers on their toes, hoping that the opening will be expanded on. There are two major things that are explored, however: a moment of added dialogue before the final battle explains how Takuto exactly feels about Wako and there is a very interesting scene with Marino where viewers can see her experience during the Mizuno arc. On the whole, Star Driver the Movie maintains the charming adventure of the series and will be a welcoming invitation to pursue more of Star Driver.
I enjoyed the film personally. Again, I was a little upset with the pacing and the music at first, but there are some interesting changes that made it really worth watching. I hope that those that watch this decently condensed movie will go on to watch the series to see more battles, more characters, and even more shocking and brilliant parts of the story woven throughout.
Star Driver the Movie does a few really good things to spice up the content from the series; albeit predominantly small adjustments or additions, they stand out and make the show enjoyable for both new and seasoned Star Driver fans. I was irked by the music. The music is phenomenal, but it is poorly represented, as most of what is in the series is cut from the movie, leaving many scenes in "background" silence.
I hope my lengthy comparisons between the film and series aren't too distracting, but I hope that, without going too much into synopsis, you might be convinced to spend some time and get to know Takuto, Sugata, and Wako at Southern Cross Academy as they fight the Glittering Crux in the movie and then follow them to series to know them even better.
The Star Driver movie was on the disappointing side. While it starts out strong, with some new animation set after the end of the series, everything after that is just Star Driver recut into a feature-length 'story'. Of course, cutting that much out leaves a lot of abbreviated scenes without context, and I doubt anyone who hadn't seen the series would have understood what the heck was going on. The animation was pretty good for TV, but extremely underwhelming compared to the sort of animation quality we get out of most movie or OVA productions.
On the other hand, some of the glaring problems with the
series, such as the extremely repetitive cybody battles, are glossed over nicely, and while I found Wako to be rather annoying in the series she has less time to irritate me in this abbreviated version.
Would have greatly preferred to have seen the movie continue on from the first five minutes, which occur after the story and leave us with a lot of new questions that the original animation does not, of course, solve in the least. A sequel following that plotline further would be greatly appreciated and likely would receive a much higher score.