Review: Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto

[Synopsis]: After swimming from the mainland, Takuto Tsunashi (Miyano, Mamoru) washes ashore on the Southern Cross Isle. After being revived and cared for by Wako Agemaki (Hayami, Saori) and Sugata Shindou (Fukuyama, Jun) Takuto decides to enroll at the local high school where he meets other students but all the while a mysterious organization has set its plans into motion on the island. The Glittering Crux Brigade, utilizing robot-like technology called ‘Cybodies’ which can only be piloted in a dimension called Zero Time, attempt to break the seals of the island’s designated maidens in order to loose their technology on the rest of the world. As a Galactic Pretty Boy, it is up to Takuto and his own cybody Tauburn to thwart them and their leader ‘Head’ (Ishida, Akira).

[Characters]:

There actually isn’t too much to say about the shows protagonist, Takuto Tsunashi. He’s not quite carefree but does exhibit a cheerful demeanor, especially around his friends and becomes serious enough when he needs to be. His cheeriness aside, Takuto doesn’t really have much to his name and without the aid of the famously eccentric Miyano Mamoru – would be a highly forgettable character as he lacks complexity even at a basic level. His desires are straightforward and he does not act proactively within the show so its hard to see if there is anything less than obvious going on beneath the surface with him. It is hard to characterize or describe Takuto outside of his enthusiasm which presents a problem for the show which he must act as the main character in.

Wako, the island’s southern maiden, is the one who finds Takuto unconscious on the beachhead and resuscitates him. She is engaged to Sugata however as the show quickly reveals – this arrangement holds about as much gravity to it as if they were distant neighbors. The reason this is bothersome is because Wako promptly finds herself in a love triangle between Takuto and Sugata as she is attracted to both of them – so why her marriage arrangement even exists in the first place is a bit of a conundrum. Wako herself is fairly simplistic like Takuto in that the only things of note within the show are her love interests and her identity as a maiden for this makes her a target of the Glittering Crux Brigade.

Of the three main characters, Sugata is the most calm and emotionally reserved. Despite being engaged to Wako he doesn’t seem to mind her and Takuto hitting it off or even going on dates however he does appear to care deeply for Wako and subsequently Takuto who he befriends quickly after his arrival. While he is protective of Wako he is unable to do much when Takuto battles with the Glittering Crux Brigade in Zero Time which forces him into a position of inaction – Not the most exciting character trait.

Lastly, because the Glittering Crux Brigade and the school which Takuto attends have so many different members and students respectively, a great deal of the cast is given plenty of screen time. While they do not necessarily make up for the rather plain main cast of characters, they are greatly varied and provide a good measure of entertainment as they interact with each other and the protagonists – they display good individuality and at times can be the most interesting thing in the episode.

[Art/Animation]:

The art and animation is quite good with consistent detail throughout the 25 episodes. While there are no notable drops in quality, the approach to animation sometimes changed depending on the scene. Action scenes featuring the cybodies would sometimes take on a harsher level of shading and the frame rate might lower a by a few however the technique worked well for the action sequences and was even reminiscent of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann at times.

Takuto’s design is quite vibrant, primarily when he is in his transformed / piloting state of the ‘Galactic Pretty Boy. The Glittering Crux Brigade sport crude and revealing outfits which, while matching well with each other, do not really have anything tying them theme-wise to the show or setting itself.

[Story]:

The story has a good deal going on inside of it but not everything is immediately relevant to the primary plot – which is fine. Some of the more interesting character interactions and exchanges happen independently of the Glittering Crux Brigade’s episodic attempts to break the maiden’s seals and fulfill their goal.

The show starts in a “fight an episode” style formula however stays true to that form with only small variations for what I would consider far too long a time. With near comedic timing, the main cast will be enjoying themselves, the Crux Brigade will interrupt by initiating Zero Time by way of their Cybodies, Takuto and Tauburn defend Wako and defeat the enemy at hand, the day resumes. While there are other subplots and characters at play in the show alongside this conflict, the monotony of the presentation is quite memorable. Which brings me to my next point:

The characters in this show, for lack of a better phrase, are unrealistically stupid. Firstly, the members of the Glittering Crux Brigade, while expressing disdain for Takuto each time they are defeated and scheming on the sidelines all the while, never feel like they are truly trying to accomplish their objective. They wish for nothing more than to best Tauburn in Zero Time and break Wako’s maiden seal however their diversity of strategy is severely lacking among other things. The true problem with this is that the show gives specific insight into how dumb the characters are being. If they fail to defeat Takuto, why not send in multiple cybody pilots at once to defeat him you ask? Perhaps it because they can’t due to the rules of Zero Time… however this is not the case – they are perfectly capable of fighting in pairs as well as trios and so whatever reason that exists as to why they cannot all team up on him at once is completely lost to me. Furthermore, while one cybody will differ from the next in design and sometimes weapons, the strategies the drivers employ are almost always ‘attack head on and brute force a victory’. The fights themselves are quite nice and well choreographed but upon realizing what the Brigade should be capable of on paper, their actions are extremely underwhelming.

To capstone this last point concerning the unintelligent behavior of the characters – Takuto himself is quite frustrating in this regard. Despite the fact that he knows the Brigade is after Wako, he never takes steps to further protect her other then when he fights on her behalf in Zero Time. He is entirely aware of the danger to her on the island however at no point in the entire series does he do any more than wait for the next day to arrive before he is again launched into Zero Time to fight. He knows where the enemy’s headquarters is after episode one but fails to take advantage of this information in any way. It is this stagnation of action that further cripples him as a character for me.

Lastly, the show at times boasts what I would describe as ‘false depth. Over the course of the first few episodes we are told a story by the Northern maiden and later in the show are presented with a stage production of a related story. These scenes by themselves are actually quite good and are of my more favorite moments of the show however it is in their near-allegorical nature that they become problematic. The stories these scenes detail are at times quite referential to the plot of the show itself however these parallels don’t always make direct sense and sometimes could refer to multiple things within the plot. It is this lack of a decisive or clear feeling that cheapens what could have been very interesting story telling.

[Music]:

The music was what I thought was one of the more positive points of the show. Each maiden is attributed one song and these songs often play in correspondence with their character arcs. These songs usually show up come Zero Time and because there is a decent variety of them on top of the orchestral score – I think they keep what could be very monotonous and repetitive transformation sequences quite fresh and fun.

The score outside of these maiden songs is not as impressive to me as a listener however the orchestral themes go quite well with the mecha action of the show and lends itself well to the dramatic points of the show as well.

[Final Thoughts and Rating]: 

The show is fun however has actively negative elements that impair it’s presentation overall. There are a great number of things, like Takuto’s outlandish title of Galactic Pretty Boy and the Glittering Crux Brigade’s outfit designs that might suggest the show is attempting to parody something however I saw no conclusive evidence on this note and therein I felt the crudeness of these things worked against what I would have thought was supposed to be a serious show outside of the school happenings and romantic exchanges.

Rating: 5

I gave the show a 5 because it failed in many aspects to become memorable to me. The primary cast lacked characterization and the side characters, while interesting, were put to such frustrating use within the plot of the show that they themselves became disappointing as well. The show doesn’t quite answer all of the questions I wish it did and this is fine in some regards however there are few a spoiler-related questions that could have been given room for explanation that would have markedly improved the show’s plot. You will likely reach the end of the show and have a decent number of your questions answered however probably not the ones that you will have wanted to be explored.

[Recommendations]:

I would recommend Star Driver to people who enjoy the more hand-to-hand style of combat mecha as well as those who enjoy the episodic fight presentation as the major bulk of the show is spent in this way. The show doesn’t sport much in the way of comedy but viewers who enjoy large casts of characters, each with their own thoughts and motivations, will be entertained by Star Driver however may be disappointed by the way in which the show utilizes these otherwise interesting characters.

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