This is review number three hundred and thirty seven. This anime is part of the Fall 2010 lineup. I’m trying to close this lineup before the year ends, so I hope I can get it done. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto or Star Driver: Takuto of the Radiance or just Star Driver. It’s a twenty five episode show created to punish people that loves anime. *sigh* I’m tired. Anyways, it’s about robots fighting each other but there’s more to it than that. Wait, no, there’s actually nothing. This anime is nothing. Let’s read on.
This anime is about a guy named Takuto Tsunashi that recently moves into a small island to attend school there. He befriends Wago Agemaki and Sugata Shindo after they save him when he washed up in a beach. They’ve become friends, but they soon realize they are closer than they expected. They all have a special power within them, and a group of shady people is trying to make sure the trio don’t hinder with the group’s plan. With his giant robot, Takuto now fights the group trying to place harm to him and his friends.
Taking the Pants Off
I’ve heard of Star Driver because people claim it to be where Captain Earth originated from. A lot of Original Screenplays are smartly recycled by over ambitious people, so this isn’t that unique. If you can notice it, Wizard Barrister is actually a successor of Galilei Donna because the creator really loves court room trials without trying to hitch it to its actual story. Original Screenplays are anime created out of the mind of the anime studio. It’s not adapted from any reliable source, and really, it often just stems from an interesting idea. A good example is someone thinking that Hidamari Sketch characters should become magical girls and just die, thus Madoka Magica is born. Another famous example is someone thinking that CLAMP characters should learn to drive a mecha and start revolutions, and Code Geass is born. It’s important to pin point the main idea of an O. Screenplay early on, because they have a good tendency to suck. I have reviewed a ton of O. Screenplay anime, and I often get some of the worst anime ever belted into existence. They often try to do too much, so the end result is an anime so half-baked that it just hurts watching it. Captain Earth is actually one of the decent ones. It’s not good, but there is potential because of how it gave a nod to the flashy appeal of the mecha genre. Like any O. Screenplay though, it tried to do too much. I still remember the convoluted romance, the tie-in to Shakespeare and HAL9000 becoming the main antagonist for no real reason. It was a mess, and I guess it should’ve served as a warning for Star Driver. If Captain Earth fumbled, then its predecessor would fumble harder as well. It might be eating grass fumbling hard face first.
I was hopeful though, because Star Driver looks good upon first impression. A lot of Original Screenplays looks great by first impression, but I shouldn’t have hoped. Star Driver is a convoluted mess with no real story, and the experience is just odd. What the hell is this anime trying to accomplish? Is it about cool robots killing each other? Is it about high school life in a tropical island? Make a f*cking checklist of all things bad about O. Screenplays and Star Driver has it. Every fundamental “wrong” that makes O. Screenplays annoying is something this anime proudly possesses. It’s so mind numbingly bad that you can’t even bring yourself to hate it. Really, you pity it. You pity its sad existence, because it’s a twenty five episode anime about bland sh*t. I would just like to share to you, dear readers, the worst O. screenplay I ever saw. It is M3: The Dark Metal. The story is littered with melodrama, it is directionless, the characters aren’t just bland but they’re nonexistent, and it forced a villain in the end because it spends twenty episodes doing nothing, accomplishing nothing. It’s so bad that it’s embarrassing. The experience I had with M3: The Dark Metal fondly came rushing back as I watched Star Driver. This anime is just bad, and I’m sorry for anyone that liked it but it’s just pitifully bad. Is that a word? Well it should be, because I hate this anime but I also feel sad for it. I’m determined to point out every single thing wrong about O. Screenplays with this anime though, so let’s get started.
First of all, the story. Original Screenplays are often bad because it relies on a pathetic storytelling method: the short sighted storytelling. This is where the stuff in the episode matters more than the overall story. O. Screenplays always established continuity in its story, but the episodes function like they’re self-contained. A good example is the first five episodes. After meeting our three main characters, the show shifted focus onto the antagonists. Episode one is pretty decent as it establish the status quo. Episode two features our characters joining the drama club. He didn’t stumble into them naturally though, instead he was just suddenly told to join them and he did. Episode three features a rich girl and her backstory of having an old rich guy as a husband. Episode four features a romance story between two characters, and episode five features the school nurse wanting a hot student as a boyfriend. Is there any overarching story achieved in the first five episodes? Are there plot points created that’ll slowly developed in the course of the show’s twenty five episode run? Is there any chance for our main characters to develop and ease into their eventual role in the story? No. The answer is no. The story is scattered, and the show is only focused on what’s happening in the episode itself refusing to setup a story for later episodes. With no continuing story, the anime really just pulls sh*t out of a hat. Anything goes, and the episodes have no real relation to each other. There are robots, but it’s not enough. You’re expecting the main story to be established in the first five episodes, but a lot of loosely connected stories just happened. This is short sighted storytelling at its worst, and it has a long lasting effect. Later episodes will lack a climax, characters will remain dull and the experience will just steadily grow sour. If the first five episodes can turn into one huge clusterf*ck, then imagine how messy the rest of the show is.
To be fair, short sighted storytelling can work. Have you seen Senki Zesshou Symphogear? This style of storytelling is meant to be over the top and just pure dumb fun, and it works great for shows that just feeds off crazy energy. One episode can be about two best friends fighting then the next would involve exploding the moon. It’s wonderful if used correctly. The problem with Star Driver is that it has an overall story to present. Takuto wants to destroy all the robots, and the Glittering Crux wants to break the maiden seals. There should be a gradual buildup for that story, but Star Driver possesses another bad original screenplays trait: a directionless story. Going back to M3, the show is about five mecha pilots but that premise is abandoned early on. As it progresses, a brotherly love story is established, a friendship ruined by revenge is presented, a mad doctor trying to see the world burn is revealed, a guy suddenly turns villainous after being a background character for twenty three episodes happens and a girl writing fan fiction that comes true goes on a massive guilt trip. It is f*cking directionless. Star Driver isn’t any better. There’s a love triangle, a story about a special boy piloting a special mecha, a story about a rich girl wanting a normal life, a story about another girl and her sister, a story about a guy and his obsessions, a story of ancient weapons being used for evil, a story about a group trying to dominate the world but the ranks are rebelling, a story about secret maidens, a story about libido giving robots powers, a story about special people with marks on their chests being true pilots, a story about an incident years ago that gives birth to secret maidens, a story about a squid killer in the planet of the fish, a story about kids living out their rose colored high school life, a story about a girl and her hatred for her employer, a story about witches, and a story about ruling the world. Star Driver is a directionless mess, and it’s f*cking sad because there is potential here. A lot of O. screenplays have potential, but they often do too much ruining what should’ve been a good anime. Following the story of Star Driver is a waste of time, because nothing is there to save it. Characters are bland and the mecha battles are stupid.
This leads to the third staple awfulness of original screenplays: forced mecha. A lot of these original anime are mecha, but they really shouldn’t be. A good example is M3: The Dark Metal once again, because the story did not need robots. It’s about five kids who entered a dark place, their past haunting them and the fate of the world resting on their unstable angsty hands. They didn’t need to pilot robots, and it just complicates matters because needless exposition is added to make the mecha fit in. Star Driver is the same. If you manage to power through the anime and finish it, then you’ll realize it doesn’t need to have robots in it. I somehow pieced together the overall plot, and this is my interpretation. Keep in mind, this isn’t the real story of the anime, but as far as the short sighted storytelling and directionless convoluted mess goes the anime is about tradition versus innovation. A rich company has dug up some mysterious figures, and upon further examination, they discovered that they are robots. The company has an army of powerful robots to use, and they somehow managed to make them run but they only function in this place called Zero Time. In order to make the robots work in the real world, they need to break the seals of Zero Time. In the island, there are four maidens that guard the seals. The company must track them down, and I think they should pop their cherry or something. Anyways, the company has a lot of backers and they all have different goals. The company is divided into groups with one financing the project, another researching it, another testing out the powers of the robots and so on. In a sense, the various factions don’t like each other and they’re only working together for their own goals. Should an opportunity arise, they would break off the group and function as their own. The company is composed of ambitious evil people, and the seams keeping them together is being pulled apart when Takuto shows up claiming he wants to guard the seals. The individualism of the group comes out, and they all agree that whoever destroys Takuto’s robot becomes the leader of the company no questions asked.
It sounds like an interesting premise, right? It gets better. The company is focused on using the robots for their own selfish means that they don’t notice the origin of the robots and how they tie to the island itself. Family lineages have special marks that grant them use of the robots, and once upon a time, someone tried to use these robots for evil. He failed and went to a deep slumber, but making sure it doesn’t happen again: the seals are created. Born from that incident are maidens that acts as key to the seals. They just become born with it, because magic, so the identities of the maidens are still a secret. As the show progresses, more exposition about the “king” that tried to control the robots are presented while the maidens are revealed one by one. All of this happens, while the company’s plan is constantly being foiled by Takuto.
Here’s the fun part though: the anime didn’t need mecha. Robots could be replaced by anything like “weapons” or “super powers” akin to those greater than what mark bearers already have. The mecha is a massive waste of space, because it doesn’t really add anything to the story. Every episode has Takuto kicking a robot ass, but the fights are so embarrassingly bad. There is no real pacing to them and Takuto wins via Deus Ex Machina. It means that he doesn’t need to try, because he always wins. I still remember how he just keeps pulling sh*t out of nowhere. In the span of twenty episodes, he reveals his laser beam, swords, flying fist, super punch and extreme mode to beat enemies. Every gawd damn fight, he has a new function to beat the specific villain in front of him. The fights are awful, and you’ll eventually cheer for the bad guys. This could’ve been the highlight of the anime, but it adds nothing overall. If Takuto doesn’t win by unleashing a weapon we’ve never seen before, his enemies would just start goofing off. I still remember one enemy lusting over his body while he cuts her robot in two. What the actual f*ck? The mecha parts of the show are really stupid, and a bit insulting. I didn’t mind idiocy from the conversations and normal scenes, but the mecha fights should’ve been your main appeal. Instead, it’s forced and bland. Why? Because it doesn’t really belong there in the first place. A story of a greater power trapped by seals can still work without a mecha, but Original Screenplays love mecha. M3, AKB0048, Symphogear and even this anime all has this useless staple genre. Why? It’s simple, really. The answer is merchandise. This anime is trying to cash in on its sales, and it’s doing it in the most despicable manner. The robots in this anime are all cool, so someone will buy it eventually. Japanese consumers have a big fascination with robots, and it’s the same with how westerners love zombies. I personally don’t get the appeal of both, but it drives a merchandise market that studios want to cater to. Star Driver is flashy enough to grab your attention, so the mecha really only fit to sell the anime. It makes me sick typing that, but this is an industry, damn it.
Anyways, let’s focus on something else for now. Despite the directionless clusterf*ck of episodes, this anime is still divided into four chapters. Again, this anime is directionless but let this serve as a guide for anyone that wants to waste time on the show. The first chapter is the convoluted first five episodes and the following three afterwards. Not naturally developing characters, the “trio” is suddenly put on the spotlight when they’re relationship is somehow wrinkled for some reason. I think it’s about the love triangle between the three main characters but it somehow leads to one of them to face himself. He is apparently the current mark bearer of the “king” that once tried to break the seals. He receives a powerful “first phase” thanks to this, and he becomes an aid to Takuto moving forward to future battles. The first chapter has a lot of red flags, including forced melodrama involving the characters. We literally just saw the anime end with a story of a nurse meeting the boy she can have an adulterous relationship with. All of a sudden, the characters are developed enough to create conflict within them? Um, no. Why are you forcing conflict when they weren’t even mentioned in the first five episodes, let alone fleshed out even the slightest? It signals big things for the show though when the first chapter is already bad. It can only really just get worst from here.
The second chapter focuses on a group called the Vanishing Age, a collection of hot dudes trying to destroy Takuto. They would decide who fights Takuto using a dart board, and that’s generally it. While that happens, the leader of another faction called Adult Bank is focused. She’s the married high schooler that flirts with Takuto. Nothing major really happens, but she is just focused on for no reason. I’ll admit that her backstory is pretty interesting, but it’s a bit sad that a minor character is fleshed out while Takuto just stays one dimensional. Don’t say this anime doesn’t try developing characters though, because it also does it’s best to flesh out the West maiden of the island. She comes out of nowhere, and she suddenly tacks herself onto Takuto for no reason. This is short sighted storytelling at its worst. No natural transition, and random sh*t just happens to bulk up the episode. The second chapter is just a massive waste of time, and the show is already crumbling. We’re not even halfway through and the show is already going bad. Having three unrelated stories seemingly pop up out of nowhere is a clear sign of disaster from this anime. The “trio” angle from the first chapter is also forgotten, by the way, because it no longer suits the clusterf*ck the anime has turned into. After introducing the Vanishing Age faction and fleshing out the leader of Adult Bank, they’re also promptly dropped to make way for a new unrelated story for the third chapter.
Ok, this is probably my favorite chapter because it gives us pay off. The West maiden discovers that she is, in fact, one of the maidens guarding the island and she is freaked out by it. Maidens can’t leave the island, and she discovers it in the roughest way possible. This is probably the first time some sort of continuity happens in this anime, and I love it. Also notice, it doesn’t have any robots in it. It’s just a girl freaking out because her life is being turned upside down. The story with her sister is also beautifully done, and this is really just my favorite chapter in the series. It didn’t tie that well with the main premise, but that’s alright. There is wonderful pay off and it slightly made the experience great. The fourth chapter ruins that pretty fast though. The “trio” is put through a love triangle, but it’s not a very good one. It’s a very forced romance, because they didn’t really develop any feelings in the entirety of the anime. In fact, I remember that the first episode had a line like “is CPR considered a kiss?” and it’s an attempt to conjure up a romantic situation between Takuto and the South maiden after administering CPR. You didn’t have to say that. It could’ve been something the characters mulled over, make them questions their feelings and actually use it to develop the characters. Saying it like that is forcing them to develop as a couple like a kid playing with dolls. You’re audience aren’t five year olds. They can wait for characters to be developed. Why can’t you? Anyways, a love triangle is established, but another girl enters the picture. She wants one of the guys, and their relationship is explored. That’s all good, but we’re two episodes left before the anime ends. You didn’t develop the story, the characters and anything else. How will you end this anime when all you’ve got is a love triangle…wait, um…love square?
Taking a book from M3: The Dark Metal, this show forced one of the bland side characters into the role of villain. Keep in mind that we’re twenty three episodes in. The anime subjected us into watching more than ten villains take a crack at Takuto. It has an army of villains to choose from, and yet it forced one of the good guys to turn bad. In hindsight, it creates tension for two good guys to face off but you need a story to do that. Featuring a love triangle at the later episodes is just dumb, because you can’t develop anything worthwhile to end your f*cking show. Now, the fourth chapter also featured the leader of Vanishing Age getting fleshed out, but it just adds more confusion to the show’s clusterf*ck of an ending. Oh gawd, yes, it did remind me of Captain Earth. The ending of that show features a robot rumble that made no sense when Hal9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey took the role of main villain at the last minute forcing an orgy of robots to attack him. Star Driver has a similar ending, but it’s a lot stupider. There is no pay off, and you’re honestly just glad the anime is f*cking over.
The characters are all horrible. This is another staple of Original Screeplays: bland characters. It’s OK to be overambitious, but you obviously need a plan first. Takuto is so bland that he doesn’t exist on some episodes. I think the show missed the point of having a main character. You’re supposed to have him act in the story, but Takuto is one effective background character. That’s all he really is. He isn’t a side character, because even those guys have a role in the story. A background character has no real reason to be in the story, so he just stands there taking up space. It’s f*cking sad that three side characters are developed much better than Takuto. To some degree, the other main characters are also decently introduced except for Takuto. I bet they were hoping that having him pilot the most important robot makes him important too. It doesn’t work that way though, because even he is overshadowed by his own robot. All his flashiness is useless, because he ultimately amounts to nothing. He is nothing.
I hate the show for having a complicated dialogue though. The characters often talk in metaphors and hyperbole that you often just wish that they’d stop. I think it’s meant to make them unique and special, but you need a story for that to work. There are dialogues like this:
” You see, all of us can use magic. All humans are capable of magic. But, each person has their own power. But now, an incredibly powerful demon king used a spell to block the source of magic power. So, unfortunately, most people can’t use magic anymore.”
“I’m painting again, just like you’d hope. I got in front of a canvas and I was surprised to find a desire to paint rekindled inside me. Honestly, I was a bit scared. I thought perhaps I could never paint again. But it looks like there is still some kind of spark in me that wants to paint. I think some people need to ask themselves if the things they lost were really lost after all.”
And they just scream pretentious. It means nothing, it adds nothing and it’s basically nothing. It’s just clutter to an already heavily littered anime. You don’t have a story, so there’s no need to complicate your characters. All of their dialogue bullsh*t is so stupid that they often come off as this:
Did that make sense? Worry not though, because not all characters are pretentiously shallow. Some of them are just insultingly shallow. I remember Takuto attends his first day of school, and a character already claims that he has a fan club. Wait, what? The drama club is a collection of popular people from school, and they go out in the open to stretch so their fans can adore them. What the hell? A lot of characters act like stupid five year olds. “Hey, do you like this guy? Oooohhh, I bet you do. He’s so handsome. I mean, talking like a giddy schoolgirl admiring a one dimensional filth is a smart way to get the audience to like them as well so let’s keep this sh*t up.” It’s OK to be in love, and it’s alright to be flirty but everyone acts like that. They’ll come onto each other, they’ll declare their crushes, they’ll tease people for no reason and it’s honestly as exhausting as the pretentious dialogue the show has. There is no middle ground. Characters are either Shakespearean rejects or giddy schoolgirls. Someone shoot me. I mean seriously, what is the point? This just adds to the clusterf*ck of the anime. You can’t like anything, and it’s annoying to finish an anime with very little appeal.
The villains are a dime a dozen. They’re nothing special, and there are too many of them. I don’t mind having a lot, but you should be entirely sure what their roles are. Who are the henchmen? Who are the bosses? Are there bosses? Are they all the same? Even those representing their factions are bland, and they don’t seem to have authority. They speak at a roundtable, but they’re all bland. They don’t really do anything meaningful in the show except get beaten up by Takuto. Actually, I’ll just spam this space with pictures of the bad guys. See if you can spot a promising antagonist. This one?
How about this one?
Oh, this guy looks interesting?
Ah, I give up. Bones should never do Original Screenplays. This anime appeals to the lowest common denominator, and it’s a bit insulting. Hold your audience with high regard, and that’ll go distance. They should stop encouraging Takuya Igarashi from making more shows like these. I think two is enough, so please rest glorious director. You’ve done enough damage. His years working for Toei might seem impressive, but he clearly lacks vision to pull off a promising mecha anime. Star Driver has all the ingredients for a successful mecha anime, but it needs serious editing. He even had Youji Enokido as his writer, and this anime still sucked. Youji has made a career out of mecha anime doing scripts for Rahxephon, Evangelion, and FLCL. Hell, I think he even made Melody of Oblivion tolerable but it looks like Star Driver is just too much for him. This anime didn’t lack anything, instead it has too much of everything. If the show focused on the important bits that’ll improve the overall story, then I can see the beautiful potential hidden deep within. No one in Bones did though, and they even tried a redo with Captain Earth. Yeah, it’s better but not by much. Please though, don’t believe that the third time is a charm.
Sight and Sound
Hiroka and Misa Misuya designed the characters, and I love their bright colors on their characters. They put great emphasis on the faces, and the characters of Star Driver does all stand out in terms of design. There are a lot, but they makes sure every character is different. They match the design to their personality, and I love that. I appreciate the fact that they put effort into conceiving the characters, and making sure it compliments their personalities. To be fair, it was the bright design that lured me into watching this anime. The flashy style of the characters is captivating, and it’s enticing you to see more. The awful dialogue will make you regret that choice though. The Misuyas’ design is pretty simple, but it does capture the vibrant world of the anime. From the uniform to the costumes the characters put on, I think they’re all greatly designed. There’s very little detail, but the color scheme is just stunning to look at. Both Misuyas understand the basics of a great design, and they utilizes that to make the characters standout. It’s annoying to see them have masks on though, because their hair design kinda reveals who they are. How many pink haired girls have a twin tails in the entire limited population of the island? Despite that, I think even the design is really a big plus for this anime. You can feel the effort from the maids with the bunny ears to the ridiculous costumes of the Glittering Crux. They stand out greatly than anything else in the anime.
I also love the robot designs. They’re simple, but there is also variety. I think Takuto’s root is a bit gay though, because the hips are robust and it has heels. Why? Other robots are cloaked in awesome metals with their arms bulky and their body built to fight. Takuto’s robot is supposed to be a fencer, but he’s dual sword so…it’s just flamboyant, I guess. The design of the robots are top notch, and it’s a shame the story didn’t do anything with it. They still shine though, and it’s thanks to the animation.
The animation is pretty great. The mecha fight scenes are short, often lasting five minutes or so, but thy make the most of it. The flashiness is outstanding and the movements are fluid. The pacing is wonderful and the camera work is really great. You’re often left looking forward to the fight scenes, evne if the show didn’t do much to improve the story. Even though they end with Dues Ex Machina, it’s still satisfying seeing the robots explode. The animation for the rest of the show is decent as well, but nothing to really take note of. The visuals are great, but there are a lot more talking than anything else. There are occasional wooden sword fights, but nothing really impressive. The animation for the dialogue is also a bit dull. The conversation themselves are stupid, but the lack of interesting shots and generic camera work adds to the dullness of the scene. Again, I’ll give points for capturing the beautiful tropical setting, but the animation could’ve been a lot better.
A staple of bad anime is that they always have a good soundtrack. That’s a constant in bad anime, dear readers. Anyways, this show has two OP. The first one is “Gravity Zero” by Aqua Timez. I actually love this song, because it just sounds so cool. It’s about keeping hope and staying positive even when life gets you down. It’s a very wonderful song, with a great rhythm and the lead’s voice is just hypnotizing. It explodes into a powerful chorus that gets you pumped to watch the anime. It’s even accompanied by a cool OP sequence featuring Takuto walking/running on the island. It’s on a side scroll view and the animation is just stunning. It ends with his robot coming out of the water to fly alongside him. The second OP is “SHINING☆STAR” by 9nine. It’s a generic idol song, but I do like this one. It has a wonderful energy and the song is catchy. The song is also cute, as it tells about shining like a bright star in the sky. I think it means doing your best to succeed in stuff, but I’m not really sure. It’s a good song though. The OP sequence features all the characters, but nothing much to tell since there is no story to focus on the second half. It’s a decent montage though, for what it’s worth.
The anime has two ED as well. The first one is “Cross Over” by 9nine. It’s a pretty generic idol song, but it is pretty decent. It’s about someone gathering the courage to confess to someone she likes, and it nicely suits the forced romance of the show. I do love the voices, but it’s still pretty generic idol pop. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m really just not a fan. The ED sequence features the forced romance of the show. Just look at how they shamelessly try to lump the trio together. It’s pretty bad, but it does capture the awfulness in the show. It tries to be cute, but it’s just so ham fisted in its delivery. The second ED is “Pride” by SCANDAL. Oh, who doesn’t like Scandal’s unique pop rock style? The strong voices accompanied by their strong lead guitar are just so fun to listen to. This song is no different as it tells about trusting your friends and achieving your potential. I suck at understanding songs, so I just take it at face value. It’s a pretty awesome song though, as it features all the great things about Scandal. The ED sequence once again features out trio, but they just do stupid stuff here like eating ice cream. There’s no forced melodrama, so that’s good.
4/10 “It’s bland, directionless and cluttered. It’s a good example of a really bad original screenplay.”
This anime has very little saving grace to it. The animation is decent, but it’s not enough. The story is depressingly bad, the characters are one dimensional and the experience is just a boring torture for anyone to endure. It’s not entertaining and it’s so bad that it’s pitiful. It has some decent plot points, but it’s not a good reason to really justify watching twenty five episodes of directionless crap. If you like flashy mecha then I suggest trying the first five episodes, if you find it doable then by all means, have at it. If you prefer a good anime experience then I suggest not bothering with this one. It’s not worth it. I do not recommend this.
It’s weird but I actually liked Star Driver, although I can’t really explain why or defend my position. I know that it is a confusing mess of a show but for some reason the insanity of it all struck a chord with me. Well that and the fact that I think “Monochrome” is one of the best insert songs from any show.
I understand. There are moments that looks good, and I think you can gather them all up in a ball to really make the anime likeable. BUT in my perspective, having seen, dissected and reviewed anime for a long time, those short pockets of “good moments” aren’t enough for a confusing twenty five episode anime. You can’t do the story justice in twenty five episode wherein I’ve literally seen twelve episode shows completely change my life forever?