STAR DRIVER: Kagayaki no Takuto – 02, 03, 04
「綺羅星十字団の挑戦」 (Kiraboshi Jūjidan no Chōsen)
“The Challenge of the Holy Order of Glittering Stars”
Well, this certainly was a fairly risqué episode, with the formal introduction of Watanabe Kanako (Niina Ayano) bringing with it plenty of sex appeal to the series. Bones went to no small length to portray her as a rich slut, kissing some nameless guy she didn’t know through the glass. That said, the episode throughout was fairly suggestive, with fellow Kiraboshi member Shinada Beido’s (Chiba Chiemi) First Stage power being the ability to manipulate people (or perhaps just virgins) through a kiss. Speaking of Kiraboshi, we got a formal introduction to all of the heads of the organization, who all just happen to be class or schoolmates of Takuto. It’s certainly similar to Revolutionary Girl Utena in that respect, with virtually all the students having a secret identity and fighting with each other, which is to be expected as Star Driver and Utena have the same script writer, Enokido Yoji.
That said, there’s another thing this show has in common with Utena, and it’s one that I’m not particularly fond of. As all of you have probably noticed, this episode had some very stark similarities with last episode, that is to say that 50% of the storyboard appears to be a rehash, with different characters and dialog taking up the 50% that isn’t a rehash. If the anime continues to do this, then it will be my number one caveat with the show, and it’ll be a damn big one. Simply put, I can’t find myself getting into the story or characters by having a rehashed formula every episode, since I can basically predict how the episode will turn out without fail. Takuto meets a Kiraboshi member at school, interacts with them a bit, Zero Time battle, resolve of the situation with Takuto and Wako becoming closer. That isn’t to say that series of events is bad writing, but having to watch it unfold with each episode is certainly going to make me want to toss my harddrive that I store Star Driver’s files on. I can only hope that this series won’t whore this type of storytelling out.
「おとな銀行」 (Otona Ginkō)
Building off of last episode, we’re presented with more background and fleshing out for Watanabe and her, shall we say, pawns. It seems that anytime Watanabe is around sexual charms are sure to follow, with the episode beginning with her attempting to cajole Takuto into visiting her on one of her lonely nights as a bride separated from her husband. To say getting used to her odd advances takes some time is an understatement, but I must admit that I appreciate the fact that Bones isn’t afraid of putting such an obvious slut in the series who obviously has a sexual life, no matter how nonchalant they attempt to make it seem. Personally, I don’t like Watanabe much, but I’d imagine that’s an universal opinion for the most part. She came off as stuck up, manipulating, and a gold digging whore, so it’s only natural to dislike her from the outset. I’m sure she has more to her story and I’m looking forward to Bones revealing that, but until that time comes she’s probably my least favorite character thus far. Ironically though, Watanabe is probably the most interesting character from Kiraboshi so far and probably the most interesting character in the entire series aside from Takuto; for nefarious reasons of course, but I digress.
While Watanabe’s servants weren’t very interesting, the fight against one of them, Dai Takashi (Akabane Kenji) definitely was. The art during this week’s Zero Time was amazing, and had me making sure I wasn’t watching a movie production. Once again, the amount of resources Bones has poured into this series shined through with this. While I would say that the animation wasn’t quite on par with the art of the robots, it was still fairly high quality as well, with the Cybodies’ movements being animated fluidly. If one thing is for sure, the number one attraction of this show is the absolute budget shower it gets every episode.
Still, we have the same formula of building up a Kiraboshi character, leading to a Kiraboshi meeting, which leads to a battle in Zero Time, which ends with Wako becoming “closer” to Takuto. All of this stitched together with the same exact transformation sequences. As I stated above, this is my number one caveat with the show, and it’s a fairly big one. The animation and art in this episode was gorgeous and very epic-looking, complimented by a soundtrack that was just as equally amazing, and overall the choreographing was handled nicely as usual with this series. Even with all that, I can’t find myself enjoying any of it because I feel like I’m watching the same thing every week. Quite frankly, it gets tiresome and outright frustrating seeing the same exact set of events rehashed on a weekly basis with a little sprinkle of difference. As some have said, it feels like this series is based around the idea of a “Monster of the Week”. I understand that at this point we’re only into the first 3 episodes of the series and still have a lot more to get through, and this formula may very well only be for the introduction of the 5 Kiraboshi heads, but as of right now I’m a bit disappointed in the lack of variety this show has to offer, as far as plot goes. That said, I’m certain, or at least hopeful, that this is the way the writers wants us to feel at this point, and are simply using this formulaic format to lure us into a false sense of complacence (or like thereof).
「ワコの歌声」 (Wako no Utagoe)
Now, this has been my favorite episode so far; since the first episode at least. Primarily, it’s because we finally broke out of the formula and actually had some TakutoxWako development other than Wako fawning over Takuto in Zero Time when he does cool shit. I found their little alone time together quite interesting, and we got a chance to learn more about both characters’ pasts, discovering that Takuto wasn’t always the FABULOUS bishounen he is today and that Wako is unable to leave their island due to being a Maiden. Obviously, the big point of this episode is that it was probably the single biggest leap in Takuto and Wako’s relationship thus far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some characters commented on an increase in their closeness next episode as a result of this time. I’m a romanticist at heart, with drama romances and romantic comedies being my favorite genres, so I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some real interaction between Takuto and Wako this episode. Having said that, I still think at this point the dynamic between them is underdeveloped and the writers need to do a better job of explaining how the relationship between them works, because as of this point it’s fairly bland. I can’t see myself getting into shipping debates over it, to the least.
As for Keito’s plan, I don’t recall it ever being explicitly stated, but I believe it was to bring Takuto and Wako closer together, as Head declared her plan a success despite Taiga’s inability to pilot a Cybody. Why Kiraboshi would want Takuto and Wako to get closer is beyond me, but it might have something to do with causing conflict in their relationship by creating angst amongst them, along with Sugata. If that is the case, then it seems that romance will be a very prominent driving factor behind this series, which isn’t at all uncommon for Bones productions. With Keito having serious feelings for Sugata, Takuto developing some for Wako, and Wako being seemingly split between Takuto and Sugata, I think we’re in for some serious romance drama plox. As I said before, I don’t mind the romance genre, but I seriously see the potential for it to interfere too heavily in this show. I suppose if that’s simply how the show is structured then I should adept accordingly, but such a development would certainly be outside of expectations for this series. As I said in my write up on episode 1, as long as the anime can incorporate a romantic plot well then I have no problem with it, but I seriously do not want Bones to ruin the potential of the show by force focusing on something needlessly. So far, a specific need for romance has not shown itself, but I’m assuming that Takuto’s relationship with Wako will end up having some kind of effect on the level of phase he or she is at. If not, well, let’s just hope the romance is written extremely well.