STAR DRIVER: Kagayaki no Takuto – 09
「そんなミズノの初恋」 (Sonna Mizuno no Hatsukoi)
“Mizuno’s First Love”
Suffice to say, this episode pleased me on many levels, both in terms of story and my own personal gloating rights. As last week’s preview suggested, we were formally introduced to You Mizuno (Hidaka Rina), the girl who randomly appeared for two minutes last episode, this week. I can definitely say that I’m liking Mizuno more than Wako already, both in terms of personality and character design. While Wako is just a bland character all around, Mizuno is the complete opposite, with a unique hair style and very bubbly attitude. You can’t help but die on the moe stretcher when she makes the cutest expressions while fawning over Takuto. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be disappointed if there ever came a situation where Takuto goes back on his promise to protect Wako and focuses solely on Mizuno, who is shaping up to be Wako’s rival of sorts, in more ways than one. By that I mean, of course, the revelation that Mizuno is actually the island’s Western Maiden, supporting my theory that all four maidens were gathered together on the bus last episode. Speaking of that, before the series began, I remember reading that the director of Star Driver, Igarashi Takuya, stated that the series would be broken up into four arcs, each focusing on a different maiden. Up until now I didn’t understand how that could be, as thus far the plot has been pretty straightforward and not episodic at all. However, it appears that, while the plot isn’t clearly broken down into four separate arcs, there is a subtle shift in the focus of characters, with Mizuno making her appearance right as fish girl took her leave last episode. There has also been a noticeable decrease in focus concerning the development of Takuto and Wako’s relationship, which was at the forefront of the series up until two episodes ago. Perhaps this is what Igarashi meant when he said the series would be broken down by the focus on the maidens.
That aside, Mizuno wasn’t the only new character introduced this episode, with her older twin sister You Marino (Hirohashi Ryou) also taking center stage as the new acting leader of Kiraboshi while Head is recovering from his depression, presumably caused by fish girl’s departure. Considering we haven’t gotten to know Head that well in these past nine episodes, it doesn’t really feel like anything has changed, except perhaps Marino’s more boisterous attitude during Kiraboshi meetings. I’m certain that Head will be given more focus later on and we’ll be able to get a better feel for his character, but for now his absence holds no weight whatsoever in terms of emotional value. That said, his leaving did help the plot move forward, as the remaining Kiraboshi members are now making moves to enact a plan to revive Marino’s Ayingott, use its detection ability to locate the Western Maiden, break her seal to reach the 3rd Phase, and defeat Takuto with their upgraded Cybodies. The revelation that Kiraboshi has also solved Orichalcum Formula and are able to restore destroyed Cybodies is also an unexpected development, especially this early into the series. With this, Kiraboshi will be able to restore all the Cybodies that have been destroyed by Takuto thus far, a development that has the potential to make the past nine episodes of “progress” seem completely pointless. Hopefully that kind of deus ex machina won’t be absolute, and comes with some sort of trade-off. Getting back to Marino, it’s a bit odd that she claims her goal is to protect Mizuno, and yet she’s a part of Kiraboshi, an organization which exists for the sole purpose of capturing the shrine maidens of the island and breaking their seals. It’s possible that she could working from the inside in order to sabotage Kiraboshi’s plans, but considering the way she was portrayed this episode and the fact that the other Kiraboshi members speaking in the bar were saying they would just throw her away after they use her to find the the third maiden with the power Ayingott, it’s more likely that she’s being tricked into believing that Kiraboshi is on the side of good while Tsunashi Takuto, the Ginga Bishounen, is an evil manipulator. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how the dynamic between Takuto, Mizuno, and Marino evolves, as Mizuno is quite infatuated with Takuto while Marino sees him as nothing but a danger to her sister.
As for this week’s battle, there wasn’t much to it and it felt a bit pointless when compared to past battles, which have all held some meaning to them related to the plot. It felt as if this fight was thrown in simply for the sake of keeping the trend of having a weekly fight, which wastes nothing but time that could have been used to further expand on Mizuno or Marino’s character. Admittedly, the storyboard writers probably did not want to reveal any further information about Mizuno and Marino than was given this episode, and thus used the fight as a fall back to kill a couple of minutes and finish out the episode, but it still just came off as lazy to me. That said, the fight can be seen as a final conformation for Kiraboshi that they need to reach the 3rd Phase before they can take out Tauburn, but only time will tell if that holds true. At the very least, the shift doesn’t appear to happen next episode, which seems to be strictly Marino focused judging from the preview and title. Of course, the title would also suggest that Takuto is working his way towards building an actual harem in this series, if the title is referring to him being Marino’s first love.