「僕たちのアプリボワゼ」 (Boku-tachi no Apuribowaze)
It was a bit abrupt, but this was a finale to remember. Unexpected twists and a galactic battle in space are just some of the things that had me on the edge of my seat. While there was little doubt about Head’s plan to use Sympathy’s ability to make Samekh his puppet, Keito’s revelation that she’s the one who sealed off the King of Cybodies was the first of many surprises. Up until now, everyone’s been led to believe that Samekh needed to reach a higher phase before it can be revived, when in reality Keito’s simply been waiting for Sugata to willingly apprivoise his Cybody before unsealing it. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but I imagine that seal is what causes Sugata to fall into a coma when he uses Samekh’s powers. Keito’s nightly visits are to unseal him from its effects, just like she had to do when she apprivoised for the very first time. In other words, she has the ability to grant and take away Samekh’s powers as she pleases.
The second big surprise comes from Head after he hijacked Samekh and explained that Zero Time is the only thing preventing the gigantic Cybody from devouring the libido of every living thing on the planet. In conjunction with his plan to become a time traveler and muck around in the past once mankind is wiped out, this last minute plot twist was a cheap yet effective way to really jack up the stakes on the final battle. All of a sudden we went from Southern Cross Island potentially being bombarded with nuclear missiles to the end of the entire world if the fifth phase is reached. In execution, it gave a very good reason for the remaining Kiraboshi members to band together against Head, and provided a real sense of urgency once Wako apprivoised to protect Takuto and was about to get her seal broken. Admittedly, I did find it rather convenient how Daletos calling for Simone made her realize that the interpretation of being one with their Cybody in the fourth phase probably wasn’t in a literal sense; however, I was okay with it because this series has established precedence for just about anything happening in Zero Time, including Samekh’s ability to bring back all the other Cybodies and make slaves out of them.
For most of this episode, I was too absorbed in the “cool factor” for anything to negatively affect my enjoyment (as is often the case with Zero Time), particularly with the way the battle came off like a desperate struggle as Wako’s maiden song played in the background. If there’s one thing this finale did really well, it was using the music to really bring out all the scenes. Sakana’s “Monochrome” came first, followed by Wako’s “Komorebi no Contact”, and then 9nine’s “Cross Over” when the battle took to space. With the music playing, it was nothing short of sheer awesomeness to see Takuto charge right into Samekh’s enormous King’s Pillar and somehow make it through to take out Head with a single punch that got the figurative treatment in black and white. I didn’t think Takuto would be able to outdo that first punch he delivered to Head’s face, but boy did he ever. I could watch that scene over and over again and it would probably get progressively better.
All of the above served as ample build-up towards what I felt was the biggest surprise — Sugata’s plan to seal Samekh away forever with him inside. It wasn’t quite what I was anticipating, but it did have that self-sacrificing element that I had in mind. Rather than training Takuto to destroy him, Sugata’s been making sure that Wako would be in good hands after he’s gone. It was probably the saddest moment of the entire series when everyone looked on in silence while Samekh disappeared underground while Keito continued to cry her heart out. The instrumental version of Cross Over almost brought a tear to my eye as Takuto’s unrest reached the breaking point, only to see him look over at Wako and reach an understanding that he’s going to break her seal, force Samekh out from hiding once Zero Time is gone, and save Sugata by destroying Samekh before it can feast on the world’s libido, all without saying a single word. That proved to be an absolute roller coaster ride of emotions that gave me goosebumps every step of the way.
With Tauburn going all out against Samekh in space with Cross Over playing, I can’t believe that Wako’s monologue about wishing she never met Takuto was a huge fake-out. I’ll give the producers credit for using one line in the preview last time to make us think the worst, when in reality she was just expressing the anguish she feels for being helplessly in love with both Sugata and Takuto. So with that, we don’t have a winner ladies and gentlemen. Wako wants to have her cake and eat it too. What a girl…
For a series that was coined a “high school robot anime” experiment of sorts, director Igarashi Takuya’s unfamiliarity with the robot genre took STAR DRIVER to unexpected places just like writer Enokido Youji hoped he would. Right from the get-go, they made it clear that no one would be killed in the show, which seemed to take away from the robot aspect at first when the battles in Zero Time became fairly formulaic. However, as the series progressed, particularly past the midway point, the changes within Kiraboshi made the battles more exciting. It felt like there was more on the line with the new characters that were introduced (e.g. Mizuno/Marino, Kou/Madoka) and tied in the high school aspect to really change audiences’ perception of the series as a whole.
The large cast of characters and their unique nuances came together really well, and in ways that I honestly didn’t expect when new faces kept showing up left and right. Just looking back on the promotional image from Fall 2010 makes it apparent how much I’ve become acquainted to each of them, so much that I’m actually a bit sad that I won’t be seeing them on a weekly basis anymore. It’s kind of impressive how Takuto’s energetic and unique “Galactic Pretty Boy” flair has caught on, supporting the idea that BONES’ production staff has done something right. I love giving original series the benefit of the doubt and hoping for the best, but it’s not often that a production comes together the way STAR DRIVER did. What was once perceived as long neck character designs and unorthodox Cybody designs is now “cool”, simply because the series made strides to establish its world and get me caught up within the story. The end result was an immersive effect, especially with the visuals in Zero Time where just about anything goes. Along with the maiden songs that I now have associative imagery of that spectacle and characters shouting “apprivoise!”, I can firmly say that I was thoroughly entertained.
Cliches are imminent in just about any piece of work, but it’s how they’re used that ultimately determines if they’re a problem. In STAR DRIVER’s case, I could get a sense that the producers were aware of what was cliche and weren’t afraid to embrace it to make it work, which went a long way while I was watching. Rather than dwelling on something that the people at BONES were more than aware of it (and looking like a fool for doing so), it was much easier to just let them show me how they were going to work them into their story. I can confidently say that after rewatching parts of the first half of the series and realizing just how much thought went into the various subplots, and would have no problem watching the entire 25 episodes all over again. The characters were all amiable (yes, even Head for being the tactful villain) and the main trio of Takuto, Sugata, and Wako provided a love triangle that I didn’t mind seeing go unresolved. The ending was abrupt but left a lasting impression for that very reason, so I’m completely fine without an epilogue. I don’t need that kind of visual confirmation, because I can already see it. “It’s a future!”