Category Archives: Star Driver

Year in Review: N-Listing

So, the tradition continues. 12 lists of 12 things. Some are ranked, others are not. One this year is not ranked but merely numerated.

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Last Christmas I…

Just going to toss these thoughts down before they fly away with the Spring breeze.

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? – Korean Zombie Desk Car – It’s my most enjoyable, uh, romp this season. It has just the right kind and right amount of randomness. It’s the sort of otaku show that they make every season, that has the kind of self-referential humor that pisses some cancer-speaking-people off and just annoying enough with its senseless plot to highlight that the point of this exercise is all those things otaku like about…things otaku like. Mousou Yuu! Boobs! References to Kira Kira! Of course the drama was pretty amusing that they can even pull it off, but I am not sure if it was used to the show’s benefit.

The only thing left to do is to make Korean Zombie Desk Car our version of Ankoiri Pasta Rice.

Level E – Really enjoyed the show, just as it is. It’s just retro enough, and I really like the ED for some reason.

Fractale – It’s a nice try Yamakan. The story and the composition is all “there” but it just didn’t come together. Which is probably more unusual than I would expect? How many shows like this fall flat? I think noitaminA is flushing them out.

Hourou Musuko – Best show of the season, and I didn’t even read the manga (nor do I really want to). Pretty much everything about this show is spot on, except how we had to squeeze episodes 10 and 11 together. It does have the “you don’t really need to have a vested interest about transgender issues” thing to it, but I think even that is done just right as to not alienate people unnecessarily. OP and ED are not my bag of tea but they are very well done.

Freezing – It was pretty okay except for the horrible pacing for a boobs show. I don’t get why people say the manga is good either. It feels a bit like High School of the Dead, just much less well-produced.

Infinite Stratos – This is the true moe show for this season. Half of which is because of Charlotte. The other day I karaoke’d Straight Jet, and it went down pretty smooth. It’s a quality tune. The ED, as mentioned previously, is cool ensemble stuff.

Dragon Crisis – This is the moe show for the season, and except Yukana’s character, it’s not even that moe. The one quiet girl was more WEIRDO than moe, the Kugyuu character is Yet Another Kugyuu Character and Rose isn’t setting any records there (not even sure if it sets the “most number of times Kugyuu repeat the same word per episode” record). Maruga and everyone that comes after only offer boobs, and not much else. Maybe you can make a case for furry girl but I don’t want to waste my time. Oh wait, oops, too late.

Star Driver – Save the Best Kiraboshi for Last. What he said.

Kimi ni Todoke – I like the first season more, but this one at least pays off. That said, I’m indifferent about the overall story the series covered in season 2. It doesn’t even make me RAEG like it does for some others. The thematic content, however, was pretty interesting terms of talking about communication.

Casulties: Rio, Gosick, Beelz (I should’ve just go watch Gintama), Merry, LOLOL Index.

The Other Type of Casualty: Madoka

Scryed End for Some, Play in the Play for Others

I’m satisfied with how Star Driver ended, and this is why.

For starters, Star Drivers is pretty meta. I think it would be almost stating the obvious to say that this is not a good Mecha show. In the various interviews our lead dudes have professed of not having that sort of knowledge, but in the case that you didn’t follow those delicious behind-the-scene notes from Igarashi and Enokido, it’s hard to miss that there’s this Utena-esqe flair in a lot of the elements in the show. In fact the story seemed more like a regular high school intrigue thing with random battles thrown in there for good measure. In that sense it’s kind of like Utena, too: wait, was there anybody watching that as a Samurai flick? I guess the setup is not too dissimilar to a typical story where an outside guy comes in town and raise havoc. And I mean Utena not Star Driver…

The mecha battles themselves are pretty fun to watch per se, but they lack a certain sense of grit, as if it wasn’t really obvious that they were merely vehicles [/zing] to express certain resolution or points of catharsis for character development. But all that glitter and fabulousness isn’t going to fool me! Maybe that is where some find the show disappointing, like all the reused footage in Utena or the lame sword fights.

The second point, to talk about Utena again, is the structural similarity between Utena and Star Driver. I think if you get one show, you should be able to understand the other. This is not to say anything else about how the two are similar, but it is more like we are getting different themes expressed through the same mechanisms. To use an analogy, it’s like being able to understand one story told to you in gibberish probably means you can understand another, different story told to you in the same language. But that analogy also shows how sometimes you may be able to understand something out of familiarity of subject matter despite how that communication is less than perfect, like a weeaboo talking to a Japanese fan of the same, despite a language barrier.

Then we have the meta-of-meta problem. I talked about the play in a play before, and that sums up both what makes Star Driver work and also arguably its largest flaw. And it should surprise nobody that the series ended just like how the play did. Wako poured her heart out during that battle scene, and that’s as close as we’re going to get to a concession (despite the whole “hey, isn’t that voice-over gimmick what someone does in a play?”) And isn’t that a (relatively) radical message in of itself? It didn’t give me a feeling of “woah that’s pretty awesome” like, say, the end to Canvas 2 anime (it’s a spoiler) but this is a much better way to do it than, for instance, Asobi ni Ikuyo. The problem about meta is simply that the audience tend to get caught up in that and miss the main point behind it all, despite that the meta is an illustrative device serving overall thematic ideas.

I phrased it like a problem, but the meta is a guiding post to understand what the hell the show is actually about; it’s an intended feature, not a bug. Maybe you would think Star Driver could have done a better job by trying to express thing, y’know, normally? I suppose that is up to debate.

Lastly, what goes well probably also ends well. Regardless of our feelings about epic bromances, Takuto and Sugata’s final duel was something, wasn’t it? It’s a good note to end on.

Star Driver, Sharks, Theater

The phrase “jumping the shark” only has meaning when we walk the careful planks over a suspension bridge of belief. Do we want to use that term in regards to Star Driver? Does it really matter when Fonzie jumped it? Does it really matter when Takuto pulls out a new trick every battle?

The answer for both cases, of course, is that it does. In Star Driver’s case, however, sharks are a regular of the set. Maybe that’s just how it is on the planet of Fish.

In reality, the ebb and flow of the series tumbled up and down and we were on something like a roller coaster for the past 22 episodes, ever since Mr. Protagonist beached on a certain southern island. For each, uh, shark, that we hopped over along with Takuto et. al., we lost some people on the bandwagon. The overly theatrical nature of the series doesn’t help at all, either.

And Star Driver is, if anything, theater. Should it bother us when Mizuno, uh, jumped the bus? Or when Sakana-chan had weekly one-person plays? I don’t know; but a little, almost-undetectable hair-fracture-slice of my belief in the show evaporated for each Kiraboshi salute or for each time Professor Green’s underboob showed up on screen. It isn’t that I disliked any of it, it just became something that was, for its own sake, theatrical. I no longer understand why it is theatrical.

I mean, at least Glee gave me a song and dance every now and then.

Maybe Star Driver just needed more dancing; Utena had the right idea with that at least, although I too appreciate it when giant robots tangoed under a prismatic starry sky. Perhaps all that we need is a bed of roses and an ax. Star Driver, instead, gave us an Inception-esqe school play (a play within a play?) as both an allegory for viewers and an alternative way to communicate between characters, within an already exceedingly theatrical construct at the basic level. Was there anything unusual in this latest installment besides over-subbed dialog and artful display of constraint in prop use (to signify this is suppose to take place on a stage)? In other words, isn’t a dream in a dream still just a dream? Why do this to us? It’s too much.

In conclusion: there needs to be a stage play for Star Driver. Or better yet, Star Driver: The Musical. Someone makes this happen, please!

Compulsion about the Star Driver Puzzle – Vanishing Age

Star Driver is kind of like a fable. People in the show act out stuff, in representation of higher concepts and ideas, in service of themes. Or at least, that is how it is represented with characters larger than life and brighter than a shooting star. Or something. The problem is these characters all clearly are employed by somebody, and it has become irritating when they don’t say who that somebody is. It’s like when you are being told a fable, you kind of just want to get to the bottom of it, to spin that wheel of morality already and see what the final answer is.

I’ve been pretty okay about Star Driver when it comes to that compulsion, so far. However the recent episodes featuring the Vanishing Age really tickled my fancy. I mean, let’s look at the names of the Kiraboshi Juujidan factions. Unlike Urobuchi, we know Yoji Enokido is not trolling us, right?

  • Filament – It’s bright, but more importantly, it burns out. It also makes Kiraboshi Brigade what it is, or at least the Kiraboshi part. We’ve had the episode about the “glittering of youth,” so perhaps this symbolizes the literal glittering part of youth. Also, filament, an man-made creation, is great foil to the naturally-apprivoise-able Galactic Pretty Boy. It’s tough to beat fusion for brightness.
  • Adult Bank – I thought this one is obvious. But why “Adult” when there are no adults in it? I can’t say for Bouganville, but Vanishing Age and the Science Guild surely have adults? I could also point to the relationship between Leon Watanabe and his teenage bride, but that would be obvious, so the not-as-obvious point here is something about the wealth kids have that are not really theirs. Kanako lives in the shadow of her husband, that much we know for sure.
  • Science Guild – I thought this one is even more obvious. And this one is also the most over-the-top. Can I have Rinko as my First Stage?
  • Bouganville – Besides being the largest of the Solomon Islands (now an independent nation) and that Japan occupied it during WWII, the only thing to say about it is that it is actually an “island in the south.” It makes sense in that it has a flavor of locality and tradition behind it, as applied to the members of this subsection. (Human civilization on the Solomon Islands do date back pretty far.) All two of them, at this point, anyways. Maybe the events of WWII can serve as a possible hint.
  • Vanishing Age – Well this is where…I stop bulleting and start to make the point I was trying …to make.

When I was thinking about putting the puzzles together, I was influenced by this NY Times piece. Generation gap is actually a big issue facing American society today as well, but Japan is really getting screwed–so screwed, that we use a more technical and all-encompassing term, “Generational Inequality.” The socio-econo-political aspect aside, the Times piece paints an image that, hopefully, resonates with Japanese college pre-post-grad/super-seniors struggling to find happiness in their line of work and their near-future. It is a future that is, not unlike Head’s sunset, turning darker each passing moment.

The old boys club, the high-class lounge, the back-room deal made under a cloud of cigarette smoke and over some fine Suntory whisky are a thing of the past. There is your Vanishing Age. That is your modern vice that rocketed Japan to its global economic plateau, perhaps at the cost of its first-born sons and daughters. Looking from that perspective, the Kiraboshi section titles become

  • People who tries, even if it looks like they’re faking it
  • People who can’t get out from under their fetal silver spoons, no matter how accomplished they are
  • Otaku
  • People stuck in the old ways
  • People on elevators

But that is just one interpretation, and you might be able to do better. Also, we clearly see that Vanishing Age represents a group of people who are truly elite, who are born with “the mark” and who use it to reinforce its own elite status. Injecting a dose of real world problem into this fairly modern fable is more nuanced than one might imagine.

All this, just to capture that spark. Will it cure Japan’s problems? DUN DUN DUN.