Posted by psgels on 4 April 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Star Driver




Out of all the series that premiered during the past Autumn 2010 season, Star Driver stood above the others, promising an epic mecha story; completely original, not based on anything and animated by Bones. It really looked to be the classic of the season. In the end though, that did not happen, but it still has enough to like.

It’s a series that combines school life with over the top mecha battles. It has quite a large cast of characters, all of which it tries to flesh out. And to be honest, it does a pretty good job there. Star Driver’s cast is fresh and dynamic, and the characters that do get the chance to show their stories are well fleshed out and interesting to watch. The school life moments make this a fun and cheerful show to watch, with a good balance between drama and light-hearted stuff.

Where Star Driver falls down is in its ambition. It both tried to have a huge story and cast, and tried to take its time and make this an enjoyable slow paced storyline. It just didn’t manage to do both and instead of focusing on one, both ended up a bit too unfinished. The story knows how to build up to to its final climax. In fact the final episode is excellent in how it brings a lot of build up from the entire series together. But at the same time there are a ton of plot devices that it never uses, the story is full of plotholes, and half the cast never gets its time in the spotlight, leaving them kindof wasted and especially making the scenes that focus on them rather pointless.

The nasty thing here is that tar Driver could have become an utter classic if it had more episodes. It’s good, but it has left a ton of potential lying around by not being able to focus on everything, and focusing on too many characters (even though it created a good reason for trying to do so). The mecha battles also get less and less interesting as time goes on. Both because in the end they serve no real purpose to the storylines, but also because of how they just get more and more repetitive.

So does that make this series worth watching in the end? I’d say that it does. It definitely has a great storyline and characters; it’s just not as good as what it could have been. The creators did succeed into creating a fun and original series to watch and keep you busy, interested and excited. Just don’t expect anything amazing.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Tries to do too much in too little time and ends up unbalanced because of it, but it still is able to write good scenarios and climaxes.
Characters: 9/10 – Takuto never really established himself as an excellent lead character, but there are quite a few excellent side-characters here. And the cast is very versatile just consistently interesting to watch.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Amazing looking mecha battles and soundtracks, with the animation outside of the mecha battles being quite good as well.
Setting: 8/10 – A bit incomplete, but it’s definitely inspired and original, and requires a lot of reading inbetween the lines.

Suggestions:
Revolutionary Girl Utena
Macross Frontier
Baccano

19 Responses

  1. synkronized says:

    I know it’s a typo but “Tar Driver” seems oddly apt for parts of the series.

  2. Puran says:

    Yeah, I kind of imagined the battles in the series with the robots covered in tar for a bit there :)

    Anyway, this was a good series. It had more than a couple of excellent moments, but also a lot that at least initially made no sense.

    In the end, the final episode really used a lot of elements that the series had, even things you thought would be useless. The series knew exactly what it was building up to and what it was building up was interesting. And, the ending isn’t rushed. Really, it does a lot of things and it’s fun, a lot of things happen, but they make sense. It is completely missing an epilogue, but what was there wasn’t rushed.

  3. Oersted says:

    I don’t think it had any ambition at all. There were great ideas, potential characters, interesting backgrounds to cover, but no… let’s just head for the easy way and put as much silliness as possible: a perfect main character which simply is awesome, some pretty lazy action scenes, characters appearing at random just to be rendered useless after that.

    Anyway, this gets a 6/10 for me. Some parts, such as the ending, were really good, but I won’t fool anyone saying “I loved it and strongly recommend it to you”, which is not true. There are too many stuff I can’t ignore.

  4. Riyoga says:

    Before the final the final episode aired, someone on the staff was saying on Twitter something along the lines of, “This isn’t necessarily the end…” It could be nothing, but who knows?

    If they make a movie, I’ll hand-deliver my wallet to them.

  5. Ncrdrg says:

    O_O…

    And here I was thinking that Star Driver was far too long. It lost its direction and focus far too many times following a big awesome episode.

    There were many filler-like episodes that served very little purpose too. Personally, I think Star Driver would have been much better served with 15-16 episodes.

  6. Ncrdrg says:

    Oh… yes, I should elaborate a little bit I guess.

    Star Driver had an amazing art style, gorgeous animation and great soundtrack… but that’s all I can really say about it. There were a few awesome moments (Mizuno arc, theater play episode) but some truly awful and completely useless episodes.

    When looking at a non-comedy show, I take a glance and try to recap the main story.
    When I try to do that for Star Driver… it doesn’t look pretty. Generally, I don’t bother complaining about plot holes but the series built up a lot of things… and delivered on very few of them. Like the reason why so many joined the secret society (World Domination? lol wut?, the meaning behind Head being Takuto’s father? Shock value?), why those secret powers exist, plenty of crucial stuff like that went unexplained because it wasted its time on goofy episodes.

    I rank Star Driver as 7.5. Flashy and entertaining show but with very little substance. If the art/animation/soundtrack wasn’t so impressive, this would be between 5 and 6 because the story was a complete mess.

  7. m says:

    Ncrdrg, I’m a little busy today so I don’t have a lot of time to play ‘someone is wrong on the Internet.’ Don’t be too put off by the absence of editing, and forgive me for cobbling it together in spare minutes here and there.

    Star Driver was a comedy, or rather a comedic drama. If you took the show seriously, you lost. Looking briefly at your MAL, assuming you use a persistent moniker, I see that you gave Black Lagoon a 10, which leads one to presume that you are familiar with a mingling of styles and do not necessarily hold such activity in disrepute. Specifically somewhat serious material and humor (though the humor is blacker in Black Lagoon). If Black Lagoon were taken seriously it would be dumber, though longer, than the typical action film series, which is not a genre of film known for its wit. Its characters are either idiot psychopaths or sly snake psychopaths that frequently dodge bullets and rockets and so forth.

    If you were familiar with Utena or Princess Tutu, and maybe watched an older super robot show (my condolences if you watch one of those…) you might have a better frame of reference for how it works and what it’s poking at.

    Beyond its magic super robot camp high school drama club pastiche, the story is mostly a coming of age story. The characters all have different motivations for their participation in the show, but broadly, many of them are pre-occupied with events in the past and struggle with developing as people, plus for fun, their id. You see in the contrast between their daily lives, their night lives, and their introspective moments struggles between who they appear to be, who they think they want to be, and what it turns out they really want when they are forced to make a choice. None of them seem particularly interested in taking over the world, not even Tokio who is really looking to freeze the world like one of his paintings, so that he can relive all of those precious moments forever. He just doesn’t care that living in the past comes at the cost of the future, because he’s selfish.

    I don’t have time to write about every character, but let’s just take a few.

    Benio didn’t care about taking over the world, though she has an affinity for power. She was motivated to belong to the Crux to regain prestige for her family, who lost its mark, and because she has an infatuation with its ultimate target, Sugata. She’s also a teenage girl with, apparently, a raging libido, and once she possesses a little power, she also plays a little at collecting boys, and being a little catty to a former friend/love rival. She becomes an early example of the corrupting influence of power. After her initial defeat she’s then motivated by her pride to try to defeat Takuto, but as the activities of the Crux begin to go too far, we see that she also struggles with continuing her Crux persona.

    George and Tetsuya don’t even care about the Crux as far as I can tell, they are just proud and love Benio. Their childishness wanes before hers.

    Marino, obviously, didn’t care about taking over the world. She was in the Crux to protect Mizuno. She was basically a piece of Mizuno’s psyche broken off to protect Mizuno, who was stuck in a perpetual childhood. (It’s actually funny how many people that don’t like the show pop up to mention how they prefer Mizuno to Wako, when Mizuno was clearly stunted emotionally…)

    Midori’s initial motivation in belonging to the Crux can be best understood in terms of understanding who she is: a woman who never grew up that sees her peak in her high school years. Her motivation for joining the Crux comes from her need to find employment that satisfies her desire to be around teenage boys, and likely came as a consequence of the Crux’s motivation for hiring her to work at the school in the first place. She’s a brilliant scientist that just happens to be something of a woman-child. That her research allowed her the ability, briefly, to try to live out her fantasies, was probably her motivation for a long time.

    Hideki, obviously, Did It For Science.

    Simone was in it for vengeance.

    I really don’t have time to do all of these, but if you watch the show and can’t piece together motivations both from their outward statements and introspective conflicts, I am befuddled. It’s Not That Hard.

    Just remember that the show’s a playful gag full of sexual innuendo set on a stage prepared for a more general audience that night time anime with callbacks to old super robot shows and such for the older audience.

    I may have a more coherent comment about the show latter, when I’ve more time and don’t have to bang it out via VNC.

  8. Puran says:

    I can agree with it having some useless episodes. But awful? Even the worst moments of the show were entertaining. And a lot of plotlines/characters (seemingly) didn’t go anywhere, but they weren’t bad.

  9. esha25 says:

    Well this was the best(?) of a pretty disappointing winter season. But this anime had no ending? I mean nothing was resolved.

    I guess I it is getting another season?

  10. e36 says:

    I mean nothing was resolved.

    You mean aside from the fact that both Wako and Sugata are no longer burdened by their curse of their marks and can write their own futures instead of following the one arranged by their ancestors and their parents.

  11. Denizen says:

    Star Driver is one of my favourite shows of recently, but I feel it excelled in that whilst it obviously dropped the ball on certain parts, there was an abundance in its other parts that it still ended up being a superb show, in my opinion. You only have to inject a drop of its creativity and devotion into another show and it would improve immensely. It was only the episodes preceding Mizuno’s departure that weighed the show down significantly.

    It’s rough at the edges, but it has just so much to like, and it’s something I would easily recommend to people. I’ve been worrying about Bones recently, but they seem to be picking things up.

  12. SquareSphere says:

    Agree that it was a solid show that could have been a classic. From my stand point it’s the only series in recent memory that compares to Escaflowne in appeal to both shojo and shonen.

    Obviously, just like Esca it went down the shojo route, and had crazy plot devices, though Esca did tie up most of the important plot threads.

    Honestly, to me the only major plot thread missed in Star Driver were the “fish people” that the pres/vice pres of the drama club were a part of. Could the Maidens have used more fleshing out? How about Head’s background, not to mention how Tauburn came to be? Sure.

    But the ending of SD didn’t have to resort to Issac Newton, wishing machines, and destiny alternated transgender villains.

    But the music in both series was FANTASTIC! I’m shocked how many reviews I’ve read just gloss over the music of Star Driver.

    Great review though, and a very reasonable score.

  13. Kira says:

    Star Driver was a show that for most of the time felt like it was going nowhere. A show with so much potential that never reached the level it could of.

    The battles were repetitive and far too much time was spent on pointless filler episodes that contributed little to the plot.

    Instead of introducing new characters each episode the director should of worked on fleshing out the main ones.

    To be fair though, the animation and art were of a high standard and it had a fantastic soundtrack.

    I was excited about the show when it started(Studio BONES makes a mecha show which combines elements of Gurren Lagann and Code Geass with an star cast and crew of anime veterans, count me in!) and I think some anime fans will like it but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

    I think people who are interested should watch the first four episodes and if you like it continue, if you’re unsure you should probably drop it.

  14. SJCrew says:

    “I think people who are interested should watch the first four episodes and if you like it continue, if you’re unsure you should probably drop it.”

    It’s funny you mention that, because it’s both a spot on comment, and the exact point at which I felt Star Driver would be a pretty good series and worth my time. I’m only halfway through it at this point, but as far as I can tell, Star Driver doesn’t seem to be in any rush to prove me wrong and my interest only seems to grow with each episode.

  15. Hades says:

    Whoa, an 85/100 for this pathetic mecha show?
    Seriously, if you’re looking for a serious mecha show, watch Neon Genesis Evangelion and RahXephon. Both have far more story and better characters.

  16. Digi says:

    you gave it 85/100 ??? are you nuts, this show was one of the worst things I ever watched, till episode 10, it was good, but then , no story , no plot, no character development, no good romantic theme, nothing , n the fucking repeatitive battles again and again , sucks , i wasted my time on this

  17. Jac says:

    I agree with the 85/100. Bottom line is, this was a fun show to watch. The plotline is a lot more complex than apparently a lot of the nay-sayers here can handle; they don’t serve everything up to you on a plate but give subtle hints that make you work it out on your own, and reading http://ninteenpointzerofour.wordpress.com/star-driver/ helps. If you’re a Michael Bay fan, this is not for you.

  18. GlassShadow says:

    I find most Bones concepts need 50+ episode to fully develop. It’s almost becoming an inherent flaw in all their productions. I can’t remember the last time a Bones show actually managed to utilize its potential. Hell, it’s still my favorite studio for so many reasons, but I do wish they could pace themselves a little better.

  19. I know this series ended a while ago but I recently marathoned through this and just have to say I love the soundtrack of this series. The epic string songs such as the songs all of the shrine maidens sing( the apprivosier versions) sound amazing and are the newest additions to my Japanese playlist

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    Nice! Looking forward to the reviews. Some nice fighting scenes besides the build up of the story. I just hope they don’t play just this one tune all the time ;)
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