Posted 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

Posted on 3 April 2011 with categories: Star Driver



Ah, thank god this didn’t end with a downer ending. In fact, I really liked this ending and how over the top it was, and how it at the same time brought this entire show together. It’s not perfect, it had some flaws, but I still really liked this ending, and how this episode really showed how this series has been planning up to this episode

A lot of things became clear with this episode. First of all, if you leave his intentions aside, then Head is an excellent villain. He knew exactly what he wanted, and the entire series is pretty much just him, waiting for the right opportunity, along with the guy whose cybody allowed one to take over other cybodies having to wake up. All of his actions were carefully calculated to getting at this point, using everyone around him, only to drop them when the time is right.

Also, at the start of this series I remember that I really liked the way in which Cybodies only could fight once. Of course this went away as soon as the cybody recovery system was introduced, but the concept remained the same: every character only could get one chance to fight Takuto, unless they took the big risk of regenerating their cybody. That’s the entire reason why so many new characters were introduced over the series: fightig Takuto for a second time was very hard to do in this series.

In fact, hardly any cybody was ever regenerated. At least, up till this episode, where the libido was so high that it became much safer to regenerate. Interesting, if the creators actually failed to make this episode exciting, that entire plot twist would have failed. That’s definitely an interesting link between a self-fulfilling storyline here. And really: the action in this episode was excellent. You can really see that Bones were saving up for this episode.

At the same time, with this episode also Sugata’s actions make perfect sense. I really wondered what the heck was up with him in this episode, especially with how he seemed to have been built up as the major villain. Instead, he was the tragic character of this show: the character who needed to be saved. He too only acted when he needed to act, and therefore had no purpose in most of the storyline. His Cybody had a very specific part here, and because of his absence in any action he became a very weird character. Instead, he too was just waiting for the moment where he could activate Samekh again, in order to deactivate it, so that he could deactivate it again.

This waiting game was essential to this series. Remember how the creators intended this to be a show that combined mecha battles with school life? Having the main parties waiting, while having the people around them just goof off and stall for time is what allowed the school life to return throughout the entire series. It’s this that fleshed out the characters in this series so well, despite being a double harem in a setting that has already been horribly abused by anime.

Now, for the parts that definitely could have been done better: Head’s motives could have been less stereotypically evil. Oh, and the main star of this show, Takuto: he never really developed, did he? He’s actually one of the characters with the least amount of depth. He’s enjoyable, but all he ever does is kick ass. He too could have been more varied. That would have also made the battles in the second half a lot more interesting. In fact, most of the plotholes that this episode left open surround him: who is he? Why is he the only one who can transform? Why is he the only one to enter Level 3 at the start. I can understand how he breaks into Zero Time, because of how he came from outside of the island (another major theme of this show), but everything about his appearance seems just too convenient.

My big constructive criticism for this series is that it should have tried harder during the school life bits. It should have shown more characters, it should have shown even more sides to them. It should have put in some real effort to constantly flesh out all of the 22 drivers would get their purpose in the series. Right now it just feels like too many of them were just thrown in to get to that magic number of 22 (the number of characters in the alphabet that all of the Cybodies are based on).
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 27 March 2011 with categories: Star Driver



An d so the creators used even less time for the climax than I imagined. Seriously, it only started at the end of this episode. It was really well done, don’t get me wrong here: the build-up was terrific. It’s just that I have no idea how the creators are planning to make everything come together in that final episode.

This episode was really quiet, but that was exactly what allowed it to push a lot of characters forward. A lot of the drama here was genuine, and even though none of the major questions were answered, it did add a lot of details to the cast and especially Wako and Keito got a lot out of this episode.

Star Driver has three main arcs, all corresponding to a Shrine Maiden. That just begs the question of why Wako wasn’t given an arc like that. I mean, this episode felt more like the climax of Keito’s arc than the climax of the entire series.

I smell a movie. Just think about the other series that premiered in the Sunday Afternoon timeslot: Gundam 00? Movie. Full Metal Alchemist? Movie. Sengoku Basara? Movie. Only Code Geass didn’t get a movie, but that has Bokuko no Akito. A movie would be the perfect explanation of what the heck is going on here.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 20 March 2011 with categories: Star Driver



For the majority of this episode, I kept thinking whether this really was the right content when the series is going to end in two weeks. I mean, it was a good episode and that punch that Takuto gave to his father definitely was awesome, but right now a lot of pressure has been put on the finale: it’s all going to have to happen within two episodes. It’ll either be short but really, really sweet, or a rushed mess that leaves a bad taste.

I can see what this episode was trying to do: build up. They used the remaining Vanishing Age as quite an effective build-up for the finale, along with building Sugata up to e the king of the Crux brigade (continuing to build-up from where the first half left off, though that didn’t make his entrance any less weird). It was very focused, but perhaps a bit too focused at this stage. I’m not going to judge whether it was a wise move or not until I’ve seen that ending, though. Short finales can be just as awesome as long climaxes, if not even more, though they tend to be a very double-edged sword.

I do have another criticism, though: I’m not really interested in the fight scenes anymore. I tried to defend this early on, but in the end the big problem with the battles in this series is that they just all look like each other. They don’t stand apart, and the way that they always take place in the same setting with the same recycled frames, the creators really needed to make every battle stand out with some creative ideas, and in the end they didn’t. Utena faced the same problems, but there the creators managed to overcome this wonderfully.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 6 March 2011 with categories: Star Driver



YES! YES! YES! What a way to start off the finale of this series!

To put the play here of all places, I love the idea. It was foreshadowing, it showed a completely different side, it was very different from the previous episodes, it was based on a solid idea, it had already gotten a lot of build-up, and at the same time it stays true to the series’ core: school life.

I’m not sure whether I’m the only one in this, but I personally love the series with short climaxes. It doesn’t always need to have months of build-up, but with the motto of “say more with less”, I’ve found that some of my most memorable climaxes are actually the ones who put their finales in a relatively short amount of time. After this episode, this means that there are just three episodes reserved for the climax of Star Driver. And this episode really pointed towards the fact that the creators are planning something really interesting for the final episodes here. Finally this series makes use of the fact that it’s an original story!

What really would have made this series a force to be reckoned with would have been more of these kinds of episodes. The ones that are based on a strong idea, and what would have allowed each episode to stand on its own, rather than just being a collection of episodes all about school life and robot battles. I mean, that’s why I’m currently such a big fan of Level E: all of its stories are different and based on great ideas rather than cliches. That’s the one thing that Star Driver lacked and what really could turned this into an amazing series.

What also was short but sweet in this episode: that aftermath. I mean, dear lord, how many new things did we learn about the characters in like, what? A minute? I mean, the stuffed animal talks, the president of the drama club is an alien, the cybodies come from space and Tauburn was specifically created for a human? Talk about creating intrigue for next week.

Overall, there is only one bloody show that aired during the past half year and that isn’t going to end within a month: Gosick. At the moment, the endings that are looking the most promising are the ones of Level E, Madoka Magica and Star Driver here. Let’s see which one can deliver the most interesting end here.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 27 February 2011 with categories: Star Driver



This just dawned on me while I watched this episode, but… am I the only one who gets the feeling that the creators are planning the kiss scene at the drama to happen around the climax of this series? I mean, especially after the cliffhanger of this episode suddenly showed Wako volunteering to be on the receiving end of Takuto’s kiss, this has to point at something that the creators are planning for that finale. It’s a nice twist, though: Wako finally accepted here that she’s into Takuto here. This episode was definitely a nice way to take care of one of the love triangles in this series.

And as for the rest of this episode, the creators did create a pretty good climax here for the characters who were introduced so relatively late in the series. The two new girls have been quite strange villains: they didn’t seem to care at all about being correct villains, and instead seemed like just adrenaline junkies who kept seeking for thrills. A way to go to phase 3,5 that combines you with your Cybody is an interesting way to say goodbye to them.

Takashi returning meanwhile had it coming, but I ‘m glad that the creators indeed went there. Again, it shows promise and brings the Adult Bank back into the picture, with someone who can actually apprivoise. This also explains the relatively large amount of time that the creators spent on building up this guy, even though at first he seemed like a very insignificant character.

And on a side-note: why didn’t Head sign the paintings of Takuto’s mother with his usual “R”?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 20 February 2011 with categories: Star Driver



It’s the background episode, and it’s quite a creative one. This episode answered a ton of questions about the main storyline, and did so quite creatively. Head’s background is an interesting and untypical love triangle that completely fell apart thanks to his ambitions. We also get to see Takuto’s mother for the first time (albeit in a flash-back) and I’m surprised at how untypical she is as a mother.

Some of the other things that we see confirmed is that the reason he didn’t age was because his heart is trapped in Zero-time (though we still didn’t learn how exactly this happened), who exactly the old eyepatch guy was, how Takuto got his mark and the reason Head has been delaying the seal breaking (because he wants a friend who is going to give him another seal to wake up).

Seriously, especially that latter point just confirms how this entire series was just basically Head waiting for a guy to get out of a coma. That’s why none of the characters had this sense of urgency, and it’s also how the creators managed to keep the characters able to enjoy their school life. Most of the fights here were just random quarrels that in the end mostly were just red herrings for the real main story. Looking back, I expect the guts of this show to do that, and it all ties down to the decision of the creators to focus a lot on school life, but in the end this slice of life wasn’t solid and realistic enough for this show to really become a masterpiece.

Despite that though, I’m still enjoying this show a lot, because what is there in character analysis is still really good, as this episode showed. That guy clawing his eye out was perhaps a bit extreme, but that power does explain why Head knew just about everything he needed to do. But then again, how the hell do you defeat a guy who can look into the future?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 13 February 2011 with categories: Star Driver



Star Driver is full of random slice of life moments. This episode stood out at this point, though. A lot of this episode was the simple celebration of Wako’s birthday, and only showed Takuto, Sugata and Wako together. The creators put a lot of meaning behind it, thoough, and for a change it was pretty enjoyable to see them together for so long here, with the best parts being the birthday presents.

This episode also had an interesting subversion of the “I’m going to take over your body muaha”-trope. Most times when this gets used, it takes forever for someone to realize that something is wrong, and yet here everyone noticed the complete change in character of Sugata and Takuto. At the same time though, it could have been taken further. Instead, those two Crux members just gave up in the middle of it.

I keep expecting these series to get darker and more serious in their second halves, but there are more and more series like this that instead have these quiet kinds of episodes, right before they’re about to start building up to the finale. I’m not yet sure of whether or not this works, but at the end of this series we should know whether the past episodes knew exactly what they were doing… or were just randomly buying time.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 6 February 2011 with categories: Star Driver



Milestone time: this is going to be the 4000th post on this blog. Whoa, I’ve been writing a lot…

In any case: building up episode. I do hope that this was one of the last building up episodes that we’re getting in this series, because at this point it really should start delivering and using this build-up. It was an enjoyable episode nevertheless.

The fireworks and the random games weren’t anything special, but they were fun. I also like how Takuto’s apartment actually got burned out. That definitely was good for his character, even if at first it seems just like a cheap trick to get Sugata and Takuto in the same house. Keito’s twist meanwhile was a bit simple (still clinging to the things she was obsessed with in her early childhood instead of exploring new things), but nevertheless was a nice twist. As for what the hell she was doing at the end of the episode: that’s for the next episodees to answer.

In any case though, Star Driver is one of those series where a lot is going to depend on the ending. Because of that I’ll withhold judgement for now whether this is a really memorable series, or simply a really enjoyable one. I do want to say though that my initial hopes of this series becoming the spiritual successor of Utena are probably not going to be met. The entire series could have had more variation and creativity for that at this point in the story. Plus, it also turned into a bit too much of a harem. I mean, Utena had a ton of fangirls and all, but it did have a ton of other complex and deep character relationships and didn’t boil down to the entire cast only liking one or two characters (the recently introduced romance story of Ruri is a welcome addition because of that).

Also, the animation of this episode seemed surprisingly mediocre for Bones’ standards. This can point at one of two things: 1) the budget ran out or 2) the creators are saving the best budget and animator for last.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 30 January 2011 with categories: Star Driver



A beach episode? Of course, things wouldn’t be so simple. This episode was about 40% beach, and the other 60 percent answered a ton of questions, along with changing the entire set-up of this show, yet again.

Interestingly, this episode revealed that all of the seals had to be broken in a particular order. Interestingly, that makes a lot of the battles early on in the series much more like long-term preparations by the crux brigade: they were basically killing time while they were trying to find out where the heck the fourth maiden went. Wako getting captured in the first episode was nothing more than one of the members of the brigade acting for herself.

The badges meanwhile turned out to be fake emblems. Head probably used those at first, while he was trying to gather the ones with the real emblems. What does this mean for the ones who always used the fake emblems? I mean, in terms of combat ability they have become completely pointless now, despite how the entire series has been carefully building up their characters, and here they suddenly get swapped out by this horde of characters where far less attention went into.

One big mystery at this point is Sugata: I really feel like the creators are saving a ton of stuff for the last third of this series, and this king cybody has to be one of the major ones: this episode revealed that he also is completely useless now that the third phase is is activated. Plus, there still is the mystery of what makes Takuto so special: in the previous episodes he always miraculously was one phase above the others, but the new power he finds here is kindof vague. It’s in any case not the fourth phase, because then he’d permanently be a Galactic Pretty-Boy.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 04:12 PM)
    @K-Off, hey the Sims I get. The Sims lets you play god and raise a family so that at the height of there glory asnd happiness you can burn them to the gound.
    This is paying to do something that is pretty much indistinguishable from doing the exact same thing in real life.
  • k-off
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 04:05 PM)
    @Aidan You also have people today, dumping tons of money into Sims games.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:53 PM)
    *virtual
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:52 PM)
    Actually that just blows my mind. Think about it. In SAO there are people, people who pay monthly subscription fees who when in a MMO spend their time at a virual bar, drinking virual beer while watching a virual tv show.
    ….really?
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:11 PM)
    @Bam, That wasn’t live TV. That was a TV show that was in the MMO. Yes, a tv show which is broadcast and filmed in a MMO. You may put faces to palms now.
  • Bam
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:06 PM)
    @Aidan: I haven’t watched it past episode 2 but I gather from you guys that there are two deathgun guys, one of them which is the RL killer. So I’m saying how did he kill that guy that was being interviewed on live tv in the 1st episode?! Makes no fuckin sense.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:02 PM)
    Seriously this show….f*ck this show. We both are eager to drop it. But we are waiting for Grisaia to start up so we can watch that together.
    And yet it’s still getting praised…I am truly baffled.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 12:56 PM)
    Funny enough that isn’t even the worse of it. The last episode consisted of Ass-chan and trapito(Our pet names for the two) sitting in a cave talking. Mostly about stuff that has already happened or been gone over. All while being…weirdly intimate. I mean this is the girl whos sorta tsundere and she’s laying her head on his lap and he’s invading her personal space. They weren’t even talking about anything remotely romantic.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 12:51 PM)
    So how did second death gun break in while leaving no traces, shoot this guy while leaving no traces and leave without raising suspicion despite wearing a f*cking hoody and a helgast mask?
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 12:48 PM)
    @K-Off, Myself and a internet friend have been watching SAO for the sole purpose of taking the piss out of it. We haven’t even managed that. Nothing happens in the episodes. We have feck all materail.
    Anyway I thought that about the death gun twist too but the thing that makes even less sense is how is this second death gun not been arrested? I mean the police don’t give a shit about MMOs. They would just investagate it as a murder.

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