Star Driver 25

Gahh, I just watched the second-straight finale of a Fall 2010 anime in which the bad guy is defeated by an Epic Punch To The Face. Only in Star Driver’s finale, both the puncher and punchee were characters of consequence, with stakes of even greater consequence still. Youthful super-evil/vain father, Tokio/Head, wants to destroy/rule the entire world, and by breaking the last seal, Wako, and Sugata and Samekh under his command, he can do it, too.

But Takuto/Tauburn won’t go away quietly, nor let his dad get away with hurting his friends, which leads to the eventual punch to the face. To get to that point, he depends on all of the members of Glittering Crux expelling Head, retaking their reborn cybodies, and fighting alongside Tauburn (both out of simple morality, but also because he scorned them, using Crux as pawns all along). Thus we get an epic multi-cybody battle with the same bite-and-burn animation we’re used to, only turned up to 11. To paraphrase one Crux member, they finally get to fight in a battle that matters, not just one that serve’s Head’s schemes.

But what of Sugata and King Samekh? Sugata is ready to sacrifice himself to seal him off once and for all and prevent the end of the world Head talked about. However, Takuto and Wako share a deep long look at one another, and Takuto then decides to destroy Wako’s cybody and break the last seal anyway. WTF, you may ask; but they simply couldn’t and wouldn’t let the love triangle be resolved so cheaply; by Sugata’s death. Takuto follows Samekh into Earth orbit, where he destroys him and saves Sugata. Thus Wako is still not forced to make a choice she apparently can’t make. And neither is the show.

So yeah, Star Driver. It’s been a long ride, and I have to say I enjoyed it overall. The Tauburn introduction scene got really old, but for the most part the weekly battles stayed fresh and brief. Takuto was a hero who was always upbeat, never angsty; the core of him, Wako and Sugata had great chemistry from beginning to end, and their romantic dilemma was never annoying. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get lost keeping all the characters and Crux factions in check, but having seen the series reach its conclusion, there would be value in re-watching it someday. Rating: 4

Series Mean Ranking: 3.615

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Star Driver 24

Another seal bites the dust, as Keito reveals herself to both Crux and Takuto/Wako as the East Maiden, while Sugata too removes his mask and prepares to drive King Samekh. It’s a chilling moment when Keito essentially offers herself to the cause, having already been fulfilled by Sugata in a previous meeting with him at the Eastern Shrine. She has nothing left to lose. Everything goes dark and all of the swirling Zero Time psychedelia we’re used to changes with frightening speed and permanence.

For the island and its ordinary inhabitants, this is very bad news. With only one seal left to break (Wako) and the means to do it (Head has a new cybody, and who knows what Sugata will do with his new phase), the resultant shockwave will probably destroy the island with a combination of earthquakes, tsunami, and erupting volcanoes. Crux has been striving so long to break the seals, one wonders if any of them have cold feet, or if its simply too late to turn back. Kanako for one exhibits sympathy for the “civvies” by having her massive yacht (it’s a cruise ship, really) prepared to take on evacuees.

With that in mind, and after so many generations of the maidens maintaining balance, breaking all their seals and unleashing that power will likely have global, and not just local, implications. Takuto has won every single fight he’s fought in as Tauburn. Many were victories pulled from the jaws of defeat; victories that would not have occurred had outside forces not acted on Takuto’s behalf. Now that he’s essentially the only thing keeping Wako safe, he’ll have to win one more battle, and it will be the toughest. Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 23

Star Driver returns to its more-or-less standard form: the love triangle heats up, while Takuto finally meets (and plants) his dad Head/R. Wako is fine with going on dates with both Sugata and Takuto on the same day, interrupted briefly by a Zero Time battle where Tauburn must go one-on-three with a very hungry Vanishing Age.

For the umpteenth time, Takuto is on the verge of defeat, but Sugata evens the odds by finding a way to be useful: by offering himself as a Tau missile for Takuto to shoot through the three enemy cybodies. I don’t really understand the meta-science or mechanics surrounding how that works, but its of little importance. Crux is dealt yet another humbling blow. Suffice it to say Takuto/Sugata can do whatever they want here in order to win. This makes it unlikely they’ll ever lose, which reduces the tension somewhat.

Still, the outcomes aren’t nearly as important as the character strides made in their leading-up. Last episode, Sugata finally woke up while Keito was present, exposing her as the heretofore-unknown East Maiden. Only by this episode’s end is this revisited, when Sugata shows up as King, the latest, greatest member of Crux. Does this mean Sugata’s now a Bad Guy, sharing their goal to break the last seal? Has he finally cast his ambiguous future with his betrothed – Wako – aside, in favor of Keito?

Earlier, following a duel that apparently ended in a draw (mirroring their stalemate regarding Wako), Sugata warns Takuto that his “bendable free-spirit” approach to facing challenges may not be enough to fully protect Wako, as opposed to calm, logical preparation. Could he have been warning Takuto about his own plans to join Crux? Stay tuned… Rating: 3.5

Star Driver returns to its more-or-less standard form: the love triangle heats up, while Takuto finally meets (and plants) his dad Head/R.

Wako is fine with going on dates with both Sugata and Takuto on the same day, interrupted briefly by a Zero Time battle where Tauburn

must go one-on-three with a very hungry Vanishing Age.

For the umpteeth time, Takuto is on the verge of defeat, but Sugata evens the odds by finding a way to be useful: by offering himself as a

Tau missile for Takuto to shoot through the three enemy cybodies. I don’t really understand the metascience or mechanics surroudning

how that works, but its of little importance. Crux is dealt yet another humbling blow.

Last episode, Sugata finally woke up while Keito was present, exposing her as the heretofore-unknown East Maiden. Only by this

episode’s end is this revisited, when Sugata shows up as King, the latest, greatest member of Crux. Does this mean Sugata’s now a Bad

Guy, sharing their goal to break the last seal? Has he finally cast his ambiguous future with his betrothed – Wako – aside, in favor of Keito?

Earlier, following a duel that apparently ended in a draw (mirroring their stalemate regarding Wako), Sugata warns Takuto that his

“bendable free-spirit” approach to facing challenges may not be enough to fully protect Wako, as opposed to calm, logical preparation.

Could he have been warning Takuto about his own plans to join Crux? We’ll see… Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 22

Ah, so Takuto and Wako finally kiss, but alas, it’s in the context of a play. A surprisingly decent and interesting play, by the way. It had to be: if something frivilous and silly had taken up more than 3/4ths of the third-to-last episode, it would have been an unfortunate waste. But armed with the same ebullient orchestration as the series proper; excellent pacing and progression, an a simple but moving story, the play was less of a detour and more of what Star Driver does best: enrich its cast with every episode.

This was another rare episode with no Zero Time and no cybodys. An I daresay it was also the first in which nobody is in Glittering Crux mode (everyone in costumes this week are normally just wearing their school uniform); no one flashes the sign; there isn’t one word uttered about the cult. I appreciate the confidence of this anime to leave that stuff out for once.

This week wasn’t without its revelations (well, for chracters, not necessarily us): Sugata learns that Keito is the Eastern maiden, and has been helping him come out of his deep slumber (maidens just have to be nakked to do their stuff, I guess…) and Takuto’s first crush (a girl with a very cute and unique voice) shows up to sign off on Wako, whom Takuto apparently talks about a lot. Still, Wako’s in a love triangle with Sugata and Takuto; breaking free of it, if that’s what she wants – will be quite tricky. Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 21

So Madoka finally tests her theory that Tauburn’s downfall will come as a result of Takuto’s refusal to kill a cybody pilot. Since Madoka regenerates her cybody with her own libido, entering third-and-a-half-phase, her body literally melds with the cybody in Zero Time. Destroying the cybody kills her too. Whether she’s ready to die is irrelevant, because she thinks she’ll win.

She’s pretty much right: Like an adult cat who never learned the killing bite, Takuto just can’t do it, and ends up on his back and in serious trouble. We know Sugata’s first phase is useless now, so it had to be – yup – Wako, with her maiden powers (the details of which escape me) which somehow negated Madoka’s superphase, allowing Takuto to wrest her from the cybody – defeating her without killing as he has always done.

Frankly, after saving him from a snake bite I thought Keito might be the one to intervene, but that would be treasonous action against her Cruxmates. Having saved Takuto’s skin and now volunteering to be his kising partner in the play, it could be – with only four episodes left – that Wako’s made a choice. Maybe? Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 20

Glittering Crux is not one big happy secret society. Everyone has their own ambitions and motives, and designs for how they’ll achieve their goals. And Crux is frought with alliances and butting heads; not surprising, since there’s no official leader. That’s because to become leader, one must destroy Tauburn. And goshdarnit, Tauburn just won’t die.

This week, Tauburn is challenged by Camel Star, who wants to hurry up and break Wako’s seal, against Head (and others’) wishes. Doing to would kill anyone on the island who doesn’t have a cybody. If someone’s cybody was wasted by Takuto, they’re SOL until they regenerate, which could cost them their life anyway. But the main story isn’t about Crux’s political problems, or Tauburn’s fight-of-the-week. It’s about Takuto showing signs of jealosy towards Wako and Sugata, and also about Head’s past.

Head used to be called Tokio Tsunashi (same last name as Takuto, hmm?). He met Ryousuke and his betrothed, Sora, and they formed a triangle not unlike Takuto/Wako/Sugata’s. Tokio painted Sora, who fell in love with Tokio, and he got her pregnant; but when he sought a mark to pilot a cybody, he abandoned her entirely, the bastard. She left the island, and Takuto returned, with the same watch with a picture of Sora in it that Ryousuke had given her years ago. Verrry interessting. Now we know Takuto’s parents, and the guy he came to the island to punch in the face. Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 19

Most of this episode is fairly quiet slice-of-life; specifically Wako’s birthday. She is clearly at her happiest when she’s with Sugata and Takuto, and this day is no exception. They also each give her priceless personal possessions as gifts (Takuto’s idea), which she thankfully denounces as a little lame. In fact, her comfort and contentness with these two leads me to conclude she’s not all that interested in making a decision about who to court. She doesn’t like change, and deciding would cause lots of it. So she doesn’t chose.

Of course, creeping around the fringes of this episode are Kou and Madoka, who possess Sugata and Takuto’s bodies while Wako steps out briefly. When she returns, Kou/Sugata immediately gives herself away by cursing, while Madoka/Takuto tries to kiss Wako, leading her to pull Sugata’s gift (his dagger) on him. She knows they’re first phasing, and she isn’t going to take their shit. Madoka relents, and they return the bodies.

The next we see Kou, she’s in her Galactic Pretty Boy, which can turn into a jet! But wait…Tauburn can do anything as long as Takuto has the will and heart for it, so he can turn into a jet too. Kou’s cybody is thus destroyed without her being harmed. Despite being defeated three straight weeks, Kou and Madoka remain troopers, who seem to just want to have fun more than accomplish anything. Rating: 3

Star Driver 18

Madoka was defeated last week, so she now has to sit in the corner, right? Wrong. I expected her partner Kou to have a go at Tauburn, but instead, Madoka tries again, this time with her first phase. This phases is much like Kaname Tosen’s or Grampa Nurarihyon’s ability: all dull or confuse the senses in one way or another.

This time Takuto’s wild slashings are all for naught; he’s slashing at shadows. Sugata, who apparently has no patience whatsoever, decides to toss out his trump card to quickly end the fight, putting himself in another deep slumber and nearly burning Madoka (and bystander Takuto) to a crisp. Speaking of burning, a utterly stupid and ridiculous fireworks battle ends in Takuto’s dorm going up in flames, yet not one eye falls victim to the veritable hail of bottle rockets, sparklers, and roman candles. Lucky peeps, these.

Anyway, to get back to Keito, while she no longer hangs with fellow maiden Wako and maintains a stoic, aloof exterior, the fact remains she loves to sing and pretend to be an idol. This results in perhaps the best comedic moment of the episode: when Takuto, just hired by Keito’s mom, busts in on Keito right in the middle of a big karaoke finale. This is just another step  to humanize characters and keep things light and breezy, so when things go awry, we actually care who’s affected. Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 17

One of the worst, most overused anime cliches out there is the random beach party, and Star Driver doesn’t disappoint (or rather, does) by presenting us with one right here, complete with the volleyball match with Takuto as the prize. We get it: women are attractive in swimsuits, and all the women love Takuto. Move on already!

Fortunately, this episode does, as we’re introduced to two new characters: Madoka and Kou. The former has a very cutesy voice and big hair; the other has short green hair and frankly sounds like a man, baby. With two of the four maidens’ seals broken, things get a little more interesting in Zero Time, as well. Madoka challenges Tauburn with a Galactic Pretty Boy of her own.

She tries to capitalize on Takuto’s reluctance towards killing his opponents, but she fails when he devises a missile-like attack that rips her cybody’s core – with her inside – right out, without hurting her. So once again Tauburn wins. Oh yeah, we now know who the last maiden is: Keito, interestingly enough. I know this because she sings a song at the end; and that can only mean one thing on this show. Rating: 3

Star Driver 16

Okay…so much epic shit went down this week. After keeping us in the dark about Takuto’s past, we finally learn of what exactly brought him to the island, how he got his mark; the secret of Mizuno; and that Head is another Galactic Prettyboy! Star Driver’s second half is also making many winter series I’m still watching for some reason look just plain bad.

Apparently the reason Marino looks just like Mizuno is that she is an illusion she made so she wouldn’t be alone. But after enough time, Marino became real, for all intents and purposes, and even gained her own cybody. When Mizuno is captured by Crux and her seal broken, Marino is nowhere to be found. Fortunately, she’s not the only one Mizuno can rely on.

This looked to be the toughest duel for Tauburn by far, and it even looked like game over until Takuto remembered back to a past summer when he and an ill friend built and flew gliders. This led to him getting his mark, and the recollection awakened a light in Takuto that soups up Tauburn and allows him to easily dispatch Head’s cybody, saving Mizuno. But her days of being a maiden are through. It was a fantastic battle and a great payoff.
Rating: 4

Star Driver 15

Ooo…nice change of pace. I’m a fan of the cybody battles, but finally, Star Driver decides to omit it from the episode formula, replacing it with the drama of the You sisters. Mizuno has fallen hard for Takuto, who is predictably dense about it. I want to wish he’d just choose which girl he wants already (s0 does Sugata!), but I don’t think he adequately understands his choices enough to make one anyway. His “popularity” can grow thin at times.

In any case, when the sisters learn their deadbeat mom has returned to the island, Marino and Mizuno , all but twin sisters, finally disagree: the former wants to at least talk to her, while Mizuno’s reaction is of extreme repulsion. She can’t talk to her mother. She doesn’t want her to be back. So she does something a maiden shouldn’t: she tries to leave the island.

This results in a really nicely-done, creepy Groundhog Day-esque timeloop that quickly scares the shit out of Mizuno. Fortunately fellow maiden Wako senses the disturbance in the Force (for lack of a better term) and comes to her aid, helping Mizuno return to reality. But it’s still clear the island isn’t big enough for MIzuno and her mom. Will she be tempted to figure out a way to leave, ruining all of her sister’s efforts to protect her? Who knows; but the secret is definitely out. Mizuno is no more safe than Wako now. Rating: 4

Star Driver 14

Star Driver’s second half opens with the new  love triangle between Takuto and the You sisters and the regeneration and swift defeat of Manticore’s cybody, Ayingott. Takuto is oblivious to the triangle he’s in. In order to protect Mizuno’s identity, Marino tells the rest of Crux a lie: that the Western maiden doesn’t exist according to Ayingott’s Eyes.

Keito isn’t buying it, and tells the newly-returned Head as much. Now call me back and tell me what the hell I’m talking about! I have to say I’m enjoying Marino’s conflicted character. Even though she has the hots for Takuto and is a member of Crux, Marino’s first loyalty is to Mizuno, and so her actions are forever tied to sis’s protection.

This almost goes horribly wrong when Ayingott goes berserk on her, but fortunately Takuto can hear her cries for help from within his opponent. It takes Sugata’s pillar to weaken Ayingott, but Takuto is able to cross-slash it before it can do any permanent damage. Not much else to report; except that Star Driver is back and as good as ever. Rating: 3.5

Star Driver 13

This week focused on the spunky, pink-haired leader of Filament, Scarlet Kiss aka Benio Shinada. Filament is made up of people from families who once bore marks, like Sugata, but over time they lost them. Despite this, Benio has always “admired the strong”, and there was no one she knew more powerful than Sugata, her frequent sparring partner. That admiration led to love.

When Sugata says Takuto is much stronger than him, she’s intrigued, and challenges Takuto to a kendo match instead, which she quickly wins. This turns out to be her downfall, because when in zero time, she tries the same move again and loses instantly. A rematch in the real world confirms it: Takuto won’t lose twice to the same move. I like the vulnerable side of Benio on display throughout the episode. It’s clear she likes both Takuto and Sugata, and is a very proud person, but her desire to become stronger than them makes them her enemies.

But that Scarlet Kiss was in a cybody at all was a major development: Crux can now fully restore cybodies. Kiss didn’t have one, so she depended on Manticore’s to fix the cybody she had piloted with Sugata when she brainwashed him. However, her hypnotic kiss doesn’t work on Takuto, nor does her resurrected cybody work on Tauburn. Which begs the question, what’s the point of restoring cybodies if he’s just going to keep defeating them? Why not lay down their crux masks and live normal lives? Because…they have goals, and they won’t let the Galactic Prettyboy stand in their way. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.731 (Ranked 1st out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)