If it fits, it ships
(06-14-2012, 02:53 PM)
Star Driver 2
Some more great mecha action in this episode as well, Bones has a very talented team. Unfortunately, the great artstyle and animation is marred by the weak characterization and setting.
I hinted at it in my impressions about the first episode, but the discrepancy between the high-school daily life and the sexually tinted bizarre "conquer the world!" plot is very jarring. To start with, many of the characters at Southern Cross High (the school where Takuto, the main character, is currently residing) lead double lives.
High School wife by day...
Cult leading, mecha driving, power seeking dominatrix by night
Of course, this is an extremely common occurance in every form of media, and that alone wouldn't mean much to the quality of a character. However, let's examine the case of one single character from the show, the green-haired girl featured above.
The first time Takuto takes notice of her, presumably due to her odd, attention grabbing line. What does she mean by it? Our curiosity is (hopefully) ignited.
...and now we find out. Our first impression is of a flirty, somewhat sensual girl. I guess this is a bit of my own opinion, but the impression left makes the kiss seem more sexy and sensual.
Takuto acts as a stand in for the audience in this scene. After something so strange happened, he wants to rationalize it in the simplest way possible.
And the least likely reply is given. One thing to note here is that, with an invitation as obscure as "You don't mind the glass, do you?", the boy knew exactly what she wanted. Either kissing through glass is a big thing at this school, or both of them are in some "insider's circle" type thing. The other, of course, is that this girl kisses strangers as if it was the most natural thing in the world. None of the other classmates even react, despite the fact that the ostensibly more shy, more innocent Wako is present. Only the outsider, Takuto, is surprised. This provides a bit more evidence for the "common occurance" theory, I guess.
However, another character does take issue with it. I'll tie another scene that happens later back into this, but for now, we know that at least one other person does in fact not approve of it.
And she fires a quick retort back. There's hints that there's a rivalry between the class pres and the green-haired girl, and these hints find solid ground later on. (more on that later).
There's a lot of importance placed on the fact it was through the glass, and besides the obvious, it does gain more meaning later.
And finally, she does a "proper" introduction, after we the viewer, and Takuto in the show, have already determined quite a bit about her character. It might be just me, but now that's she's turned her attention onto Takuto, I'd expect a bit of explanation on what occurred.
However, she immediately treats Takuto as another target. So far, though she is rather seductive for the average high school student, there's nothing too far out of the realm of possibility here.
..but it's all thrown out the window the next moment. Not only does she happily initiate kisses with complete strangers but she's already married, and at face value a monogamous relationship is not important to her. She could be lying about the marriage, but with a ring, and no obvious reason for such a lie, it doesn't seem likely. So now we have a strong impression of this character, but also a lot of mystery behind her.
As hopefully you can see, it's a really bizarre introduction. That alone, of course, isn't a bad thing, and indeed, I think her introduction, taken by itself, was a pretty good scene, and she might be an interesting character. However, the big flaw with this scene, and the big flaw with this show in general, is the disproportionate reaction. Quite simply, no one but Takuto bats an eyelid. The easiest explanation for this is that everyone else is simply used to it, but that seems unlikely in the light of several other elements. Firstly, as I already mentioned, there's Wako. She seems to be very much the type of character that would be offended by her behavior, and it's very surprising that she shows absolutely no reaction at all, and indeed isn't even shown in that scene at all. Of course, that doesn't discount the potential that everyone is just used to it, but it does strike me as odd. Then there's Takuto's reaction. Though he does show a significant amount of surprise and uneasiness, it's completely forgotten the moment the scene finishes. I understand that everything I've described so far might not convince anyone, but it's really just the tip of the Iceburg, and there's a lot more to come.
Random :Cajun moment for filler.
In the scene directly following the previous one (that sounds a bit redundant...), Takuto meets the drama club. It's an expository scene, and quite a bit of information is revealed, but it's done in an awkward fashion that again tells of a discrepancy between what we see happening and what the characters do.
(In case it's unclear, Cybodies are what the mechs are called in Star Driver.)
Takuto is already famous! But, hold up a second. How does she know about Cybodies? Nothing in the show so far had led me to believe that anyone other than the secret organization knew about the existence of them. Again, it could quite easily be common knowledge, but the way it's just dropped in is very jarring. However, there's more wrong with the scene than something as innocuous as that.
This is a really important fact. Time stops for everyone, except those who are actually in the "arena" where the mechs fight. So, how does she know that Takuto fought? Unless she herself is a part of the secret group (called Kiraboshi, apparently), she should have no idea when a fight takes place!
At this point, we have to assume that she is in on the whole plot. Not only does she know of the existence of the fight, and the participants, but she also knows of the reason why the fight occured. Unfortunately, no one in the show draws the same conclusions.
Since he's the main character of a shounen show, it's to be expected that Takuto suffers from a general dumbness, but it still makes for a strange scene. Takuto immediately regards the drama club as an authority on bullet time mecha fights, and asks just who his opponents are.
Immediately, he's given an explanation. If someone could take a Cyborg out of the time warp, and use it in normal time, they would be unstoppable. Sadly, it doesn't make sense. Wouldn't being able to move through time be a huge advantage to anyone trying to take over the world? Some world leader does something you don't like, wants to start a war... bam! stop time, take him out, avert a crisis!
And also, here's really where the dissonance between what's happening and what the characters react flairs up. So, high school students have control over time-stopping killing machines, it's well known enough that people in the drama club know, these students want to take over the world, that's also well known... Where are the teachers? The investigation? The police? The government? Quite simply, why does no one care
? Characters like Wako, who is put in mortal danger every time a fight takes place, should care, right? But she doesn't... or at least not as much as she should.
Wako, if you're in constant danger of being kidnapped, mind-probed, enslaved, or killed, you should be doing a lot more than just transferring schools. And what's worse, is many of her friends know! But the reaction is hugely disproportionate!
To end the scene, Takuto seemingly finally realizes that something is off with this drama club.
However, his body language and facial expression reveals it's not a big deal to him. Again, there's just too much dissonance going on.
Hopefully by this point you can at least understand what I mean when I say there's a large discrepancy between what you see and what the characters do. However, it not only applies to the plot/setting, it applies to the characters too. Remember miss high school wife? Let's take another look.
Here we see her in her role in Kiraboshi, the group who wants to bring revolution to the world. Her dominatrix get up does fit with what we know of her personality, but it still reeks of pointless fanservice. If you're going to be piloting a mecha, surely an outfit more akin to the plugsuits of Evangelion
make more sense than skin tight leather? Remember miss class pres, who was the only student who had a problem with Kanoko?
...here she is (I think, the lack of brightly coloured hair makes it difficult to determine. Either way, it won't really lessen the point I'm making).
...another ridiculous outfit. The real problem isn't so much the outfit itself, but the bizarre juxtaposition between it and a meeting of people desiring to be world rulers, which reflects the overarching flaw this show has. It's actually quite similar to Lagrange in that way. Lagrange was far worse, and didn't even have fabulous mechs and magical boy transformations to make up for it, but I might eventually drop Star Driver if it continues down this path. If it is indeed the class pres, it makes the reason for their animosity more apparent. There's currently a power struggle going on with the higher members of Kiraboshi, and so there's no real friendship to be found between any of the members.
If i'm doing a decent job at this, you should have a definite grasp of what I mean. Of course, Star Driver is by no means alone in doing this (I already cited Lagrange as another example), but that hardly makes it any better. High-school anime are particularly prone to this, for obvious reasons. The mecha portions of Star Driver are quite fantastical, and if the high school had also been more fantastical there might have been less dissonance going on. I'll provide one last example, that also sheds some light on another peculiarity I already brought up.
Here's one of the managers of the school dorms. She sneaks into baths were her students (wards?), is a bit clumsy, as evidenced in the first episode, and, curiously, also has a certain fixation.
What's so significant about this glass kissing thing? Firstly, we should note that she is also quite familiar with this phenomenon, even though she wasn't present when Kanako did it earlier. Clearly, it really is something common at this school, or with a certain group. I'm hesitant to say which it is, since random people like the boy knew about it, even though he wasn't (or at least, hasn't shown up as of yet) a member of Kiraboshi.
Yes, Pink Hair is also a member of Kiraboshi, and I should hardly even need to mention what her outfit is like, but since I feel I should reward you for reading this far, here you go.
I feel like I've expounded enough on how silly it is with the whole double life thing going on, so I'll dispense with that for now.
Back to the kissing!
Finally, a kiss without the glass. One thing to note here: the boy shows no hesitation or unwillingness.
(Pink Hair is Scarlet Kiss)
Alright, now we're finally getting somewhere! Firstly, this casts a whole new light on Green Hair. Or at least it brings up an interesting possibility. Perhaps her own kiss has some sort of special power? At the same time, it brings up something strange. The boy (who piloted the mecha for this episode's fight) didn't care that he was being put under Scarlet Kiss's power. Perhaps he simply didn't know? Well, apart from the fact that Star Driver seems to prefer the approach of "Everyone but the MC knows everything going on", Kiraboshi themselves know of Scarlet Kiss's power. (The line was delivered by on of the leaders of Kiraboshi, not a monologue from Scarlet Kiss.). So why the hell did he do it? I'm not really expecting an answer from Star Driver, since it appears the show doesn't do things that way, but hopefully it is brought up again, even if it as simple as he has an undying love for her so he'll do whatever she wants anyway (in which case, why the kiss?).
Of course, if only a few people were in Kiraboshi, and if only a few people knew what was going on behind the scenes at this school, it wouldn't be so bad. Unfortunately, neither is the case. There's a huge crowd at Kiraboshi's meeting, and you can see a lot of random grunts in the background during the mecha fight.
Star Driver has a fair amount of interesting ideas, a nice artstyle, great animation, but unfortunately it has it's flaws as well. Perhaps it's too soon to be drawing all these conclusions when I've only finished 2 episodes, but a really good show would have avoided these problems in the first place.
Last edited by Envelope; 06-14-2012 at 04:14 PM.