Star Driver: Separation Complex

Two people, separated. Maybe.

I find it rather incredible just how the people in Star Driver can keep their cool in class. After all, they’re living in a world with freaking giant robots sitting right underneath them. It’s completely different from other mecha shows in that the “mecha” is not the norm. Whereas in Gundam, the mecha action is completely integrated into society and common perceptions, it’s most certainly not the case in Star Driver. More importantly, why aren’t these people devoting their lives to the true activation of these cybodies? Why do they even bother going to school? Wouldn’t it be faster to work on the cybodies full time?

A lot of people have actually placed Star Driver not really in the category of “mecha” anime, but rather closer to the “magical girl” genre. I’d agree with that assessment, and I think the 12 Takuto transformation sequences we’ve seen so far would at least lend credence to that thought as well.

Too sexy. The only thing we’re missing is a pantsu shot.

But there is an interesting point of deviation between Star Driver and the traditional Mahou Shoujo series. For the most part, it is only the protagonist (read: the magical girl), who is forced to juggle their dual life as a normal everyday person and their magical counterpart. The antagonist usually has no difficulty in performing this feat, mostly because he/she is fully in the magical world, and not in reality. However, this problem is not limited to Takuto in Star Driver. Everyone has to juggle with their lives as a Star Driver/Miko and their lives as a regular school student/teacher.

I think the most interesting part about Star Driver is watching this struggle play itself out. After all, the point of this show, as I’m pretty sure everyone has already guessed, is to emphasize the power of adolescence and to implore people to enjoy their youth while they can. Often times, this ends up getting translated onto screen as FABULOUS fanservice.

And I have absolutely no problem with that~

But it’s important to note that there is a much darker side to things, in that things are not really as clear cut as it seems. After all, there are five people (now four), who cannot enjoy their youth. We’ve already seen the tragedy beneath Sugata’s and Wako’s wishes to leave the island and pursue their dreams. Their youth is crushed beneath the weight of the burden that misfortune has placed upon them. Their burden is made all the more apparent by the appearance of Takuto in the beginning of the series.

Takuto introduces an interesting dynamic into the series. Just his appearance alone is a subtle taunt against Sugata and Wako. After all, he freaking SWAM to the island from the mainland. What rational and sane person would do that? But that’s the wrong question to ask and the wrong place to look. What’s truly tragic in this situation is that Sugata and Wako can’t do that. They’re trapped on the island. Swimming across the sea? If you were trapped on this island, wouldn’t your first reaction be: “I wish I could do that.”

I wish I could do something amazing with my life.

And this is the source of the tension presented throughout the entire first arc of Star Driver. This tension between Takuto and Sugata+Wako is caused by the fact that he’s an outsider and unbound to the island. A glass wall has been erected between them. Takuto IS an outsider. This fact was made all the more apparent by that one episode where the outsider hater (if she has a name, I totally forgot it) let loose her rage against Takuto with Mermaidoll.

And in the aftershocks of this event, it looked like everything changed. The rift between Takuto and Sugata became even more apparent. But it was only through this event that Takuto realized that he wasn’t really an outsider intruding upon Sugata+Wako. But is he truly part of the trio? The revelation that he has says yes, but the fact is that he really isn’t.

Sugata’s complete 180 in personality is an indication. It wasn’t that he became a different person. It was just because he saw the great rift between Takuto and himself. What does Takuto understand? Nothing. How can he possibly understand the feelings that Wako and I have? It’s impossible. The fight between him and Takuto was just as supercharged with these feelings. But the fight itself told him something important: that Takuto was just as serious as he appeared to be. He’s serious about destroying all of the Cybodies. He’s just as serious about helping and protecting Wako as he is. They’re both extremely serious, and they both fought with all of their strength.

Which leads to 15 seconds of panting. An emphasis on just how hard the fight was. Also very sexy.

The first arc was primarily focused on the Takuto+Wako+Sugata trio. It was about their meeting, separation, and making up. But it was primarily about Takuto and Sugata. They are, in a way, opposites in every single way. Sugata is refined and lives in a mansion. Takuto is expressive, and lives in a regular dorm. The introduction of Takuto provided a breath of fresh air into the island society, but not for some. For Sugata, nothing had changed. This was merely another outsider who had trespassed into his Winter. “Even if you believe in wishes, everything is still in a Monochrome.” That’s Sugata’s world. One of boredom by being trapped on the island.

That song that dominated almost the entirety of the first arc is, in my opinion, a reflection of Sugata’s soul throughout the entirety of the first arc. There were only three episodes (I think?) throughout the entire first arc where Monochrome was not sung for the battle song: Episodes 4, 6, and 8. In every other episode, Monochrome was sung for the inevitable end of episode battle. Yes, these battles are first initiated as a reaction against the threat of an attack by Kiraboshi, but more importantly, each battle is one step towards destroying every Cybody, which would free Wako and Sugata from the island. Furthermore, it’s very clear that the five principal Cybodies are the four miko Cybodies, and the King Cybody. Of course there’s still a small logical leap to make, but when you consider in what contexts Monochrome was not sung, I think it’s all the clearer. Episode 4 was the episode were Sugata basically stepped out of the picture for the entire episode. The episode was meant to focus on Wako and Takuto alone, and that’s precisely what it did. Monochrome simply had no place. In Episode 6, Monochrome was replaced by Wako’s song. However, Monochrome did make an appearance in this episode, but as an instrumental, which was paired up with a scene where Wako both reminisces of Sugata and where she laments the presence of the Cybodies. For the most part, her wish and Sugata’s wish are the same: They both want to get off this island, a fact that was emphasized in the scene. In episode 8, an extremely short form of Monochrome is sung as Sugata gazes out to sea, immediately before Takuto goes to see him. After this point, Monochrome is no longer sung in the series, because beyond this point, Sugata’s heart is wrenched with emotion and acceptance of Takuto. For now at least, the Winter in his heart is broken, and thus we farewell to Sakana-chan.

Bye bye, you’ll be missed~

And thus we mark the arrival of Summer.

And let happiness reign?~

The time where everything is, and the youth can sing their hearts out. The past few episodes were focused on the members of Kiraboshi, specifically Kanako, and her ability to sing out her youth. She was oppressed, and really unable to express her youth. She’s forced into the role of the businesswoman, and that’s basically her life. Where is her opportunity to be a teenager? Right on the island. We’ve seen her declare that she’s going to stay on the island at least twice now, because that’s the only place where she can be a youth. Summer has truly arrived.

A slight digression: So where did Spring go? I dunno. I guess it’ll depend on how the rest of Star Driver plays out, and whether it sticks to this pace. If it truly is only 25 episodes, and if it stays at 8 episodes per miko, then we won’t see an arc for one of the mikos, and I’m guessing it’ll be Wako. After all, her presence is felt all throughout the show. Almost like an eternal Spring that no one notices…

Who’s also a BL stalker.

Anyway, just one last digression on fish girl, and that’s about the story of Sam the Squid Killer. That story certainly does seem to be the way that the main story seems to be progressing. Thinking of Sugata as Sam, the girl he loves as Wako, the boat as Samekh, the king as the Head, and the Squid King as Takuto, the pieces do seem to fall into place. Sugata, who has been the most repressed by tradition to the point of having two bodyguard-assassins standing by his side, yearns to escape out into the galaxy. Now that the Cybodies can be repaired, Takuto’s goal of destroying all of the Cybodies is hopeless. Then the only way for Sugata to leave the island is to side with Kiraboshi and the king (aka Head), kill Takuto so he can get at Wako, “offer her blood as a sacrifice” so that the Cybodies can move in the real world, and go out and truly explore the galaxy. Meanwhile, the Head gets what he wants in that he finally knows how to escape from his meaningless life. But Sugata realizes that life on the island was brilliant after all.

Brilliant in more ways than one…

So goes the story. But whether reality will match that… We’ll just have to see.

Anyway, I was talking about something else earlier… Oh right the title of my post. So far, Star Driver has proven itself to be not only a show of the singing out of youth, but also of the incredible sense of separation that these youths have. They have to lead one life as a normal high school student, and another as a part of the Star Driver world. Kind of like the title. So what defines these youths? Their lives as Star Drivers (i.e. the main title)? Or their “radiant” lives (i.e. the subtitle). Clearly they’re unable to keep these two realms separate, as is the case with the mikos and Sugata, and with (mostly) everyone who has a first phase activated.

But really, and I think that this is the part that Sugata just doesn’t get, and what Star Driver might focus on later, isn’t living on the island and battling with Cybodies enough of shouting out your youth? Isn’t the ultimate expression of your youth participating in this Cybody war? Isn’t this what we would all pine for in our everyday lives? A chance to fight with giant robots in a world where there are really no consequences on reality? Why did Takuto come to this island in the first place? Why would he shun the supposedly grand outside world to come to this place?

The answer? He came to sing out his youth. He recognizes just how fun it is to live on this island. The difference between Takuto and all of the islanders is just this simple fact. He knows how to sing out his youth while leading this dual life. No one else does. Will they figure out this fact as well? Only time will tell.

So the adventure of life continues.

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  1. Fai D Fluorite
    Posted December 24, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Wow such a long post!
    Star Driver does have its share of drawbacks.All the cybody battles are overall repetitive with a few theme changes.In the end Takuto-Tauburn steals the show and the Glittering Crux members hand out their badges.It would be nice if they introduce something interesting in the cybody battles.
    As far as the school life goes,it’s the most interesting-entertaining part of this show and how it links to the Zero time fights!
    Star Driver is one of the most talked about shows….hope it delivers well!

    • Posted December 27, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      This is true, though it really is no different than many Mahou Shoujo shows. Interestingly though, there have been several Kiraboshi members who haven’t handed over a badge after being defeated (or at least we haven’t seen them hand it over). Wonder what that means~ If it means anything at least.

  2. Posted December 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Outstanding. You hit the nail squarely on the head. I suppose more mysteries will pile up before the end of the series, but so far this post seems to have the best understanding of this show that I’ve seen so far.

    I hope as people complain less about bishies, panting, transformations and the importance/quality of the fights; they see the quality of the overall storytelling and characters and appreciate it for what it is. Hopefully a classic in waiting, and a strange but successful hybrid of different genres and styles.

    • Posted December 27, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      Haha thanks!

      Yeah, there’s a lot of people just treating Star Driver as pure fanservice, which is wrong, though it certainly has some! It’s a shame really. I hear that there’s actually a lot of people on 2ch speculating on the show, which is nice to know!

  3. e360
    Posted December 24, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Thats a very interesting angle to approach the show

    The island is a metaphor for the phase of adolescence. I guess Fish-girl’s departure from the island means she grows up. Head who continues to stay on the island and masquerade as a teenager is a sort of Peter Pan who refuses to move on, in a way like the immortal king in the story.

    • Posted December 27, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Oh now that’s an interesting theory, though there is the question of what role the Cybodies play in this metaphor. Why do they exist in the context of this theory? That’s what prevents me from readily accepting this theory, as I feel like the show could just as easily exist without the Star Driver plotline if that were the explanation.

  4. Posted December 24, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Wow I never realized the connections between monochrome and Sugata. (if anyone knows where to get monochrome I would love it). I thought the squid king story has to do with the characters but it wasn’t clear to me until you pointed it out. This show has a lot more to it than I thought. I wonder why Head’s paintings are also found in Sugata’s house though.

    I wish the fight scenes would me more than brief Takuto-kicks-ass moments, but then it would draw away from the characters.

    Love the show (initially I started watching because of the ginga bishounen transformation, but it became so much more). Nice article!

    • Posted December 27, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately I don’t know when the Star Driver OST will be released, but some people have stitched the song together from the best sounding parts on Youtube if you want to check that out~

      I thought that those paintings were done by Takuto’s grandfather, not Head. And the paintings seem to appear pretty much everywhere, and they all depict the same thing… They still have me confused :/

      • Posted December 31, 2010 at 2:26 am | Permalink

        Oh, maybe it is the grandfather, I probably got them mixed up or something. I just remember seeing pictures with the R signature in Sugata’s house and in the bar where Head’s underlings hang out (that’s probably what made me think Head drew them). But yeah, they appear everywhere and make me confused too.

        Head’s talk about talent being given by god probably says something like you should do what you can to help people at all times. I’m not sure what to take out of the last episode where he said he was afraid that he already lost his ability to draw though.

  5. hika
    Posted December 25, 2010 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Oh, wow, amazing analysis! It might make me pick up the series after all, although I’ve some problem with some aspects of the show…one of them is exactly as what you addressed in your first paragraph.

    • Posted December 27, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Ha don’t let that stop you from watching this show! It’s actually better than you might think!

  6. Magewolf
    Posted December 25, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree with most of your points but I think you underestimate the layers in the Squid story.There are at lest 3 layers to the story.One is the story of the Cybodies themselves,the second is the story of Head and the fishgirl , the third is the story that is going on now. I think the Squid story is probably the most important plot element we have seen in the show up to this moment.

    • Posted December 27, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      Hm I think I understand your point, but do you mind expanding a bit more?

      • Magewolf
        Posted December 28, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Fishgirl was making up the story as she went I think but she seems to have used info from sealing of the Cybodies and her and Heads life as the base.The king going to sleep , the engine being bound needing the blood of young women to release them, and possibly more all have to do with the past.Sam and the girl being in love and the girl being sacrificed for his ambition was about her and Head. The last level shown by the way the story cut back and forth with the rest of the show makes the link between Sam and Takuto ,Sugata and the king ,Wako and the girl,Crux and the trials apparent.I expect at some point Takuto will have to break Wako’s seal and fight Sugata to destroy the Cybodies instead of sealing them.

        • Posted December 29, 2010 at 4:36 am | Permalink

          Ah I see, so the story is possibly separated into parts? Now that’s definitely an interesting theory… The only thing is that I find it rather hard to believe that the characters in the story come to represent different people at different points, and the delineation between the separate parts is kind of weak.

          Also, I have trouble thinking of Takuto as Sam because I don’t think Takuto’s goal is to fly out into the galaxy. I mean he came to the island to protect someone, and I can’t really imagine that his desire to destroy the Cybodies is such an overpowering desire that it would cause him to betray his friends. I just can’t imagine Takuto that way.

          • Magewolf
            Posted December 29, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

            I think it is more likely that Sugata will turn out to be the last boss rather then Takuto betraying anyone.Having her seal broken did not seem to do any permanent harm to fishgirl so breaking Wako’s might even be good for her.

            It seems like all the Mikos have some but not all the info about Cybodies and how and why they were bound.Like the bit about everyone having magic but it being bound by a demon so they can not use it.So I expect as the story goes on we find out info that puts in doubt whither Takuto is doing the right thing by protecting the seals.

          • Posted December 31, 2010 at 1:59 am | Permalink

            Hm well earlier you said, “I expect at some point Takuto will have to break Wako’s seal and fight Sugata.” And I think that perhaps the mikos don’t want their seal broken. After all, if they truly wanted to be free, they would have gone to Kiraboshi long ago. They must know something that keeps them as mikos, and not throwing that role away. But this tension does exist, which is, I believe, the crux of the story.

          • Magewolf
            Posted December 31, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

            Protecting the seals is upholding the status qua and the status qua sucks for everyone including the Mikos and Sugata so at some point Takuto will have to do something about it because of the kind of guy he is.He was planning on destroying the Cybodies to set everyone free but that will not work now so he will have to do something else.
            And about the Mikos ,1 is a member of Crux,1 is apposed to it,1 does not seem know or care about it ,and we do not know how Fishgirl felt about it except that she was upset with Head after her seal was broken but we do not know why.

          • Posted January 2, 2011 at 1:15 am | Permalink

            Heh well Takuto only found out about Cybody regeneration in the last episode, so we’ll just have to see what his reaction to that is. We’ll see if he goes down the path you’re suggesting.
            So about the Mikos, we basically have no idea what they’re thinking. Unfortunately we’re just going to have to wait to see if we get any indication of their feelings.

        • Schmidty
          Posted January 26, 2011 at 2:07 am | Permalink

          Here is what I took from the story, the first was what I thought at first, the second was after a bit of thinking.

          1st Layer of meaning: The Cybodies are the ship, Head was Sam, and Fishgirl was the girl Sam loved. Pretty much, Head spilled the blood of the girl he loved so that the Cybodies could move. Head read this meaning as soon as the story ended, which was why he was angry with her, and let her leave.

          2nd: Allegory of the entire plot. Takuto is Sam, the maidens are the girls whose blood is needed to operate the ship, Sugata is the squid emperor and Samekh (the cybody) is the King. Remember how all of the previous members of Sugata’s family apprivoised, fell into a deep sleep and died (and when the cybodies began to be repaired, the professor guessed that Samehk was devouring the libido of previous heads of Sugata’s family in order to repair itself), and the King, who was immortal, was finally able to die when he drank the Squid Emperor’s blood? Well, Samehk is immortal, and if the drinking of blood is the breaking of seals (with the maidens), then breaking Sugata’s seal will feed the King the Squid Emperor’s blood, and allow him to die. So, what about the ship, you ask? What is the Crux’s goal? They keep referencing “The Departure,” which will happen after all of the seals are broken. The ship then, is the island, which all of the cybodies, are sealed; breaking the seal will allow the operation of the ship, or the moving of the cybodies from the island (there may also be something hidden here with regards to the ruins the cybodies were originally found in).

  7. Cyllthain
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Awesome writeup! As others have said in these comments, it’s nice to see that someone else is appreciating this series and picking up on its really quite solid & interesting continuity. One thing you mentioned that I hadn’t thought of is the possibility of 8-episode arcs, wherein each of the eight focuses (more or less) on a miko. That certainly makes sense so far, and if true it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Mizuno (one of my favorite characters) in these last three episodes of what would be her arc. And I’m also curious whether the last of the three would be Ivrogne’s or Wako’s; as you say, Wako could well be skipped since she’s been major all along, but on the other hand Ivrogne has already lost her seal/temple/etc., and it’d be fitting for Wako to be at the center of the climax of the series.

    Anyway, I hope you write more as the series continues! Star Driver’s second half could be really awesome if only the writers allotted enough time to sorting out all the mysteries and coming up with a good climax – which I certainly wouldn’t put past them. Even if things don’t get very dramatic, though, and just continue as they have been, it’ll still have turned out to be an enjoyable series.

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