Star Driver features the first openly gay giant robot in anime history, Tauburn. Piloted by ‘The Galactic Pretty Boy,’ Takuto, Tauburn bursts onto the battlefield with its catchphrase, ‘Dashing Entrance!’ There, he fights dominatrix costume-clad enemies over the fate of the Shrine Maidens.
The basic structure of the series is reminiscent of Revolutionary Girl Utena. It takes place in an unusually well-funded school where a secret society operates in the shadows, battling amongst itself over some ultimate power. One day, a mysterious interloper arrives, besting them in battle and threatening to take what they thought was theirs. Star Driver also has similarly lanky character designs.
The show probably comes off seeming odder than it is because it doesn’t stop to explain the premise. As episode one opens, everything seems normal. It’s the setup for a standard anime romantic comedy, A new kids arrives at school, makes friends with a girl who scoffs at the suggestion that she likes him (despite the fact that it’s obvious that she does). But then, that girl is kidnapped and we’re suddenly in a secret cavern filled with people in fetishistic, playing-card-based costumes. Things only get stranger when the giant robots come out, and fight in an astral-plain-like ‘zero time.’
Takuto is the generic anime hero. He’s kind and a little naive; but he leaps into battle without a thought, poses and shouts his attack names. Giant robot pilots especially the kids are usually pretty angsty, especially since Evangelion (and yes, I know the Gundam pilots were the same way), so this one is a major throwback to the early ’70s. He’s a suitable lead for a show like this, but but compared to other shows these days, he’s rather shallow.
The robot fights (of which there is one per episode) are engaging, if a little frantic. They remind me of FLCL, with the exaggerated movement and flashiness. Because they all take place in the same ‘zero-time,’ there isn’t a lot of variety. There’s a minute or so of reused animation in every episode in which Tauburn makes his aforementioned, ‘dashing entrance,’ and sprouts his electric feather. A lot of times, mecha follows a theme. Sometimes they’re samurai, or knights, or vehicles; Tauburn seems to be based on a musketeer. Anyways, the story of the battle mostly follows Takuto’s opponent, who typically have better developed characters than him; and even though you can guess how the fights will end, there’s usually enough interest in the fighter-of-the-week to make you care.
There’s nothing original about Star Driver. It’s an endless collection of anime cliches, drawn from multiple genres; but it’s all very well executed. Takuto and friends are bland, but likable enough, and the back-story, or what I can piece together of it, is interesting and makes me want to come back to learn more.
The Blu Rays, from Bandai Entertainment, are bare-bones, but respectable. Audio and video are great, and presented in their original form (with Japanese credits/titles). It’s sub-only, but they can be turned on and off. There are no extras.