Star Driver: Takuto of The Radiance is not a show that excels at showing the depths of the human psyche. It’s not about never giving up when fighting against a cruel regime. This series is about entertainment through high production values, stylish presentation without seeming strange to most, and the smile that will cover your face from one end to another while watching the series.
Let’s talk about Takuya Igarashi for a bit. Having directed popular shows like Ouran Highschool Host Club and Soul Eater (We don’t talk about Captain Earth, alright?), he’s a well-received man that should definitely be employed at Studio BONES, but works as a freelancer. When working with Kunihiko Ikuhara (Mawaru Penguindrum, Yuri Kuma Arashi) on Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, he picked up some clever and impressive tricks at framing and direction, represented especially in Ouran and the show in focus today: Star Driver.
Bright and charismatic, but also mysterious. Takuto Tsunashi washes up on the shore of Southern Cross Island, just to be saved by Wako Agemaki and taken in by her fiancée, Sugata Shindou. Why did he try to swim there from the mainland? Apparently, he didn’t want to miss his first day as transfer student on the local highschool. Why does he want to spend his time at Southern Cross Highschool? To live his youth to the fullest! But is that all?
It is quickly revealed that there’s a secret buried underground. 20 Cybodies, giant robots imprisoned in an alternate dimension, and the Order of the Cross, Kiraboshi, who wants to set them free into reality. For that, they need to break the seals of the 4 shrine maidens, one of which is the aforementioned Wako.
Who are Kiraboshi? What is their reason to control the Cybodies? Following the formula of Monster-of-the-Week, every episode focuses on 3 things: Deepening the relationship between Takuto, Wako and Sugata, being a love triangle that might just go against your expectations at points, introducing an antagonist or deepening their character in the later episodes, and a short fight between Takuto and a Cybody. These fights average at maybe half a minute, but that’s not important.
Star Driver is a Slice-of-Life/Mecha, have you ever seen that before?
Star Driver: Kagayaki No Takuto combines two genres that aren’t often presented outside anime and manga, and don’t tend to go together even in this medium. High-octane action featuring giant robots punching each other combined with the somber, laid-back atmosphere of the SoL-genre.
Neither of these two aspects might be the best representations you’ll see, a pure Mecha like Mobile Suit Gundam 00 might be better at portraying fights, and K-On! with it’s character animation and perfect display of everyday life is leaps beyond Star Driver, but the combination makes it stand out, and the OST is what connects both in a way you’ll never forget.
If you ask anyone who’s seen the show and what they remember about it, they’ll probably answer along the lines of:
“The soundtrack fit perfectly. It felt like they went out of their way to adjust some scenes to the flow of the music.”
Not only are the maiden songs incredibly beautiful, pieces like “Takuto“, one of the themes mainly used for relaxing and fun scenes, or “Hunger“, a battle theme, create a wide reach of emotions, with melancholic tracks like “The Starry Sky” to round it off.
To support the action-sequences, there’s more than just fitting music though. Having different, experienced and recognisable animators work on the battle scenes, like Yutaka Nakamura or Takahiro Shikama, every battle looks different. This doesn’t always mean good, as Jun Arai’s Wakame Shadows can easily be overdone for example, but it adds an incredible amount of personality.
Speaking of personality, the characters are a blast to watch. With prestigious voice actors like Mamoru Miyano (Steins;Gate‘s Rintarou Okabe, Bungou Stray Dogs‘ Osamu Dazai) and Saori Hayami (Musaigen No Phantom World‘s Reina Izumi, Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches‘ Urara Shiraishi) as lead roles, but also Maaya Sakamoto (Bakemonogatari‘s Shinobu Oshino, Kara No Kyoukai‘s Shiki Ryougi), Tomatsu Haruka (AnoHana‘s Naruko Anjou, Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic‘s Morgiana) and more as support cast, your ears will be entertained with skilled and fun voices.
While maybe not the deepest characters you can find, the absence of most inner monologue makes it interesting to find out what the characters think, as Takuto and Sugata especially don’t show their true emotions right off the bat.
As sad as I am to admit this, not every character works like this. Reiji Miyabi and some other antagonists come across as “evil for the sake of being evil”. They are easily overshadowed by the good, enjoyable characters though.
To wrap it up, Star Driver is often referred to as “repetetive” or “just flashy”. In my opinion, both are incredibly wrong. While the episodes follow the same formula, they always serve progress, and the presentation isn’t just flashy, it supports and enhances enjoyment. Also, Igarashi-faces are good.