The title translates to Star Driver: Takuto of the Radiance, so right off the bat you know you're in for something camp and silly. If you can bypass that, then you can't avoid the first episode's name, Galactic Pretty Boy. You can't make this stuff up. And then Takuto goes on about he's going to lead a fabulous school life and we're not even at the five minute mark. It gets worse (Or better, but more camp) but that lies in the "charm" of this farce.
For this, I'm going to break down the story aspect into separate parts: Comedy, the story-within-the-story, mecha battles and serious moments with the plot thrown in. This just feels like one of those that can be divided and studied.
The comedy aspect I enjoyed greatly, be it intentional or unintentional. It also breaks up serious moments from time to time but all in good jest. Ridiculous, yes, but only sometimes. All in good, campy fun. Unintentional comedic moments may occur when the Glittering Crux appears (Again, not making this up). From everything about them to everything else, it's hard to take it seriously.
The story-within-the-story is the story the Fish Girl says. She has a "Name" but it might be a bit of a spoiler. But what's important is that she's a captured maiden in a cage to a purple haired guy named Head. Not a spoiler and will be explained later. The story is told through a few episodes in installments and it was pretty interesting, up to the point where I was eagerly waiting for the next part. Might be a bit tough to explain it without giving too much away.
Mecha battles are nearly episodic but a small handful regretfully(?) don't have them. They don't happen on Earth but in Zero-Time, an area separate from Earth. And Zero-Time can be an absolute trip. You don't only get mecha, but a transformation sequence of camp. Really. Posing and saying "Apprivoise!" and then your large-hipped, stiletto wearing, feather-ish thing-on-the-head mecha appears with Takuto doing a series of poses while saying "Dazzling the stage! Galactic Bishounen!"... this is only something Star Driver could pull off. After that it's great fun, even if he conveniently learns a new move that save his sparkly behind a couple of times and a few... unorthodox ways of ending the battle. One in particular that's memorable but talking about it more than that would ruin the surprise.
It has it's share of drama and romance but sometimes stumbles into absurdity from time to time. It may not make complete sense but depending on your taste, it's a good/bad thing. The plot is mainly about how the Glittering Crux wants to take out the shrine maidens who act as seals for cybodies in Zero-Time, as they can only be used there. One of them enters the machine to enable Zero-Time and the (Near) episodic mecha fight, with Takuto at the helm. That breaks the surface of the story but it doesn't shine upon the darkness, just a brief partial explanation but in the end, it works for the most part. Kinda cheesy at times but the mix of comedy and serious moments does it justice. And if you don't mind your anime taking some points in absurdity, then all the better.
The animation is beautiful. The Earth is amazing but Zero-Time is jaw-dropping. The flowing background clouds/smoke/whatever, a mix of colours and movement flowing smoothly; it's... well, beautiful. But it's canned. From Takuto's "Apprivoise" to his mecha's entrance is canned but it looks good. I kept noticing how the stilettos fall quickly to the ground, like real quickly. I don't know if I expected it to fall gracefully or gently but it's not a good/bad thing, just something that stood out. Quite a bit from the beginning/ending of the mecha battles is canned but it looks great nonetheless. From the mecha pulling out their laser swords to beam spams (What's mecha without beams or spams?) and the environment itself, it's all shiny and high production. And the mecha design is... questionable. Certainly not your usual Gundam mecha.
But I can't neglect everything else, as the Earth's sunsets look beautiful, even if sunsets are beautiful on the outset. The scenery and environment look gorgeous overall and the characters look great. Which brings me to the outfits. The Glittering Crux represents camp and questionable outfits with some of the worst disguises (Masks) I've seen. You know whose behind mask #1 through everybody the moment you see them outside their hideout. It's hilarious that the main character trio didn't put two and two together in Zero-Time.
The music is definitely a highlight of the series. Prior to the mecha battles and even when a Glittering Crux member goes through the preparation stage, a girl (Maiden) sings and it's beautiful. It actually feels like it makes a difference, in how at times it can feel sad or haunting and it adds to the atmosphere and because it's one of the characters that usually sings, it gives it something more than just having someone sing. The OP/EP are both great and are on par with the music that is inbetween them.
We get a whole slew of detail on the characters. They aren't just names and faces but people, fleshed out with a past and the whole package. We get episodes that delve deep into them and that explain some of their motives; we get to know who they are and details that we wouldn't normally get if it progressed like a normal mecha/comedy series. We see them succeed, we see them fail, suffer, triumph; the whole shebang. It could have done well enough with a lesser cast but the characters and the detail put into them really make it go far.
But bringing up the point again, the masks for the Glittering Crux only cover the upper part of their face, not their hair colour. I mean, just look at the character sheet. You've got every colour in the rainbow and then some. But at least the GC members can tell whose who from time to time. If you see a character outside the Glittering Crux HQ that looks like a member, then it's a member.
If there's one thing I'll remember about this when I look back on it, it's the campy fun. Seriously, you squeeze Star Driver, it gushes out and that helps make it better; Feels less generic with it and it makes it stand out instead of being either completely serious or all about comedy. It's absurd, at times clever and at it's highest gets you thinking (But not too much) and even with it's flaws, there's still some good fun to be had.
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