Every now and then an anime series comes along that has all of the hallmarks of greatness. A series that is the epitome of all that is good in anime like unbounded creativity, glorious animation and story lines that befuddle as much as delight. Star Driver... is almost that series.
On the southern edge of Japan, the inhabitants of Southern Cross Island lead seemingly normal lives - but far beneath the surface of this quiet island lies an ancient secret that lays dormant until Takuto Tsunashi washes ashore one night...
Upon enrolling at Southern Cross Island High School, Takuto and his friends become embroiled in a conflict with a clandestine society to control giant machines, called Cybodies, sealed under the island whose powers are bound by special shrine maidens. What secrets will Takuto dig up, and how will he deal with the obstacles that lie ahead of him? This struggle will threaten to tear apart the entire island!
One thing that sets Star Driver apart from many recent anime series is its sheer originality. Perhaps due to the fact that it can forge its own path, unbridled by the constraints of previously established source material. Not being based on a manga, light novel or video game series allows for Star Driver to unleash. Unfortunately, it does so without a great deal of value added. There is a gigantic cast of characters who are all somewhat interesting but for some reason, not many of them are fleshed out. Even the main group of antagonists, with their borderline S&M, avant-garde aesthetic, seem to meander in the unexplained. Who are they as an organisation? How did they come into possession of the cybodies? What is their core motivation? These are all questions that need to be answered but seem to linger instead. These frustrations stem from the fact that the characters and story leave you wanting answers because of how downright interesting they are, so it's not all negative. Actually wanting answers to these questions proves that Star Driver is, for the most part, a very interesting series.
In terms of quality animation, Star Driver has it in spades. Animation studio Bones never fail to satisfy and with series such as Gosick, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and the similarly progressive mecha series RahXephon, they have proven time and time again that they cannot be faulted and Star Driver is no exception. Apart from the main character Takuto, who looks like a grown up Yugi Mutou from Yu-Gi-Oh, the character and mecha designs are all extremely original. The design of Takuto's mech, Tauburn, looks like a Three Musketeers/Transformers mash-up complete with high heeled boots, steel pantaloons and a feather made of pure light adorning its head like a mechanical dandy. Action sequences a beautifully choreographed, fluid and dynamic.
Madman's transfer of the original stock is great quality although a small amount of artefacts can be seen in low light situations. Aside from this small qualm, it is a great transfer and does justice to the brilliant animation quality. If only there was a Blu Ray release; if you've got it, flaunt it.
Hopefully things start to happen in the second collection if Star Driver because at present, it's promising a lot and not quite delivering. In watching Star Driver I suddenly realised what my high school teachers felt when they said "he has potential, but lacks application".
Although negative comments in this review seem plentiful, there is so much to love about Star Driver and if collection 2 actually wraps things up into a neat little package it could be one of the best anime series in recent memory. There really is so much to love about Star Driver.
Star Driver Collection 1 is available on DVD
from Madman now!