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By otakuman5000 On 10 Jun, 2011 At 04:23 AM | Categorized As Animation, Featured, Reviews | With 1 Comment

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Anime Archive: A Bright Beginning

 

As the door to the library softly closes behind you, you begin to feel uneasy.   Sure you checked the text on your cell before you entered, but this surely isn’t the right place.  “You are one of us,” read the text.  “Join the Archive,” it insisted, but why here of all places.  Spread out before you is a library like many you have seen before.  There are rows of shelves going up and down either side of the otherwise colorless walls with racks and racks of dusty, cobwebbed tomes decorating them.  You can hear a low somber hum come from somewhere in this temple for scholars and you know that the life of one of the few light bulbs that brighten up this otherwise dreary building will soon end.

Sitting contently in the middle of all this dust and knowledge, rests a large oaken desk.  Walking to it, you hope that it is the help desk.  Maybe someone will be there that can help you find the “Archive.”  Coming to the desk you see a small bell, no doubt a way to notify the staff that their existence is required. Ringing it lightly, you suddenly hear what could be likened to a car crash as papers, books, and heavier sounding objects are jolted into the air and violently return to earth.  Slowly from the mess of papers and books, rises a hand, then body, then head.  These belong to a well-dressed man with an angular goatee and short brown hair.  Suddenly the man is glaring at you, ready to jump over the desk and tackle you as if for some crime.  However, his expression quickly changes to that of a friendly smile.

The man kindly begins, “You startled me.  Not many people tend to come in around this time.  May I ask what you’re looking for?”  You quietly extend your hand, stretching out your phone with the mysterious message displayed.  Glancing at the note, the man nods as if he has done this many times over.  “Come with me,” he answers as he jumps from his chair and starts walking into the stacks.

Not wanting to get lost, you follow closely behind.  However, the journey is a short one with the destination being a tall shelf of old film cases.  Some of them are titles you recognize from your childhood, but most are in foreign languages, their contents hidden from you.  Your attention then turns to the bearded gentlemen again who has started feeling for something along the side of the shelf.  With a muffled yet euphoric, “Ah Ha,” the man pulls out a key and slips it into the well-hidden hole.  With a tight turn, the key knocks the tumblers and slowly the stack of shelves slides away.  Looking to where the shelves were, you see a single door with several symbols on and several thousand keyholes.  Yet this door is soon opened as the man picks a seemingly random hole and slips another key inside it. With less effort than the last, the door opens quietly and the man steps on in.

Now intrigued by the whole setting, you step into the hidden room with the door closing behind you.  Once inside you see the man sitting at a practical desk.  It is large enough to allow for organization, but honestly nothing all that special.  Yet, your eyes are not long on your guide as you look beyond to see a series of monolithic shelves.  Each line of shelves seems to stretch on indefinitely, ending somewhere in the mists that seem to cover a portion of this new area.  Stepping closer to the shelves, you are stopped by an outstretched hand.  It is the man who led you here and he quickly motions you to look down.  Looking down you see that the shelves are not only endlessly long, but endlessly deep as well.  How far down the shelves go is probably unknown, but you think it best to probably step back a few feet instead of accidentally finding out.

“Come, come, I don’t have all day,” says the man once again as he gathers your attention.  “What’cha looking for today my friend?”  Seeing the puzzled look on your face, the man slaps his forehead realizing he should probably explain first.  “Right, yes.  Welcome to the Anime Archive.  As you can see behind me, the world of Anime has become quite extensive.  How are you supposed to find the good shows amongst all the humdrum and panty shots?  That is why I am here.  I am the Curator and I am here to guide you to the show you desire, suggest something new and exciting, and hopefully steer you away from the series that are lackluster or down right horrible.”  Standing up, the man grabs your hand and pulls you to the edge of the abyss.  You stare, not knowing exactly what you have gotten yourself into, but all the same you are too curious to turn away.  “Won’t you join me on my quest to find the true anime gems?”  Amazed at the vastness and the potential, all you can manage is a nod.  The Curator grabs your hand and jumps into the Archive the adventure is underway.

Star Driver

Welcome readers to the Anime Archive where we look at the good, the bad, and the awesome of the Anime world.  I am the Curator, here to help you along your journey.  This week we are taking a look at Star Driver: Kagyaki no Takuto, a series that I feel many may have overlooked.

Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto is a 25 episode series produced by Bones and Aniplex.  If you were to put it in a category, it would find no better home than in the Mecha or giant fighting robot section.  However with a rich color pallet, wonderful characters, and great sound, you get a series that hits every pleasure sensor.

 

Before we go any further I will admit that in all honesty, the plot of Star Driver can be boiled down to one of those typical, almost cliché plots.  A teenage boy moves to a new home, gets giant fighting robot, and uses it to fight off an evil organization that is trying to take over the world.  This is a plot that any seasoned anime fan has seen a thousand times.  Speaking of which why does every evil organization have to be centered on the idea of taking over the world?  What would you do after that?

 

Anyway, I’m getting off track.  Acknowledging that bit about the plot, what exactly does Star Driver bring to the table to off set it?  Well, there are the characters, the music, and art style.  Who exactly are we following in this series? Well you have the blue-haired, calm and cool Sugata who is essentially the best friend.  You have Wako who is kind, cute, has a bottomless stomach, and genuinely struggles to define her relationships with Sugata and Takuto.  This, of course, leads us to our main lead Takuto Tsunashi a kind, friendly, flaming red-haired boy whose main goal in life is to do something awesome.  The great thing about Takuto is that he brings something new to the giant mecha genre.  In the many robot-centric anime  I have watched, the main lead is either a brooding dark figure or is so emo you are surprised they just have not ended it yet.  Takuto has a real desire to be a hero and grasps life with both hands, which makes the audience want to gravitate to him.  Takuto’s desire to be a hero is greatly needed as he faces the evil of the Glittering Crux, an organization desiring nothing more than total world domination.  They plan to do this by breaking the barrier between the real world and a dimension known as Zero Time and allow their giant robots known as cybodies to rain chaos and destruction on the real world.  However, instead of being some faceless organization of evil, the Glittering Crux is full of normal… ,well as normal as you will get for an anime, people.  These villains are three dimensional, which is something to truly be applauded for such a short series.  There are many examples of members of the Glittering Crux having motivations and goals outside of world domination and try to use the organization for their own means.

Now we are moving into two areas that are probably going to be difficult to discuss in a written format, the art style and the music.  The art style of Star Driver fits wonderfully with the story it is trying to tell.  It is bright and colorful and helps to ground the audience in reality, but helps bring out the more alien or ethereal feelings of the show’s less than earthly locations.  The music is also wonderful ranging from happy, go-lucky tunes to orchestral thundering set into the background of most of the fight scenes.  At the end of the article I have included a link to a YouTube video where you can hear my favorite song from Star Driver.  I do not want to speak about the song here because whatever I say will not do the song justice.  Listen to it and I promise you will like it.

As much as I would like to say that Star Driver is a perfect series, I unfortunately cannot.  This is because of two things.  First was the plot that I mentioned earlier and the other is Takuto our main character.  Now, he is not a bad character doing things without reason, not explaining his motivations, nothing like that.  No what makes Takuto a bad character is that he has a nasty habit of pulling exactly what he needs out of nowhere.  This is what I like to call god-modding.  This is not to be confused with Mary Sue, a character that can do no wrong and never fails.  As one would expect from a Mecha anime, Takuto is often put in perilous situations and must fight to claim victory.  However in too many of these situations, Takuto pulls out some technique or ability that has not been so much as hinted at and wins the day.  An example of this is when one of the members of Glittering Crux is revealed to be an Olympic level boxer.  She challenges Takuto in Zero Time and has Takuto on the ropes.  Takuto stands up and declares he will not lose before thrusting his hand towards the sky and calling out to the four engines that dress his robot’s rear.  The jets shoot off, join around his extended hand, and begin to spin like a drill.  The Glittering Crux member charges in, but is knocked into the air and is Giga Drilled by Takuto’s Pile Crusher attack, defeating her and saving the day.  What this and a few other examples I could give do is that it robs the series of tension.  Tension is the best way to get people interested and have them want to continue with a series like Star Driver.  The possibility for the main character to lose raises the stakes even higher.  You are not sure if in the next episode so and so is going to survive.  Star Driver’s seeming refusal to let tension exist robs the series of drama and the possibility of loss.  Future writers should take note.

Star Driver is not a perfect series, as I have admitted, but it is a good series.  If you want a good popcorn series, a series to share with your friends, or a series to get your friends into anime, then I would recommend Star Driver.  It is fun, awesome, gorgeous, and does a lot of things right.  I am happy to say that Bandai has recently licensed Star Driver so you will soon be able to pick up Star Driver in a store (or website) near you.  Thank you all for reading the first edition of Anime Archive.  Tell me what you think and to suggest any anime you want to see appear on the column.  This is the Curator saying, “Join me again soon, Bye bye.”