Daily matchmaking session, no. 58

Goodbye episodic reviews, I can’t keep up.

There are 2 main problems that Star Driver faces: the ‘don’t get it’ viewers that end up criticizing it because of Enokido Youji’s highly esoteric references, and its standing as a series in what I call the Enokido Timeline (which includes Utena, Evangelion and RahXephon, by merit of relevance and similarity). I don’t really have much to say on the former, because Good Haro has done all the ranting for everyone already. Simply put, it is a matter of elimination:

Stage 1

Let us presume that Star Driver is primarily catered towards ‘discerning’ viewers (and this is not an exaggeration). This means

  1. Viewers should know enough about anime in general to understand the multitude of tropes that are being presented, and
  2. Viewers should (preferably) be acquainted with one/some/all other series in the Enokido Timeline.

Viewers not in the know rooted out. Stage 1 cleared.

Stage 2

Now that we are more or less assured of a knowledgeable audience, we have a few subcategories:

  1. Viewers who fulfil Stage 1 requirements, but do not understand the intentions of Star Driver as a series.
  2. Viewers who fulfil Stage 1 requirements, but have problems enjoying Star Driver due to the huge similarities to Utena et. al. (Will elaborate later) <– me
  3. Viewers who fulfil Stage 1 requirements, and enjoy Star Driver, period.

This is why I don’t feel the ‘don’t get it’ criticisms in reference to plot (also mentioned by Good Haro) to be particularly bothersome, because it is ultimately a lack of understanding that prevents such people from liking series such as Star Driver. Also, it is a bit ludicrous to find people actually criticizing Star Driver for mere repetition. Could you criticize Utena for being repetitive? Or worse, the entire magical girl transformation genre?

It is the constant back-references to previous works that bothered me at first. It is important to view a series on its own merit, but if you keep making unconscious comparisons to classics like Utena (thus setting the bar very high for enjoyment) how is this possible? (Also, you get things like this.) Psgels has offered a possibility of Star Driver being Utena’s ‘spiritual successor’, which doesn’t really sit well with me. I don’t want Star Driver to be a successor of anything. I want to enjoy Star Driver as a series, not as a collage of tributes. HOWEVER, ghostlightning mentioned this in his Utena reviews:

I have no problem agreeing with the idea that symbolism (especially related with the themes and motifs) are (profuse and) superficial. The superficialness doesn’t detract from the effect I believe. But what effect? For me I feel an effect of immersion in a game of ideas. The ideas themselves aren’t the value, but rather how they’re played with to involve me as a viewer in a game of guessing and second guessing.

This is why I appreciate the ‘dueling’ of ideas, in the sense that there are multiplicities and contradictions. The contradictions are part of the experience. In the end we end up making up our own meanings, however we wish — and it’d be valid all the same. Does this reduce the work into utter meaninglessness? Perhaps, but it does something just as valuable: it’s immensely entertaining precisely due to the play of ideas, motifs, symbols and what not. It’s fanservice for symbolismfags, if you will.

Anyway, what I am enjoying in Star Driver right now is the subversion of ideas previously explored in Utena et al, which were already subversions in of themselves. Cassandra’s observation of an Enokido visual language in particular interests me. The reference to metaphysical barriers was first brought up in Sailor Moon S as the mirror metaphor (stealing a person’s pure heart), and re-appeared in Utena (the ‘breaking the world/egg’s shell’ speech). The difference was the employment of the idea: the mirror metaphor was a symbol of an irrevocable loss (in this case, the loss of ‘purity’ or ‘innocence’), while ‘breaking the world’s shell’ was that of progress, or attainment of a higher order. Star Driver is where these ideas converge, and in varying subtlety: lost innocence in the broken seal of the Northern Maiden, potential loss in the ‘glass’ metaphor (don’t need to explain this since everyone has picked it up already) and progress in Takuto’s Apprivoise sequence, demonstrating his attainment of the Third Order by having to enter the Second-Order Zero Time from the outside. Additionally, if you haven’t noticed, this is a blatant inversion of the Utena metaphor, from outside-in instead of inside-out.

Where is Takuto, the Protector of Hymens?

Sex and power are a preoccupation in Enokido’s mind come hand in hand when it comes to politics, and Star Driver is no exception. Head, having pwned Fish Girl’s metaphorical virginity, can now be seen as her master (Akio-Anthy, anyone?). But with a ‘master’ who seems almost like a child in the way he asks for bedtime stories, and a ‘pet’ who hasn’t attempted to escape even once, who really owns who? Or are they, in fact, equal?

That last pair of contacts hurt my eyes, dammit

The way Fish Girl plays around with her chain during storytelling leads me to another train of thought: the idea of sin, redemption (discussed below) and change in general. The image reminds me an awful lot of the Devil Card, which is a symbol of a reluctance to change. Cassandra has already discussed the topic of change, and it is rather enlightening. (By the way, it is yet another Utena inversion. Awesome.)

Nameless’ theory of redemption being a central theme in the plot is plausible, especially since nobody is going to die in the series. We have already witnessed the aftermath of George’s defeat (the ‘Adam’s fall’, if you may), locking himself in his room in some sort of purgatory to undergo more training.  However, I don’t quite agree with the concept after watching episode 5. While the other failed challengers have not reappeared so far (with the exception of Taiga, whose participation is a moot point anyway), we could hypothesize for now that their current states are somewhat analogous to George’s. But what about Professer Green? To put it rather crudely, she snags her boy in the end. Paying next to no penance!

entering the hentai lair

And consider the fact that all defeats after George have become progressively less dramatic: Tetsuya collapses, but his mask does not break. Takashi and Prof Green do not display any signs of distress. (Taiga is an anomaly, since her Apprivoise was engineered from an external source.)

There are 1209825986 other things I’d like to put down in this post, but I’ll just continue watching. Who knows, Enokido may decide to do a complete troll and change my perspective.