New Anime

Star Driver – Episode 19

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I am beyond impatient to get back into Star Driver, and see what fresh calamities are besetting the inhabitants of Southern Cross Isle. After a brief flash of normalcy guiding us into the story’s third act, the last episode saw us again off to the races, as fresh secrets were unveiled and Kate’s ambiguous role in our story came into focus.

As it turns out, Kate has been lying about basically everything to basically everyone. Her friends have little idea of her role within Kiraboshi, while her identity as a shrine maiden is a secret kept even from her Kiraboshi collaborators. And it’s little wonder why – shrine maidens here are not active actors, they are tools, beings kept both metaphorically and even literally in bird cages. It is the wielder of the King’s Pillar who acts, affirming the conservative world order that has caused one after another shrine maiden to flee the island, seeking their own identity outside of the confines of Southern Cross.

In this way too has Kate been an irrepressible liar, lying about her desires even to herself. Though she scorns Wako for holding onto dreams of stardom, her own yearning for that dream is clear in her rigorously practiced karaoke performances. And though she claims to have accepted Wako’s status as Sugata’s betrothed, her nightly visits with the King’s Pillar prove she has not given up on her first and only love. It’s an intriguingly anguished position she’s found herself in, and I’m eager to see what happens as her tangle of deceptions come to light. Let’s dive into Star Driver!

Episode 19

We open with Wako singing her way down the halls as establishing shots return us to our big pink phallic school building. You can’t really escape the sexual connotations of this island’s main landmarks, which collectively demand the audience keep in mind the same preoccupations besetting its hormonal protagonists

The extended length of this cut and absence of any visual or aural information beyond Wako and her song creates a tense sense of anticipation. When you can feel a production “holding back” in some way, you naturally tense for the hammer to fall

And in the classroom, she happens upon Ruri kissing their classmate Takasugi through the glass. Her closest companion is moving past her, onward into this bold world of adolescent romance

To her protesting that “we’ve only kissed through the glass,” Kanako responds by pointing out the clear hickey on her neck

“You mean you’ve gone all the way!?” Of course Wako would make no distinction between “beyond through the glass” and “all the way.” To the uninitiated, physical intimacy is a wilderness without clear signposts, necessitating variable systems of organization like “which base have you gotten to.” Such signifiers aren’t particularly meaningful once sexual intimacy becomes an expected part of life, but to those on the cusp of that world, every new threshold is as dazzling as it is frightening

It’s one of the psychological quirks that makes adolescent romance and apocalyptic action such natural bedfellows – to the players involved, each snatched kiss is as significant as the end of the world

“How I envy you!” “But you’re married.” “Yes, but my husband isn’t a boyfriend. At the end of the day, school life is all about having a boyfriend!” Kanako is so good

Ruri thus apologizes for already having boyfriend-related plans, making her unavailable for Wako’s birthday on Sunday. A one-two punch of urgency for Wako – she might be growing older, but she hasn’t changed, while her friend is clearly growing past her. “I can’t reaffirm our childhood friendship because I have a partner now” is pretty direct shorthand for losing touch and falling behind

And that, of course, is the exact moment her two potential suitors arrive

Wako stares down at a courtyard entirely flooded with young couples enjoying lunch together. That’s how it goes, mentally speaking – the moment you realize your friends are pairing up, it suddenly seems like everyone has jumped ahead of you

Takuto promises her a delicious birthday cake. I’d missed this show’s ostentatious compositions; Igarashi always maintains a touch of Ikuharan formalism, creating playful geometric arrays that speak to the tensions between the cast

On Sunday, Wako and Sugata immediately set to work needling Takuto about his middle school crushes. Nice to see this trio enjoying some mundane time together for once

“Even if it wasn’t my birthday, spending that Sunday together was like a dream.” Right, I’d forgotten Wako’s actually birthday is a secret due to her shrine maiden status

“I’m thinking, ‘if this is a dream, please don’t wake up!’” Their current status basically is an adolescent dream – a liminal state on the edge of consummation, where the romantic tensions underlying their group have yet to resolve into steady, divisive relationships. Sitcoms often thrive on this tension

Because he has no other possessions now, Takuto gifts Wako his precious pocket watch

He also provides Sugata’s gift, the knife that embodies Sugata’s protective devotion. Wako possesses both their hearts, the artifacts that have guided them this far

Their birthday tour around the town provides plenty of opportunity for excellent Enokido faces. And of course Wako and Takuto are both the type to bawl at a melodramatic movie

Ko and Madoka watch the trio from afar, Ko announcing her intention to duel with the line “today I’d like something more stimulating”

At the karaoke club, they run into Kate when she brings their drinks. Takuto immediately tenses at this awkward situation, but Sugata remains as cool as ever, in spite of having far more reason to be ashamed than Takuto. Sugata has embraced his role as the King’s Pillar, and though he’s also invested in his mundane teenage life, the points where his “lordly” actions contradict his identity as a high schooler never bother him. Having grown up within the Southern Cross system, he sees his own lofty position as correct and mundane

Ko reveals her first phase power, a kind of clairvoyance based on looking through the eye of a needle. Some lovely effects animation and loose billowing of their hair and clothes as the power activates

And of course, in contrast with Sugata, Wako is still clinging to the hem of her memories – she catches up to Kate and asks if she’s still singing, saying that being here reminded her of the times they used to sing together. Sugata and Kate have already abandoned their innocent pasts, but Wako remains on the borderline, longing for future love while still cherishing her childhood

Ah shit, apparently Ko’s power is far greater than that – her and Madoka actually take over Sugata and Takuto’s bodies

The two immediately set to work creeping on Wako and Kate, but neither of them are fooled

After an episode spent emphasizing Wako’s lingering childishness, her actual understanding of the current situation is made clear as she brandishes Sugata’s knife against not-Takuto, immediately pinning this as some malevolent 1st phase activation. The two thought they could exploit her innocence, but as Madoka acknowledges, “this girl is serious” – just because she’s enjoying the end of her childhood doesn’t mean she’s too naive for this conflict

Having failed in their indirect attack, Ko and Madoka instead opt for an old-fashioned Cybody dual

God, I’d almost forgotten how absurd Ko and Madoka’s nipple-plug suits were. They definitely seem like the least thoughtfully integrated part of this whole production, and a poor replacement for the You sisters – they’re just plain antagonists, that’s all

While Ko needles Takuto about “using his body without asking,” his response is “I’m only mad that you messed up Wako’s birthday.” He refuses to play her sexually charged game, and instead reasserts the importance of Wako’s innocent feelings

Ko’s Cybody at last reveals the significance of its wings, as it transforms into some sort of fighter jet

“Alright, now pierce him with your needle!” All of Ko’s moves emphasize bodily invasion, and tie in with her somewhat masculine affectation

Not to be outdone, Takuto takes Tauburn into the sky as well. If he can think it, he can do it

And in the end, it turns out Ruri really did just meet with her boyfriend’s parents, affirming that Wako hasn’t actually fallen behind

And Done

Oh Wako, what are you going to do with yourself. This episode was pretty much entirely dedicated to elucidating her current anxious threshold, as she finds herself stranded in an uncertain neutral zone between the comforting platonic friendships of childhood and the intimidating onset of romance. Of course, for her this transition is doubly intimidating, given her identity as a shrine maiden means accepting sexual maturation might also mean abandoning her hopes of escaping Southern Cross. It’s a tough spot to be in even without that supernatural dimension, but her confrontation with Madoka seemed to demonstrate that in spite of her lingering desire for a youthful certainty, she possesses the strength necessary to defend herself on this new stage. Both the clock and the dagger are in her hands; the future is Wako’s.

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.