Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m eager to dive back into Star Driver, and see what those schemers at Kiraboshi have been cooking while Wako enjoys her birthday. Our last episode served as a general referendum on Wako’s tenuous current position: suspended between childhood and adulthood, shrine maiden duties and personal ambitions, the long-destined Sugata and the upstart Takuto. It’s no surprise she’s hesitating; at this point, a step in any direction might close countless doors, resolving a horizon that’s glimmering with potential into one fixed destination.
We all worry about making the wrong choices as adolescents, but for most of us, we have enough room to try and fail, knowing there will be future opportunities ahead of us. For the children of Southern Cross, birth is destiny, and adolescence merely the affirmation of their roles within a society that sees them as tools rather than individuals. It’s little wonder Wako is so hesitant to grow up, but I’m curious as to Sugata’s true feelings; having gained the King’s Pillar but rejected Kiraboshi, he seems the only player with agency within the system, who might claim a destiny of his own without first fleeing the island altogether. As the day of reckoning draws near, let’s return to Star Driver!
We open on our mysterious chairman Ryosuke admiring a rainbow, and admitting that “he’s always looking at one,” referring to the rainbow painted in those persistent compositions of a woman staring out at the sea. Aw shit, is this our big history lesson episode!?
I’ve seen a fair number of shows tackle a version of this episode, but still think Evangelion has the best one I’ve seen. The crucial thing with Eva is that while its flashback episode does reveal new secrets of the Eva project, it’s mostly concerned with contextualizing characters we already know, giving it a tragic human dimension. Additionally, while appending a “this was all foretold” prologue to your narrative can dampen its sense of surprise and potential, that actually makes thematic sense for Eva, whose characters are all trapped in cycles of abuse
Meanwhile, Ko and Madoka are awaiting the restoration of their Cybodies
We open the episode proper on Wako at the shrine gate, getting spied on by one of Kiraboshi’s ravens. In spite of Kiraboshi seemingly aligning with the island’s overseers, their attempts to consummate with the shrine maidens are always invasions. Though I suppose that points towards the truth of all such conservative hierarchies; they were never truly unions of equals, they were always patriarchies enforcing subservience of women, demanding purity while simultaneously objectifying them
The Kiraboshi members mention a rumor that the island might be nuked the moment zero time is escaped, to which the chairman replies “the Cybodies can withstand a nuclear attack.” So everyone who has not already merged with their Cybody is to be considered an acceptable sacrifice
And Head still refuses to reveal the identity of the Eastern Shrine Maiden
Ryosuke flashes back to when he and Head, or “Toshio,” met, a scene that precisely mirrors Sugata’s own first meeting with Toshio
Back then, Ryosuke picked up the bride his parents had chosen from school every day. More beats that mirror Sugata’s current role. And there’s the locket!
His fiancé’s name was Sora, like the untamed sky. This flashback series is also digging into that same Eva-style sense of hopeless inevitability: Ryosuke’s bride and job were both chosen by his parents, just as Sugata in turn is fixed in his role. Even the ostensible overseers of this system are beholden to its cycles of succession
The two stop to admire a rainbow – a symbol of hope, and perhaps escape. Sora reaches for Ryosuke’s hand, but he is distant, seemingly incapable of believing in their shared future
“After that day, I fell into the habit of going to see Tokio whenever I had a spare moment.” Ryosuke’s distance with Sora is contrasted against his immediate infatuation with Tokio. In this world where women are considered subservient tools to be acted upon, male-male relationships might offer the only earnest intimacy. And this serves as yet another echo of Sugata and Takuto’s relationship; hell, Sugata and Takuto even look fairly similar to Toshio and Ryosuke
“That’s the great thing about painting… the fleeting emotions of a particular moment can be immortalized.” A line that resonates with Star Driver’s overall obsession with this threshold of adolescence, this ideal of purity
Tokio says that the “R” signature is “my pseudonym, or perhaps my future name?” Mystery solved, sort of
“Sora’s beauty deserves to be immortalized” is followed by a pointed transition, as we jump to Takuto taking a clock off the wall and admiring Wako’s sleeping form. Immortal or otherwise, these moments reoccur across time
“That’s been her favorite place since she was little, and she always takes naps there.” Wako retreating to a womb-like security, curled up in the seat of Sugata’s power
Sugata plants a kiss on her cheek as Takuto watches from above. He’s becoming less comfortable with Wako’s destiny by the episode
Over at the cafe, Kate is joined by a third year named Ryo. Her calling him out by his class year informs us that they have no prior relation, alongside positioning him among the mature, “experienced” students looking down on our own main cast
He follows with an introduction of his true position: Camel Star of Vanishing Age
Apparently his 1st phase allows him to take possession of animals
He’s also realized that Kate is the eastern shrine maiden
Tokio of course stole Sora away from Ryosuke. The portrayal of her moment of infidelity is interesting – Ryosuke is portrayed as lurking in the distance, seeing them only through a bottle of liquor. “Through the glass” again, but this time his fiancé and new friend are on the far side, having journeyed beyond him
He’s also learned about the Cybody project. A full-scale invasion of Ryosuke’s life, stealing both his bride-to-be and his most carefully guarded secrets
As they speak, more and more easels appear around Tokio, as if each is a fresh cage for another thing he’s stolen
“All my life, I’ve done nothing but what my parents asked of me. I’m jealous of you and your freedom.” Interestingly, it’s the Takuto analog Ryosuke who has been assigned Sugata’s duties, while the Sugata analogue Tokio is positioned as the free outsider
“The world painted by Tokio… it existed in reality, yet it accurately depicted all the beauty that I could never see myself. Since he could create such paintings, I found it curious that Tokio would be so obsessed with the power of the underground ruins.” Interesting. So Ryosuke is here positioning the process of finding earnest love and beauty in the world as oppositional to the power of the underground ruins – saying that the Cybody project is essentially only necessary for those who can’t or refuse to grow into adult relationships the normal way. It calls to mind Akio’s perspective in Utena; the Kiraboshi organization wants to become “kings of adolescence” in a world that can never stretch beyond that point. I wonder if Enokido is intending to draw a further line between their adolescent aspirations and the conservative order through which they are enforced? Patriarchy incorporates an inherent fear of female power, and that aligns quite naturally with some existing adolescent instincts, wherein boys often see women with sexual agency as frightening. The insecure adolescent to proud misogynist pipeline exists for a reason – many “return to tradition” types are ultimately just unable to accept female agency, because it doesn’t seem to favor them
Tokio finds another emblem bearer named Shingo to pass their mark on to him, and renames himself Miyabi Reiji. An adopted son of the Kiraboshi clan
Tokio’s relationship with Shingo seems to be another sexually charged and predatory bond. He’s clearly accustomed to manipulating people’s hearts to get what he wants, as he’s otherwise proven with Sora and Sugata
Takuto and Kate bump into each other at a seaside shrine. An oddly matched pair, each of them longing for their own half of the Sugata-Wako couple
“They always treated me like a close friend, but I wonder if they thought of me as a third wheel.” Takuto has essentially inherited Kate’s awkward position
Then a snake attacks! Damnit, Camel Star!
Damn, Camel Star really is a bastard – injecting Takuto with snake venom and then immediately initiating a Cybody duel. Frankly a pretty smart idea, nefariousness aside
Camel Star’s cape detaches like a kind of mechanical tarantula, and immediately goes directly for Wako. Yeah, kinda loving his utter disrespect for the general assumptions of these duels
With Madoka’s Cybody still inoperable, Ko jumps into the ring to stop Camel Star and save her from the full activation apocalypse. Lovely shading on her mech as lasers flash around her
Yeah, the robot shading in general is exceptional for this fight. Less fluid cuts of animation, but excellent individual frames
Back at school, Ryosuke notices that Wako has gained his locket. And in a final series of flashbacks, we receive the heavy implication that Takuto is actually the son of Sora and Tokio
How the revelations are stacking! Actually, although we received a fair number of flashbacks, this episode was more about contextualizing previous information than blowing our minds with new reveals. Getting a fuller picture of Tokio, Ryosuke, and Sora’s relationship made it clear how they parallel our current trio, as well as how frequently Tokio has engaged in these cycles of ownership and abandonment. While the people he manipulates yearn for love or freedom, Tokio seems incapable of finding satisfaction among the mundane joys of normal adult life. He is a true acolyte of the Kiraboshi ethos, forever seeking a more perfect reality beyond the horizon – the sense of longing captured in his paintings, a fundamentally adolescent philosophy that can never truly be fulfilled, only outgrown. He’s proving himself to be an ideologically ideal antagonist for Star Driver, while our young trio are being positioned to either reenact his follies or finally break the cycle. Good luck, kids!