Threes: Star Driver, Panty&Stocking, Yumeiro Pro

Star Driver 3 is the most straightforward so far. The Glittering Star’s organization has begun to make sense, and for the time being their aims are not so confusing. Also, we’ve seen much of it before.

The enemy leader of the week is Kanako, she of the green hair and kissing through glass. We learn that she is fabulously rich thanks to marrying an oil tycoon, and she’s a tremendous flirt. Now, Glittering Star may have higher motives in mind, but right now all they want to do is defeat Takuto. Kanako finds she may have just the fighter when Takuto squares off in a kendo duel with one of her flunkies, Takashi. So its off the drugged-out cosmic dueling dimension!

The fights are routine, but damn, they're good to look at.

The fight is the usual stuff. The style of combat reflects the enemy’s personality, which puts Takuto at a temporary disadvantage. But then he pulls out a surprise and wins. Writer Yoji Enokido, I am led to believe, did a lot of work on Sailer Moon and Utena, so it makes sense. I have a feeling he’s also responsible for much of the show’s flamboyant visual style. Considering the quality of those shows I’m pretty sure this is going to be far more than a robot of the week series. Hell, I’d probably keep watching anyway just for the eye-candy.

After three episodes of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt I’m ready to pack it in. Not that it’s not any good, in fact, it can be a lot of fun. And it’s hard to offend me, though this show manages to come close, especially with the second story this week. It’s just that beneath the crazy visuals and foul jokes it’s … ordinary.

In the first story, Panty and Stocking have a fight. Stocking goes off to fight the evil ghost alone and nearly gets killed, or whatever happens to people like her. And so we learn that the girls are unbeatable only when they fight together. I can’t say that this is the most original moral I’ve ever heard.

The second story is a bewildering riff on sperm which uses a Normandy landing metaphor, among other things. Amusing. But I don’t feel I care to write about this every week. Down the line I’ll come across an episode (on American cable, because I think that’s its next destination) and think “Ah, a nice way to kill fifteen minutes.”

After some delays with faulty fansubs I got to watch Yumeiro Patissiere Professional. Good episode. Intros are all done and the show regains its stride.

The gang take turns trying to sell their style of shop, only to find the customers indifferent. They sit around a lot wondering what to do. In fact, we can see two problems already. The interior of the shop is still not ready for customers (the fairy magic only works on exteriors, I guess), so no one can sit down. And the main action is down the international street. Er, Kashino doesn’t help his own cause by becoming the Chocolate Nazi. The translation doesn’t actually say “No sweets for you!” but it could have. We get a nice scene where Johnny talks about the American sweets scene as an amalgamation of immigrant styles, and Ichigo decides he’s not such a doofus after all. But that might complicate the love triangle issue …

53 episodes in and I've never seen Andou look that mad before.

So their shop is in bad shape. Worse, so is Andou’s. With inadequate supplies and staff the big crowds he had on the first day has dwindled to nothing, and he’s in danger of being shut down. So now we have two crises on our hands. What’s more, the previews show Andou falling ill from exhaustion. Well, it also showed Johnny and Ichigo sharing a bike ride, so the episode won’t be a total downer.

Oh, I can’t resist posting one more screenshot:

Johnny's beginning to fit in.

Twos: Star Driver, Panty & Stocking

Star Driver 2 runs pretty much the same way episode one did. Start out with eccentric normality and end with an acid trip battle. The only reason it doesn’t top last week’s WTF is that we’re getting used to the routine. Mixed in with the main story are little scenes and moments, tossed-out metaphors that fly by but I assume will have great importance later on.

To begin with Takuto is introduced to more strange people, such a married woman who will kiss anyone if there’s glass between them (kissing through glass is a metaphor for this episode, though I haven’t quite figured out what it means). I was wondering it all relates to his recent battle. We learn soon enough when he’s led to another odd batch of people who know all about the Cybodies and are determined to stop them. None other than …

… from whom we get some backstory. We get more during an absurd meeting of the Glittering Crux Brigade (the bad guys), who plan to take Takuto out. It’s a wonderfully overdone scene. While they scheme and contemplate the fallout from last night’s failure we get sinister waltz music and an unseen crowd who cheer and boo on cue. A great way to cover up an infodump.

Scarlet Kiss makes her move.

This evil group may cooperate but its members are capable of acting on their own, hence last week’s “Raging Bull” failure. Glittering Crux member Scarlet Kiss, also the dorm’s RA, can charm any man she kisses, so first she tries to kiss Takuto (the kiss-through-glass metaphor comes up again), then kisses another underling. Things are (pleasantly) silly enough, but it’s just getting started.

Last week Wako was physically kidnapped and taken to the evil lair. This time she’s just whisked away. So is Takuto. Maybe you can’t do one without the other. We get another fight, this one laced with comedy as the enemy, Tetsuya, is hopped up on Scarlet’s kiss mojo and the baddies looking on joke that he’s a virgin. It ends as you would expect but again with so much to look at you don’t care. This show, at least for a while, will have an enemy of the week format. Next time it’ll be the married glass-kisser.

Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt 2’s second story is the better one. In the first they infiltrate a high school to figure out the mystery of missing students. By infiltrate I mean pretty much take the place over.

It’s all right. It has lots of bees and football players and the school queen is named Barby. The second one expands the show’s reach. No mystery to solve, instead, the girls prepare for their premiere movie, only for Panty at the preview to mention she was once in a movie before. She just happens to have a copy …

The public learns about Panty's past.

So off they go around the world to track down every copy of the video. These are the best scenes, brief but with a million little things happening at once. This show’s great at throwing things at you. Not so great in inspiring me to write profound things about it. But it was nice to see the two girls actually at odds with each other for once.

Star Driver 1

I’ve seen three new shows so far. Star Driver is definitely the trippiest.

What passes for normal in this show.

It doesn’t start that way. The opening, where betrothed couple Sugata and Wako are walking on the night beach, discussing their future, is more whimsical. Wako says she smells a boy, and there he is thirty feet away. Turns out he’s Takuto, a new student who missed the ferry and decided to swim to the island to make the opening day’s classes, so we know there’s something odd about him already. The subsequent first day of school scenes are relatively normal, with hints of mystery. Sugata’s father painted a painting in the school. Takuto keeps muttering things to his not-present grandfather. Meanwhile I’m happily watching, watching it unfold, trying to piece it together, wondering why the students are forbidden to sneak past a fence to an old gold mine—that’s a brier-patch temptation if ever I heard one. Then they give the weirdness knob a couple turns.

Let’s see, there’s a captive North Maiden (oh, Wako is the South Maiden. Sugata tells Takuto this as if it was the most normal thing in the world, like Wako played violin; Takuto doesn’t bat an eye), and a guy in a mask, or maybe it was the robots, who do something to her … steal her powers perhaps. Later they have her sing. They’re trying to level up another robot, or maybe it’s the same one. Why they’re doing it I have no clue, but it gets in my head that there’s probably only four Maidens on that island and they just used up one of them.

Takuto, still muttering about his grandfather, tries to break in and is captured. It seems he has more reason to go to school on that island than just experiencing the joys of youth like he keeps saying. I suspect his grandfather is the reason, and much of the story will be him figuring out what happened to him. Anyway, the bad guys have Wako and are going for another level up, and the creators turn up the weirdness knob again. Takuto breaches the giant robot’s dimension, or something, which he shouldn’t be able to do, turns into “Galactic Pretty Boy,” heh, and the robots duke it out.

Duuude! I'm tripping!

Boy howdy! This show not only juggles anime tropes with the best of them but it’s the wildest eye candy I’ve seen in a while. They slam all sorts of visual styles together, sometimes just for a split second. Add that to the fact that one episode in we have no idea what’s going on and I left the viewing punch-drunk. It remains to be seen whether the convoluted world they’ve created will hold up or collapse under its own weight, but at least it’ll look pretty.