Compilation movies are a tricky business. More often than not, they are an attempt to squeeze a bit more cash out of an existing property that was given a larger amount of time to tell the same story. What to keep and what to cut from the original story becomes a delicate balancing act of service to the built-in audience and forming a coherent narrative in a smaller timeframe. Star Driver the Movie was made for fans of Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto; however, it manages to expand on the stories of a few key supporting cast members.
No two characters receive a better treatment from Star Driver the Movie than twin sisters Marino and Mizuno Yoh. Where their original story had Marino taking up arms against Takuto Tsunashi as a member of the Glittering Crux in order to protect her sister – the West Maiden, Mizuno – the movie cuts this entire plotline out and focuses solely on the return of Marino and Mizuno’s absent mother. The way for Marino and Mizuno’s story is paved thanks to the assumption that the viewer is already familiar with Takuto, Wako, and Sugata. Star Driver the Movie condenses the first eight episodes of Star Driver into three specific narratives.
The first is of the trio’s budding friendship, and potential love triangle. The second is the story of those who fight Takuto. The third is Takuto’s personal narrative, framed by the North Maiden’s tale of Sam the Squid-Piercer. Star Driver the Movie relies the fact that its viewer has watched the series, which makes specific shots, like the one pictured above, shortcuts to jog the memory. The backstory of all Filament members – those who were shunned for their lack of “true” marks – is summarized in this shot only if one has seen Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto.
In leaving all but specific moments, the movie does skimp on a few narratives – Kanako Watanabe’s being the most obvious cut – but deftly expands on others, like the aforementioned tale of Mizuno and Marino. The movie begins their story with the above handoff from the North Maiden to Mizuno, the West Maiden. Where the series united all four island maidens on the same bus in a weighty conversation about relationships, the movie employs a more lighthearted approach. Mizuno bids the North Maiden farewell, telling her to take care as she exits the story. The North Maiden wishes Mizuno well in return, and “Innocent Blue” ushers the audience from the condensed formula of the first hour into Mizuno and Marino’s narrative.
Star Driver the Movie does more for both Marino and Mizuno while giving them less screentime, and having a shorter overall timeframe. Marino is seen much more in the series than the movie, as she takes over the Glittering Crux’s Vanishing Age vowing to protect her twin sister Mizuno. However, the series’ story arc is more about the Glittering Crux, and Reiji Miyabi, than it is Marino or Mizuno. In the series, the twins’ story acts ancillary to Takuto and Reiji’s development, with the latter providing a more effective emotional thrust. The movie uses the same two narratives for the opposite effect – promoting Mizuno’s emotional development over establishing Takuto and Reiji’s relationship – while continuing to rely on the viewers’ preexisting knowledge of events within the series.
“If you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes true.”
-Marino Yoh to Mizuno Yoh, Star Driver the Movie
The important fact that the built-in Star Driver audience is aware of is that Marino is actually a projection of Mizuno. Star Driver the Movie toys with this by visually placing Marino in the background of everything Mizuno does. Their private conversations, as quoted above, are loaded with the idea that it is possible for Marino to vanish. When their wayward mother returns, the twins are of two different minds on what to do. Marino wants to speak with her, even if it’s only to cut ties once and for all. Mizuno runs away.
Most important is how neither Mizuno nor Marino’s feelings are marginalized. Marino acts as Mizuno’s conscience, but Mizuno’s attempt at burying her contempt for the mother who abandoned her is deftly handled. Her narrative still runs parallel with Takuto’s struggle to find the father that abandoned him; however, the result in the movie focuses far more on Mizuno’s feelings, rather than Mizuno acting as a similar story to Takuto. When Mizuno is finally able to leave the island, it is on her own terms. She accepts the challenge of meeting with her mother – if only to give her “a good punch” – and it is only with this acknowledgement of her inner desires that Marino returns to her.
A frequent criticism heard regarding anime series is of pace. The story is deemed “too long” or “too short” for the time frame – regardless of whether the series spans 13 or 26 episodes – and the proposed solution is always adding or subtracting episodes to cut down on filler or add backstory, respectively. Adding movies to this equation spawns similar critique, particularly if the movie in question is a retelling of an existing property.
Star Driver the Movie is one such example. It is a complication of a 25-episode series condensed into a two-and-a-half hour movie, and it is not for newcomers to the franchise. Many bits and pieces of the original were left as scraps on the cutting room floor to make a streamlined story. That being said, the movie is a success, managing to further the audiences’ understanding of Marino and Mizuno in a wonderfully emotional narrative.