A year and a half ago, the trendy thing to do on Twitter was 3x3s, i.e. a 3-by-3 picture collage of one’s favourite anime. I’ve actually made a bunch – 4 or 5 – of different versions for myself, and they’ve ended up looking quite different, In the latest versions, however, I’ve tried to pick shows from various different genres so as not to make it look too one-sided in any direction. This made some choices very difficult, but when it came to the genre of mecha, my choice was easy: Star Driver.
I should clarify that this is not because I think Star Driver is “the best mecha show” out of all the mecha shows I’ve seen. The award for that probably goes to Patlabor, Gundam 0080 or Gundam 0083 – I tend to like the “real robot” subgenre more than the shows with the super robots – because I think Patlabor incorporates mechs into an otherwise mundane show about cops extremely well, and Gundam is brilliant when it comes to sheer scale (the politics, the universe and everything). In comparison, the mecha aspect of Star Driver was not that integral to the story, though that’s not to say that it was sidelined in favour of other stuff: There was a lot of mecha action in Star Driver, and it was good mecha action. I just think the show wasn’t ultimately about the robots.
I say this because the show is quite clearly about growing up and coming of age. The mecha battles symbolised the transition from childhood to adulthood, even though the transition in real life can’t be boiled down to a discreet and unambiguous event in which you either win or lose. In any case, I thought the symbolism was really well integrated into the story. But the show didn’t put all its eggs into one basket, because the coming-of-age story wasn’t the only good thing about the show. I think it looked fantastic, the animation was extremely impressive and the faces were funny (this might seem like a small thing but it’s important to me). The insert songs, as well as the OPs and EDs, were really enjoyable. The characters were really fun in a “different” kind of way, which I now partially ascribe to the work of director Takuya Igarashi (Bungou Stray Dogs has similarly interesting characters). Oh, and I guess the story, while occasionally obtuse and/or confusing, was really enjoyable to follow.
When it comes to shows that I end up liking on this many different levels, I think the only other mecha show that comes close is Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, which is also a favourite of mine. Somewhat unfortunately, however, Gurren Lagann is a very popular show, and the jokes, memes and platitudes that are nearly always parroted when the show is mentioned really turn me off. Were it not for this, the decision whether TTGL or Star Driver is my favourite mecha show might be more difficult, but as things stand, there’s a clear winner to me.