This is what happens when you cross effeminate young men with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. A frenzy of colour and Studio Bones' deft creative hand is juxtaposed against incongruously suggestive female outfits and canned animation sequences. This is not the same studio that brought out Eureka 7 and Sword of the Stranger, but one leaving the afterglow of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and on the downspin after the disappointing Darker than Black sequel and the no doubt expensive risk of Heroman. This is Five Star Story style robots, fighting in Gurren Lagann's alternate space with Code Geass's chutzpah. This is Star Driver.
Opening episodes are always a gamble: bedazzle now and risk a depleted budget later or hold back and aim for long-term, unwrinkled quality. The first three episodes here try and do both with a swift and incomprehensible collection of enigmatic snippets of dialogue followed by a kaleidoscopic mecha battle. The latter is then repeated, down to the vocal song and preceding animation snippet, for every subsequent episode. It's sloppy and lacks the finesse expected of a Studio Bones production.
Derivative though it may be, the brief scuffles only bookend the extended high-school lifestyle. All the staples are there: classroom assignments, lunch box sharing, the quiet girl, the rich girl, the transfer student, the list goes on. Protagonist Takuto washes up on the beach, is saved by local girl, but by some oversight of the plot is in possession of all his memories; even his induction into school is without incident. Then there are the clandestine meetings of the absurdly named Order of the Glittering Star who look like the cast of Eyes Wide Shut were thrown through a sex shop - so obvious are the participant's identities it's a small favour the show doesn't bludgeon that bit of exposition.
Confusion is nothing new though, the opening episodes of Xam'd weren't straightforward. Here though there is no sense of a grander narrative, only arbitrary divisions of consequential objects: twelve swords, four maidens, twenty-something cybodies, three stages, etc. Answers are obviously forthcoming but the episode structure combined with the wrong side of outlandish designs pitches the series to a more doltish audience than expected. Bones bank a lot of goodwill and with a few exceptions, their series are never less than exemplary; for now though Star Driver is propelled by the promise of improvement rather than what has already been delivered.