Star Driver is kind of like a fable. People in the show act out stuff, in representation of higher concepts and ideas, in service of themes. Or at least, that is how it is represented with characters larger than life and brighter than a shooting star. Or something. The problem is these characters all clearly are employed by somebody, and it has become irritating when they don’t say who that somebody is. It’s like when you are being told a fable, you kind of just want to get to the bottom of it, to spin that wheel of morality already and see what the final answer is.
I’ve been pretty okay about Star Driver when it comes to that compulsion, so far. However the recent episodes featuring the Vanishing Age really tickled my fancy. I mean, let’s look at the names of the Kiraboshi Juujidan factions. Unlike Urobuchi, we know Yoji Enokido is not trolling us, right?
- Filament – It’s bright, but more importantly, it burns out. It also makes Kiraboshi Brigade what it is, or at least the Kiraboshi part. We’ve had the episode about the “glittering of youth,” so perhaps this symbolizes the literal glittering part of youth. Also, filament, an man-made creation, is great foil to the naturally-apprivoise-able Galactic Pretty Boy. It’s tough to beat fusion for brightness.
- Adult Bank – I thought this one is obvious. But why “Adult” when there are no adults in it? I can’t say for Bouganville, but Vanishing Age and the Science Guild surely have adults? I could also point to the relationship between Leon Watanabe and his teenage bride, but that would be obvious, so the not-as-obvious point here is something about the wealth kids have that are not really theirs. Kanako lives in the shadow of her husband, that much we know for sure.
- Science Guild – I thought this one is even more obvious. And this one is also the most over-the-top. Can I have Rinko as my First Stage?
- Bouganville – Besides being the largest of the Solomon Islands (now an independent nation) and that Japan occupied it during WWII, the only thing to say about it is that it is actually an “island in the south.” It makes sense in that it has a flavor of locality and tradition behind it, as applied to the members of this subsection. (Human civilization on the Solomon Islands do date back pretty far.) All two of them, at this point, anyways. Maybe the events of WWII can serve as a possible hint.
- Vanishing Age – Well this is where…I stop bulleting and start to make the point I was trying …to make.
When I was thinking about putting the puzzles together, I was influenced by this NY Times piece. Generation gap is actually a big issue facing American society today as well, but Japan is really getting screwed–so screwed, that we use a more technical and all-encompassing term, “Generational Inequality.” The socio-econo-political aspect aside, the Times piece paints an image that, hopefully, resonates with Japanese college pre-post-grad/super-seniors struggling to find happiness in their line of work and their near-future. It is a future that is, not unlike Head’s sunset, turning darker each passing moment.
The old boys club, the high-class lounge, the back-room deal made under a cloud of cigarette smoke and over some fine Suntory whisky are a thing of the past. There is your Vanishing Age. That is your modern vice that rocketed Japan to its global economic plateau, perhaps at the cost of its first-born sons and daughters. Looking from that perspective, the Kiraboshi section titles become
- People who tries, even if it looks like they’re faking it
- People who can’t get out from under their fetal silver spoons, no matter how accomplished they are
- People stuck in the old ways
- People on elevators
But that is just one interpretation, and you might be able to do better. Also, we clearly see that Vanishing Age represents a group of people who are truly elite, who are born with “the mark” and who use it to reinforce its own elite status. Injecting a dose of real world problem into this fairly modern fable is more nuanced than one might imagine.
All this, just to capture that spark. Will it cure Japan’s problems? DUN DUN DUN.