I’m satisfied with how Star Driver ended, and this is why.
For starters, Star Drivers is pretty meta. I think it would be almost stating the obvious to say that this is not a good Mecha show. In the various interviews our lead dudes have professed of not having that sort of knowledge, but in the case that you didn’t follow those delicious behind-the-scene notes from Igarashi and Enokido, it’s hard to miss that there’s this Utena-esqe flair in a lot of the elements in the show. In fact the story seemed more like a regular high school intrigue thing with random battles thrown in there for good measure. In that sense it’s kind of like Utena, too: wait, was there anybody watching that as a Samurai flick? I guess the setup is not too dissimilar to a typical story where an outside guy comes in town and raise havoc. And I mean Utena not Star Driver…
The mecha battles themselves are pretty fun to watch per se, but they lack a certain sense of grit, as if it wasn’t really obvious that they were merely vehicles [/zing] to express certain resolution or points of catharsis for character development. But all that glitter and fabulousness isn’t going to fool me! Maybe that is where some find the show disappointing, like all the reused footage in Utena or the lame sword fights.
The second point, to talk about Utena again, is the structural similarity between Utena and Star Driver. I think if you get one show, you should be able to understand the other. This is not to say anything else about how the two are similar, but it is more like we are getting different themes expressed through the same mechanisms. To use an analogy, it’s like being able to understand one story told to you in gibberish probably means you can understand another, different story told to you in the same language. But that analogy also shows how sometimes you may be able to understand something out of familiarity of subject matter despite how that communication is less than perfect, like a weeaboo talking to a Japanese fan of the same, despite a language barrier.
Then we have the meta-of-meta problem. I talked about the play in a play before, and that sums up both what makes Star Driver work and also arguably its largest flaw. And it should surprise nobody that the series ended just like how the play did. Wako poured her heart out during that battle scene, and that’s as close as we’re going to get to a concession (despite the whole “hey, isn’t that voice-over gimmick what someone does in a play?”) And isn’t that a (relatively) radical message in of itself? It didn’t give me a feeling of “woah that’s pretty awesome” like, say, the end to Canvas 2 anime (it’s a spoiler) but this is a much better way to do it than, for instance, Asobi ni Ikuyo. The problem about meta is simply that the audience tend to get caught up in that and miss the main point behind it all, despite that the meta is an illustrative device serving overall thematic ideas.
I phrased it like a problem, but the meta is a guiding post to understand what the hell the show is actually about; it’s an intended feature, not a bug. Maybe you would think Star Driver could have done a better job by trying to express thing, y’know, normally? I suppose that is up to debate.
Lastly, what goes well probably also ends well. Regardless of our feelings about epic bromances, Takuto and Sugata’s final duel was something, wasn’t it? It’s a good note to end on.