Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I figured we’d step back into Star Driver, whose narrative has essentially been in Full Chaos Mode for two episodes now. With episode eight clearly serving as the ending of Star Driver’s first act, we’ve subsequently witnessed a full-scale invasion of the plot by sisters Mizuno and Marino. Both on the cheerful school adventure side (through Mizuno’s immediate crushing on Takuto) and the ominous Kiraboshi side (through Marino’s ascension as Manticore), the You sisters have been making their presence known with all possible haste. And personally, I’m all for it; Mizuno has already proven herself to be one of the show’s most charming characters, and Marino seems far more interesting than our dear departed Head.
Given the necessity of fully integrating these intruders into the ongoing drama, Star Driver has understandably been dedicating less time to the unveiling of its core mysteries. But even on that front, the reveal that Mizuno is one of the shrine maidens seems to imply that this burden can be abandoned, or perhaps gifted upon another. When Head tired of his caged maiden, he let her go, and she was able to escape the island. Does this mean simply rejecting the island’s doctrine is enough to dispel its hold, or is there something else that binds Wako and Mizuno to their duties? I’m eager to find out, so let’s dive right into the next episode of Star Driver!
I didn’t really get into any thematic musings in the intro, but as far as that goes, I’m quite interested in how Mizuno is being framed as an off-kilter doppelganger of both Marino and Takuto. A number of Mizuno’s introductory beats seemed designed to visually and tonally mirror Takuto’s entrance, and in their personal interactions, she often comes across as “more Takuto than Takuto.” Meanwhile, the scenes shared by her and her sister always play up Mizuno’s masculine overalls versus Marino’s feminine dress, which is a far cry from the framing of our other shrine maidens. Given how much of this island’s lore ties into old-fashioned perspectives on gender and romance, I’m exceedingly interested in seeing how Mizuno’s refusal to either dress or act like her assigned gender role might complicate her duties as shrine maiden
“How to Use Cybodies for Personal Gain.” Aw shit, more nurse-style madness
We begin with a rare cold open, as the sounds of crashing cars is followed by a police siren
And then Kanako’s blonde assistant Simone wakes from an unpleasant dream. A memory, presumably?
Simone reflects on how hard of a worker Kanako actually is. She’s far from your traditional trophy wife
The emphasis on these hierarchical master-servant relationships in both Kanako and Sugata’s households feels significant. This island’s respect for tradition seems to extend beyond its gender paradigm, also including a reverence for traditional structures of local lords and their attendants
At school, Kanako relieves her boredom by hitting on Takuto with relentless intensity and precision. Simone is not impressed
Kanako further announces a post-midterms pool party for everyone in Class 1
Dear lord, they’ve got a piano right on top of the pool. Surely that can’t be good for the finish
Wako sings to the piano’s accompaniment. It seems that singing is a prerequisite for all the shrine maidens, and perhaps even a component of how they unlock their power
A song of flowers and rebirth – sounding innocent, yet still laced with the imagery of procreation
Meanwhile, Sugata is at the park overlooking the bay, where he runs into Head
Head declares himself a “painter who has run out of subjects for his paintings.” Well, that sure isn’t a leading statement or anything! So is he responsible for those inescapable shrine maiden paintings, each depicting a maiden who would eventually be drawn to the sea and abandon him?
“There’s a painting I haven’t done yet, the one I still need to work on, and it’s clamoring to be let out into the world”
“Talent is bestowed on us by the gods for a reason. Not using it might be a sin.” Another not-so-subtly charged statement, essentially urging Sugata to ignore the warnings of his friends, and unleash the King’s Pillar once again
At the next Kiraboshi meeting, Marino accuses Kanako of using the Cybodies for personal gain
Oh damn. Apparently Kanako’s husband is Simone’s biological father, something no one else knows, and which Simone herself only discovered a year ago
In the wake of the accident from the cold open, Simone’s sister Mylene revealed the truth of their parentage. Mylene has some truly impressive hair drills
“My mother, Melisande, was once Leon Watanabe’s secretary.” Through this reveal, the link between this lord-and-servant economic structure and the shrine maiden relational structure becomes clear. Ultimately, both of these paradigms are reflections of patriarchal power – though Kanako in particular, as both woman and lord, seems to complicate the dynamic
“Will you apprivoise with Daletos, and let me pilot it the way I want?” A fusion of Simone’s Cybody and Takashi’s piloting, explicitly framed in sexual terms here, like his piloting is a kind of physical intrusion on her body
This episode in particular feels very reminiscent of Utena’s black rose arc, when the narrative’s tertiary characters essentially rose up in narrative rebellion
Kanako seems genuinely distressed when Simone reveals her plan to challenge Takuto again. And Simone seems to be faltering as well, falling into the classic trap of losing herself in her deception, and thus seeing Kanako as more real than her own identity. In truth, the one who wronged both of them was Leon Watanabe, but Leon cannot be challenged from his lofty point in this social structure, and thus they must content themselves with hurting these reflections of the one they truly hate
This motif of Simone seeing Kanako when she looks in the mirror is immediately contrasted against Marino, who is looking at both herself and Mizuno trapped in the mirror, coveting Mizuno’s closeness with Takuto
The wind calls Mizuno to the window, and she once again leaps out on top of a local bus. This “wind” seems to signify Mizuno’s inherent connection with the island as a shrine maiden; it seems like she’s playing out her role almost subconsciously, providing the song accompaniment to the show’s recent zero time excursions without even realizing it
When asked about his experience as an actor, Sugata offers the ominous “I’m good at playing whatever role I’m given,” a line that seems just as applicable to his ambiguous relationship with the Kiraboshi conspirators
Simone’s story is quite the tragic one; she can’t strike back at the father who wronged her, or even really meaningfully hurt the woman who replaced her mother, so her only form of “rebellion” comes through being a willing pawn in her master’s system
“Secretary, take me inside you!” Even the name of Simone’s Cybody reflects the subservient role both she and her mother are forced to play. Brutal
Kanako still seems to have misgivings about this battle. It seems she genuinely wants to protect Simone; perhaps she knows the truth, and sees them as kindred souls who’ve both been wronged by Watanabe
Inspired by Head’s words, this time Sugata can’t help himself, and uses the King’s Pillar to empower Takuto’s weapons
After the battle, we learn that Mylene is actually close friends with Kanako. And in fact, it was Kanako who connected Simone with a Cybody in order to save her life – this is the truth of Kanako’s “using Cybodies for personal gain.”
“It was Mother who introduced Kanako to Leon Watanabe. She must have felt he needed Kanako’s talents more than her.” What a mess!
Oof, what a brutal episode! After our charming digression with the You sisters, it seems we’re diving right back into tragic personal dramas, with Simone possessing the most tortured and melodramatic backstory so far. Her story taps into one of the richest veins of Revolutionary Girl Utena’s drama, exploring how this world defined by larger-than-life heroes and untouchable shrine maidens looks from the perspective of someone on the ground, who can never rise above the role of servant or bystander. When contrasted with Simone’s inability to change her circumstances, Sugata’s new motto of “talents are provided by god” seems all the more cruel, like he’s actively embracing the hierarchical inevitability of Southern Cross’ shrine maiden system. You know it’s a successful character-building episode when I actually feel bad about our “hero” defeating the episodic “villain” – Simone’s story has introduced a bright thread of class consciousness to this narrative, and I hope this isn’t the last we see from her!
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