What's this? An episode of Star Driver that doesn't follow the exact same pattern of nearly every other episode that came before it almost to the second? Stop the presses!
Unsurprisingly after last week's episode and the way it moved things forward, this instalment of Star Driver focuses largely (although not entirely exclusively) upon Marino and Mizuno, with the latter having a rough time that tests even her exuberant nature to breaking point. As if over-hearing a conversation between Takuto, Sugata and Wako where the two boys bet upon Wako's engagement to Sugata as part of their training (an exchange which breaks poor Mizuno's little heart), there's also the issue of the two sisters errant mother returning out of the blue - a rather unwelcome occurrence given how she abandoned them in the first place.
With these troubles (and a surprising outburst by Mizuno at Marino) piling up, our western maiden finally decides that she's had enough and packs up to leave the island... only to enter some kind of Endless Eight-esque state where every time she leaves she simply wakes up and has to start all over again - a situation which leaves her a nervous and bawling wreck in a ferry terminal car park after numerous iterations (again, much like most viewers of Endless Eight after a few episodes). Up steps Wako to the rescue, as she guesses Mizuno's real identity and her big secret - the trouble is, she certainly isn't the only one either...
After moaning about it for so many weeks, simply breaking out of Star Driver's cycle of drama -> Zero Time -> Takuto wins feels like a breath of fresh air which left me watching the clock and thinking "however are they going to fit a pointless Cybody battle into this episode?". Well, thankfully they didn't, instead giving the rest of the plot some much-needed room to breath - something it did reasonably proficiently with plenty of angst and drama to lean on whilst also shifting the positions of a few key pieces on the show's chess board, most notably Sugata and our "mysterious" (or not so mysterious) painter aside from Mizuno herself. This alone wasn't enough to make Star Driver suddenly seem like a far more compelling series, but following on from last week's more focused offering the signs of improvement are certainly there to be seen. It has a way to go, but at last there's light at the end of the tunnel of mediocrity from which this show desperately needs to escape over the coming weeks.