First a moment of remembrance: Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and Billy Mays all left this world this past week (Fawcett and Jackson on the same day, even). A sad time for television and music lovers...or, well, everyone really. Please, no more! :(
Today it's two in one. Gainax's Gunbuster and Diebuster (or Gunbuster 2).
You'd hardly know the shows were meant to accompany each other at first glance. The original is serious and emotional (if cheesy and a little campy at times), but the second series is far more comedic and pretty perverted. The first is very old school, the second looks a lot like FLCL and Eureka Seven in terms of style and design. They're entirely different creatures. About the only things tying them together are the Buster music theme, the giant robots, and their fight against the space monsters. Though once you get to the ending of GB2, the two series are finally tied together, and quite nicely. There are some nice throwbacks to the original series throughout the show (and some clear inspirations from both Evangelion and FLCL), but they're far more in your face and obvious during the last episode. At that point you're left going "Ooooh sweet! Now it feels like Gunbuster all over again." They're definitely meant to be watched together. They did make "movie" versions of both, but all they really are is shortened versions of each series. And at just 6 episodes each, cutting them down cuts too much out (leaving out important things like, oh I don't know, character development).
They pack an awful lot into each series' 6 episodes, though I really think the original GB has more character development than DB. The story also flows better (though it's not any less confusing). In DB there are several time jumps that suddenly bring the characters into different situations without much explanation.
Gunbuster follows the journey of Noriko Takaya and Kazumi Amano, two Buster pilots trained under the watchful and caring eye of Coach Koichiro Ohta. Kazumi is the star pilot, Noriko is, well...clumsy is a decent term. Yet it is the two of them that are picked by Coach Ohta to leave their training school (they're high school aged) and join the Exelion crew in space to fight the space monsters. The two of them (and Noriko specifically) are being groomed to pilot the advanced Buster machine known as Gunbuster (a combined, two person super robot). Kazumi is out to prove herself, Noriko is out both to prove herself and to get revenge for the death of her father (a ship captain killed several years ago by space monsters; Coach Ohta is the only surviving member of that crew), and Ohta is out to groom them to save the human race. Like any anime directed by Hideaki Anno, the characters of Gunbuster are tortured and must overcome their self-doubt in order to save their friends. The show is good, if a little cheesy (it's from 1988), drawn well, written well, and put together well. The final episode is in black and white for some reason, with some stock and static images, so I was left wondering if they ran out of money or time at that point, or if it was a style choice.
There's a lot of "we're traveling at light speed so the people on Earth will age X amount of time while we're in LS," which has always bothered me. It's not something I understand. I mean, you're just going really really fast though basic space. So I don't understand how that makes you jump forward in time. I mean, if I'm in a car going 70 miles an hour, and someone is walking to the same destination at 3 miles an hour, I'll get there first, but the same amount of real time would have passed for both of us. Or is it just the fact that they're traveling at LS that does it? Science just doesn't agree with my brain, I guess.
In Diebuster (GB2) there's a whole new set of characters. The story takes place thousands of years later. A robotic girl named Nono, obsessed with becoming a Buster pilot, runs away from home and eventually comes across a Topless named Lal'C. Though unable to pilot a Buster because she is not a Topless (she can't be, as she's a robot), Nono follows Lal'C and becomes a member of the Fraternity - a group of teenage Topless who pilot Buster machines and their backup members and crew. The group fights off the space monsters, working to uncover exactly why they exist and what their true purpose in the universe is as the human race once again faces extinction. It's hard to describe what a "Topless" is exactly. It seems to be influenced by FLCL, in that their powers emanate from their foreheads. It's some sort of psychic energy, I think, that allows them to control a Buster machine until their expiration date (when their powers cease functioning all together). Nono takes it very literally in one episode, thinking that it means she has to BE topless, and removes her shirt to fight. Unlike their Gunbuster counterparts, the Buster machines in DB are more than mere robots - they are sentient beings that occasionally disobey the orders of their pilots, and only awaken to pilots whom are ready.
When you know that Hideaki Anno (director of Evangelion) directed Gunbuster and Kazuya Tsurumaki (assistant director for Evangelion, director of FLCL, director of the recent Evangelion film remakes) directed Diebuster, the inspirations and references are obvious. Gunbuster came 7 years before Eva, but you can see some of the ideas for the popular show already beginning to form. And the FLCL style is all over Diebuster.
Both series come on 3 discs, and neither of them have English voice overs, so be ready to read the subtitles. 6 episodes on 3 discs is less of a problem for the original series than the more recent one. If that's they way there were broken apart on the original VHS, I can see how it would be easier to just leave them that way. But there's little excuse for a show from 2004/06 to come that way (unless it's some sort of legal or marketing issue). Both are licensed by Bandai in the US. Diebuster also has a manga, though it's currently only available in Japan. DVD extras included for the original GB: interviews with cast and crew, promotional animations, and Science Lessons (a series of short omake that discuss the science and mythology of the series). The DB DVDs also had some interviews with the show creators and a trailer for the movies.
Well, I'll be watching Texhnolyze next. Hopefully I can get through that before I have to go on vacation. I also recently ordered the second half of Black Lagoon and also AIR TV, so I may review those in the coming weeks.
Image: (Left) Gunbuster, Coach Ohta, Kazumi, (Center) Noriko, Nono, (Right) Dix-Neuf, Lal'C and Tycho.