Gunbuster 2: Diebuster
Nono is a sweet young country bumpkin who runs away to the big city to chase her dream of becoming a space pilot, only to have her dream temporarily crushed when she finds out that people have to go to school to become space pilots, and to go to school you have to have money. So Nono gets a job at a grimy city cafe slinging hash in a maid uniform that goes down to her hips and fending off perverts, saving up money to pursue her dream of becoming a space pilot. Then she meets Lal'C, the petite, stoic piloting ace of the elite Fraternity. Lal'C's mission as a member of the Fraternity is to protect the Earth from space monters by using her psychic powers to summon mecha called Busters. The two of them will develop a special relationship that will unlock Nono's latent powers and save humanity from extinction.
I really liked the original Gunbuster despite some gagging and eye rolling from the first two episodes. The animation was excellent, the story was well-thought out, and characters I grew to like faced tough decisions that they made with dignity and courage. It was one of those shows that made me glad I was an anime fan. Now, more than a decade later, Gainax has made another OVA called Diebuster. It is the sequel to Gunbuster is terms of setting and storyline, but at first glance you'd think it was the slightly more coherent cousin of Furi Kuri. That's because FLCL and Diebuster share pretty much the same animation staff. Because of that and because it's a sequel made ten years after the original, Diebuster has a very different feel than Gunbuster. Is that a bad thing? Depends on what we are talking about: read on.
Diebuster is the more focused of the two OVAs; this time, Gainax doesn't screw around by inserting sports parodies in the beginning of a science fiction soap opera. The quality of the episodes are pretty even throughout, thus making for a less rocky viewing experience. The story seems to know what it's doing from the get-go. At least, I think it does. I'd probably be able to say that more firmly if I actually understood what was going on better. You see, while I could tell that the story was moving from beginning to end very nicely, I didn't always understand what the hell was going on. I think there are a couple of reasons for that, the first being that the story Gainax is animating may be too epic to be digested properly in six episodes. The second I'll get to in a minute.
Let's recap what I did understand: Diebuster is set tens of thousands of Earth years after the events of Gunbuster. Space monsters still prey on humanity, but humanity has become more adept at fighting them off, and has even safely spread out through the galaxy. The team responsible for protecting humanity is a group of psychic pilot teenagers known as Topless who summon mecha with the power of their minds. They will do this not only in space, but in the middle of a restaurant, on a ship, you name it. Doesn't matter if there's actually any room for a twenty foot tall machine, they will make room. There are those who feel threatened by the awesome power of the Topless, though, and think that they are the enemy of humanity just like the space monsters. What the Topless has ever done to deserve that resentment, though, the anime was vague about. I personally would be so grateful that I was not yet a pile of ash to harbor any resentment. Far as I could tell, though, the people who didn't like the Topless were all politicians and military brass. It seems that even in the future, top offices are still held by snakes and idiots. Dammit.
Our hero is a perky, pink headed girl named Nono. She wants to be a space pilot, and is saving up her money to go to piloting school by wearing kinky maid outfits and serving food. She's only good at one of those two things, and take a wild guess at which one it is. Pervert pilots who are customers at the cafe spend a lot of time leering at her, until one day their playful flirting goes beyond that. Our hero is saved from those pilots, though, by Lal'C... wait, didn't I just spend a couple paragraphs in the synopsis telling you all this? You don't need to hear all this again, right?
Anyway, Diebuster makes a lot of its ties to the original by loading it with references. Calling the elite pilots Topless, Lal'C and Nono's close relationship, and the numbering of the Busters are a few examples of this. But as far as being closely tied to the storyline of the original OVA goes, that never really materializes. The ties are loose, hard to understand, and frankly what I did understand was too contrived for me to take seriously. There is a plot twist midway through the OVA that can only be understood by having seen the original, but it caused me to be even more confused rather than shocked. And what about the time dilation that was so crucial to the plot of the original? Characters in Diebuster hop across time-space with no noticeable consequences. Did humans figure out a way to work around that? If so, why does no one mention it? And if that is true, what kind of civilization bends time to its will but still can't cure a disease from space?
The thing that bothered me throughout the OVA is that Diebuster's status as a sequel feels artificial and contrived, and I wonder if it would have been a better story if it wasn't tied down by being a sequel. I can easily see Gainax reworking Diebuster's story by cutting all ties with Gunbuster, and benefiting from it.
But I think I'm beginning to sound too negative. I want to be clear on something: I really enjoyed Diebuster. Despite being confusing a lot of the time, this is a fun OVA. The battles are epic and invoked a lot of awe from me. Nono is adorable, and despite being a little naive, her determination and affection for Lal'C is inspiring. It was when I gave up trying to make sense of it all that I enjoyed it the most, and I suspect that if I watch this again, it will make a lot more sense on the second go around.
Technically three point five. Despite feeling squeezed and not always being coherent, it was a lot of fun to watch. Subtract a star if you're not a mecha or science fiction fan. — Bradley Meek
Recommended Audience: This anime has a generous amount of fanservice and nudity in every episode, including a scene where Nono takes what it means to be "Topless" literally. There is also plenty of violence, mostly between robots and aliens but fairly graphic nonetheless.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, sub only.
Review Status: Full (6/6)
Gunbuster 2: Diebuster © 2006 GAINAX / Bandai Visual / Victor Entertainment
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