Spoilers below. As long as you live tomorrow will come. Gunbuster is both the last relic of another era and the progenitor of an entire lineage of anime that draw from it to this day Neon Genesis Evangelion its own sequel Diebuster and Gurren Lagann being just the most famous of these. Its not an anime with much company in that regard. Usually singular works of media like this either begin a new period for their medium or bring one to a close. Gunbuster manages to do both and in a way actually watching the thing makes that all the more surprising this is after all the trialbyfire of an at the time unknown Studio Gainax and bless them their forgotten collaborators at Studio Fantasia as well as the show whose gratuitous partial nudity infamously inspired the term gainaxing. But make no mistake Gunbuster is an etchedinthetablets classic perhaps even more influentialif less loudly sothan its angstier nephew Neon Genesis Evangelion and with the cynical eyes of the 21st century it can be a little hard to see why I suspect that this may be a part of why its sequel Diebuster was made in the first place. Gunbuster begins as a mechathemed parody of Aim For The Ace moves through a pastiche of The Forever War and ends with a black and white esoteric themelead ending to rival A Space Odyssey. Not much out there covers this much tonal and narrative ground in such a short time. Yet in what is both the OVAs greatest strength and its biggest most glaring flaw Gunbuster does not do much deepdelving as far as character goes. Gunbuster is a story told in broad strokes in shadows and in part by implication. Noriko is a rocksolid protagonist but at the same time her actual personality is broadlydefined enough that it has inspired Shinji Nono and Simon The Digger characters different enough in outlook and traits that aside from all largely coming from the same companys works youd be hardpressed to find much in common between any of them. Character development for Noriko and everyone else is brisk broad and straightforward. Noriko starts out as kind of a wimp but by the end of the story is brave enough to sacrifice ever seeing anyone on Earth ever again for the sake of the human race. Her partner Kazumi starts out as cold and distant but by the end of the series is close enough to Noriko that she makes that sacrifice with her this sort of thing. Gunbuster is very consistent on one point though and that is its theme which is so blunt that it might be better described as a moral you cant save the world without sacrifice. Over Gunbusters three hour runtime our heroines save the human race multiple times and at each turn they are asked to give more which they do. Relationships are shed like a winter coatNorikos best friend ages into an old woman in her absence her first crush is a casualty on Kazumis side her affection with their mentor the Coach grows into a romance that she too is forced to leave behind. Both of them lose a close friend at the series end as the ridiculously named character of Jung Freud makes her exit and then finally the both of them leave all theyve ever known behind flung 12000 years into the future by time dilation with only each other for company. Hideaki Anno was not yet the mastermind behind Neon Genesis Evangelion when he directed Gunbuster and while his touches are obvious with a closer examination on first watch especially Gunbuster has a sort of grandiose anonymity to it. Less like something that was made and more like something that coalesced out of the memories of otaku who watched and loved reams of super robot and sentai shows throughout the 70s and 80s but we have to be careful to not remove the artists from their art because looked at with a more thoughtful eye the seeds of what would make Evangelion what it was were planted here in the shows darker moments especially the second half as the unusualforthegenre hard scifi elements set in and become a vehicle for genuine tragedy. That love is still there but filtered through a very adult worldweariness. But its not just that really. Because Gunbuster does end in its own way on a happy note. A bittersweet ending that is less bitter than it might first appear. Our heroes arrive back to earth twelve thousand years after their departure and for a moment they are greeted with a dark ball of rock an earth that appears lifeless. Then just as they begin to mourn humanity lights flip on slowly at first and then more quickly forming a patternthe distorted words WELCOME HOMrevealing that their sacrifices havent been for nothing. That ray of light to puncture what wouldve been a truly bleak ending is what makes Gunbuster work. There were darker dusks and brighter dawns on the horizon for Studio Gainax and the hordes of successors and imitators their work would spawn but much of it ultimately traces back here Noriko and Kazumi in what remains of the combined Gunbuster being hailed as heroes by their beloved planet and knowing it was all in a sense worth it.
85 /100
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