May 13, 2007


Gunbuster, or Aim for the Top!, is a facinating anime from 1988 that, for lack of a better description, contains a whole lot of heart. I approached this series thinking it was a simple "spacegirls in mecha" anime, but in fact I believe this is one of the best science fiction stories you could find. There is a little bit too much 80's flavor in the beginning and for the commercial intermission, but otherwise it's almost perfect. It seems like it could have been perfect if budgeted for a longer run (perhaps originally four episodes then extended to six).

Gunbuster follows a young girl who becomes one of the elite pilots of giant mecha to defend Earth against invasion by some sort of space monsters. In the beginning, it almost feels like an adaptation of Rocky with its focus on working out and training to make it into the space corps. Thankfully that soon ends, although the phrase "hard work and guts" continues to pop-up in the post-show science explanations.

But hard science is used for the physics of space travel (with some theoretical liberties, of course), and so suddenly the film starts taking on aspects of one of my favorite novels, The Forever War. It's a concept that was also very nicely explored in Voices of a Distant Star. The character and world situations are also very similar to those from Ender's Game. Irrespective of my comparisons, Gunbuster is a sum greater than its parts and an outstanding science fiction drama.

The thing that really makes this series shine is the character development and the viewer's personal involvement with those characters. The protagonist, Noriko, goes through real growth and transformation that is necessary, difficult, and also tragic. This series doesn't pull any punches. The situation and plot may be overwhelming for some, despite this series being approachable by both children and adults. In fact, I think this is one of those stories that can really be appreciated as a child, yet have even greater worth when you come back to it as an adult.

I also think that the seiyuu for Noriko, Noriko Hidaka (they share the same given name), did an outstanding job. I really felt like her character came across in a lot of ways through the voice work. Amano and Jung also have great voice actors behind them, although it was really Noriko that stood out to me. I didn't much like how Coach, voiced by Norio Wakamoto, sounded though.

One interesting thing of note is that each DVD has a short sequence available in 5.1 audio in the extras section. The sequence actually belongs in the plot of one of the episodes on the DVD, but is not part of the actual episode. So it's a little strange, watching something that provides a little more meat to the series but only after you've already gotten past that part of the story.

Apparently Gunbuster 2 will be coming soon, and I'm looking forward to it. It's been licensed by Bandai Visual.

Posted by josuah at May 13, 2007 5:07 AM UTC+00:00

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