Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 14th 2007
In the wake of the incident on Titan the Topless have become pariahs, their abilities locked away with special headgear and treated as a disease. Conversely, the revelation of Nono's true identity has granted her special treatment and status, but all she really wants is to still be with her Oné-Sama. Lal'C finds that difficult to accept, but she is not the only Topless struggling with the changes, and one is driven to drastic action. A journey to the Nest Hole of the supposed space monsters, where Nono plays a key role, leads to disaster, bringing the Topless and their Buster Machines back into play once again. As the protection humankind once had against the real space monsters disappears, they come up with a desperately bold new plan to deal with the expected upcoming onslaught of true space monsters, one which involves the sacrifice of an entire planet. When the space monsters finally do attack and Lal'C prepares to launch mankind's final grand defense, Diebuster appears.
The final episode begins with an all-time-classic line which fully embodies the level of absurdity that Gunbuster 2 achieves: “Due to a multiple-vehicle pileup accident, traffic on Atmospheric Route 8 is backed up for 600,000 kilometers. Passage is expected to take 80 hours.” Like its predecessor, this is a series which has always cheerfully ignored practicality and bent the laws of physics to its whim, making it possible to move planets out of orbit to be used as weapons or construct mecha measured in thousands of kilometers without any regard for what effect that would actually have on the rest of the solar system. If it would look cool, it's worth doing, the producers seem to be thinking.
But that is not what Gunbuster 2 is ultimately about. Much of the true nature of the series cannot be considered here without delving into majors spoilers, but the last two episodes do reveal that the series is much more intrinsically linked to its predecessor than it has previously indicated, both thematically and plot-wise. Because of that, viewers who have not already seen the original Gunbuster are strongly advised to watch it before seeing this volume. Certain major plot points – especially revelation of Nono-Riri's true identity and the last 10 minutes of the final episode – will not make much sense otherwise.
While the first volume was dominated by action and the second by self-discovery, the final volume speaks most clearly to emotions. The relationship between Nono and Lal'C has been methodically established since their first meeting in episode 1, and here it achieves full blossom. It is also where Lal'C most fully takes center stage. Her simmering jealousy over Nono surpassing her in prominence and her anger and sense of betrayal when she feels that Nono has abandoned her at one point are fascinating to watch, as are Nono's reactions to Lal'C's drastic attempts at self-sacrifice for what Nono sees as the wrong reasons. (The director/scriptwriter interview in the insert booklet has some interesting and enlightening things to say about this that are well worth reading.) So well-handled is the content involving the two of them that it gives the series a depth and emotional base that it did not achieve even in its second volume and helps build towards a great conclusion. In many senses it parallels the relationship of Noriko and her Oné-Sama in the original series, though it differs in highly meaningful ways that, again, cannot be discussed without getting into spoilers.
Most of the final two episodes focus on Lal'C and Nono, with occasional appearances by Tycho and Nichola, but they do find time to introduce a few additional Topless and Buster Machines, including ones that were winners of Topless/Buster design contests in Japan. And for all the emotional content, these episodes do also find opportunities for significant additional action scenes that are as flashy and bombastic as ever, though they carry a more serious tone than the fun-loving combats seen in earlier episodes. Supporting both the action and serious content are another round of fine animation and impressive visuals, both of which are at their best when depicting the large-scale battle scenes. The designs for Die Buster and the elders leave a bit to be desired, but the adult designs for certain key characters seen near the end make up for them. A few bits of very brief nudity do get worked in, but other fun little visual oddities seen in previous episodes (beyond the attention given to a dog's hairy balls) are absent, as befitting the more serious tone.
Although the soundtrack still occasionally falls back on the bombastic, tympani-driven themes used in key mecha shots in earlier episodes, gentler symphonic and piano-driven numbers dominate the content of most of episodes 5 and 6. These contribute greatly to the more heartfelt mood of the content. Episode 5 retains the standard opener and an alternate, more subdued version of the closer, while episode 6 lacks both. All of the seiyuu do excellent jobs with performances laced with sometimes-difficult declarations of attack forms (although many seem to have trouble with the word “Exotic”), but perhaps even moreso than the previous two volumes, this one cries out for a good English dub so one does not have to pause so frequently to catch all of the on-screen text. Sadly one is not to be found.
The only on-disc extra included this time is a trailer for the Gunbuster vs. Die Buster theatrical movie released in Japan in 2006, which looks like a blending of the two Gunbuster OAV series. (Unfortunately no announcement has been made on its licensing by the time of this posting.) The 20-page insert booklet contains English translations of the credits, substantial profiles on characters and equipment, and numerous interviews with Japanese staff and seiyuu. The most important and meaningful of these is the one with the director and scriptwriter, which assumes that the reader has seen the final episode. It absolutely should not be read before watching out the series, but those seeking greater insight into the series absolutely should read it afterwards.
Bandai Visual's pricing scheme may be deplorable, but at least they have brought the entirety of this great Gainax effort to North America. For all their fan-pleasing content, Gainax titles are never found wanting for depth and substance; in this final volume Gunbuster 2 finds both. Fans of the franchise should find it to be a deeply fulfilling close-out to a great sequel.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Good emotional content, satisfying conclusion.
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