Reviewby Theron Martin, Jan 16th 2008
Gunbuster VS Diebuster Aim for the Top! The Gattai Movie
Gunbuster the Movie: In the early 21st century mankind's first light-speed spaceship, the Luxion, has a fatal encounter with space monsters, setting mankind down a path of swift armament to combat the expected space monster threat to Earth. Several years later high school student Noriko Takaya, daughter of the Luxion's lost captain, finds herself and star upperclassman Kazumi Amano (whom Noriko idolizes as “Oné-sama”) drafted into the mecha-oriented Top Squadron despite Noriko's lack of substantial skill. Their Coach, one of the few survivors of the Luxion, saw in Noriko a potential to pilot Gunbuster, the greatest of the Machine Weapons yet designed, and so instilled in her a philosophy of “hard work and guts” to see her through difficult times. Ultimately it falls to Noriko to use Gunbuster as humanity's last line of defense against the space monsters, but at the cost of distancing herself in time from those she knew on Earth due to the time dilation effects of near-light-speed space travel. Despite earlier differences, in the end the one person she can truly count on to be there for her is her Oné-sama.
Die Buster the Movie: In the distant future, Nono leaves her home on Mars to pursue her dream of becoming a space pilot like Nono-Riri, the mythical heroine she idolizes. An attack by a space monster hooks her up with Lal'C, the most elite member of the Topless, a group of teenagers invested with potent energy manipulation powers that allow them to pilot Buster Machines against the space monsters. Due to special circumstances Nono is allowed to join the Topless, but her klutziness and apparent lack of Topless power leave most of the Topless looking down on her. A calamity on Saturn's moon Titan causes her true nature to reveal itself, but even in her grandest moment she values her “Oné-sama” Lal'C above all else. When the situation is most dire and the massive Diebuster reveals itself to combat the greatest threat yet to humanity, the true character of the two young women shines through.
In 2006 Gainax took their classic 1988 OVA mecha series Gunbuster and its award-winning 2004 follow-up Diebuster (aka Gunbuster 2) and condensed them into a single theatrical release told in two parts with a musical intermission in between. The first part, Gunbuster the Movie, condenses the six episodes of the original OVA into a 95-minute movie in a common cut-and-paste style, although it does get a new 5.1 audio remix and a redub by the original Japanese cast. The second part, Die Buster the Movie (and yes, that's exactly the way the name is printed on the DVD case) mixes large chunks of the second OVA series with a few altered or newly-animated scenes to create a truncated take on Nono's story.
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, both movies are bombastic homages to the grand old “giant robot” tradition of '70s mecha, albeit with updated sensibilities on fan service and character development. Both heavily stress the value of establishing bonds of friendship and triumphing through “hard work and guts,” and do occasionally show some depth, but primarily they are fun, over-the-top views intended to be purely entertaining. Being familiar with the original content is not required for appreciating either part, but assuming a massive suspension of disbelief is a necessity.
Gunbuster the Movie
The original series had very little content that could reasonably be considered filler, so cutting nearly half of it out to condense it to movie length means important pieces had to be eliminated. The character development gets victimized most, as reducing the first four episodes to 39 minutes of intros and highlights nearly eliminates Jung Freud from the picture and greatly reduces the foundation for the later critical friendship between Noriko and Kazumi. It also leaves that portion of the movie prone to the terribly rushed feeling often prevalent in such endeavors.
As always, though, Gainax knows where its storytelling priorities lie. Cutting so much from the early episodes allows them to include the final two episodes in their entirety, black-and-white-only appearance on the last one and all. Such a move does result in a couple of rough internal transitions, but it also preserves the fullness of the crucial dramatic content in those last two episodes. Those brought close to tears by the powerful concluding scenes in the original series will find this version to be just as effective, while those new to the franchise will get to experience for themselves one of the most awesome tributes to heroism in anime history. Either way the key action scenes retain the full thrill that should send mecha fanboys into ecstasy.
Although Gainax improved the sound quality for the movie release, they apparently did nothing to remaster the visual clarity. This results in a print which shows its age and can sometimes look grainy on a higher-definition TV. Nonetheless, the all-original visuals still stand as a testament both to the artistic and animation quality of '80s OVA series and to what Gainax can do visually if they have an adequate budget and really set their minds to it. The upgraded audio quality allows the heavily dramatic musical score to reach its full potential.
Die Buster the Movie
Gainax faced the exact same content problem with the follow-up OVA series, but because the material was much more recent they were able to approach it in a different manner. Those familiar with the original series will find episode 1 mostly intact until the battle scene above Mars, episodes 2 and 3 almost entirely missing, episodes 4 and 5 trimmed a bit, and episode 6 intact except for alternate background art in two scenes and alternate dialog in one. A couple of minutes of new animation, and new dialog used in some recycled scenes, smooths over the transitions and partly compensates for the skipped details, although dedicated fans may be irked by the reduction of Nono's role in the battle above Mars, the elimination of a key scene in episode 5 between Nicola and Nono, and cutting out Nono finally speaking the proper name of the heroine she idolizes. (The latter is the most forgivable omission, however, since the truth still comes out in a scene on Mars in episode 6.) Character development again takes the hardest hit from the cuts, but thanks to the new and altered dialog the story impact is minimal.
Newcomers to the franchise will find a more energetic movie whose visual style greatly resembles that of Gainax's oddball OVA series FLCL, which shouldn't be a surprise given that they share a common director. It unmistakably mimics a lot of the characteristics and scenes of the Gunbuster half, including its emphasis on establishing a critical friendship, but drops the Rip Van Winkle effect theme in favor of increased emphasis on character dynamics. It never gets quite as emotional as the original can but does have its moments, fully delivers in its most spectacular action sequences, and is enormously entertaining if you can handle its bombastic style. Its series form did not win top-of-class awards at a couple of major Japanese anime fairs for nothing.
As with Bandai Visual's releases of the original series, this one also lacks an English dub. It includes an entirely different set of Extras than either of the series releases, however. On-disk Extras for both disks consist of character and production staff profiles, and each case also includes a liner booklet containing a glossary of relevant terms, Character Relationship Chart, more extensive character profiles, and equipment profiles. The most interesting inclusions are the timelines on the back of the booklets, which detail events well beyond the scope of the movies or original series. The second disk, for sake of utter completeness, also includes the intermission at its beginning. Both cases sport cool new cover art and come in an art box, which provides two other unique Extras. One is a challenging Certification Exam, which requires exacting knowledge of both series and movies to complete and has a couple of questions which may not be answerable if you do not read Japanese. Submitting the answers online gets you access to special movie-themed wallpaper. The second special Extra is a set of a dozen DVD case-sized cards which compare various corresponding aspects of the series. When assembled in a 4x3 array, the backs of the cards form a very neat black-and-white size comparison poster containing elements of both series.
Bandai Visual's release of the this movie under their prestige Honneamise label means it also gets the bloated-pricing treatment, but given what you get this one is not so overpriced as some of the other offerings in this line. For the $79.99 retail price you do get two 95 minute movies not available elsewhere, an art box, and some cool Extras. It also includes a badly-needed 5.1 remix and re-recorded Japanese dub for Gunbuster and some new scenes for Gunbuster 2/Diebuster. If your budget can handle the price, it is a set worth owning.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Good Extras, excellent artistry, highly entertaining content.
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