Reviewby Theron Martin,
In her earnestness to beat out Lal'C as the top-ranked Topless pilot, Tycho gets careless, leading to the destruction of her Buster Machine. When the release of the first new Buster Machine in decades, the Quatre-Vingt-Dix, is announced at a gathering of Topless at Jupiter, Tycho begins to regard the eager Nono as her chief rival for the pilot seat. Troubled as she is by past promises and the requests of some kids, though, Tycho finds it difficult to get into the mental state necessary to awaken and bond with the Quatre-Vingt-Dix as a major battle looms. Meanwhile, the Topless twins are playing their own game at an excavation site on Saturn's moon Titan, where circumstances suggest the presence of a long-buried early-number Buster Machine. Nono naturally seeks to claim it for herself, but what is it about both the site and Nono that attract the space monsters to them?
The first volume of Gunbuster 2 concentrated purely on entertainment value, dishing up generous portions of action peppered with comedy, fan service, and just a dash of actual drama. With its second volume the series takes a more serious and dramatic turn despite substantial additional amounts of action and playfulness, like the silly fast-food scene that opens up episode 3. By concentrating on the feelings and motivations of one of its secondary characters in episode 3, it turns a purely fun series into something a little deeper and meaningful, in one sense very much making it a story about growing up – but we are talking about a Gainax production here, so that's to be expected.
As the series pushes on into episode 4, the first true indications of ongoing plot appear. Revelations about Topless expiration dates, what the twins are really up to, and other matters help build a more cohesive story and cast some events from the first volume in a new light. Apparently this series has a little more story underneath the surface than was initially apparent. The most important developments are the dramatic revelation of just who – and what – Nono really is, and discovering the true nature of the space monsters orbiting the Sol System. Although she spends most of these two episodes alternating between playful and earnestness about her need to be a Buster Machine pilot, Nono realizes her full potential in truly spectacular fashion during the episode's tense climax. Is she an android, an undeveloped Topless, or something else? You'll have to watch it to find out, but the result is likely to surprise and certain to be fulfilling. That Nono achieves her full potential at the exact same point in the series as her counterpart in the original Gunbuster is doubtless a clever homage.
Giving Tycho, who was used only minimally in the first two episodes, a starring role in episode 3 and more prominent supporting role in episode 4 marks a dramatic expansion in the cast. Episode 3 introduces so many new Topless members in such a short period of time that it would be impossible to keep track of them all were their names and Buster Machine affiliations not shown on screen as they each have their first opportunity to speak. (Even so, so much subtitling comes on the screen at once during those scenes that regular pausing may be required to catch it all. This is one place where the lack of an English dub really hurts.) Although all of them appear again at least briefly in episode 4, most of the attention still remains on the core cast introduced in the first two episodes.
The visuals impress the most in battle scenes, mecha displays, and when depicting massive explosions, although they tend to be a bit rougher in more ordinary scenes. Even so, the sheer spectacle of its strong points more than outweighs weaknesses elsewhere. The FLCL styling, while still certainly present, feels much less prevalent here than in the previous volume. Fan service doesn't show any actual nudity this time but still provides the requisite amount of tantalizing scenes, and as with the first volume, the occasional odd visual detail can be caught if one watches carefully; the plush dog spacesuit returns, while the cover for the Quatre-Vingt-Dix looks suspiciously like the blister packs models come in. (This is an even more meaningful in-joke if one knows that the group which would become Gainax spent much of the 80s specializing in manufacturing custom model kits.) Like the artistry, the animation may not be flawless, but it is good enough to contribute to numerous exciting scenes and does integrate CG content in extremely well.
The most notable change between the first and second volumes can be found in the soundtrack. The opener continues its “Groovin' Magic,” and the closer also remains the same, but in between these two episodes offer a plethora of new musical themes to complement the bombastic throwback stand-bys featured in the first volume. Some of the new themes are gentler, heart-tugging numbers, while others are more dramatic, but they are more responsible than any other single factor for altering the tone of the series through these episodes. The depth, feeling, and drama the series tries to capture would not have succeeded without this excellent transition in musical style.
As before, a dub is totally absent, and as before, the volume is badly overpriced for what you get: two 29-minute episodes (good as they are), a 23-minute interview with the writer, and a 20-page liner note booklet. Even with a dub, an MSRP of $39.99 would still be overpriced. The booklet does offer a wealth of useful information, though, including character and equipment profiles and an encyclopedia about basic elements of the series. Some of the information provided there offers explanation beyond what can be gleaned just from watching the series. Fortunately, flaws in the subtitles mentioned in the review for the first volume have been corrected for this one, although one might question using “dodo-head” as a translation for the derogatory nickname assigned to Nono.
If you can tolerate the price then the second volume of Gunbuster 2 offers just as much to recommend it as the first volume, albeit not quite in the same way. If you also find the price to be an issue, there's always online rentals.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Intense visuals, more dramatic storytelling.
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