Note for the reader’s sanity: This blog post started out as a review of Gunbuster but quickly spun out of control onto matters outside an anime about high school girls defending the earth from aliens, and whose creators made it for fun. If you want an actual review go watch DemolitionD’s video.
I really, really liked GunBuster when I first watched it. I am worried that it might not be as good as I remembered it. I was really disappointed when I rewatched the Area 88 OVA. I do not look forward to tear this anime apart. With those apprehensive feelings in mind, here we go.
Aim For The Top!
I was worried for nothing, GunBuster is even better than I remembered it. I need to re-watch the sequel, Die-buster too at some point. At the time I watched Diebuster I felt that the world 12,000 years in the future which still had not forgotten our brave heroines turned out to be a very uninteresting place, not worthy of their sacrifice, and that the “welcome back home ” sign was just the hack work of a few shallow, selfish characters not a general sentiment. But after so much time I need to re-watch DieBuster too to confirm if those feelings were correct, because I have a feeling they are not.
When I first watched Gunbuster I was moved by the message of what humanity could achieve in the future.
GunBuster was released from 1988-1989, and it is set in the year 2023. Let me describe its alt history setting: the Soviet Union is still around, Japan won world war II which was initiated by a US sneak attack on Hawaii which belongs to Japan. Just as humanity, led by the Japanese, has begun to conquer space, giant monsters from space threaten to destroy mankind.
Meanwhile in the real world, our world, although we have avoided the fate of The Third Impact, Japan has stagnated, is demographically dying, and is in third place behind China economically. As for the Soviet Union, it collapsed just a couple of years after GunBuster’s release, leaving us with bloodied provincial territorial disputes and recordings of music from the Red Army Choir placed over propaganda footage of the soviet military on a US corporation’s entertainment video site.
Every six months or so there’s a new scientific discovery which is hyped up to change the world, e.g. crypto-currency, virtual reality, “room-temperate super-conductors,” and now artificial intelligence, a few people get rich off of the trend but nothing much comes out of it.
And yet there is something very quaint and pleasant about the futurism of GunBuster. I am sick to the stomach of the shallow cynicism towards the future which is nothing but a self-fulfilling prophesy. I believe that we must have hope for the future no matter what happens or else we will be lost.
There’s futurists today who say that we will have colonies on mars, now I don’t deny that perhaps we might send someone to mars, but I sometimes wonder that even if that were to happen I would struggle to work up much enthusiasm about it. Perhaps that is why there isn’t much new space anime like GunBuster made anymore, or perhaps it’s for far more mundane reasons, maybe people just got bored of decades of space anime.
In Japan GunBuster is known as Aim for the Top!, combining the titles of the American movie about military aviation, Top Gun , and the Japanese girls’ tennis manga Aim for the Ace!. GunBuster partly plays out like and partly makes fun of sports manga. There’s even a training montage.
GunBuster is not hard sci-fi, it has plenty of fan service, however a lot of the space-tech (e.g. space-elevator) is drawn in a realistic way which conveys the physical scale of mankind’s scientific achievements, check out the GunBuster Science Lessons if that interests you, even the telekinetic dolphins are not treated as a joke, or maybe I just missed the joke. A series like Gurren Lagaan is also “a humanist tale” of progress glorifying humanity, but it really isn’t interested in the science so this is reflected in its style.
Noriko’s character goes through a lot more hardships than I remembered in these six episodes. And remember, hard work and guts conquers all.
A “Safe For Work” image from the pc-98 Hi-School Gunbuster game. Source: here.