Re-watching Gunbuster

Evangelion 3+1 Detox Program

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Pre-watch Thoughts

The Evangelion Rebuild series has been a disaster for the anime race. I really did not like director Hideaki Anno's latest anime film, Evangelion 3+1, so I am going to rewatch GunBuster, a giant robot anime by the same studio he used to work for, Gainax. I really liked GunBuster when I first watched it and now I am really worried that it won't be as good rewatching it after many years. I have already had this happen to me once when I rewatched the Area 88 OVA it just felt silly and didn't make my heart flutter as it did the first time I had watched many years ago. Part of it, is that I have changed, I have watched so much anime that I have lost that paradoxical sense of wanderlust. I say "paradoxical" because of course I was just sitting in front of TV or a computer monitor and yet I could be easily whisked away to another world. Now I still enjoy anime but in another way, a less admirable and less escapist way. by complaining about anime. I take some pleasure in being nitpicky when it comes to most new and old anime I watch but now I know I can't hold back anymore and that I will be as critical towards this too, I know it's not cool to identify too much with things like TV shows, everyone from your average anime-hating trad-cath on discord/matrix to Hideaki Anno will tell you that, yet I do not look forward to tear this anime apart. With those apprehensive feelings in mind, here goes nothing.

Aim For The Top!

I was worried for nothing, GunBuster is even better than I remembered though I am not going to lie the ending felt a bit less impactful because of Diebuster (aka "GunBuster 2"). Some things are better off left to the imagination, 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 the "welcome back home " sign was shown to be just the hack work of a few shallow, selfish characters not a general sentiment. It is hard but one day I'll be able to divorce that cursed money-grabbing, nostagia-faggotry sequel from GunBuster. At least none of the original characters from GunBuster were in DieBuster, unlike what happened to FLCL (again from Studio Gainax). I think I was more of a humanist when I watched GunBuster many years for the first and only other time. I was moved by the message of what humanity could achieve in the future. GunBuster was released in 1988-1989, it is set in the futures, the year 2023, the Soviet Union is still around, Japan won world war 2 which was started by the US sneak attack on Hawaii which belongs to Japan "since ancient times"(as the CCP would say), and humanity led by the Japanese Empire has begun to conquer space but an alien species of giant monsters threatens to destroy mankind. Meanwhile in the real world, our world, Japan stagnated, is demographically dying, and is in third place behind China economically, the Soviet Union collapsed just a couple of years after GunBuster was released, forget near light-speed travel in space we haven't even gotten to mars and everybody is interested in which gender they are and what latrine they should use. Where is the ambition? Where is the "pride"? At a "pride parade"? Where people take pride in bumming people? Where is the greatness? All I see are mediocrities like Bezos and Musk making millions hosting web servers (Bezos) and through state-subsidies and media stunts (Musk) or selling people's private details (everybody else).

There is something very quaint and pleasant about the futurism of GunBuster. I just find it cute that there were people in the past who thought that we in the future wouldn't just become a bunch of bugmen whose only wish is for a quiet and comfy life as closely resembling death as possible. 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 just for vanity's sake (to make a  tiktok video of it) but I feel that now we will remain bound to this planet. I think this sentiment is shared by many otaku and anime creators which is why there isn't any space anime like GunBuster made anymore. Space is no longer the frontier, video game worlds are the frontier - this is the reason there's so much isekai (reborn in a fantasy video-game world anime). At the end of Otaku no Video, which is kind of an ironic weeb anime about otaku (again by Gainax), the two main characters who are "Otakings" fly off into space to conquer the stars (like the characters from the anime they watched) but now if Otaku no Video were to be remade (God, please don't let that happen) they would be reincarnated in another world which has cat girls or something. From wanting to explore the expanses of space to living in a fucking VR headset! What a downgrade. As Argent said, we live in the lamest dystopia.

In Japan GunBuster is known as Aim for the Top, which is a reference to the American movie about military aviation, Top Gun (starring Tom Cruise), and the Japanese girls' tennis manga/anime Aim for the Ace (which is basically Ashita no Joe for girls). I haven't watched/read either of them but I can say GunBuster does play out like a sports manga, except the stakes are much higher. I mean even the comic relief robot training Rocky-style training montages are basically a rushed training arc out of a sports manga. I mean the fact that Coach's character is there kind of gives it away.

GunBuster is not hard sci-fi so it isn't boring but it's not so rule of cool that I can't take it seriously, like Gurren Lagaan (a modern and so infinitely worse Gainax anime) it is about the sheer scale of mankind's achievements except here you actually feel the scale sometimes, like in the last episode. I liked how despite it being "a humanist tale" of progress, it wasn't the bitter anti-clerical style you have in the west like with the Castlevania anime. Or more subtly even things like Star Trek, le fully automated space gay luxury utopia. Okay, maybe old (and so "real") Star Trek isn't that bad but anime is better, is all I am saying.

The one thing that was definitively better than I remember was Noriko's character. She went through a lot more hardships than I remembered. In fact all the characters are pretty good despite this anime being just six episodes. Some people complain about the anime being too short, but honestly, it is fine this way too because if it was longer we would have simply gotten more of the same and so it might have been less meaningful as the moments get diluted into each other, but there is no way to know. Given that I knew and have already thought about the time dilation aspects of the plot the first time I watched it, that aspect wasn't as interesting anymore. Or rather although I have never jumped forward in time, I have jumped from continent to continent and whenever I go back and meet the people the people I knew and they have changed, moved on, and I have not, I get Noriko's feeling but it is rather mundane. Maybe I am just too old to care about people deeply like that, were I still a teenager and I had a "best friend" my age who would suddenly become older and disconnected from me then I might have cared more. Because now I could speak to that best friend on the internet but I would rather avoid it because such meetings are always awkward and boring. Of course I wasn't carrying the fate of the world on my shoulders but then again Noriko wasn't acting like it either. Basically because the creators have never had to carry the world on their back but were once teenagers they get the teenager part right but not the "carrying the world on their back" part right.

I didn't notice the fan service in GunBuster. It's an OVA (i.e. not for TV but direct to home video) so there's some frontal nudity if you care about that sort of thing, which you shouldn't. Then again if you don't watch it for that then it's your loss, why should I care? If you care about the pretty colours, I don't know I thought the animation looked good, the machine artwork looked good if a bit generic when it comes to some of the mechs and the monsters, and the character designs for the girls looked cuter and sexier than any braindead moe-blob modern anime mass produced "waifu" out there.

There is a bunch of made up science in GunBusters. Some of it is explained in the mini-episode extras called GunBuster Science Lessosns, this is not real science but some made up science to make some of the things in the anime make more sense.

And remember, hard work and guts conquers all.

By Otaking, or The Good Student