Tuesday, September 15, 2015

OBSCURE O.V.A.S, *Gunbuster

Few OVAs have achieved the level of what could be called true pathfinder in the way this 6-episode series did. Back in Gainax's early days, they decided to get into the giant robot game with Gunbuster, a mix of Top Gun and the Aim For The Ace anime/manga. This was one of the first anime to incorporate the logistics of space travel and its relation to how time passes on Earth, although a lot of it is based on physics made up specifically made for the story. Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno seriously brought all his talent into this production, and you can see its effect on future projects like Nadia.

First starting out in the early-mid 21st Century, mankind's exploration of the galaxy has revealed a race of "space monsters"(and that's the official name for these aliens)that are the size of starships who can survive in space and use stars as a nest for their drone forces. One of Earth's main military fleets was destroyed during one of their first initial encounters, the admiral of which leaves behind his daughter Noriko who spends her teenage years training to become a mecha pilot to help the defense forces counter the oncoming aline threat. She goes to an all-girls facility modeled after a high school where the pilots have the robots doing pushups for some reason, and makes friends and rivals along the way, including the top student Kazumi, who she becomes partners with as they graduate to go onto operating on a space vessel. Accompanying the girls is their Coach Ohta, the sole survivor of Noriko's father's ship. They become part of a special regiment searching for the aliens, and are ambushed by the space monsters, where Noriko learns the horrors of war after her friend is killed during the attack. She and Kazumi split up too as she doesn't believe Noriko has what it takes to keep up with her to pilot the mighty transforming combiner robot labeled Gunbuster. After returning to Earth, the few months they spent in space turned out to be about a decade for the rest of the world. Noriko and Kazumi patch things, and take up the mantle of piloting Gunbuster to escort the fleet from setting of a black hole bomb to destroy the alien fleets. The two spaceship fighters unite to form Gunbuster which is about ten times bigger than the other mechas, and capable shooting multiple lasers at once over long distance of space. They manage to stop the aliens at this time, with Kazumi making it back to Earth in time to confess her love for Coach who is dying of space radiation. The final chapter is set about 15 years later where Kazumi married Coach during his remaining time and became a mecha pilot instructor at her old school, while Noriko has spent what was for her a shorter amount of time in space and is still only a teenager. The two pilots help lead a final assault against the space monsters who have resurfaced using Jupiter as their final standing ground. After the star fleet fails to launch their final black hole bomb, Noriko and Kazumi fly Gunbuster into the heart of Jupiter using their own reactor to set off the remaining space mines. The husk of what remains of Gunbuster returns to Earth what for them was a few hours, but in reality a much longer time has past for the rest of the planet.

Not to spoil the ending, but it is truly one of the most memorable finales to an anime ever. You can simply not forget it, and it is probably one of the few non-downer conclusions to a Gainax story. The OVA features the best quality Gainax had to offer since their previous hit of Wings Of Honneamise, and their attention to detail, including some of the made-up physics for the story(including bionic dolphins!)culminate in a classis anime in the truest sense of the word. Even though there's never been an English dub of it, it's still an integral part of otaku heritage!

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