Otaku USA Magazine
Gunbuster vs. Diebuster Aim for the Top!

Two types of people will rent or buy Gunbuster vs. Diebuster Aim for the Top! The Gattai!! Movie: hardcore American completist Gunbuster otaku who wish to own every possible release of Gunbuster, and newbies who don’t realize the set consists of the theatrical digest versions of Gunbuster and Diebuster cut down in size from the original OVAs by about 150 minutes. I feel sorry for this latter group of fans, and I worry about the uninformed Netflix renter who might watch the Gunbuster movie edition, hates it, and never realizes that there is more to the story. For new anime fans, the question at hand is which version of Gunbuster/Diebuster to rent, watch, or buy. Hardcore fans must ask if it is worth owning this $80 boxed set of something they already own. For the completist, the answer is yes. For the rest of us, it’s a bit more difficult to say •

Gunbuster is about two girls piloting robots to defend Earth from space monsters. The original Gunbuster takes place in 2021, and Diebuster, the sort-of-sequel, takes place in the year 14,292. You don’t need to watch Gunbuster to understand Diebuster, as Diebuster is not a direct sequel, but you will need to watch Gunbuster to understand Diebuster’s ending. In the US, Diebuster is sold under the title Gunbuster 2. For clarity’s sake in this article, I refer to Gunbuster 2 as Diebuster.

If you call yourself an otaku, and remember that you are currently reading a magazine with “otaku” in the title, it is your responsibility—your duty—to watch the original Gunbuster. Loving Gunbuster is optional, but strongly encouraged. The original 1988 Gunbuster OAV series was Hideki Anno’s directorial debut, and a seminal work from studio Gainax. Gunbuster embodies everything the fan-founded and fan-run studio Gainax stood for in its first 10 years of existence. Gunbuster pays tribute to and references the classic sci-fi shows the founders of studio Gainax grew up watching.

I really love the original Gunbuster. Although I’m not fond of giant robot shows specifically, Gunbuster borrows heavily from shojo anime. The original title, Gunbuster! Top O Nerae, is a combination of the classic tennis anime Aim for the Ace! and Top Gun. Gunbuster starts off taking liberally from Ace o Nerae: Noriko is a ditzy first-year student who idolizes Kazumi, the genius robot pilot of the school. In Ace o Nerae!, the ditz is Hiromi, and the oné-sama character is a varsity tennis star named Reika. Both shows feature a cold-hearted coach who picks the ditz and the oné-sama for special training; in Gunbuster it’s for the “Top” squadron, in Ace o Nerae it’s the varsity tennis team. I am a fan of Asuka from Evangelion, so it follows that I am also a fan of her spiritual predecessor in Gunbuster, the redheaded Russian named Jung Freud. Jung’s part is cut down to almost nothing in Gunbuster vs. Diebuster, to the detriment of the plot.

Diebuster is a tribute to studio Gainax. It more closely resembles FLCL than Gunbuster. Although not as offensive as titles like Divergence Eve or Gravion, Diebuster is a hard sell for female fans. I was hoping some of the bouncing-in-a-maid-costume shenanigans from the first episode would be mercifully cut from Gunbuster vs. Diebuster, but, no such luck.

I didn’t really like Diebuster, but I watched all of it as a fan of Gainax. By the fourth or fifth episode, I finally warmed up to the series. That said, Diebuster really tried my patience. Gunbuster is action-packed, but Diebuster lingers on scenes where characters are doing their laundry, or watching a slideshow of birds. Even if those scenes are emotionally important, and important to the narrative, I found the laundry room scene visually very dull. In Gunbuster no one has time to do laundry!

If you’re like me, and you already own Gunbuster, but not Diebuster, you might consider picking up The Gattai!! Movie to save yourself the money it would cost to buy all of Diebuster. However, $80 is a lot to shell out all at once, whereas one could buy Diebuster in $40 installments over time. Another thing to consider in your purchase of Gunbuster vs. Diebuster is the Rip Van Winkle effect, which is a crucial element in the original OVA. How much money is your time worth? If you are a highly paid lawyer and an otaku, you might consider owning Gunbuster vs. Diebuster as it takes less time to watch than marathoning both OVA series back to back. If you are a highly paid gentlemen otaku lawyer who’s under 30 and single, I know some girls who might want to meet you •

[Excerpted from the April 2008 issue of Otaku USA magazine]