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My favourite mecha anime: Aim for the Top 2! DieBuster

July 19, 2013

The fourth in a series of posts. Previously: Patlabor: The Movie

Buster No. 7

Nono, the starry-eyed girl, is on fire!

Title: Aim for the Top 2! DieBuster
Studio: Gainax
Air date: October 3, 2004 – August 14, 2005
Episodes: 6

DieBuster is a six-episode OVA produced by Gainax to help mark their 20th anniversary as a studio — it is a sequel to their ground-breaking 1988 six-episode OVA GunBuster (my review).

Tens of thousands of years after the events of Aim for the Top! GunBuster, when the Human race desperately fought malevolent space monsters to a standstill, the Space Monsters are still out there; still a threat. Humans are restricted to the massively terraformed planets and moons of their solar system. When they look into their night skies, they see the wall of Space Monsters as the so-called Red Milky Way. The only thing keeping the Monsters at bay is a fraternity of psychically-gifted teenagers known as Topless, and the ancient, and awesome biomechanical Buster machines only they can pilot.

The power of the Topless. Lal'C Melk Mark, in her Buster machine, Dix-Neuf, invokes the "Exotic Maneuver."

The power of the Topless. Lal’C Melk Mark, in her Buster machine, Dix-Neuf, invokes the “Exotic Maneuver.”

Things look bright, and shiny, and confident on the surface, but the existing state of affairs is deeply flawed. A proud military chafes at leaving the fight to teenagers. The teenagers have their own problems; the Topless power, which gives them the ability to virtually bend matter to their will, fades with adulthood, and they know it. As for the Space Monsters, there’s only stalemate, with no victory in sight.

Space Monster

A real big Space Monster! — the “Fluctuating Gravity Well.” We can see the remaining core of Jupiter 2, which Lal’C threw the at it, to no effect.

In this far, far future. washing machines still look like washing machines, but Mars looks like Saskatchewan, or Nagano, in the Winter. That’s where we meet the main character, a young woman named Nono, running away from her small village to pursue her dream of becoming a space pilot “like Nonoriri.” Nono has a chance encounter with an actual teenage member of the  Topless fraternity, the Top Gun Princess Lal’C, and Nono declares her ambition to become a space pilot, though hard work and guts, but these days space pilots are not made, they are born. Lal’C flatly tells her, “We don’t need those things.”

Nono meets Lal'C for the first time

The girl with stars in her eyes meets the star girl

Nono is working as a scullery maid in a spaceport diner when she meets Lal’C Melk Mark. Nono worships her at first sight, and calls her onee-sama, or big sister.. Lal’C isn’t impressed at first, but their developing friendship is one of the important plots in the story.

Nono hasn’t the psychic powers to pilot a Buster machine, but she has unquenchable enthusiasm, and a determination to succeed through guts, and hard work, and she has more. Nono has it within her to turn the status quo upside down; to reveal the truth about both the Space Monsters and the Topless. And when the time comes, for the, long overdue, ultimate showdown with the Space Monsters, guts, and determination — and love — will make all the difference.

Nono up in the air

On a roll. Nono the clumsy, enthusiastic girl who’s hard not to like, and impossible to ignore.

Where the 1988 OVA GunBuster was a brilliant, but flawed, breakout effort by a brash, young anime studio, this 2004 sequel is consistently great — a bravura performance by an established studio, arguably at the top of it’s game. DieBuster is very bright, and shiny, and appears superficial, but appearances are deceiving — which could be taken as the underlying theme of this OVA. Gainax has simply put a mirror finish on good old-fashioned story telling.

Visually DieBuster has much in common with the OVA FLCL (aka, Fooly Cooly). That’s because the same production team also designed DieBuster — I love the look, and character designs. The music is a predictable brassy redux from GunBuster, but when it works, like in the prologue scene, it really works.

What makes DieBuster truly special for me, is the writing, which is multi-threaded; skillfully weaving numerous story arcs into a dazzling whole cloth which is full of humour, action, drama, surprising plot twists, and thought-provoking ideas. The story very adroitly stands on it’s own and continues, and completes the story in GunBuster.

Note: I have deliberately NOT revealed the entire story line. I know it’s been on countless Web pages for years (like Wikipedia’s entry), but when I first saw DieBuster, three years after it’s original release, I hadn’t read any spoilers, and  I enjoyed it so much more as a result — I don’t want to stand in the way of even one person having that kind of experience.

From → Animation, Anime, Films

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