No, I’m actually not talking about the movie ‘Gunbuster VS. Diebuster’, but since that’s just a rehash of the two series’ it doesn’t really matter. What I’m doing here is posting my thoughts on Diebuster, reflect upon how it contrasts Gunbuster and post my thoughts on the series as a whole. First, a quick summary.
The series begins by introducing the eccentric protagonist of Diebuster: Nono. She’s a lowly robot girl who’s lost her memories and spends her time doing janitorial work on Mars, but she has an unshakable optimism and heavy aspiration to become a space pilot like her idol, Nonoriri. Nonoriri’s identity is kept a mystery for the first half of the series, but it’s later revealed that Nonoriri is in fact Noriko Takaya from the original Gunbuster. This is how Diebuster connects to the original. Diebuster is set approximately 12000 years after the main events of Gunbuster, right before the end of Gunbuster finale. Nono’s roll is explained later on when she is seen to have some kind of affinity to the Topless (A group of young humans with supernatural powers and the ability to pilot the new Buster Machines), and the ‘space monsters’ (Later revealed to be completely seperate for the Space Monsters of the Gunbuster series). Nono spends her time interacting with the Topless and aiming to become a Buster Machine pilot herself, befriending one of the Topless, Lal’c. At a crucial point in the OVAs when humanity’s fate faces absolute despair, Nono recalls her true identity as the legendary Buster Machine No. 7, and commander of the Buster Legion: the ‘Space Monsters’ that were in fact created by humans to protect the solar system from the real space monsters. With this newfound knowledge and power, she utilizes her ‘singularity’ to warp all the way to the other side of the Solar System to come to her ‘onee-sama’ Lal’c’s aid.
After kicking ass and saving mankind from destruction, Nono’s sudden overwhelming power (and more screentime) causes Lal’c to develop an inferiority complex. When Lal’c reaches her lowest point, and she’s on the verge of death, Nono comes to her aid and states that she always looked up to Lal’c, not for being a Buster Machine Pilot, but for having a strong heart. Nono stated that Lal’c was very similar to ‘Nonoriri’ in that regard, and Lal’c becomes aware that she was the one who had changed more than anyone, and Lal’c’s true potential is unlocked.
On further analysis, I think Lal’c’s role in this story is far more important than Nono’s. Nono is clearly the protagonist, yes, but Lal’c is important because she’s not the protagonist. The relationship between Nono and Lal’c is far more important than any giant robots. It’s an extremely dynamic relationship. When they first meet, Nono is the lowly robot that Lal’c sympathises, yet Nono’s unrivaled spirit inspires Lal’c, and it works in reverse too. They both admire of each other, they’re almost like two halves of the same person. When Nono realizes her true inner power and responsibility, Lal’c feels inferior, yet Nono still admires Lal’c inner strength. But it’s only through Nono’s unconditional love for Lal’c that she is able to live up to the true potential that Nono sees in her. And then, later on in the story, Nono is forced to abandon the human race to prevent Lal’c from dying, and in the end, Lal’c is forced to fight against Nono (as the human defence system, Diebuster) over the fate of mankind and the Earth. After a bit of conflict, and in an ironic twist for the genre, both Lal’c and Nono lose their power at the last moment, and are both left vulnerable to the treat of a mankind’s common ememy, the space monsters. Even without their power, they choose to stand up and fight together, forced to tough it out through the mythic ethos of ‘Hard Work and Guts’ (or shall we say spiral power alpha?). The moral of the story is, ironically, that ‘being big’, or perhaps having physical power is not the meaning of strength, but rather, the power of one’s heart is true strength. And it turns out to be the only strength that can defeat the space monsters and save mankind. It doesn’t really have the same impact as Gurren Lagann did for me, but to be fair Gurren Lagann came after. I do like how the themes and events of Gunbuster carried over into this quirky new story, but it definitely holds it’s own. I found the OVAs very entertaining to watch, and quite inspiring too. And the focus on Nono and Lal’c’s relationship is really interesting. They’re not even lovers, they’re just two people who learn to love and believe in one another. I guess that says something about humans. As long as we have somebody who loves and believes in us, we can come to do extraordinary things, and become truly strong. I think that’s the true message at the heart of this story, and I really enjoyed the experience. The animation was great, although very eccentric compared to the first. I can definitely see FLCL’s influence here. It’s a strange mix of silly and serious that somehow all works out in the end. And the ending was still very emotional for me, just like the first Gunbuster was. The soundtrack is quite memorable too, with a few tunes that will stick in your head for a while. Not to mention the recreation of the Gunbuster theme! Diebuster is VERY different from the original Gunbuster, but somehow it just works.
Reflecting on the two as one, I think the duo is exemplary of a lot of the things Gainax does best. Giant robots, intriguing interpersonal relationships, simple yet powerful morals… But looking at these together, I think it really points out something Gainax does really well, that is, essentially using robots to tell very human stories. They have become masters of the science fiction genre in anime, yet while giant mechas and space voyages may be the hook of their stories, the most important thing is and always will be the characters, the people! The stories may have very similar themes, but no matter how many times they’re rehashed in different settings, we still always enjoy the experience and treat them as fresh, new works. I dunno about you guys, but the next time Gainax makes an anime about a young boy or girl who struggles to believe in themself, yet ends up piloting some of the biggest and most badass machines in the universe, I’m still gonna watch it and love it. It just doesn’t seem to get old somehow. Gainax’s way of keeping the messages simple yet profound always leave an impact on me, and the way they keep instilling the same important messages in different ways through each new mecha anime continues to pound these ideas into my head. They’re fighting for us, to make us stronger! The ideas are simple enough, but there’s so many people in the world who can’t grasp them. Gainax is like the otaku’s big brother or sister, they’re here to keep us aiming for the top, to pierce the heavens! And I gotta love them for that. We’ll always come for the sci-fi, and it’s great fun. But we’ll always end up walking out inspired and a little bit more fulfilled as a person. That kind of emotional you fulfilment you get from a story, that’s what I choose to put my faith into as an otaku, and is one reason I choose to blog about anime! The good stories are here to inspire us, motivate us, and for the really great stories, we end up taking a piece of that story with us to keep in our heart. And Gainax does those stories better than most. The stories of Gunbuster and Diebuster are as much food for the soul as the sci-fi elements are food for the mind! Good work Gainax. Each time I experience one of your stories, I come out loving you more than before.