After a busy week studying for and writing exams, I’m finally done, and after getting some much needed rest I decided to catch up on some anime that I haven’t watched.
The first anime I decided to finish off was Gunbuster. As any veteran anime fan would know, Gunbuster was a big hit way back in the 80’s, so you may be wondering why I decided to watch it now. I had actually seen the first episode of Gunbuster a loooooooong time ago when I started watching anime, but I couldn’t find the rest of the series and eventually forgot about it. Recently, however, I got into a discussion with some friends on whether it was possible to travel into the future by moving really really fast. That discussion reminded me of Gunbuster, which involved ships and robots travelling at near-light-speeds which has the side-effect of slowing time down for the traveller relative to a stationary object (in essence, travelling forward in time). Well since I had some free time I decided to look for the rest of Gunbuster and I was able to find it.
My first reaction when I started watching Gunbuster was “wow, this is so old-school,” but that’s to be expected since it’s 20 years old now. I also got a good laugh at the beginning with all the robots doing exercises in the field. Seriously, why does a robot need to do push-ups, sit-ups, or stretches, it just doesn’t make sense.
There was also one part where they showed a Soviet robot and I was thouroughly surprised. An American robot would have made more sense to me, but then I remembered that this was made back in 1988. No one back then could have imagined that one of the world’s two superpowers would collapse just a few years later.
For those of you who haven’t seen Gunbuster, it’s a sci-fi mecha anime that takes place in the 21st century. Humanity’s survival is being threatened by beings simply referred to as “space monsters” which look like giant microbes. The story revolves around a young girl named Noriko Takaya, who is the daughter of the deceased Admiral Takaya whose fleet was the first to encounter the space monsters before promptly getting blown to bits. Noriko’s goal is to one day pilot one of the mechs and fight the space monsters. As with most stories, after a lot of hardships Noriko eventually reaches her goal and becomes the pilot of a special robot called the Gunbuster. If you want to know more about the plot, just search for Gunbuster online, although I wouldn’t recommend wikipedia since there are a lot of spoilers there.
After finishing the series, I was really impressed with it. There wasn’t one moment where I felt like going to do something else or even pausing the show. I guess one of the things that Gunbuster has that other shows don’t is good character development. A lot of shows have characters that remain static with no real change, but in Gunbuster you can see a gradual change in the characters’ personalities and attitudes. One of my favourite parts was Noriko’s first love and rather sudden loss, it was amazine how much they were able to fit into 15 minutes.
Having some real science mixed in with fictional science also made the show believable if you were watching it in the 80’s. According to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, moving objects experience time slower than stationary objects, so if something were able to travel at close to the speed of light it could potentially leave the Earth and travel for a day before coming back, but the “day” that the traveller experiences would have been years on Earth. This is seen throughout the series as Noriko travels through space fighting monsters, her friends back on Earth grow old and she stays young. The idea of creating a black hole by compressing a planet like in episode 6 also sounds believable since black holes are just large gravity wells.
What doesn’t make sense though is how they depicted space travel in the show. When any of the ships or robots were travelling through space, their engines were always on. As everyone knows, space is a vacuum so there is no drag and hence an object travelling at a certain speed will continue on at that speed without the need of any propulsion. Keeping the engines on would mean that the ships are constantly accelerating even though it’s implied that they’re travelling at a constant speed. The way in which the ships stop is also ludicrous. After accelerating for so long, the ships stop by simply turning on some engines in front for a few seconds and turning them off. If these engines are the same as the ones in the back, then they would need to be turned on for the same duration of time to stop a speeding ship. The front engines could also be much much more powerful than the back engines, but that wouldn’t make any sense either because you’d want the more powerful engines to push you forward to travel faster. I guess the producers made the same mistake as other sci-fi writers and assumed travelling in space would be the same as travelling in the sky. One last thing that really nagged at me was the warping of ships from one place to another. In theory, it is possible to jump from one part of the universe to another by actually bending space so that the destination and starting point exist side-by-side or overlap each other, then a ship would simply need to move a tiny bit to the destination and unbend space (this is just a very simplistic explanation). I believe this is how the ships in Gunbuster warp, but they used dolphins to do this. Either dolphins evolved brains surpassing the capabilities of the world’s best supercomputers in 50 years or someone just really liked dolphins and wanted them in the show.
After finishing Gunbuster, I went on to watch Diebuster a.k.a. Gunbuster 2. Diebuster focuses on another girl called Nono who lives in the Martian countryside, but wants to be a space pilot just like someone she keeps referring to as “Nonoriri”.
We later find out that Nono is actually some kind of android and after helping to defeat a space monster, she is taken in by an organization called the Fraternity. The Fraternity gathers special children called the “Topless” who are able to pilot Buster machines to fight the space monsters. It was hilarious how Nono took the meaning of “Topless” literally and tears off her shirt during battle (yay for fanservice?) As the children grow older they lose their Topless abilities and are no longer able to pilot the Buster machines. This happens to one of the pilots, Nicola, seemingly one of the best pilots and a leader within the Fraternity. I thought his subsequent fall from grace was done very well with him first going into denial, and then anger, then ending in a failed attempt to rape Nono.
The two other main pilots in the series are a girl named Lal’c who Nono refers to as “onee-san” and a girl named Tycho (pronounced chi-ko). I didn’t think the character development was done as well as it could have been for these two characters. Rather than being able to see all the steps along the way on how the characters change, these two just seemed to go through a sudden paradigm shift to me, something I don’t particularly like. Nono, however, does experience some more character development as you see a country girl working in a restaurant grow to become the saviour of humanity. It wasn’t as good as Noriko’s rise in the first Gunbuster, but to be fair, you can’t compete with a classic.
Overall, I thought that Gunbuster was a very good story, and Diebuster was a good way to wrap up a few things that fans of Gunbuster may have been wondering about (I won’t tell you what they were since I’d spoil it). It would’ve been nice to see Gunbuster animated the same way as Diebuster though considering how old the animation is now.