Series Recommendation: Top wo Nerae! Gunbuster

Do not underestimate Coach’s Gunsbuter!
If you ask me what is Director Hideaki Anno’s most influential creation, I’d say Evangelion. But if you ask me what is Anno’s greatest series, I’d definitely choose his first directorial work: Aim for the Top! Gunbuster. In the 1988 where Gainax is still pursuing their creative ideas and making whatever they wanted to make, Gunbuster was one of the few OVAs that made a great impact with its ending and over-the-top ridiculousness. And also popularizing the cross-arm Gainax pose!

The story follows Noriko, a clumsy teenage girl who went from unable to balance a trainer bot to the savior of the Solar System. The small episode count (6 eps) really helps to deliver hard and fast. It delivers massive interstellar battles, hot-blooded girls with powerful personalities and an ending none can forget. From some small high-school girl dilly-dallies to intergalactic alien wars, Gunbuster really bring you a long way.

+ Plot: Noriko has a great growth throughout the 6-episode OVA. The story starts slow and pick up the pace really fast midway through. We can see the development of a young high-school girl tasked with the responsibility of being Earth’s defender while dealing with her adolescent emotions as well. Throughout her journey, she matured into one of the best pilots we’ve ever known. Her development was inspirational from episode 1 to 5. And episode 6 is a nice nod off for Kazumi and the story as a whole.

The supporting cast – while limited, wasn’t neglected throughout the story. Noriko’s friend, her first crush, the rival,…and especially, Coach. Noriko Wakamoto really crushed it with this role. While Noriko and Kazumi were truly the leading roles, Coach were the major driving force behind it all. The intensity of his determination permeates throughout the whole series, and we can say Noriko inherit it fully. In terms of characterization, Gunbuster will not lose to any tv series out there.

+ Animation: Released in 1988, Gunbuster is entirely hand-drawn with classic style. The animation however ages really well, with fluid Mecha movements and smooth character animation as well. It really raises the tension when needed and deliver heartfelt emotions in every scene. The explosion effects are especially amazing. The titular Gunbuster moveset has also set many precedence for badass attacks like the Gainax Pose and Inazuma Kick, so if you see a giant robot doing a Rider Kick, it’s from here.

Gunbuster’s episode 6 was some of the most controversial topic due to the sudden shift to black & white. However, in retrospect, it’s a unique artistic choice regardless of the decision made behind the scenes. It invoked a nostalgic emotion while delivering an impactful climax as well.

+ Mecha Design: Superb. The titular mecha itself is just straight up badass. I think Kazutaka Miyatake designed it. The combination is half-realistic half-super with some pretty nice detailed process. The Gunbuster’s grey color make it doesn’t look too toyetic but also has some gold highlights across the chest and lumbs to break up the grey. The other mechas like the training mech and Sizzler and some other stuff are great as well.

+ Music: The combination of Kouhei Tanaka (Gaogaigar, Sakura Taisen, One Piece, …) and Noriko Sakai was phenomenal at the time. And one of the insert songs was sung by the main characters themselves which makes your blood boils.

+ Conclusion: Overall, Gunbuster is one of the best mecha OVA of all time. It really highlights what talented people can accomplish when their creative prowess isn’t too impeded. Well, those were the glory days but Gunbuster is timeless as a mecha series. Great story, great visuals and great music, Gunbuster is a very short and sweet OVA that I would recommend to everyone, new and old fans alike.