Top Wo Nerae: Gunbuster is a 1988 anime OVA directed by the legendary Hideaki Anno. It focuses on two girls, Takaya Noriko and Amano Kazumi, and their fight against the alien beasts attacking Earth. It may sound simple, but the true beauty of Gunbuster lies in it’s characters, execution and themes.
Our protagonist, Takaya Noriko, is a rather traditional “emotionally broken, terrifyed Gainax mecha pilot” character, a la Simon or Ikari Shinji. The difference here is just how FAST she gets out of her funk. And when she does get in the damn robot... Oh my god. The battle sequences in Top wo Nerae are, to this day, some of the most visceral, intense and downright badass fights in anime. Specific note to the fight in episode 5, which got me so hype that I was shivering. That’s an incredible fight.
Amano Kazumi is the “Onee-Sama”of the two, acting as the mentor of sorts. She, however, is also human, and has moments of weakness herself. I think that Noriko and Kazumi have the perfect amount of being awesome and being vulnerable. Kazumi’s friendship with Noriko is also something rather special, and some of the emotional high points wouldn’t have been so potent without their bond.
All the side characters, seeing as they are literally side characters in a Bildungsroman, do their job very well. Special mention to Coach. No, I don’t know his name, and frankly, I don’t care. His name is Coach. And he was awesome.
Gunbuster is a total of around 170 minutes long. 2 hours and 50 minutes. 2/3 of that time is slow, and dedicated to character development. Hell, you don’t even see what they are fighting until the last 45 minutes. Normally this would be crazy talk, but it works flawlessly here. Not a frame is wasted.
These first 4 episodes manage to stay exciting through perfect use of the occasional “INAZUMA KIIIICCCCCKKKK” with sprinkles of some of the best fanservice in the industry. If, of course, the strong characters aren’t enough for you. Well, there is one more thing about these episodes (and the whole show) that could draw you in...
The action in Gunbuster is beautifully animated. Featuring stunning lights and backgrounds, constant fluid movement, easy on the eyes character designs and, of course, the Gunbuster itself
Far more impressive is the ear-worm original score. It’s some of the cheesiest 80s cheese you can hear, but god if it isn’t one of my all time favorite anime OSTs. Everyone knows the opening, but my favorite track is called “Fly High”, which is pretty much “Disco-Fight-Music” if that’s even a thing.
How can you overshadow outstanding frame by frame animation, intricate and developed characters and a catchy musical score? Easy. Hire Hideaki Anno to direct. I’ll put it plain and simple: Gunbuster’s directing and execution is the best aspect of the whole show.
The aforementioned amazing fight direction helps, but what makes the directing stand out so much is the final episode. The has a slight directing change that deliberately down plays the entire final battle. At one point in the episode, there is a 3 second scene that messes with this change. Every average show I’ve ever seen’s pathos combined isn’t nearly as poignant as these 3 seconds of Gunbuster.
The passage of time is something explored quite a bit in this series. You see, in space, time passes far faster. Our heroes could have only been out there for 20 seconds, but when they get back to Earth, it has been months. This use of time is the crux of the narrative, and more importantly, the ending.
Ahh, the ending. To be blunt, once again, no anime comes close to the ending of Gunbuster. My two previous favorite endings, Shigatsu and Katanagatari, while both very powerful, don’t manage to make me cry in less than 3 seconds. Gunbuster’s finale had me crying the whole time for the characters, and for the next hour after because of just how masterful the whole thing was.
The motivation and hype of Gunbuster is far above average. Less than Gurren Lagann, but hundreds of times more than something like One Punch Man. Yet, there is one difference here. The use of time adds a totally new layer to the motivation. Every motivational speech is a sacrifice. The eternally ticking clock makes every episode desperate.
+ Superb animation work
+ Catchy cheesy soundtrack
+ Mind blowing directing, cinematography and symbolism
+ Strong, likable characters
+ Well done slow start
+ The unyielding passage of time
+ Tons of fun
+ A beautiful tragedy (This show made me cry more than I’m willing to admit)
+ Ridiculously hype.
+ THAT ENDING DOE!
+/- Takes a full watch before you can truly love it.
+/- Some of the characters do nothing but moral support
As you can tell, I adore Gunbuster. The two “flaws” I don’t even think are flaws, thus I put them as “you may love or may not” because I sure had no problem with those two things. Top o Nerae: Gunbuster might just be the greatest anime I’ve ever seen. It gets a very obvious 10/10. It’s one of the only 3 anime I’d give that award, and I hope you guys liked it as much as I do.