Diebuster

Type: OVA
Number of Episodes: 6
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 2004-2006
Date of Review: January 24, 2017

Many years after the events of Gunbuster, brave Topless pilots and their Buster Machines once again protect humanity from space monsters. The klutzy android Nono wants to become Topless more than anything, and idolizes Lal’C Melk Mark, pilot of the Buster Machine Dix-Neuf. When the space monsters mount a tremendous assault, things go south rather quickly, as past and present collide in order to awaken Nono’s destiny.

To celebrate their twentieth anniversary as an animation studio, Gainax revisited the property that helped put them on the map: Gunbuster. Thus, we have Diebuster (also known as Gunbuster 2 or Aim for the Top! 2), a visual tour de force that manages to serve as a standalone piece, sequel, and spiritual successor…all at once! At first, the connections seem rather tenous — for example, the series’ exact place in the Gunbuster timeline isn’t even revealed until the very last scene — but as the episodes wear on, more tidbits re slowly revealed.

Let’s dig into the specifics of Diebuster‘s setting a bit, starting with our brave pilots. The Topless seemingly have vast mental powers, despite them only lasting slightly past adolescence. This makes them uniquely suited to operate Buster Machines, but they’re still viewed with suspicion by many. And while you’re undoubtedly snickering at the word “topless,” this fact was not lost on the powers-that-be. Since Nono desperately wants to become Topless, and she didn’t realize that the term was a proper noun…well, you can imagine what her first instinct was in order to “power up.” Yes, just like Gunbuster before it, get ready for gratuitous boob shots in Diebuster.

Unlike its predecessor, the Buster Machines in Diebuster are biomechanical in nature, not to mention displaying signs of sentience. This draws a very clear parallel to Gainax’s seminal mecha work, Neon Genesis Evangelion. I wish we could’ve learned a lot more about these new Buster Machines, but where they came from, why they’re cyborg-like, and even how and why they need to be “awakened” is sadly never explained. It’s a good thing they’re really cool-looking, with designs that are widely different from one to the next!

Gainax’s animation skills had come a long way in its twenty years of existence by then, and this is readily apparent the moment Diebuster‘s eye-popping visuals rocket into your skull. With a style more akin to another Gainax mecha show, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the designs in Diebuster are more hyperkinetic, colorful, and by extension less realistic-looking than those found in Gunbuster.

Diebuster moves along at a fairly rapid pace with plenty of surprises along the way, such as the nature of the monsters the Topless are fighting, not to mention Nono’s true identity. The series has a few notable flaws, however. The plot can be incredibly confusing at times, with a lot of information that seems “left out,” such as how the Topless even came to be. Nono and Lal’C are fun characters, but not as engaging as Noriko and Kazumi. Finally, and your mileage may vary on this, but the initial lack of details connecting it to Gunbuster can be off-putting. Without any real context from the get-go, it might have trouble pulling you in.

All things considered, if you’re looking for a fun romp with some really cool visuals and character design, Diebuster oughta be right up your alley. Just make sure you stick with it until the end, lest you get a bit confused.

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