Diebuster the Movie (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Considerable time after the events of Diebuster, the reality of events during Gunbuster are realized and the true enemy is revealed.

What They Say
In a future where the Space Monsters resume their invasion of the Sol System, the abilities of young men and women known as the Topless, and their Buster Machines, are mankind's final line of defense! One day, runaway girl Nono sets out for the capital to become a space pilot, and meets the fighter ace Lal'C...neither realizing that the future of humanity rests on the both of them!

The Review!
The language tracks for this release is pretty spot on but preferences will vary widely depending on the setup used and how you actually like your presentations. Honneamise has included the original stereo mix in PCM format as well as a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. Each brings something a little different to the table. The PCM mix is a very strong forward soundstage piece that at times simply comes across as louder, but it’s because of its design. The Dolby TrueHD5.1 mix is certainly more aggressive in general and it has a stronger impact across the board, but there are still scenes where the PCM mix has its advantages across the forward soundstage. In general, the 5.1 mix comes across as more immersive and richer, particularly during some of the big action sequences with its additional bass level and the directionality. Removing some of the forward soundstage impact actually seems to help on occasions as well.

Originally released in the theatrical form in 2006, the transfer for this feature is presented with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 via the AVC codec at 1080p. Similar to the Gunbuster movie, this feature runs with an average bitrate around 38 with very few dips below, and even then only just barely. When the Gunbuster 2 DVDs came out, there were among the best anime DVDs I’d seen in the last ten years since watching them. It simply looked stunning through and through. This theatrical version carries much the same, taking it to a new level. The colors are so incredibly rich and deep that it’s striking in many scenes. Diebuster has a number of very rich backgrounds as well as some very fluid backgrounds and so much of it comes off in a way that it’s captivating. The epic level of the show with its backgrounds in space is wonderfully captured and the detail is crisp and clear. Beyond a few moments of some source banding issues here and there, this is a gorgeous looking presentation.

Done in a standard Blu-ray case, the design for this cover mirrors Gunbuster with its white windowboxing of the artwork. Unlike Gunbuster, the cover art used in the windowboxing has a lot of white space, so Nono in her special transformation outfit comes across as even more eye-catching. There are a pair of boxes over her that showcase what she is underneath, which looks a bit odd, but it’s a familiar piece of artwork in the last couple of years as well. The back cover is fairly traditional with a number of sections provided. The summary along the top covers the basics of the show and its HD origins and there are a few strips of shots from the show. The production information is through the center while the bottom rounds out the technical information which lists everything very clearly. I’ve always liked the way the Japanese releases deal with the technical grid and the Honneamise releases are no exception to this.

Within the keepcase we get an really nice little full color booklet that has character designs, show basics, relationship information and a really solid timeline. Unfortunately, the booklet is in Japanese only. They’ve provided a blue and white foldout page in English and French for the foreign language territories to use. I’m glad that they at least provided all of this, but I’d hope in the future that they’d find a way to either do it properly in each language for each region or some other method.

There are no top level menus for this release, at least until the movie finishes out and they have an end menu. The pop-up menu is a cute little piece that features the HUD from the Buster machines as its main piece which comes up quickly and allows you to cycle through the meager selections that are there. The downside to this release is that because of how it’s authored, if you stop the disc, it won’t resume in the same place. They don’t provide the ability for bookmarks which makes stopping in the middle and coming back very problematic. Combine that with the lack of a top level menu upon start – it goes right into the movie – and it can be awkward when you get going and if you need to take a break for a bit.

None. Well, none if you select anything other than Japanese at the load-up menu. There’s apparently a commentary track available for selection via that menu, but the commentary is not subtitled so it’s useless for anyone outside of Japan unless you can speak the language.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Gunbuster 2 was first announced, I was of two minds with it. The first part of my recoiled instantly, especially when I saw the associated designs without any text. Was that a maid I saw? After Mahoromatic and the way Gainax was going at things, well, my faith wasn’t exactly at one hundred percent. The only thing that they had done that had seriously wowed me in the way that Gainax used to back in the late 80’s and 90’s was FLCL, and I wasn’t sure whether riffing off of that show would fit into the Gunbuster universe.

On the flip side, I was rather excited by the possibility of seeing something from the original show up in a very slick new production. As much as I disliked some of what Gainax was doing at the time, their production values were generally pretty good and they had a sense of fun and excitement about them that’s hard to replicate. The thought of seeing a Gunbuster show with these kinds of values, which wouldn’t look like the original but would be something very different, was intriguing to say the least. And the show delivers strongly on this, taking a lot of what I liked about FLCL and applying it here. The fluidity of the animation is very strong, if exaggerated at times, and it really gives the whole Gunbuster concept a new lease on life. The original stands tall as a key moment in anime history, especially for US fans. This version brings it out for the next generation.

The Diebuster movie suffers from much the same issue as the Gunbuster one in that the heart of the feature is cut out in order to provide an epic action narrative. When the OVA series started, it took a bit to really come to care about some of these characters, but when you did it was quite strong. Removing that from here, as well as the somewhat jagged nature of the series, it turns more into set piece to set piece transitions where you see this massive scale of conflict being drawn out. Watching this with someone who had seen Gunbuster but not Gunbuster 2, they could appreciate the visuals but the actual story left them wanting. Diebuster has a lot of really strong ideas, ideas that took several episodes to really pull together, but they don’t feel cohesive here as it plays out. Instead, it almost feels as if it’s being spoon fed to the viewer because the hard episodes where everything is worked out and teased out among the characters is removed.

When viewed simply as a large scale epic piece of giant robot action, it’s almost distilled down to that point in a lot of ways. With the character emphasis minimized, in some ways the Buster machines themselves have more character to them. Watching this feature after taking in Gurren Lagann for the first time is a bit of a revelation as well, as the threads that tie the two are all the more apparent here. Gainax has a history of taking one idea to the next level when they move onto another similar property and you can see that evolution through here. FLCL led into this and this led into Gurren Lagann. Each retains their own personality, but the way that everything is brought together, the style and feel of it, is strongly similar. Nobody rips off Gainax better than Gainax.

In Summary:
What I found hurt this in movie form more than the Gunbuster movie is that having only seen the OVAs once, the level of familiarity wasn’t there. With Gunbuster, I can plug in the gaps easily enough with what isn’t there. With Diebuster, it’s simply not there and that causes it ring a bit more hollow in the long run. Good memories of the show are there, but they aren’t cemented in the same way, the way where I can visual it scene by scene with what’s missing. The Diebuster movie is certainly a feature that showcases some epic material, and I love the over the top nature of the final battle against the real enemy, but without the heart and detail behind it, it lacks that extra impact to go bigger. Like the Gunbuster movie, I hope that the OVAs will be forthcoming in high definition as well because what we have here looks gorgeous and sounds great.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, French Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C-
Extras Rating: NA
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 95
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
Series: Gunbuster