Gunbuster 2 Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: A+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 60
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gunbuster

Gunbuster 2 Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     April 16, 2007
Release Date: May 22, 2007

Gunbuster 2 Vol. #1
© Bandai Visual USA, Inc.

What They Say
Contains episodes 1-2. A young girl named Nono has left her home behind, to come alone to the big city to pursue her grand dream of becoming a space pilot. But reality is harsh, and she spends every day instead at the diner near the spaceport where she lives and works. Then one day, while being harassed by one of the regular customers, a real-life space pilot named Lal'C comes to her aid. Lal'C is a member of "Topless", a team of elite, psychic pilots who operate Buster Machines whose mission is to protect people of the Solar System from space monsters. During a monster attack, Lal'C witnesses Nono's superstrength which helps her defeat the alien.

The Review!
Returning to a solar system still at war against the space monsters, a new breed of pilot now exists to handle the threat.

Similar to the first OVA series, only the Japanese language tracks are provided for this release. There are two mixes provided for it and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. A very strong Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is here as well as a Dolby Digital Prologic II stereo mix. Depending on the kind of setup you have, one will work better than the other. The 5.1 mix is what we watched during the show and it's just a stellar mix. With some subtle throws to the rears and plenty of solid directionality along the forefront, it just flows beautifully. Where its real power shines though comes with the bass as the giant robot scenes or anything with lots of action just has a lot of impact to it. Both tracks are encoded at 448 kbps and we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 2003, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With plenty of lush visuals and smooth animation, the transfer for this show is simply spectacular. While it doesn't have the same kind of pop to it that some other high profile OVA series have, it comes across beautifully here. Line work is clear, colors are bold and everything is basically as it was on the Japanese release except that there are two episodes. Cross coloration is a non-issue as is aliasing. A few scenes throughout exhibit some noise in the background colors but it's pretty minimal and hardly a distraction even on a 70" set.

Essentially taking the Japanese cover and just swapping out the series name logo, the first installment looks good with a shot of Nono and Lal'C together against the backdrop of stars and Dix-Neuf. It's filled with lots of bold colors and clean lines while not being too bright or vibrant. The back cover design is simple but nicely laid out with a lot of white space. An overall summary is along the top while numerous shots from the show are scattered about along with episode information, quotes from the show itself and basic production info. The bottom conveys the basics though without a technical grid which makes getting some of the information a bit difficult. While it's clear there isn't any English language dub on here, a quick perusal won't inform the casual purchaser. A rather solid booklet is included with the release that has character designs and notes from these particular episodes as well as interviews with key creative staff members. The first two text science lessons are also included here.

The menu design is almost painfully simple as it provides the only instance of the second Japanese DVD releases' cover art along one side as well as a shadowed version behind it. Along the left side of the artwork are the menu selections which also includes the extras. No individual episode access is set up here but rather available through the scene access menu. With no music to it and no animation of any sort, it gets the job done but without much in the way of any style. It is rather par for the course for Japanese releases however. With their being only one language on here, it defaulted to the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and the full set of subtitles.

The extras included here are rather good all told and fairly lengthy. The shorter of the two is a clean version of the ending sequence while the longer one is a nearly thirty minute piece that's sort of a live action version of the show in a sense. Taking place within the framework of the series, it's a twisted Q&A piece that explains some of the basics of the shows premise. The little gray interviewer doll is something that I hope they actually make somewhere at that size because it's strangely cute. Interviews with staff are mixed into it as well making it a pretty nice piece.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a series like Gunbuster being such an institution for me, a show that simply defines some of what I think the best that anime can offer, there is simply no way that a sequel could come close to achieving the same kind of success. It's like imagining a sequel for Wings of Honneamise. It just doesn't compute. So in looking at Gunbuster 2, I have to put myself in the mindset that it's completely separate and not to be judged against the original. It has to stand on its own.

The concept behind Gunbuster 2 attempts to push that kind of mentality pretty well. Beyond the idea of space monsters coming to the solar system to cause trouble, practically nothing references the original outside of a few music cues. The series revolves around a young woman named Nono who has just come to the big city on Mars in order to become a pilot. She's got all the gumption and spunk to do it but the skill and perseverance for what's required to truly become a pilot just isn't there. She simply wants to leap to the forefront and fight to protect others, a feeling that seems to define her at times. With no luck at all in becoming a pilot, she's found herself working in a bar where she barely earns anything each day due to her clumsiness.

All of that changes however when another young woman shows up in the bar. The dark skinned and dark tempered Lal'C is actually one of the elite of the elite, a Topless as they're called. With a sealing device on her forehead to hold in the powers that she has, she's able to communicate telepathically with the Buster machines that her group uses. The Fraternity as it's called is something of a separate force that handles the various space monster incursions and they have a certain style and flair that tends to upset the regular forces. Lal'C as actually some sort of princess who controls the oldest active Buster machine, the Dix-Neuf.

Lal'C's coming in contact with Nono ends up becoming a moment where the world seems to be changing as the space monsters have made it through to the inner planets and one is even found on Mars itself. Unsurprisingly, Nono does turn out to be more than she appears and her ability to communicate with Dix-Neuf seems to be of an even higher and more natural grade than what Lal'C can do. Nono takes this ability as something that will let her leap to the front of the pack and be a true defender of justice and the people and uses her other natural talent of spunk and good nature to wrangle a position with the Fraternity.

Coming off of the massively popular and successful FLCL series, Kazuya Tsurumaki definitely seemed like the ideal choice for this project. Having been involved with Gainax since at least Otaku no Video and being a part of the resurgence of the company just before its big re-launch, Tsurumaki was riding a wave of popularity that would allow him to take a treasured show and to try and build upon it. In watching these first two episodes, I found myself questioning the choice several times because I was trying to reconcile the style of 1989 to the style of 2003. The kind of energy and sense of style that was brought to FLCL was something that I didn't think worked well with this kind of show.

But in thinking about the original show some more, the methods behind Gunbuster 2 started to become more apparent and more interesting. With the original being a parody and homage to so many different genres and shows, this one is simply trying to do the same with a new generation of genres and shows. It has the added baggage of people like myself who want to see more tangible connections to the original, but what it's doing here on its own stands out rather well. Tsurumaki is even able to play parody to some of what he did in FLCL, an already outlandish show, in such things as the kinds of monitors that float about in the Fraternity. The same kind of elongated style and sharp angles that populated that show are used here to a lesser extent but enough so that it really brings out something that's in a lot of shows trying to capture what was done there.

Be it the maid designs that Nono has for a bit or the giant robot designs that seem to pay homage more to the Big O than the original Gunbuster, everything seems to be slightly larger than life but not overly so. It isn't so subtle that you miss a lot of it but they're not banging you over the head either. Nono is a difficult character to connect with at first and Lal'C tends to swing the same way for awhile, but at the end of the second episode I found myself looking forward to seeing more of it, something I didn't feel at the end of the first episode when I imported that release back in 2003.

In Summary:
Gunbuster 2 is a title that must stand on its own otherwise to me it will be lost in the shadow of a far grander and more meaningful show. The first two episodes do a good job of bringing this world into play while leaving the connections to the original minimal, not even mentioning the timeline of when this is taking place. With some great looking animation, solid character designs and some intriguing ideas presented into it to flesh out the overall world, Gunbuster 2 is an OVA series that's started out very well while making me want more. It's simply unfortunate that this release has priced itself out of the majority of the market as well as a large chunk of its audience by the lack of an English language dub. Those two strikes are pretty serious and will basically minimize any chance of this being a really popular title.

Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,30 minutes of bonus footage included. Textless Ending, Diebuster TV, 20-page color booklet

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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