Young Noriko finds herself on the galactic stage when space monsters come to eradicate humanity from existence.
What They Say
As humanity sets out for distant space, a Machine Weapon squadron is created to combat the onrushing opposition of the Space Monsters! To avenge her father's death and to win victory for all mankind, Noriko Takaya, scouted for her potential, joins her "One-sama," Kazumi Amano, aiming to become an elite pilot - a "Top!" The curtain rises on their hard and perilous battle!!
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 doesn’t have quite the same impact in a number of scenes, but it’s spread out a bit more and has a bit more bass in other scenes. Each track is strong in its own way and it’s difficult to really prefer one over the other. In flipping back and forth between them, each offered something different but neither was bad or problematic.
Originally released in the theatrical form in 2006, the transfer for this feature is presented in a mixed aspect ratio of 1.33:1 window boxed and 1.78:1 via the AVC codec at 1080p. On average, it looks like this feature keeps its video bitrate around the 38mbps mark. Using the original materials from 1988 and creating the theatrical print, Gunbuster comes across very well here overall but not without its flaws. On the positive side, the feature does look fantastic overall with rich colors and no serious noise or flaws in terms of authoring. The black and white segments look amazing and so many of those stills make you feel like you can reach out and rub the pencil work off. On the down side, the flaws inherent in the source are pretty visible. The most jarring for me at times was the jitter, but this wasn’t a surprise nor a dealbreaker in any sense. What will likely be more noticeable to people is the film grain that’s apparent. It is pretty strong at times, but is variable depending on the scene. Though there are ways to remove film grain, I’d be rather unhappy to say the least if they did. Gunbuster’s origins are rooted in this film stock and having that presented here with such clarity is a positive for me. It’s never overly distracting after the first couple of minutes of adjustment.
Done in a standard Blu-ray case, the cover art is highly appealing as it features a Mikimoto illustration with the main cast in the background while a full length shot of Noriko is in the foreground. Her serious look with an edge of a smile is great and the way the artwork is framed with a white windowbox lets all the attention be drawn even more to the piece. It’s simple in its own way but the artwork is very appealing. The back cover is fairly traditional with a number of sections provided. The summary along the top covers the baics 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 Gunbuster machine 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)
Part of a double feature that was done after the completion of the Gunbuster 2 OVA series, Gainax went back and basically halved the original Gunbuster OVA series to create a ninety minute feature length movie. Taking six nearly 30 minute OVAs and excising half of it while still keeping a coherent story isn’t actually all that difficult. A lot of Gunbuster is fluff in a way and you have large tracts of story dealing with the lead character of Noriko grappling with what she has to face.
Take a lot of this material away and you can cut it down to a decent epic action piece rather easily. What you do end up excising though is the heart of the series. The quiet moments where you see Noriko struggling with the weight of her undertaking. The strength of the bonds she begins to form with others. Her relationship with Kazumi is hurt the most here overall because they have such a strong one throughout, even when it’s dismissive early on. When you get to the final episode and they have to fight together after being apart for so long, relatively speaking, the unspoken bond between them rings hollow unless you’ve seen the original. The lack of the relationship in its entirety between Noriko and Smith Toren is the rare piece that I was actually glad to see excised. I always felt that segment was one of the weakest of the series and the whole piece could have been handled in a better way.
The story of Gunbuster in this form is all about the sweeping epic and the young people caught up in it. Kazumi and Noriko’s stories are here, but they’re streamlined. Noriko’s heavy training moments are cut short, which is nearly two episodes worth of material in the original. Snippets are kept, such as when she first meets the Coach and a few other pieces here and there, but by and large seeing her progress through the ranks quickly happens even quicker in this format. Some of her key moments are kept that are important to her development, such as the discovery of her father’s ship during one particular adventure. Other important aspects such as the numerous time disparities that she and Kazumi face are kept as well, which is something that weighs on them at times.
And admittedly, these are some of the things that really fascinated me when I first saw the OVA series. The effects of living in space are often the subject of near-future science fiction stories but it’s been exceedingly rare to deal with the kinds of issues you find here. When moving through space at high speeds means time passes slower for you than at home, you find yourself dealing with some fascinating issues in the social arena. What Noriko and Kazumi are put through here is hard as they see classmates, friends and lovers grow old before them when very little time passes for themselves. It’s not something that many would truly be able to handle and it takes a certain kind of person. Set against the backdrop of humanity being pushed towards extinction, it’s still very relevant and very well handled – in the original. Sadly, here it barely makes a dent outside of being mentioned here and there and with Noriko’s friend from the training school.
Watching this feature isn’t a difficult exercise, mostly because even though I’ve seen the OVAs numerous times and I’ve seen the theatrical feature once, there’s still a whole lot to like about Gunbuster. I would have far preferred to see the original OVA brought out in high definition and given this treatment, but considering the ease with which they can produce this release it’s not a surprise. When it comes to the feature itself, Honneamise has done a wonderful job. The audio is strong in both departments, as we get a remix and a core preservation of the original stereo mix. We get a wonderfully done transfer that captures so much of the “hard work and guts” that the animators put into it. But the release is weak when it comes to how it handled the lone extra, the menus aspect and the booklet. If you’re just in this for the feature, to see Noriko and Kazumi in high definition, you’re going to love it though.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, French Subtitles
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.