Spanning a length of time in the history of Gainax, their earliest work meets a more recent one in this double set movie collection.
What They Say
GATTAI means "combine" - and just like the fighting mecha of the heroines, two milestones from GAINAX, Hideaki Anno�s Gunbuster and Kazuya Tsurumaki's Diebuster have come together..to form The GATTAI!! Movie! Each OVA series has been re-edited into two theatrical features! The 12,000 year saga of friendship, heroism, hard work and guts achieves final victory in Aim for the Top! The GATTAI!! Movie!
For Gunbuster, this is a real challenge depending on what youre preferences and setup is like when it comes to playback. 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.
Diebuster has much the same feel when it comes to the audio as Gunbuster does. 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 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.
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.
The Gattai Blu-ray box set is thankfully one that keeps to the standards of DVD box sets by using proper cases (i.e. Blu-ray cases) and a standard heavy chipboard box. The box itself is simple but wonderful as the front panel features a split shot of Noriko on the top and Nono on the bottom. Both of them are pencil sketches with color and white backgrounds so they’re pretty eye-catching. The logo through the center is admittedly awkward though since it’s largely Japanese with only a small section of English language material. The actual “Blu-ray Disc Box” is larger than the movie title in English! The back panel is similar except that it has Kazumi along the top and Lal’c along the bottom with a logo through the center that’s completely in English. The box also does have a paper sleeve over it so that the back side is done up in full sell-mode with shots from the show, a breakdown of the discs and the features and a whole lot of production information. It’s really chock full of stuff and the shot along the top of all the items spread out really does a nice job of pushing the contents.
Done in a trio of standard Blu-ray cases, the cover art for each individual volume is very appealing. The Gunbuster release features a good cast shot of the group while Diebuster is kept to Nono in her powered up form. The extras disc is really neat in that it’s a pencil sketch on yellow that has a plsit of both girls with headshots. 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.
For English language viewers and French language viewers, there aren’t any on the individual movie discs. There’s apparently a commentary track available for selection via Japanese language menu, but the commentary is not subtitled so it’s useless for anyone outside of Japan unless you can speak the language.
With the box set release, we get an entire disc of extras for the features which covers about two hours worth of material. The first piece is a “Welcome Back” video segment that runs about thirty one minutes. In it, the cast and creative staff come back to talk about the entire production on stage and it’s quite fascinating to finally see some of the people behind it who have been involved in the Gunbuster mythos for so long. The Gunbuster re-recording session interview is a piece that I was really interested in as a long time fan of the show since the idea of re-recording the audio on a show feels wrong in a lot of ways, even if they manage to capture most of what went into the original. I always prefer that they at least try to salvage what they can of the original for the home viewing experience. Seeing the cast come back after eighteen years or so to re-record the OVAs is a fascinating experience though and listening to everyone’s thoughts and approach on it was really worth checking out.
The other lengthy extra on here is the Diebuster to Gattai piece which runs about thirty minutes. This one admittedly held a little less interest since the Diebuster OVAs aren’t exactly as near and dear to me as the Gunbuster ones, but having a much fresher OVA series from the creators talking about how they re-adapted it into the feature length version does offer up some interesting bits about how they approached it. And naturally, there’s also a brief two minute trailer included which rounds out the available on disc extras to the English and French language audiences.
The Japanese again make out with an extra dedicated just to them if you select the Japanese viewing experience from the disc load-up. This is just like the movie discs with the commentary track. What the Japanese get that the rest of us don’t is a series of promotional audio messages from a Japanese internet campaign. These are web accessible it seems and run about thirty minutes. Yet another piece where a worldwide release isn’t quite as worldwide as it should be, even with the discs that are being sent all over.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The dawn of Gunbuster 2 had Bandai Visual looking to find a way to get the OVAs out there even more to the general public. While Gainax had done some really great work in my mind with the show, there was the idea of getting the series up on the big screen. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stand alone all that well so they came up with the idea of a double feature by taking Gunbuster and Gunbuster 2 and creating two ninety minute movies. The result is this box set, which as we’ve done above, have broken down into its component parts.
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.
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.
The Gattai movie box set is really something that’s not going to fly well with a lot of the hardcore fans. When the releases came out in DVD form last year, it was conflicting for a lot of people because of their expectations, nostalgia and love of a particular show. Anime fans by and large tend to be less supportive of editing of any kind and these movies really are all about judicious editing to make a good narrative piece. They succeed in some ways but fail in others. The action side, the epic nature, it’s all intact and both movies look fantastic in high definition, even with the limitations of the Gunbuster release with the film grain. But without the heart, the heavy and serious character development and bonds, neither film will reach the same level that the individual OVAs have reached over the years. Fans already know what they really want and have made their choice. If you’re looking for pure eye-candy, the second movie is your definite pick. But if you have to have all anime in high definition that you can get your hands on, these are some good solid pieces overall. Though the experience was hollow in some ways, it was fantastic to watch these images across my large setup looking as wondrous as they do. All this does is make me want even more of Honneamise’s material in high definition now.
Disc 1: GUNBUSTER the Movie: Color (Partly B/W) / Approx. 95 min. / Dolby True HD (5.1ch) & Linear PCM (Stereo) / AVC / BD50G / 4:3 (Partly 16:9) 1080p High-Def / Japanese Language Dialogue / English & French Subtitles
Disc 2: DIEBUSTER the Movie: Color / Approx. 95 min. / Dolby True HD (5.1ch) & Linear PCM (Stereo) / AVC / BD50G / 16:9 1080p High-Def / Japanese Language Dialogue / English & French Subtitles
Disc 3: Bonus Disc: Color / Approx. 90 min. / Linear PCM (2.0ch Stereo) / AVC / BD50G / 16:9 (Partly 4:3) 1080i High-Definition / Japanese Language Dialogue / English & French Subtitles (Main Feature Only), Japan Premiere Report, Interviews: Gunbuster Re-Dub Session, Featurette: From Gunbuster 2 to The GATTAI!! Movie, G ATTAI!! Movie Trailer
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.