"Hard Work and Effort"
Diebuster (2004 OVA, 6 episodes)
Now, onto Diebuster. Let me stress first off that I have not yet seen Gunbuster, the original 1988 OVA done by Gainax. So, my evaluation of Diebuster will not be as a 'sequel' to another work, but rather as a 'transitional piece'.
Diebuster is an 6 episode OVA from 2004, in order to celebrate Gainax's 20th anniversary. It tells the story of Nono-chan, a pink-haired girl from the country who strives to see the stars by becoming a space pilot. She runs into Lal'c Melk Mal, the ace pilot of Topless, an organization where teenage pilots using highly specialized giant robots to fight off space monsters. But, Nono holds a secret that could change the tide of the conflict for the better? What is the nature of the space monsters? Will humanity survive? All these questions are all very interesting.
Of course, from reading my summary, one can piece together similar concepts from other Gaianx shows. Well, no surprise, as Diebuster is very much a pastiche of stuff Gainax has done. From using mecha that wouldn't feel out of place in Evangelion to having a story that at its core is much like Fooly Cooly; that is, it is a coming of age story for both Nono and Lal'C though not in the way most expected.
One of the nice things about Diebuster is its small yet tightly controlled cast. There are only about 5-6 recurring characters throughout the 6 episodes. Nono and Lal'C have an interesting dynamic (some would say its a shoujo-ai relationship, but its more out of admiration than love). The other characters (Casio, Tycho and Nicola) each are very interesting with their own focus episode/time. I won't spoil further, but suffice to say its makes things very interesting.
But more than a simple character study, it is also a rather exciting space adventure. One of the things that struck me about this OVA is how great it looks. From a production standpoint, Diebuster is very pretty to look at; clear, crisp and consistent character design and modeling, even if some of the shots are clearly CG, but then again most CG from pre-2006 or so is mostly obvious and/or jarring, so I won't complain much on it. The action scenes are very well-done, kinetic and fast-paced which you do need in your show with giant robots.
Diebuster also stands as a 'transition piece'. On the one hand, it looks back to Gunbuster (of course), Evangelion (mecha and cosmic horror of space monsters) and FLCL (both share the same writer and director). On the other hand, it looks forward to Gurren Lagann, as both are basically gung-ho sci-fi mecha shows where hot-bloodedness and enthusiasm takes central stage. The epithet 'Hard Work and Effort' which I've titled this review initially serves as the central message of Diebuster, that through hard work and effort one can do the improbable, which happens to occur so often one could make a drinking game of it. Seriously, the feats that break not just physics but reality itself committed by Nono-chan for the most part is astounding yet awe-inspiring.
But, I think that "Hard Work and Effort" stands as a slogan for Studio Gainax itself. This is the studio founded by fanboys back in the 80s who loved those sci-fi/mecha shows from days of yore. They put in a lot of hard work into their shows, despite any production/budget issues, and it shows here in spades with Diebuster. This intense passion and enthusiasm can be seen from the beginning to the final scene. It is very inspirational and powerful.
Now, onto some other aspects of the show: The music is phenomenal, having been done by Kohei Tanaka, who has done several scores for anime, OVAs and games. Just check his Wikipedia page for full credits. His music is very powerful and fitting in just about every scene in this OVA. Of particular note is "March of the Exelion" and "Inazuma Double Kick".
The Japanese voice acting is very good. The DVDs I have for Diebuster were from the Bandai Visual release a few years ago. They decide to just release it subbed, with no english dub at all. Which is fine, as I feel a dub wouldn't be too good. Plus, Diebuster is a very niche title, so I guess that Bandai figured that they could just make their money back on it by just selling it subbed release.
Luckily, Discotek Media is releasing the complete collection of Diebuster in May. This definitely gets a recommendation from me. It is probably one of the better entries in the Gainax catalog, and that includes 'Evangelion', 'FLCL', 'Gurren Lagann' and 'Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt' so it's in good competition/company. Its very good in just about everything. Now, if you wish to view this as a sequel, I would recommend checking out the original Gunbuster, as I hope so to do in the near future. However, as a 'transitional piece', it is perfectly fine to watch just this, it works well as a stand-alone work.
Next review concludes Gainax month with the Eva Rebuild films, to be posted April 27th-28th.
The Eclectic Dude