Tag: 1988

Gunbuster

Gunbuster

Gunbuster anime series cover art
Gunbuster

Series Overview

Gunbuster (Top wo Nerae! Gunbuster / トップをねらえ! GunBuster) is one of the early original anime by the studio Gainax and is basically responsible for putting them on the map. It also heavily influenced many of Gainax’s later mecha series, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann.

In fact, you can still see the influence of Gunbuster in studio Trigger’s anime. I feel like this is pretty common knowledge, but Trigger was created by ex-Gainax employees and is in many ways the spiritual successor to Gainax.

But, what exactly is Gunbuster about?

Set in 2015 (the series is from 1988, so forgive them for thinking 2015 would look like this), humanity has expanded beyond Earth — sort of. Earth is still the only planet humans inhabit, but humanity has a large fleet of city-sized ships that can travel at light-speed throughout the galaxy.

However, a mysterious enemy has emerged from the center of the galaxy to destroy humanity. I don’t feel like this enemy was ever named, but they’re basically some bug-like biological entity. And so, the premise of Gunbuster is that humanity has to fight back against this enemy in deep space so they don’t reach Earth.

The plot isn’t really all that involved. Instead, it’s the various perspectives regarding deep space travel that made the series interesting to me. I’ll explain this more in the final section, but I really enjoyed how the series explored the effects of deep space travel on the human psyche.

One of the not-so-good parts of Gunbuster, however, was the often out of place nudity. There were some obvious fan service scenes, which is fine. But then there were other scenes that included random nudity that didn’t seem to be meant as fan service but also didn’t add anything.

Main Characters

Noriko Takaya is the protagonist of the series and eventual pilot of the mech known as Gunbuster. If you think that’s a spoiler, I’m not really sure what else you expected to happen. Anyway, her dream has always been to go into space to follow in the footsteps of her father — a ship captain who was lost in battle protecting humanity.

In a lot of ways, Noriko being the protagonist is pretty annoying. She has no talent for piloting mechs, she doesn’t work as hard as other cadets, and yet she’s still chosen to pilot Gunbuster because of who her father was. It’s not the same as Shinji piloting Eva-01 because, in Noriko’s case, there are many other candidates who are better options than she is.

Noriko Takaya from the anime series Gunbuster
Noriko Takaya

Kazumi Amano is the other pilot of Gunbuster, though that role doesn’t really make much sense. Throughout the whole series, we’re told how important it is for her and Noriko to work together to pilot Gunbuster. But at the same time, we see that Gunbuster can be piloted just fine by a single person.

Really, Kazumi is just there to be another main character who isn’t Noriko. There’s no logical reason for her to be kept around in an important role if it’s already been decided that Noriko is going to be Gunbuster’s main pilot. Also, she had some awkward character development towards the end.

And while not exactly a main character, the third mech pilot who’s somewhat important is Jung Freud. Jung is a Soviet (yes, the Soviet Union still exists) pilot who’s a romantic rival of Kazumi. She and Kazumi are both in love with their commander, Kouichirou Oota.

Jung is kind of just a third-wheel since Noriko and Kazumi are the designated pilots for Gunbuster.

Interesting Perspectives

My favorite parts of Gunbuster were the sci-fi concepts and unique perspectives it introduced surrounding deep space travel. To discuss these, I’m going to need to spoil the entire series. So skip to the conclusion if you don’t want to be spoiled.

At the end of the series, humanity constructs a black hole bomb that I thought was really cool. Essentially, they somehow compressed Jupiter down to about the size of Earth’s moon and then caused it to implode into a black hole by pumping energy into it. I have no idea how that would work, but I thought it was a cool concept for a sci-fi weapon.

Now, what I really liked about this series was how it handled light-speed and near light-speed travel (for the most part). In case you haven’t taken physics classes that have covered this, the closer you get to light-speed, the slower time moves for you. This concept is known as time dilation. And technically speaking, at light-speed, time stops.

Gunbuster from the anime series Gunbuster
Gunbuster

So how is time dilation used in Gunbuster? Well, when people leave Earth and go to travel the galaxy, they’re moving at a significant percentage of light-speed. And in this series we sometimes see them travel between 98-100% light-speed for brief periods of (relative) time. What that means is that time for them is different than time for people on Earth.

Noriko and Kazumi leave Earth at about the age of 17 and travel through space for around 6 months relative to themselves. But when they return to Earth for the first time, 10 years have passed there. So, while Noriko is still 17, one of her friends from school is now 27 with a child.

Although time dilation is a very real and measurable thing, I haven’t actually seen any other sci-fi series ever make use of it. It was really interesting to see how Noriko and Kazumi come to terms with this phenomenon and what it means for their relationships with other people.

Conclusion

After watching the first episode, I was expecting Gunbuster to be a 5 or 6. But with every passing episode, of which there are only six, I found myself liking it more and more. The start is definitely slow, but by the time I got to the end I felt like it was a solid 8/10.

One last thing I do want to mention about this series is that the sixth and final episode is all in black and white. This was an artistic choice, not the product of Gainax running out of time. However, I don’t really think that choice added anything to the episode. It didn’t hurt it, but I would have rather it just been in full color like the previous five.

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Finally, I’d like to thank Roman for supporting DoubleSama.com at the Heika tier this month and recommending I watch Gunbuster. To learn more about how you too can become a supporter of this blog, check out Patreon.com/DoubleSama.

My review of Gunbuster 2: Diebuster, is available here.

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Akira

Akira

Akira anime movie cover art featuring Kaneda
Akira Cover Art

Overview

A few hours after finishing Neon Genesis Evangelion and making that the oldest anime I’ve watched to date, I decided to watch Akira, which is even older. Despite being from 1988, Akira holds up surprisingly well, although it doesn’t look like modern anime.

While the art style may be part of the reason Akira doesn’t look like a modern anime, I think the main thing that sets it apart is the animation. It seems like at least something is happening in every frame of the movie.

Neon Genesis Evangelion used still and almost still frames, as do many new anime such as Boruto, however, every frame of Akira is packed with movement. In a number of scenes there’s so much going on that you need to watch it multiple times in order to take it all in.

However, while I enjoyed the animation quality of this movie, the plot wasn’t really for me. Sci-fi is fine and all, but the psychic powers weren’t really ever explained and I’m not much of a fan of the “big blob of flesh” monster at the end which reminded me of A.I.C.O.: Incarnation.

Also why did the psychic children all look like zombies? I get that there’s a lot more information in the manga, but you’d think that maybe that should be touched on in the movie. I also assume Akira was an actual character in some way in the manga, because he wasn’t here.

I felt like naming this movie “Akira” is kind of like if they titled the Naruto “Minato.” Yeah, Minato is an important character as far as the back story is concerned, but he’s not really relevant to the plot, mentioned for most of it, or alive. Akira is the same way.

Characters

The protagonist of the movie is Shoutarou Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang in Neo Tokyo. I think he’s also supposed to be a high school student even though he has a custom-built motorcycle and gets in violent gang fights.

I don’t really feel like there’s much more else to say about him, he’s a fairly standard main character.

Tetsuo Shima is the primary antagonist of the movie and is a much more interesting character than Kaneda. He’s also Kaneda’s childhood friend from back when they were both orphans.

It seems that Tetsuo has always been bullied and picked on his whole life, and Kaneda was always the one coming to his rescue. Because of this, Tetsuo feels inferior to his friend, which naturally angers him.

However, after coming in contact with one of the aforementioned psychic zombie children, Tetsuo gains psychic powers of his own and no longer needs to rely on Kaneda for protection. This change is symbolized by him stealing Kaneda’s motorcycle which he was told is too powerful for him.

Another one of the main characters is Kei, a girl who’s a member of an anti-government rebellion. Kei is Kaneda’s primary love interest for the movie and the two of them work together to bring down Tetsuo.

The fourth and final main character is Shikishima, a military colonel who’s in charge of the psychic zombie children. It was unclear to me whether or not he was supposed to be a bad guy.

Sure, he want’s to capture Tetsuo and use his powers, but he also protects the other children and seems to be doing what’s best for the people of Neo Tokyo at large. I’m sure his character is flushed out more in the manga, but in the movie I wasn’t sure if I should be rooting for him or not.

In the end, what we get are three different factions and four different reasons for each of the main characters getting involved in the situation.

Tetsuo wants to show off his new strength and works alone for himself. Kaneda and Kei work together to stop Tetsuo, but for different reasons. Kaneda wants to save him, while Kei wants to stop the military from gaining his power. Shikishima wants to increase the strength of the military.

Shoutarou Kaneda from the anime movie Akira
Shoutarou Kaneda

Conclusion

In the end I feel that Akira is a 6/10, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad at all. It was a genuinely good movie, but had some things it needed to work on like any other movie, and simply wasn’t for me.

I think the best part of the whole movie was the beginning where we get a high-speed motorcycle chase and fight between Kaneda’s gang and their rival gang. Honestly, if the whole movie focused on a war between these two rival biker gangs that would have been better.

Just change Kaneda’s name to “Akira” so the title can still be used (Akira is a better title than Kaneda) and remake the movie as a biker gang war movie. Someone could even just edit out all the other parts and it would probably be good without even adding more content.

The opening scene for the movie Akira can be found here.

Rewatch Update (May 25, 2019)

After rewatching Akira I’ve come to appreciate the more sci-fi aspects it has to offer, as well as the latter half of the movie in general. I appreciated all the gang members a lot more this time around, especially Tetsuo. You really do get the feeling that these teenagers are just being caught up in something way out of their control.

The title, Akira, also felt more meaningful this second time around because I already knew who Akira was. I think the first time around I was a bit disappointed that the movie was named after someone who wasn’t even a real character.

Also, the animation still held up and is the best part of the movie, but I found the soundtrack to be a bit off. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack has some absolute “bangers,” as the kids would say, but they felt out of place sometimes.

Overall I’d say Akira is actually a 7/10, and I’m actually looking forward to the newly announced live action movie coming in 2021. This may be the first time I’ll actually watch a live action adaptation of an anime.

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