The Bustin' ROSSMAN
I love both Spider-Man 2 and Aliens much more than their precursors. X-Men 2 and Star Trek 2: the Wrath of KHAAAAAN blew their predecessors out of the proverbial and theatrical water. Gunbuster 2?... Oh my. Ummm, this is one case in which I truly hope that those in charge of this production suffered either a minor stroke (thus impairing their brain's higher functions for a while) which nobody noticed until after the series was completed, or were mentally retarded from the beginning; for if neither of these two things happened then the fate of humanity (or at least the fate of quality anime) is just about as doomed as Coachie after getting raped by space radiation sickness.
Let me start from the beginning. I'll go back to 1988 when life was simpler, Reagan ruled, and Studio Gainax released their robot magnum opus onto the world: the original Aim for the Top! Gunbuster. Yes, there were already TONS of giant robot shows already released long before '88, but they were already stale. Gundam had come and gone, then come back and unpacked and refused to leave. Macross had added a bit of fresh air into the giant robot genre a few years earlier, and pretty much created the idol genre too, and for that it was loved. But it took Gunbuster (and of course writer and director Hideaki Anno) to Buster-Kick the sub-class of military robot anime to the next stage of robot evolution.
Gunbuster has been out there for so long and everybody [who counts] has already seen it (and if you haven't, then you just fucking suck), so I'll just cover it lightly here before proceeding to 9-iron Gunbuster 2: Die Buster (man, I really wish it would) right in its robo-nards. Gunbuster starts off in the year 2023 with Takaya Noriko (a young girl whose father was killed fighting a bunch of buggy space monsters way out in the depths of the cosmos) training to be a robot pilot for the United Earth Federation (or whatever it's called). Noriko's a gigantic crybaby, but she finds some strength to barely get by through her friend Kimiko, and upperclasschick Amano Kazumi. Then Coach Ohta arrives and acts all bad ass and helps whip Noriko into shape, and then Soviet pilot Jung Freud (who's so cut-ass rugged that she apparently doesn't give a shit that the USSR went extinct 30 years previous) pops up and causes some mischief for poor Noriko, all before the United Earthies sally forth and face the space monsters once again... and again... and a few more times all before the final battle in which shitloads of sacrifices are made, and the entire center of the Milky Way is annihilated with a single man-made bomb. Take that, you pussy environmentalist hippies!
The story itself is rather cliche (it's a giant robot show about not giving up and being the best that you can be and yadda yadda yadda), but it's what Anno and company DID with it that is revolutionary -- it's over the top, but so warm and heartfelt that while you're watching it you totally believe in it and in Noriko and the Gunbuster itself... Well, except maybe when the Gunbuster starts pulling out the "homing lasers" and the "Buster shield", but it's still so much goddamn fun and so cool that you don't roll your eyes and groan (remember this part for later), instead you smile and cheer.
The first episode of GB is fairly light and fluffy. It's played up as a high school show that just so happens to be the training grounds for the next generation of robot pilots. It may be mostly non-dramatic, but (very importantly) the comedy never jumps past subtle satire levels, and it most assuredly does not degrade itself by ever becoming slapstick (remember this as well). Then things slowly grow more exciting and emotional until the final episode, which is nothing short of a half an hour work of art. Painted in black and white and presented in letterboxed form, the last 30 minutes of Gunbuster punches, kicks, rakes its nails in the face of, and elbows the throat of the word "climactic" in order to create a new term: ballz-rockin'-climacticitus! And it is good.
Noriko is the ultimate "wuss-turned-hero"; Kazumi is the ultimate "born leader who then hands the reigns over to the wuss-turned-hero when the time arrives"; Jung is the ultimate bitch; Coachie is the ultimate ass kicking trainer; the space monsters are the ultimate threat to mankind; the Gunbuster is the ULTIMATE weapon; and the ending is the most sweetly supreme, time-dilated, ultimate finale. Because of hard work and guts Gunbuster is up there with Giant Robo as the best of the best in terms of animated storytelling.
GUNBUSTER 2 is not.
Okay, here's the best way for me to describe the sensation of originally watching Gunbuster 2 after already seeing the original OVA Aim for the Top! Gunbuster:
Imagine eating at a really fancy restaurant one day and getting the juiciest, most melt-in-your-mouth cut of prime rib you've ever tasted in your miserable little life. Then, a few years later, you remember that glorious steak and go back to that same restaurant in order to experience it again. You notice that the owners and the chefs have changed since your last meal there, but the name of the place is the still the same (Gainax Steak House -- Home of the Cow Meat Heaven Supper [lousy translation, sorry]) and the prime rib is still on the menu, so you sit down and order it again. This time though, the waiter brings out a platter of a rotten dog carcass with a side of rat shit, and then he smiles at you like this dish is supposed to be even better than the first one that you had there years before. THAT is what Gunbuster 2 is to Aim for the Top! Gunbuster. It is a rotten dog carcass with a side of rat shit.
Where did they go wrong? I pondered this question for a long time. Originally, I tried to watch Gunbuster 2 when it first came out -- back in 2004 I believe. Tried and failed. It was such a dead-wet-fish slap to the face of fans of the original... The only reason I ever went back to that rancid well to review it for you today is because so many readers (who must hate me) wrote in to request it. Gunbuster 2 was apparently not made to compliment the original, but to MOCK it. GB 2 (and the new director, character designer and writer [the writer being the complete HACK who previously shat out Melody of Oblivion]) simply tried too hard to capture lightning in a bottle again, but they obviously misunderstood what made its forerunner so great and thusly failed miserably.
How did they fail so miserably? Let's start with the story. Wait, WHAT story? This thing is only 6 episodes long, but it tries to go everywhere at once and ends up not even telling one complete tale. Each episode is its own little monster-of-the-week plot. Aim for the Top! Gunbuster (the original) had one complete narrative to recount, and simply broke it up into 6 chapters. In GB 1 we follow Noriko as she rises from the ranks and becomes humanity's much needed savior. In GB 2 we follow Nono, the slightly brain damaged android, and Buster Machine pilot Lal'C, and that purple-haired chick, and that attempted rapist asshole, and that fat old dude, and that space captain guy, and... and a ton more. Yes, GB 1 had a lot of supporting characters, but they were just that: SUPPORTING CHARACTERS. In GB 2 everybody has a good chunk of an episode (if not a full episode) dedicated to them -- which takes up a whoooole lot of the entire series and leaves very little screen time for Nono's characterization.
Anyway, the story is thus: Nono wants to be a Topless (the really lame name that the Buster Machine pilots of her far futuristic time are called), but she's a stupid android and can never make the cut or even make it through the years of special training that people tell her she'll need to partake of in order to make her (mongo) dreams come true. But then, out of the blue, Nono is caught up in the middle of a Space Monster and Gunbuster fight (the Buster Machine is called the Dix-Neuf and is piloted by Lal'C N'Ciel [or whatever the fuck that girl's name is])! Nono helps to kill the monster and then is immediately employed by the Topless as a cadet because the writers are hacks (My eyes rolled in my skull like a slot machine at this point in the actual viewing).
Then the regular military tries to take on the next monster of the week, and fails, and Lal'C and rape-boy save the day. Then the purple-haired chick saves the day in the next episode. Then those really dumb twins tried to kill everyone and the fat dude and Nono save the day. Then another big threat appears (each threat in each episode is new, and pretty much unrelated to the grand scheme of the story mind you) and Nono runs away leaving Lal'C and mankind behind to deal with it. Then humanity goes on the offensive to stop this most recent threat and turns the (most precious planet in the entire galaxy) Earth into a fucking cannonball in order to try and bowl the last, giant, Space Monster out of the heavens... Seriously, after everything mankind did to SAVE the Earth in the first series, future man is willing to just chuck the entire planet of his origin at the final invader in an attempt to just delay the inevitable (the Dix-Neuf had just thrown a planet at the same being in the previous episode to no avail... shitty storytelling indeed).
This crap OBVIOUSLY came from the same dipshit who gave us the convoluted crapfest of Melody of Oblivion... And the connections of GB 2 to GB 1 are about as close as the connections of Melody to Evangelion, yet at least they never tried to pass that off as Eva's actual sequel. None of the themes carried over from GB 1 to GB 2. None of the emotion. None of the plot elements (there is no warp anymore in the far future, so all the drama brought about by friends living in different times is out of the equation)... Nothing. The only (teensy weensy) thing that really united these two OVAs together was the final 2 minutes that were totally tacked on to the very last episode of GB 2. Yes, these last 2 minutes were very well done, but they were simply an afterthought that had nothing at all to do with the previous 2 hours and 58 minutes of shitty storytelling. It was as if somebody told Gainax after everything was said and done, "You know, you called this thing Gunbuster TWO, but the things called Gunbusters in it look like shitty rejects from The Big O dressed in trenchcoats with eyepatches (like a retard trying to dress cool from stuff he found in a Salvation Army store), the characters are all stupid and unlikable, the character designs and the feel of the ENTIRE PROJECT reek of FLCL, its supposed humor is unrealistic and slapstick, the genius and fun superscience of the first one is missing and instead replaced by FANTASY ELEMENTS, and the tension (which in GB 1 grew gradually from the first episode into a pitch-perfect ending) in GB 2 was nowhere to be found (starting things off with a goofy beginning, then moving to stupid, then to silly, then to HYPERLY stupid drama in the last big battle).... and NONE of all of that garbage connects to anything in the previous 80s OVA. You might want to maybe look into fixing that." And lo and behold, that tacked-on final bit is the most fulfilling part of the entire series. Shitty storytelling.
Even if GB 2 was simply its own entity and NOT a sequel to one of the greatest animated stories of all time, it still would have failed. It just could not decide which direction it wanted to go in in regards to any of its core ideas. Was it telling a Nono story? A Lal'C story? A humanity's last stand story? It never accomplished ANY of those narratives to any satisfying conclusion, whereas GB 1 handled pretty much those same story elements with such gusto that you had absolutely no questions left at the end of it all. After watching GB 2, not only do I still have massive questions (like what the fuck was Nono really and originally? How did they MOVE THE FUCKING PLANET Earth like that without destroying its delicate crust at the very least? Did they move it back afterwards? What the fuck are those futuristic Buster Machines and why do they act more like Giant Robo than Gunbuster? How the fuck did Nono and Lal'C beat the final boss at the end like that? And most importantly WHY was this thing even made in the first place?!), but I find that I don't truly care if I ever find their answers. GB 2 is so far beneath me that I just don't care.
The CHIEF and His Pair
Gunbuster is a classic. Most likely one of the greatest Giant Robot shows of all time. I mean for god's sake I based my life around the teachings of Coach. Training young girls for combat and then dating them. Being totally honest here, my line of "Hey, baby, seriously, I only have 6 months *cough* to live," works absolute wonders.
Gunbuster starts off fun and pretty simple, but by the end they've pulled out an incredible space warfare epic. It's absolutely HUGE, and it spans ages! And the ending... Well it is absolutely the best ending to an animated series I've ever seen. Untoppable.
And how do they follow up this amazing animated legacy after all these years? The "still sucking the teet of Evangelion" aborted fetus that is Gunbuster 2. Why in hell was this even considered. What's next? Wings of Honneamise: The Next Generation? Nadia: French Harlot in the Twentieth Century? Daicon XXVI: set to whatever emo-grunge shit is played regularly on the radio to goth freaks today? Gainax has officially sold out. I was just at the video store yesterday and saw Cinderella III on the store shelves... Cinder-fuckin-ella THREE... And yet Di$ney still has nothing on the raping of memories that is the present day Gainax.
Gunbuster is the one true robot god of robot awesomeness, G. It stands for all that is good with the world, and for bouncing titties everywhere. Gunbuster is about human bacteria versus the universe's antibodies, and hot Soviet redheads with big ta-tas. Gunbuster is what it's all about.
There never was a Gunbuster 2. Never happened, motherfucka.