Face Off: Ray and Mike on Gunbuster vs. Diebuster (Part 2)

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Ray:It’s more like, no I just don’t feel like doing it, therefore I can’t. Again, how has guts, passion and hard work changed?

Mike:In Gunbuster, it’s assumed. In Diebuster, it has to be recovered. (Well–arguably, Nono always believes in it.) Both Gunbuster and Diebuster feature really, really outrageous battle scenes which are powered by konjo–and said so explicitly.

Ray:Uh…konjo was denied by Lal’C flat out. Only in the end, she explained where that is. This “believe in your heart” crap makes puke. And Gunbuster’s battle is much grander – there are millions and millions of these Space Monsters at once! Throw a planet at them? Big deal! There are almost billions of these things! It takes a black hole in the middle of the galaxy to take them out! Diebuster may seen grander in scale, but look at it closely it’s just not true.

Mike:Actually, I wonder, are you talking about the scene when Nono first appears as “Buster Machine #7”? In that she says that the Buster Machine is in your heart. In her case, of course, it’s literally true.

Ray:No no no, when Lark ripped her shirt off like Noriko, and tried to encourage Nono, what did she say? “Konjo is in your heart.” Then they did a double inazuma kick (which was cool).

Mike:That was taken straight, almost verbatim, from the first Gunbuster.
Except the roles are reversed. And it took places in episode 5, not 6.

And that leads me to my main complaint about Diebuster. At the end of the day, everything wrong with it can be summed up in one word: sequel. It’s parasitic on the first one. It really isn’t all that special except in relation to the first one. It’s an extended homage to the first one at best. Its self-conscious humor is almost all dependent on knowing references from the first one (as opposed to knowing references from other anime, which was there in Gunbuster).

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Ray:That’s it. Diebuster just feels like an attempt to dress up a plain sequel.

Anyway, konjo is NOT just in your “heart”. Gunbuster proved that it takes hard work. Maybe the line was directly taken, but you missed the point entirely if that’s all you felt. There was no significant hard work in Diebuster – Lark had psychic abilities and Nono was Buster Machine 7 all along.

Mike:I agree. We constantly see Noriko undergoing hardship in ways we don’t see the characters in Diebuster do so. The closest I think was Tycho in episode 3, maybe, and in episode 4 (which, incidentally, was the one episode Anno worked on actively). Episode 4 happens to be probably the grandest in Gunbuster too, incidentally. Next to the ending of 6, of course.

Ray:Yes. That’s the classic savior that I want to see. No wimps, no cop outs for the sake of GL. Rising above the ship, the guardian flies toward the battlefield, littered with broken mecha and hopes of humanity: that’s what the scene spoke.

Where when Nono first appeared as Diebuster, she came only because Lal’C was going to die. Well, OK, that’s more realistic, but not all that heroic.

Mike:I dunno. I did feel that Diebuster 4 was the one episode that came closest to the original legacy. But the original was even more stirring.

One thing too is that Diebuster just did not have the OP that the old one did. Gunbuster’s OP worked really well as a cap off for episode 4.

Ray:Well, it’s the typical 80’s ending. Things may look hopeless, but in the end, the heroine will prevail, the credits roll and the song plays.

Mike:You know, I actually think one of the reasons why it works is that Gunbuster does a pretty good job of making things actually seem hopeless just before the eucatastrophe (Tolkien’s term) comes. Anno took that of course and plunged it over the edge in Eva.

Ray:And for those non-Lit Otaku, what did that word mean? XD

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Mike:A sudden inbreaking of the good that comes when it seems that everything is totally defeated. Think the end of the Lord of the Rings (the novel).

Ray:Ah.
Mike:Tolkien argued that this is the primal human story, the story that every culture tells as the expression of its highest hopes. It’s why it’s so powerful. For him, as a Christian, this is ultimately fulfilled in the story of the death and resurrection of Christ. Gunbuster follows this ancient story pattern to a T, it should be noted.

Ray:Huh…and how did Anno screw it up in Eva?

Mike:Eva is more about self-realization than redemption. If anything, it paved the way for everything you don’t like about Diebuster. It’s much more inward looking, much more pessimistic. It will be very interesting to see if Anno is going to do something differently in the remake movies. Because Gainax itself, with Gurren-Lagann, seems to have gone back to basics. After watching Gunbuster–I realized, hey, that’s where Gurren Lagann gets its ideas from! Instead of “hard work and guts” it’s “manliness” but it’s the same idea.

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Ray:Oh yeah yeah yeah! There we go, “manliness”. No more girl power crap! XD
or defend yourself against all evil, women!

Mike:When we were watching Diebuster, Mike [my roommate] told me something interesting–the fan service felt different.

Ray:oh?

Mike:For one, there isn’t nearly as much of it in Diebuster. Whatever there is is usually a reference to the first one (shirt ripping, etc). Also, in a really weird way–I felt that Gunbuster paid more attention to the lives of these girls in ways that Diebuster didn’t do in the same way. It may be because there are no real male main characters other than Coach.

Plus, I’m surprised you didn’t see the very clear (to me) GL overtones in Gunbuster! To me it was much more overt and straightforward than in Diebuster, where it was played partly for laughs. (I mean, Nono literally says “moe moe”)

Ray:Of course I did. But Gunbuster’s GL is nothing compared to Candy Boy, Strawberry Panic, and so on. And hey, Amano Kasumi got married to Coach!

Mike:Well, I think in those days they had to be a little more discreet about it. But it’s a subtext that happens in a lot of shoujo manga, the whole kouhei/sempai thing.

Was there anything you liked about Diebuster?

Ray:well… (a long pause) I guess that Nono is kind of funny.

I mean, not comparing with the Gunbuster, it’s not a bad show, and it’s even got epic battles of interplanetary level. Its animation is nice. But really, the original Gunbuster has taken my heart hostage and Diebuster simply, to me, DOESN’T CUT IT.

Mike:It’s funny, as I started by watching Diebuster first. And I have to say that I found the second half to still be quite good, more moving the second time than the first. But then I watched Gunbuster and it really does pale in comparison. The spirit is quite different. It’s a fairly good barometer to the degree anime changed in the 15 year gap between them.

Ray:Like I said, guts, hard work and passion changed to where hard work seems to disappear (working as a bar maid doesn’t count), and guts now grows in your heart. The music and the presentation changed, too. “Everything will be ok at the end” changed to “well, maybe it’ll work out.”

Mike:Well, no–the ending of Diebuster is unequivocally happy. I mean it ends the same way as the first, but from a different perspective. But it definitely had a staleness to it. I think maybe in the long run it might be seen really as the warm up exercise toward Gurren Lagann. Or, more negatively, as the last gasp of the old Gainax (dir: Kazuya Tsurumaki, Anno’s former right hand man) They threw planets in Diebuster; they throw galaxies and KICK REASON TO THE CURB in Gurren Lagann!

3 thoughts on “Face Off: Ray and Mike on Gunbuster vs. Diebuster (Part 2)”

  1. I’m going out on a limb here, after reading your comparison of the two shows I’m starting to see a similarity between the Gun/Diebuster shows and their relationship with each other, and SDF Macross/Frontier and their respective relationship with each other.

    I can see how Macross Frontier fails to provide the same emotional value that the original gave its fans the same way you see the inability of Diebuster to rise above being a plain sequel.

    Macross Frontier did something really well though: the nostalgia fanservice was epic. The references to the 25 years worth of shows were beautifully and grandly done. I don’t see how nostalgia fanservice can be done better…

    …save for a moment in Diebuster. You both know what it is. Lal’c staring to the sky watching the two lights enter the atmosphere, giving us the <i>privilege</i> of being in the midst of 10,000 years of human gratitude lighting up the surface of the Earth…

    I cried like the fool I was for Gainax shows. And I’m a happy fool. Thank you for this post, for making me remember love.

  2. Actually, I’d prescribe Diebuster as a “sequel” only in the way that it references the original. Thematically it seems to reject Gunbuster’s theme of self-sacrifice and isolation due to time dilation effects. In many ways Gunbuster may have been superior in characterization because it takes normal people and illustrates the conflict and pain of acting as the “savior of humanity” when, if there was peace, they would choose to live normal lives

    In contrast, Diebuster takes on the theme of a select group of youths who are thrust into the limelight, idolized and seen as heroes. And then the kids soak it up and are terrified of the day they lose their powers and plummet from their podium of Gods to being mere mortals. Episode 5 seems like the height of this theme in particular as we see their utter rejection by society and their behavior becomes even more erratic in the face of their loss of all identity. Ultimately episode 6 involves with coming to peace with the fact that there are always going to be people far superior to us in abilities and we need to place our identity not in something fickle like the limelight, but in relationships (at least in my view).

    As you say, both involve “guts” but it seems as if they approach the problem in an entirely different direction. Interestingly, I do agree that Nono is poorly characterized, but I think in that regard so is Amane (who else thought her romance with the coach came off as a little fake and contrived).

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