Face Off: Ray and Mike on Gunbuster vs. Diebuster (Part 1)

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Mike: I shed a tear at the end of Gunbuster. What an awesome piece of work. My Hideaki Anno shrine just got bigger again.

Ray: Yes! Yessss! That, my friend, is the awesomest work ever.

Mike:It’s so emotionally direct and sincere compared to most things produced these days. I have heard that in many ways, though, Gurren Lagann is the spiritual successor of Gunbuster.

Ray:Yeah, you know, Diebuster really feels nothing like Gunbuster emotionally.
It’s more like, we’ll take the concept and make a sort of tribute. But where’s the passion? Where’s the power? Where’s the bravery no matter how bad it looks? No–it’s GL.

Nothing rocks the soul better than Gunbuster ep4, when there looked like there was truly no hope left, and then the music rolls…then Noriko and Gunbuster rise out of the ship, arms folded. That is the King’s Way. That is the right way. With everything including the humanity on the line, that just kicked ass.

When Diebuster did it, it was to protect a few–and later, they just added the plot of using the Earth like a weapon, a kind of Gundam tribute. But something just wasn’t the same. It felt more like some kids yelling at each other for screwing up.

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Mike:The scale is different, I think you hit it. Diebuster in many ways is a story about the redemption of Lal’C, whereas Gunbuster is about saving all of humanity.

Also, I think the music made a really big difference. Even though both series have the same exact composer, often using the same exact themes, Gunbuster’s soundtrack was, for some reason, much more stirring.

I did notice something interesting, though. It’s not like Gunbuster itself is devoid of the kind of fourth-wall breaking, parodic, and wink-wink postmodernism that we expect out of anime today. In fact, they may have been some of the first! There are otaku, sci-fi, anime, and parodies galore.

Ray:Name some.

Mike:Well, some of them are contained in the omake science lessons. Anno’s love of the old live action “special effects” (tokusatsu) shows comes around in those. In a “new science lesson” made in 1995, when Noriko names all the planets, she starts transforming into the various Sailor scouts…in the wrong order.

The very title of the show is a parody of “Aim for the Ace,” a shoujo manga about tennis with a very similar initial premise. The entire series actually owes a huge debt to shoujo manga to tell the truth. I think thats where a lot of the sincere emotion comes from. Plus you have robots…doing push ups and situps. If that’s not laughing at the giant robot genre, I don’t know what is!


Ray:I didn’t bother watch any of the scientific explanation. Let’s stick to the shows themselves. Maybe I’m an 80s-con, but for me, what Gunbuster did could not be surpassed. Diebuster is…in many ways a cynical, post-80’s personal struggle. The relationships are almost petty and not epic.

Mike:I have to say, though, that I found the ending of Diebuster to be effective in its own way. I wouldn’t call it petty or even cynical. A lot of the cynicism drops after the second half begins actually. I think the thing is that the focus is on Lal’C, not on Nono. One of the great pleasures of watching Gunbuster is watching Noriko grow as a person.

Ray:Well, is there a parallel between Noriko and Lal’C?


Mike:Not at all. Lal’C is in Amano’s position in the show, not Noriko’s. She’s the “onee-sama.” In Diebuster she needs to come to believe in herself and that she is capable of doing good. Remember Gunbuster episode 5, when Noriko had to urge Amano to fight on? Diebuster is basically that, writ large.

Nono doesn’t really change much in the series. She is someone who is trying to be Nonoriri(ko) and when she gets super charged she basically has already been finished as a character. She doesn’t go through much of a real arc.

Ray:Perhaps that’s another reason why I didn’t like Diebuster as much – because the one that needed to grow wasn’t really the underdog, but the ace pilot! Where the hell is the drama in that? Why should I sympathize with an ace pilot?

Also, in the very beginning, Diebuster denied guts and passion, but in the end, Lal’C says: “Guts and passion are in your heart” ???? What??? Explain to me why that’s not cheesy or a cop out.


Mike:Actually I think it makes sense. That’s the journey that Lal’C is going through, from disbelieving in that to believing it, inspired by Nono. I think a huge reason for this is because there is no “Coach” character in Diebuster to urge both of them on. Coach is huge. He is really key to why Gunbuster works the way it does.

Ray:Well, he’s like the Japanese Dad that actually came around. Since a certain time in anime history, all of a sudden, father figures are no longer around, or very much distant, more like real life. There’s an emotional investment for anyone who understands and even experienced that kind of culture.

Mike:Actually–the absentee father theme is a big subtext in Gunbuster, too. Noriko loves her dad, but her dad was almost never really around. And I was going to say, this is a big Anno thing–there’s almost no Anno production without daddy issues!


Ray:Yeah, that’s true. But Coach takes the place of a father, doesn’t he?

Mike:He does. Though with Amano it’s a little more…complicated

Ray:Maybe I just don’t notice the subtexts. Subtleness is not my forte. But damn, how guts, hard work and passion have changed since Gunbuster days. Back then, the underdog worked her ass off, fought through many fears, and finally stood up and kicked ass. In Diebuster, she’s been a goddess all along, she just didn’t realize it. It’s just not very touching for me. It’s more like shounen manga, where the power has been within him all this time, it just needed to be triggered by some dire situation or some super enemy.

Mike:In Diebuster, Lal’C’s journey is not unlike Shinji’s in some ways. Since in Diebuster, the Buster Machines have a “relationship” with the pilot in the same way the Evas did, she has to fight in order to even “sync up” correctly at times.

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?

Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at mike.huang@animediet.net. You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.

1 thought on “Face Off: Ray and Mike on Gunbuster vs. Diebuster (Part 1)

  1. Oh goodness, how I enjoyed this post!

    >>Nono doesn’t really change much in the series. She is someone who is trying to be Nonoriri(ko) and when she gets super charged she basically has already been finished as a character. She doesn’t go through much of a real arc.

    I found the construction of Nono’s character pretty unsatisfying. To me, her greatest value is to elevate Noriko, to articulate the feelings I have for that character in ways not available to myself.

    For this, I appreciate Nono, and am thankful.

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