Posted on Tuesday, December 8th, 2020 by Rafael Motamayor
(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)
It’s impossible not to think of studio Gainax and Hideaki Anno when considering the most influential or popular mecha anime of the past two decades. Between Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, FLCL, and the creation of Studio Trigger, few studios have added so much to the genre outside of Sunrise (the creators of Gundam). But while many anime fans (and even non-anime fans) have heard of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the same cannot be said about the show that paved the way for Anno’s entire career as a director, the phenomenal OVA show Gunbuster.
Gunbuster, also known as Aim For the Top! in Japan, was a six-episode OVA from 1988 heavily inspired not only by classic mecha anime like Getter Robo and Space Battleship Yamato, but also by the tennis shoujo (young girls) anime Aim for the Ace! and the Hollywood blockbuster Top Gun.
This strange blend of influences is part of the charm of Gunbuster, which begins as a standard high-school coming-of-age story. We follow Noriko, a young woman training to impress her senior classmate and role model, and become the pilot of a giant robot.
But wait! Humanity has been preparing for a massive war against space monsters, and the show evolves to becoming a poignant exploration of war, expectations, and friendship — all while doing time-dilation better than Interstellar. Oh, and there’s a “Danger Zone”-esque soundtrack that doubles down on how wonderfully ’80s the whole thing really is.