Gunbuster: The Legacy of Hideaki Anno’s Directorial Debut

Neon Genesis Evangelion is the anime for which Gainax, as well as series creator and company co-founder Hideaki Anno, are known. While the series came out in the 1990s, Gainax was founded in the previous decade, producing several different works of note. One of these was the iconic Gunbuster, which would go on to become a landmark production in its own right.

Combining a tennis anime with science fiction, cute girls and Top GunGunbuster ultimately paved the way for Gainax and Hideaki Anno's success. Although it has been released outside of Japan before, strangely enough, it has never been officially dubbed into English. This is finally changing now that Discotek has the license, with Sound Cadence Studios producing an all-new dub for the upcoming Blu-ray re-release.

Before Westerners get an earful of an English translation of the OVA, here's what Gunbuster is about and why the show was so vitally important to Gainax and anime in general.

What Is Gunbuster About?

Known in Japan as Aim for the Top!Gunbuster is an OVA series that originally ran from 1988 to the following year. Its Japanese moniker derives from the fact that it's a narrative combination of the tennis anime Aim for the Ace! with elements of the American blockbuster film Top Gun. The protagonist is a young girl named Noriko whose father was an ace pilot years ago in a battle against alien invaders.

Though she lacks his skill in piloting the gigantic RX-7 mechs, Noriko becomes one of the prominent students sent to defend the Earth from aliens. She gains friends and rivals as her adventures in space cause time dilation to take place. Constantly sent unwittingly into the future, the lives of those in the Gunbuster project slowly slip away as they lose track of time -- literally.

Almost 20 years later, a sequel titled Aim for the Top 2!, or Diebuster outside of Japan, was released. Featuring a new plot and characters, this movie marked the 20th anniversary of Gainax. However, this wouldn't be the end of the series' legacy, and the imprint of the original is still felt in many ways.

Why Is Gunbuster So Important?

Part of Gunbuster's success and legacy stems from its own quality. The OVA is considered a classic among anime aficionados for its writing, which jumps between serious military endeavors and satirical and parody elements of other productions. Its lampooning of concepts from Aim for the Ace! also enhances the self-referential humor throughout the series, making it one of the first anime productions to really embrace otaku culture. In terms of Top Gun, it shares the '80s movie's over-the-top sense of style, high-octane music and even training montages, though it does eventually downplay this source material as science fiction themes of time dilation come to the forefront.

The fact that Noriko is such a seemingly inadequate pilot not only recalls Gundam characters such as Amuro Ray but also foreshadowed Shinji's characterization in Gainax's later series Evangelion. Speaking of EvangelionGunbuster was the directorial debut of Hideaki Anno, the creator of that series. As mentioned, he obviously took elements from Gunbuster, meaning that Evangelion might not be what it is without the previous show. Besides his iconic mecha series, Anna has also directed other great works such as the live-action movie Shin GodzillaGunbuster was also the first major commercial success for Gainax, putting them on the map and allowing for future hits to be made.

Soon, more fans than ever will be able to enjoy the series and see the roots of modern anime, Gainax and the prototypical elements of one of the most well-known mecha anime of all time.

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