Gunbuster Finally Gets a Sequel: Top wo Nerae 2! (Vol. 1-2)
The original Top wo Nerae! Gunbuster ("Aim for the Top! Gunbuster") was one of the most beloved anime productions of all time. Released in 1988, it was a flawless OVA series that simultaneously parodied, paid tribute to, and surpassed nearly every genre of anime that preceeded it. It managed to accomplish all of that in the context of an action-filled and genuinely moving story that helped to establish the OVA market and launched both Gainax and director Hideaki Anno into stardom.
Finally, Gainax has released the the first two episodes of the sequel, Top wo Nerae 2! It's more of a follow-up than a true sequel. While it retains many of the elements of the original it clearly takes place in a slightly different universe. Hideaki Anno, who seems to have retired from directing animation, serves as supervisor while Kazuya Tsurumaki (FLCL) directs.
So how does it measure up? Read on...
Judged on its own merits, Top wo Nerae 2! has a lot going for it. The mecha have an interesting Evangelion-meets-Giant Robo look. It has possibly the most gorgeous animation I've ever seen, particularly in the second episode. Tsurumaki has had four or five years to improve upon FLCL's already-impressive animation and it really shows. That hyperkinetic style has never been done better.
Problem is, the whole thing is a little too hyperkinetic. It's an enjoyable story but it hurtles along too quickly for us to develop any empathy for the characters. Top wo Nerae! worked because it established a deep sense of melodramatic sympathy with Noriko Takaya and her struggles, whereas Top wo Nerae 2! simply throws us from one jaw-dropping animation sequence to the next.
So I don't know what to say about Top wo Nerae 2!. It's a nice enough work on its own but it constantly beats you over the head with elements of the original: the shirt ripping, the Inazuma kick, the music, the laser beams on the capital ships, the Buster Machines' weapons, the "big sister" theme, the space monsters, and so forth. It really wants you to be reminded of the original but it doesn't fill those shoes... yet.
With four episodes remaining in this six-episode OAV, there's still plenty of time to hope, of course. Even the original didn't get really good until the middle.
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