Twelve Days of Anime 2015 Part 9: The Two Stories of Diebuster

nono1I absolutely cannot believe I waited this long to watch Diebuster.  I have never been more annoyed with past-me accepting the views of other critics as gospel truth, regardless of how “big time” the critic or how vehemently expressed the opinion.  In many ways, this notion of freeing myself from previously held biases and expectations has been the story of my fandom in 2015.  It was a year of trying things I’d been led to believe were not good and…and actually liking them.  By the middle of the year, I was re-evaluating a lot of my previously adopted standards and filters.

BUT…that doesn’t have much to do with the anime at hand.

So, I did a kinda scattershot podcast about Diebuster in late November.  I shared a lot of my opinions about the series there, but I didn’t exhaust my thoughts on it by any means.  So, I’m going to briefly discuss one of the coolest aspects of a show with tons of coolest aspects, namely its ability to be read as two separate stories.

larcDiebuster viewers can choose to read the anime as a story of Nono, a go-get-em robot girl with big dreams of becoming a mecha pilot, or they can decide to read it as being about the more emotionally complicated L’arc Mellk Mal, the famous and prodigious Buster Machine pilot.  Both characters receive a ton of screen time, and each experiences a tonally different journey than the other.

Nono’s arc is similar to that of Noriko from the original Gunbuster.  Noriko went from ordinary girl to the savior of humanity through hard work and guts, and Nono applies this attitude to her own life.  However, unlike Noriko, Nono doesn’t have a coach, and, while she does train, we see her doing chores and mecha upkeep far more often.  Nono’s strength lies in her resolve; she believes so strongly in her own dream.  In order to finally achieve it, Nono journeys far far away from her team mates, even despite protests from her idol, L’arc.  Nono receives the ‘power overwhelming” which allows her to save humanity, but, by becoming so powerful, she loses her innocence.  She has moments of doubt, but ultimately Nono’s story is a message that the human heart holds as much power and potential as the big bang.

On the other hand, viewers can choose to interpret Diebuster as the story of L’arc.  In this case, instead of a rags-to-riches story like Nono’s, you’re treated to something more emotionally volatile.  L’arc begins the series as the anointed savior of humanity with an admiring Nono clinging to her, but several events occur during Diebuster which drastically shift the political landscape, placing L’arc in some very different circumstances than she starts out in.  She is a much more inward-facing character than Nono.  She internalizes everything that happens to her, and there are plenty of great mood scenes in which an angst-filled L’arc is brooding or attempting to distract herself from her own loneliness.  L’arc is a lonely girl; this is one of her defining and persistent characteristics, whether she is being treated like royalty or has been discarded by humanity as irrelevant.  Though she plays her part in many mecha battles, I think the core conceit of L’arc’s story is:  lonely person making a real connection with someone else (Nono).  This story is much more grounded, and therefore, much more relatable, so I can understand why people gravitate toward L’arc.

Again, this is only one facet of why Diebuster is so good.  It’s a really important anime for historical reasons, but also a damn entertaining one.  But, if you haven’t seen it, don’t take my word as gospel; go find out for yourself!

Twelve Days of Anime 2015 Part 9: The Two Stories of Diebuster

14 thoughts on “Twelve Days of Anime 2015 Part 9: The Two Stories of Diebuster

  1. Shin-chan says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Diebuster. I love how distinctively “Gainax” the stuff that Gainax made was, and this is up there with TTGL and NGE for most the most “Gainax” thing that they’ve made. It’s funny, when I first watched Gunbuster the uncensored boobs surprised me (I really should’ve expected them knowing that it was an OVA). I can’t believe that I allowed it to happen a second time with Diebuster. The term “topless” was getting thrown around and I was thinking, “haha, clever Gainax, these people have no upper limit on their powers and you made it into a pun,” and then Nono tears her shirt off at the end of ep. 1. That will probably remain right up there with the end of ep. 4 as my most memorable moment of my time with Diebuster.

    1. That studio had such a distinctive aesthetic and overall spirit/enthusiasm to it that just isn’t really there these days. Can’t blame them, I guess; two studios split off from them in the last few years, so they’ve lost a ton of creative talent.

      Did you get to see Punch Line this spring? I haven’t finished it, and I don’t think it was particularly remarkable; however, they absolutely nail that early 00s Gainax aesthetic. Everything from the color choice to the fashion choice screams homage to the look of FLCL and Diebuster. The show tried to replicate the spirit of Gainax as well, but it couldn’t quite get there in the episodes I watched.

      As I said on the Senpai Coast To Coast podcast, I think Diebuster captures most of the best elements of Gainax and leaves behind the more clunky ones. It’s one of my favorite things they’ve made. #FreeTsurumaki

      1. Shin-chan says:

        I had intended to get around to Punch Line, but by the time I was able to get around to it the series was nearing its end, and I’d heard little aside from the fact that it peaks early and just goes downhill. I decided to avoid being disappointed by it. I may get back to it at some point though. It’s a studio MAPPA production I think, and they’ve been really interesting in their short life so far, if not too great in terms of quality.

        1. I am extremely fond of both fantasy series MAPPA put out recently. Bahamut Genesis was a ton of fun, and the first season of Garo was magnificent, though the word on Garo season two is to avoid.

          1. Shin-chan says:

            I really enjoyed Bahamut until it got into that fairly-maligned plot-heavier segment, at which point I dropped it and never picked it back up. There were only a handful of episodes left so I really should finish it off. The big MAPPA disappointment for me of course was ZnT. I loved that show, really and truly, but its writing was crap, and looking back on it I can only like it less and less. That stunning Kanno score is the only thing that made it worthwhile for me.

              1. Shin-chan says:

                I’d say it’s worth watching. The handful of stellar moments are truly breathtaking. Going into it expecting a good show is what makes those moments frustrating, since the weakness of the narrative robs them of most of their meaning, but they are worthwhile experiences on their own if one goes into the series being aware of its poor quality.

  2. Ah Diebuster. The sequel that is unneeded and will forever get a lot of flack for its obnoxious moe protagonist. Personally, while watching this OVA I concluded it was a thematic sequel to FLCL and using its themes to also talk about Gunbuster since tsurumaki directed FLCL and directed the science lessons for gunbuster 1. If FLCL is about entering adolescence with Naota without a role model then Diebuster is about coming at the other end of adolescence with Lal’c. I still claim that after FLCL and Diebuster the script writer Yoji Enokido definitely lost his edge with freakin captain earth and star driver and the EVA rebuilds. And Kazuya Tsurumaki is still shackled to Hideaki Anno, what a waste of talent.

    1. Nono is wonderful, and I will not hear otherwise.

      Interesting thematic angle. It’s been a while since I’ve seen FLCL (but that will soon change; arigato, Santa), but Diebuster certainly picks up where it left off, both aesthetically and thematically. I still think it is a true, thematic sequel to Gunbuster, despite it’s not being necessary (most sequels aren’t). Tsurumaki ditched the overt Aim for the Ace homage and added some Eva-flavored angst, but Nono’s story is very much a worst-to-first story just like her idol’s.


  3. chiles says:

    one of the elements of DIEBUSTER that i love is how it seems to me to be an intelligent possibly feminist-aligned (if also somewhat loving/benevolent) critique of the fan service that was such a big part of GUNBUSTER’s notoriety (&, i guess, allowing for my limited experience w/ anime, Gainax in particular, if only because of the ‘Gainax bounce’), from the ambisexual character designs to the character dynamics – & the twinned narratives you describe here play into it – to little details such as the sperm-shaped spaceships & the term ‘Topless’ itself – as if the show was (re?)appropriating the term from those who would minimize Noriko Takaya’s heroism by focusing on her boobs. it’s like a progression from the (possibly, but problematically) second-wave-ish feminism of GUNBUSTER to something more complex. i wonder though if anyone else has picked up on this & this is actually a thing or if it’s just me projecting my personal hangups on a show i really really love.

    1. When I saw diebuster for the first time, I wondered why they went with the whole topless stuff. But then I realized it was a joke(aim for the top) and also was referring to the extraordinary power of youth. In the show the only character who remains topless is Nono because you know what, and as a result keeps the wonderful power of youth. In the case of the sperm whales, it just shows how in this world everything is not as mature as it seems. You have got dog astronaut outfits, people not taking care of themselves by smoking cigarettes(Or coping badly after losing their topless ability). Additionally, former topless like Casio acting childish. I really love diebuster (screw the haters), and its themes on childhood and adulthood are a follow up to FLCL which is directed by the same director and written by the same writer.

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