I realize there are a lot of people about my age or a little older here who probably appreciate science fantasy and early animation. That being the case, I’m recommending you all check out a show that aired back in 1988 called Gunbuster. If you’re not into Japanese shows, subtitles or animation, I still recommend you check it out and I’ll explain why. The whole four part OVA is conveniently available for free and legally (I assume) on Internet Archive: Link (If you’re more comfortable with just picking up the blu-ray, you can find it here on Amazon: Link)
Forewarning, I recommend this for more mature audiences. It’s a cartoon but there’s some mild nudity. Nothing actually graphic, but still not for kids.
I’m suggesting checking this out for a few reasons:
First, it’s what I consider the greatest work of a company called Gainax, which was originally a few Japanese guys in their garage. They more or less pioneered modern animated shows for grown ups. That’s a massive simplification of the history, but long story short, they made possible a lot of the broody serious animated shows of the 90’s, including the massive hit made by their protégés called Evangelion.
Second, if you like hopeful optimistic stories about humanity figuring things out and using their mechanical might to take their place in the universe, unlike Evangelion, this is definitely one of those. The story has strong references to heavy philosophers and psychologists like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche, but turns their sometimes-gloomy or oppressive insights on their heads. While grounded by the inevitability of human extinction, the story manages to stay aspirational and insists that if humans take our problems and our potential seriously, we can find a way to persist and make habitable order for ourselves in a harsh and uncaring universe. The whole story is a metaphor for this idea and it’s a ton of fun when you happen to notice the mythological or ethical points that it’s getting at.
Third, there’s a desire for realism and scifi in the story and writing that is very satisfying. The characters think and act like real people and the payoffs in the story around this are amazing. For this reason, the characters are fun to sympathize with and root for and it’s hard not to mourn and smile with them. This is the opposite of a glowing Mary Sue story. There are theoretical physics used in the plot and little nods to real world science all throughout the series also. If you’re a nerd who likes space, there’s plenty of those sorts of things here to appeal to you, even if the technology in the show isn’t accurate to what actual space missions would be like.
Fourth, I just love this show. Gunbuster itself is so freakin’ cool. The voice acting is great and so are the action sequences. The art is beautiful. My favorite battle in the show happens in the second episode and the song that plays during it is fantastic. It is the best late 80’s action flick; it’s so imaginative and fun. The plot is awesome and spot-on in its themes. The characters and their relationships really make you care about them. There’s so much here to like. It’s a huge shame that it slipped by the West just because it was a cartoon. This is a mild spoiler, but at the very end the show runs out of money and you can really tell from the way the rest of it is presented from that point that the people working on it were passionate about their story and making sure it got told properly. You can see the pain and effort that went into finishing it. It’s really admirable and even cool to see the compromises that were made to make sure it got finished.
TLDR - I love everything about Gunbuster 1988, and I know more people would’ve really enjoyed it had they given it a chance. So please do that if you get an opportunity.
Ride on, Gunbuster!