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[ café reviews ]

Episode 4: Launch! The Uncompleted Final Weapon

Copyright: GAINAX (Japan), US Renditions (North America)
Length: 30 minutes
Rating: NR, parental guidance suggested
Format: Subtitled (VHS)

Directed by: Hideaki Anno Produced by: English translation: Yoshida Toshifume, Trish Ledoux

[ plot summary ]

vhs jacket

The loss of Toren Smith has utterly devastated Noriko, who feels responsible for his death. Her sense of guilt spurs her to train even harder to master the use of her mecha, under close supervision by Coach Ohta. This additional training by the Coach hasn't escaped the attention of Jung-Freud, either. Jealous of the special treatment that Takaya is apparently receiving, Jung-Freud challenges Noriko to a personal duel to see how well the additional work is paying off. Unfortunately for Noriko, the emotion trauma of recent events is just too much for her, and upon reaching the exterior of the ship in her mecha, has a breakdown and is unable to fight.

Meanwhile, the terran fleet is travelling back to Earth after their first encounter with the aliens. Unexpectedly, the fleet is attacked while in hyperspace, and when the ships are unable to keep from dropping back into normal space, they unwittingly reveal the location of the solar system to the aliens. More immediate, though , is the alien attack fleet. Heavily outnumbered, the the terran fleet is rapidly being decimated. And with a shortage of mecha, Noriko is ordered to stay on board while others battle against the aliens in space...

[ capsule review ]

Finally, Noriko has come to terms with her past failures, and is able to contribute her potential to the fleet. In this episode, we get all the elements of classic Japanese-style epic melodrama: a main character that has to overcome insurmountable personal demons, the all-important "inner court" scene where Kazumi demands to be allowed to be the means by which Coach Ota will realize his dreams, and the conflict in which there seems to be no hope for anyone. The animators obviously loved watching those samurai soap operas -- the scene with Kazumi and Ohta in the tatami room, complete with shoji doors could have easily have been lifted from a Mifune Toshiro movie, right down to the wisened mentor (Ohta) stoically playing goshi by himself, while his servant (Kazumi) pleads her case. The close-in framing of the faces of our players complete the mood...

We finally get to see the GunBuster in action as well, and just like the samurai epics, Noriko is willing to sacrifice all to save the fleet and her friends from certain death. I found the scene in which Takaya, unable to hit the alien with the Buster Beam, decides to try to catch the alien to be too much -- the writers went way overboard with the dramatics. Still, the final resolution was very satisfying, ending on a very upbeat note -- complete with the use of the song Active Heart (used in the opening credits, sung by Sakai Noriko) to bring things to a close. - AN

Finally! Noriko's character is starting to actually show some development... after a serious wallow in self pity again (the "everyone hates me!" really does get tiresome after awhile). Still, you can't help but wonder a bit if Gunbuster needed to get so badly damaged if it had a decent pilot in it in the final battle for this episode. But then we wouldn't have much of a story would we? The emotional manipulation which occurs when Noriko decides to do a potentially suicidal manoeuver to catch and destroy the mother ship is annoying in some ways and heart wrenching in others. Depends on your mood and personality when watching. It's rather satisfying to see that she finally got to the point of *doing* something, but it's also very annoying in watching Kazumi's over-reaction and just the whole feel of the scene. Still, much of the first part of the series has been Noriko feeling very sorry for herself, so this last bit will hopefully be the end of it and we'll actually get some *other* story in here from now. I really have a problem though with these "superweapons". If it's so easy for GunBuster to wipe out the enemy forces, then why not put more effort into creating them rather than just one? Or, why not outfit the cruisers etc., with that kind of firepower... oh never mind. What sort of story would there be if Noriko wasn't to pilot the Gunbuster mega-weapon, and what kind of pilots would these people be if they couldn't kill 20-30+ enemies in a single sortie. Right? - JYN

[ café rating ]

Original: Subbed: Dubbed:
Story: N/A 4 stars N/A
Direction: N/A 4 stars N/A
Acting: N/A 4 stars N/A
Animation: N/A 4 stars N/A
Music: N/A 4 stars N/A
Translation: N/A 4 stars N/A
Overall Rating: N/A 4 stars N/A

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