In the near future, humanity made a push into outer space, and in doing so, they disturbed a race of insectoid aliens. With this alien life-form bent on humanity’s destruction, humanity has constructed giant robots designed to fight them. Hand-picking youth from around the world to pilot them, Gunbuster tells the struggles of the clumsy, but hard-working young pilot Noriko.
Not included in this list is Diebuster, the semi-sequel. If you like Gunbuster, then you definitely need to follow up with that one, but if you already have, here are a few more amazing anime recommendations for this mecha classic.
For Fans of The War on Space Aliens
Neon Genesis Evangelion
The world is on the brink of destruction following the landing of the Angels, massive monsters that want nothing more than to kill and destroy. The only hope lies with the select few that can pilot government agency Nerv’s special Evangelion-type mechs. The pilot must be compatible in order to pilot the Evangelions, and for Nerv leader, Gendo Ikari, one of those compatible few is his son, Shinji. With the fate of mankind on his shoulders and fights that often mean death for the pilots, is 14-year-old Shinji up to the task?
Gunbuster was made by Hideki Anno at least seven years before he made Evangelion, and well before his depression took over. This means you can see many of the things created in Gunbuster passed on, most obviously of which, the amazingly written characters. While NGE delves deeper into the psychological aspect of kids in war, Gunbuster still shares NGE’s coming of age story.
Knights of Sidonia
After Earth was destroyed by an alien race known as the Gauna, humanity fled across the galaxy in giant seed ships looking for a new home. In the year 3394, a mysterious man named Nagate Tanikaze surfaced from the bowels of the ship Sidonia and breaks his lifelong seclusion in search of food. After being discovered, he finds himself dragged into the military just in time for a Gauna attack and discovers that he may just be the hero that the Sidonia needs.
Both of these series are tales of humanity’s dire need of a hero in the face of a seemingly insurmountable alien enemy. While both main characters, when introduced, don’t seem like that hero, you soon learn that they can change the tide. As Gunbuster is short, this revelation comes at the end of the series while it is introduced early on in Knights of Sidonia.
After a mysterious spaceship crashes into Earth, humanity is panicked to find that they are not alone. To prepare for the inevitable visit, the now unified Earth repurposes the ship for defense. However, on its maiden voyage, they discover a fleet of spaceships belonging to the alien race dubbed the Zentradi. Unfortunately, their new ship, the Macross, opens fire and sparks war. In an attempt to escape, the ship and the city it was in, is transported to the far reaches of space. This is the danger-filled tale of those caught in the middle.
Both of these shows are tales of people who travel far across the universe and have to face an overwhelmingly powerful enemy. Furthermore, this war and the preparations for it are highly romanticized because that’s just how they did it in the 1980’s. However, unlike Gunbuster, Macross has many incarnations, and not all of them good.
For Fans of Energetic Action
Toppa Tengen Gurren Lagann
Simon and Kamina were living boring lives in their deep underground village when, on an excavation dig, they find a mysterious object that turns out to be the ignition key to an ancient war machine. With their new weapon, the pair are able to fend off an attack from above, but upon catching a glimpse of the sky, they set off on an adventure that will take them out of this universe.
Much of modern mecha has inspiration from its older peers like Gunbuster. While they might be hard to spot at first, Gurren Lagann, like Gunbuster, features a fight for humanity’s survival, a weak main character, and a sibling-like relationship between the characters. While Gunbuster takes it over the top at times, Gurren Lagann is a ball of pure action energy.
Space Patrol Luluco
Living in the rather abnormal Ogikubo, the only Space Immigration Zone on Earth and a melting pot of aliens and humans, bubbly Luluco just wants to be normal. However, when her father accidentally eats a powerful sleep capsule that freezes him solid and she also accidentally breaks him, she rushes over the Space Patrol to take his place in the office. There, the chief Over Justice hires her as an undercover agent to sniff out crime at her school.
Do you like Gunbuster because of the constant try-hard-ness of the main characters who does everything in their power to accomplish things? Then you will enjoy Luluco. While it doesn’t have the large emphasis on mechs, it does have some really flashy action and animation that draws you in. if you loved Gunbuster for Noriko, Luluco can fill the void.
Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne
Madoka Kyouno is an energetic girl full of passion and the sole member of her school’s jersey club that prioritizes helping people. This is why when a mysterious girl asks her to pilot a mech to protect the city, she can’t help but agree.
Madoka and Noriko share a lot in common, namely they both try hard in all they do. The difference is that Noriko is kind of terrible at the things she tries, which makes her journey more endearing than Madoka’s. While both stories are those of friendship, it comes more easily in Lagrange than in Gunbuster. Lagrange has some interesting action, but if we are being honest, Gunbuster does everything else much better.
For Fans of Emotion-Driven Mech Stories
Voices of a Distant Star
After the discovery of alien ruins on Mars, humanity made leaps and bounds in technology. As humanity plans an expedition deep into space, two students find love, but also set on different paths as one was selected for the space expedition.
Although an OVA, a shorter one than even Gunbuster, Voices of a Distant Star packs in a lot of complex emotions into a small package. Like the later episodes of Gunbuster, it is about the complicated emotions of someone traveling far from home, much just a few thousand miles away, but a few million miles.
Mobile Suit Gundam
After mankind moved to space, it established several colony clusters. However, one of these colonies declares independence as well as war on the Earth Federation. Using powerful mobile suits, these rebels quickly gain the upper hand. However, in the midst of the conflict, a young civilian named Amuro Ray finds himself hurled into the conflict.
Pick a Gundam, almost any Gundam, and you will find a story that is all about emotionally-driven mech stories. Gundam is all about long, drawn out drama while Gunbuster keep the emotion and drama very concise because of its short run time. While most Gundam series will fulfill you, I actually find the first Gundam series the most similar to Gunbuster because they share the same old school mecha themes.
During a twist of fate, Hitomi Kanzaki witnesses a boy named Van fall from the sky and kill a dragon. After he defeats it, they are both sucked into a pillar of light and Hitomi is taken to Van’s world where she finds out he is a prince and his kingdom is at war. After his kingdom falls, they both end up on the run as they try to take his kingdom back and get Hitomi home.
Both of these stories are more classic mecha stories full of themes of passion, hard work, and friendship. While they differ in some key respects and Escaflowne has the length to fully flesh everything out, they are both mecha masterpieces bound together by those classic themes. If you yearn for a return back to a similar time in anime, Escaflowne can take you back there.
Do you have any more good anime recommendations for Gunbuster? Let us know in the comments section below.