Young Noriko Takaya talks about her father and how she’ll be a space pilot when she grows up to join him. Several years later in 2015, her father is dead. While in deep space his ship, the Luxion, was attacked by aliens called Space Monsters. Six years later, Noriko watches other pilot trainees doing exercises in their RX Trainer machine weapons. Her friend, Kimiko Higuchi, joins her and notices she’s watching Kazumi Amano. Noriko says she wants to be like Kazumi, but Kimiko reminds her they’re just beginners. Noriko asks what her horoscope is, and Kimiko says that she’ll have a special encounter. Kimiko also reminds her that it’s time for the next period and that they’ll meet their new Coach. Noriko skips rope two hundred times and Kimiko wonders why she’s so bad in the Trainers. Noriko explains that controlling the arms, legs and watching the monitor is too much for her. Three girls in Trainers begin picking on her, saying she only got so far because her father was an admiral. She says she’s done everything on her own and Kazumi stops the girls from teasing her further. The girls run away and Kazumi exits her Trainer. She offers her condolences for Noriko’s father and gives her some tips on operating the Trainer. Noriko calls her a genius but Kazumi says it’s hard work. She explains even she fell down the first time but kept practicing. Kazumi notices Noriko’s hair in her eyes and gives her a sweatband. Later, the students listen to a speech from their principal in their Trainers. The students talk about two pilots from the boy’s school being selected and wonder who, aside from Kazumi, will be selected from their school. Noriko wishes she could go, but the others say there’s no chance. The new coach arrives and introduces himself as Koichiro Ohta. He turns off the RXs’ auto balancers and they all loose balance except for Kazumi. Ohta orders them to do 50 laps but Noriko forgets how to run. She dances around before Ohta tells her to do the laps with her own feet. The next morning Noriko gets a call and at school it’s confirmed that she was selected to be a pilot. The other students gossip about how she was unfairly selected and she runs away. She over hears Kazumi questioning Ohta about it. Ohta says he’s a survivor from the Luxion and that he’s responsible for what happens. He adds that Noriko has the potential to pilot the Buster Machine.
Later, Noriko wonders what to do now that everyone hates her. Kimiko suggests she might as well practice. Noriko finds her Trainer covered in graffiti and starts crying when she sits on a tack. Noriko begs Ohta to change his mind but he takes her and shows her Kazumi running with iron sandals. He says that Kazumi does have talent, but her hard work is what brings out that talent. He says Noriko is lacking ability because she doesn’t work at it. He explains he chose her because of her raw potential. He tells her to work hard and go into space with Kazumi, but she has something she has to do. Noriko starts training hard under Ohta’s supervision. She wakes up early to jog, does push ups, chin ups, hits a punching dummy, and does long distance running. She also practices in her Trainer, running while dragging tires, balancing, doing jumping jacks and push ups. All the other girls notice how much better she’s gotten. Reiko Kashiwara asks Ohta how she is inferior to Noriko, but Kazumi tells her she’s being unsightly. Reiko tells Noriko to meet her after school and bring her Trainer. That night, Reiko and Noriko face off in their Trainers. Reiko says she’ll make Noriko quit and knocks her down. Reiko picks Noriko’s Trainer up by the head and punches the stomach area. She continues to smack Noriko around, telling her to show the others how good she is. Reiko kicks her away and stomps on her, saying she’ll never accept Noriko. Noriko remembers Ohta telling her to depend only on herself and turns off her monitor since it distracts her. Reiko thinks she’s mocking her and uses her Triangle Punch attack. Noriko jumps into the air and hits Reiko with the Lightning Kick. Reiko admits defeat and Kazumi is amazed some one training for only a month pulled off the Lightning Kick. The next day, Ohta tells Noriko and Kazumi they’ll become members of the Machine Weapon Advanced Assault Squadron, the Top. Noriko, Kazumi and Ohta board a shuttle and head into space.
Gunbuster jumps right into the story from the get go, introducing us to Noriko and setting her up as an underachiever with big goals. By being chosen as a space pilot, she garners the antagonism of her fellow students. All the constant bullying makes her want to quit but thanks to Ohta’s training and her own hard work, she is able to prove to everyone she deserves to go into space. She’s a very believable and highly likable character. This episode is kind of wacky. You’d think doing sit ups and push ups in a mech wouldn’t amount to anything. The fight at the end is rather silly, with Reiko’s trainer slapping around Noriko’s. Despite the goofiness of the mechs, this episode gets the series off to a good start. On a side note, yes, Bandai Visual did indeed replace the music for the training montage for potential copyright reasons. I know most consider this heresy, but that’s a huge overreaction. At least the music it was replaced with was also from the Gunbuster soundtrack and not some corny rap song. It hardly detracts from the quality of the release.