In deep space on board the Exelion, Noriko writes a ‘telepathic letter’ to Kimiko about their journey. She thinks about how it feels like a ship traveling on the ocean. When the Exelion warps, all the crew are confined to their rooms. The girls tell ghost stories and play a courage game. Noriko is forced to go to the hanger and tie a headband to a ladder. There she meets a boy named Smith Toren, who is also on a dare. He scares her, so he offers to leave her headband for her. When he climbs the ladder, he meets Ohta, who tells them to meet him in space suits once they exit warp. Noriko and Smith are made the polish the Exelion’s laser lenses as punishment. Noriko admires the stars, but Smith is less than enthusiastic. Tashiro is informed that they’ll pass the star Leaf 64, and he remembers how he was only a navigation officer last time he saw it. Several objects traveling at near light speed are detected approaching the ship. Smith shields Noriko as the object flies by. The object is identified as the enemy and Tashiro orders the fleet to follow it. The Exelion fleet will use Leaf 64’s gravity to u-turn and enters combat status. Noriko studies on a train and Smith tells her that all that stuff is useless in real combat. She says that she and Kazumi are the best team in the Top Squadron and that a solo like him wouldn’t understand. She heads to the locker room and continues studying even when changing. Tashiro is horrified to see that Leaf 64, a young star that was like the Sun, has become a red giant. He wonders how it could change in only a decade. Kazumi speaks to Ohta while Noriko practices in her RX. She accidentally turns her monitor on and overhears Kazumi telling Ohta not to let Noriko into combat. Ohta refuses, so Kazumi says she won’t be Noriko’s partner anymore. Noriko is shocked to hear this.
Noriko accidentally opens her RX-7’s cockpit and Kazumi tells her it’s for her own good. Noriko starts crying and Ohta tells her she has to believe in herself and show him what she’s got. Noriko finds Smith at the vending machines and apologizes because now she’s a solo too. Smith says they should be partners then and Noriko agrees. He hands her his drink and goes to sign them up. Noriko takes a sip and realizes it’s a second-hand kiss. The Exelion fleet completes its turn and readies for combat. The fleet opens fire and the Top Squadron is launched equipped with californium nuclear warheads. Kazumi and Jung launch as a pair, followed by Noriko and Smith. Once in space, Noriko panics a bit, but Smith’s voice reassures her. He says he’ll handle offense while she handles defense. One of the ships is sunk and Noriko is hit with the shockwave. Several enemies fly past her and she is unable to do anything. After things quiet down, she calls out to Smith, but he doesn’t answer. Tashiro learns that all the enemies are gathering at Leaf 64 and he realizes what they fought was just a diversion. He calls all the units back and orders them to warp once everyone returns. He figures that the Space Monsters use stars as hatching grounds for their eggs, which explains the high number of star deaths in the area. Noriko returns to the Exelion and waits for Smith, but he doesn’t show up. She regrets not being able to fire a single shot as the Exelion warps away. She peeks into the boy’s dormitory, but doesn’t see Smith. She goes to the vending machines and then the hanger and starts crying. She sees a room with the lights on and enters it to find Ohta and the incomplete Gunbuster. She cries into Ohta’s chest, saying she was with Smith but she couldn’t do anything. She begs him to train her harder. New born Space Monsters emerge from Leaf 64.
This episode introduces us to Smith Toren, the man with the funky hair. Noriko quickly develops a crush on him, and if you think it was too quick, well, love has always been an unexpected punch to the gut. Kazumi drops Noriko as her partner, saying it’s for Noriko’s own good, so she teams up with Smith. The Top Squadron has its very first battle and it doesn’t go well at all. It did an amazing job of capturing the horror of combat from the cockpit. Noriko couldn’t even see her enemies, let alone do anything to them. It also gave you a good feel for just how empty space is. We get no indication of Smith’s death. No scream. No dramatic explosion. Just silence. Silence is far more terrifying than a blood-curdling scream could ever be. We finally get a glimpse at the Gunbuster and Noriko is resolved to improve herself. The OVA is halfway through and it’s all up hill from here.