On the Exelion, a scientists briefs Tashiro on how they believe the Space Monsters originate from the center of the galaxy and that they increase their numbers by laying eggs in young stars as they head for Earth. He says that the Space Monsters are antibodies that view humans as bacteria in the life form that is the galaxy. Tashiro doesn’t believe it, but the scientist points out that humans don’t have a useful purpose and are just floating in the Milky Way like cosmic waste. The other girls invite Noriko out to eat cake, but she declines, saying she’s on garbage duty. When she leaves, the other girls talk about how she’s been spending all her time with Ohta since being dumped by Kazumi. They wonder if they’re lovers. Noriko trains in an RX-7 that has a cockpit system that mimics her movements. Ohta tells her she’s too slow. He says that she’s the only one that can look out for herself, but that doesn’t mean she can sacrifice her comrades. Jung isn’t pleased to see this. Jung confronts Noriko and says that she knows Ohta is training her for the new weapon. Jung challenges her to a match. When their RX-7s make it out into space, Noriko has flashbacks to her first battle and starts freaking out. Noriko rests in the infirmary and Kazumi slaps Jung. Jung slaps her back and says that Ohta chose Noriko, not either of them. She adds that Noriko will die the next time she goes out, if she goes out at all. Kazumi agrees. Kazumi asks Ohta how much longer he’s going to put Noriko through everything. Ohta says until it’s all over. Kazumi says that Gunbuster was designed for her, but Ohta says she’s being conceited. He says that Gunbuster needs both of them and that she should hone her own skills instead of worrying about Noriko. Kazumi says that he is the conceited one, thinking he can mould people the way he wants. She says that she’s enough to be the tool for his revenge and that he should leave Noriko out of it. She adds that the next time Noriko heads out, she won’t come back. Tashiro announces that their biggest concern is leading the Space Monsters back to the Sol System, so they’ll warp there directly. Tashiro asks Ohta about Gunbuster’s status and hopes that they won’t have to use it. The fleet enters warp but are attacked. Tashiro doesn’t know how that could happen and orders the ship to fire. He asks about the other ships, but is told there’s no way to know until they exit warp. The ships warp out and Tashiro says it will paint a bull’s-eye on Earth. Only twelve percent of the fleet is reported to have made it out of warp, but, in actuality, only the Exelion and twelve other ships survived. The rest are all cruiser-class Space Monsters.
The Top Squadron is prepared to launch, but there is a problem with Linda Yamamoto’s machine. Ohta tells Linda to use Noriko’s machine and for Noriko to remain on standby. The RX-7s launch while Noriko waits in her room. Tashiro orders an all out attack on the biggest Space Monster with their photon torpedoes, but the Space Monster survives. The Exelion and RX-7s get swarmed by Space Monster grunts and Jung and Kazumi get caught. Noriko cries in her room about how no one had faith in her, but she can’t blame them because she’s such a cry baby. She wonders if she’ll like that. Linda gets killed by a grunt. Noriko eventually stands up. The Exelion’s bow gets destroyed and their radar is knocked out. Noriko tells Smith that the old her with die with him and that she won’t cry anymore. She says she’ll relay on herself. The Exelion takes more damage and Tashiro says they’ll ram the enemy mother ship if they have to. Tashiro is informed that the seventh hanger has opened and Noriko rises up in the Gunbuster. Tashiro tells her not to go, but Ohta tells her to focus on the enemy leader. Gunbuster launches and Noriko uses the Buster Beam to destroy the grunts, freeing Jung and Kazumi. The last of the Exelion’s escort ships is destroyed. Noriko tries to hit the leader with Buster Beams, but it moves too fast for her. She activates her inertial cancellers to full and lets the Space Monster impale Gunbuster. She then uses the Buster Colliders to destroy the Space Monster. The Exelion’s radar is restored and they see that the enemy fleet has retreated from the Sol System. Everyone rejoices when they see that the Gunbuster also survived.
This is what the past three episodes have been leading up to. Noriko started out as an underachiever with big dreams, and then she became some one crushed by the weight of the expectations placed on her. Then she met those expectations, but she still relied on the opinions of others. When she thought no one had faith in her, she also lost faith in herself. You can actually pinpoint the second that she realizes that she can only believe in herself and that she has to make a stand. And that she does. This is a true underdog story and I can’t help but absolutely love Noriko. I dare say she’s my favorite anime character ever. The Exelion fleet is almost wiped out by the Space Monsters, but cue the dramatic music and Gunbuster makes one of the best entrances ever. Even though it’s incomplete, Noriko puts her life on the line and manages to save the day. An amazing episode, but it’s not over yet!