I've seen a fair bit of mecha, ranging from the 70s all the way up through today, so I have a pretty good idea of what's been done and how it's been done. When I take a look at Cybuster in that context, the result is a rather luckluster series that can't hope to match the standard set by Masaaki Endoh's glorious opening vocals.
Cybuster takes elements from the Super Robot Wars universe and spins them into a standalone TV series which follows the progression of the Divine Crusaders from a friendly reconstruction group to a world-bending military dynamo which spams black holes like they're
going out of style. It's pretty clear from the beginning that something is up with them, and anyone who has played the games or saw the more recent SRW animes already knows that DC is bad news.
The machines have completely different designs from their SRW counterparts, eschewing fantastic design elements for something that looks more realistic. The result is a Valsione that closely resembles Nadescio's Aestivalis, a Granzon which could pass for a Guntank, and a Cybuster which loses all of its map-clearing magic and signature moves, with the exception of the Cyflash. That is used exactly once... in episode 25.
Most of the time Cybuster is just punching and kicking its enemies or throwing razor-sharp wind at them, which causes some cosmetic damage and knocks them over. Enemy robots shoot back with projectiles which explode around the Cybuster and occasionally grapple with it and knock it over. And all of the robots move slowly and methodically through the combat area, providing little tension since the payoff tends to be robots falling over and then retreating. Did I mention that the mechs of Cybuster often fall over?
I think it's pretty bad that I was watching a show about trans-dimensional elemental robot gods fighting against transforming tank-bots that shoot black holes and thought, "Wow, these fights are boring."
There's not too much to complain about on the character front. They're pretty stock as far as mecha characters go and all the standard tropes apply. Main character Ken Ando shows decent growth as he learns to think for himself and evaluate DC as it truly appears, not as he wishes it to be. My biggest gripes are with Masaki and Lune. They've been greatly toned down from their SRW counterparts, losing all of their hot-bloodedness and replacing it with... well, I'm not sure what. Lune got a raw deal, turning into a selfish brat with no piloting skill.
For something produced in 1999, the animation is embarrassing. Sure, the backgrounds properly illustrate the deteriorating condition of the world, but when individual frames of animation can be picked out by the naked eye, there are problems. Cost-cutting measures are easy to identify -- recycled attack animation is acceptable for a mecha anime, but from stationary foreground characters are not. The budget must have been laughably small.
So in summary, this show takes numerous elements from Super Robot Wars, waters them down until they're not even hollow copies of their originals, and drags a standard real-robot storyline through 26 episodes of bargain-basement animation. On the plus side, the DVDs are just as cheap!
Masou Kishin Cybuster is buried treasure. Based on a video game and released in 1999, MKC shows its age but don’t let that stop you. MKC offers a compelling story, engaging characters, and crunchy mecha goodness and, much like a good Gundam series (nothing to do with Gundam - just drawing a comparison), it presents open ended questions regarding science, ecology, warfare, and relationships.
For its time, the art is lush with great backgrounds that range from post apocalyptic cityscapes to an unspoiled “sea of trees. Aircraft, weapons, and mecha detail is pretty good and character designs not overly stylized. But then I
actually enjoy the warm look of hand drawn anime over CG anyway. I also liked the music and sound track, but some may find it as dated as the visual. There is a rich mix of characters, some who start out annoying but end up pivotal, some who start off stereotypical end up revealing something unexpected, and others who leave you unsure as to their role while the secrets of “DC” unfold at an excellent pace.
I went looking for MKC in an effort to make sense out of Super Robot Taisen OG: The Inspector. I finally found a dub of it on Veoh. The dub wasn't bad or distracting. In fact, once I started it I couldn’t stop until episode 10 when I had to give up and go to bed still thinking about what would happen next.
Obviously I think highly of this 12 year old series. If you are bored with more current fluff and looking for a solid, meaningful story, and/or classic mecha, don’t wait to watch Masou Kishin Cybuster.