In the last couple of years Gundam hadn’t been doing super great and had not lived up to the runaway success of 2002’s Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. The most recent TV show, Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, ended up being a huge flop. Perhaps that’s why the creators decided to go in a different direction for Build Fighters. Like with Mobile Fighter G Gundam this anime threw out all tropes associated with the franchise but unlike G Gundam that included the space opera narrative. This series takes the concept first introduced in the OVA series Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G, an anime that is basically about fans of Gundam playing with the model kits associated with the show (which are nicknamed “Gunpla”), and takes it to its logical conclusion: have a whole TV show about young kids battling each other. To put it simply this show is basically a cross between Gundam and Yu-Gi-Oh! If reading that last sentence made you want to shake your head and close this window I don’t blame you as I had a similar reaction when I first discovered this show. Here’s the thing; it’s wrong to judge something before you check it out so let’s take a look at this crazy anime and then verbally rip it to shreds.
Full review after the jump.
|You got to buy it! |
So yeah, this is one weird ass cartoon. But goddamn it it’s a fun one! I was shocked by how quickly I got swept into this show since, let’s be frank, it doesn’t exactly have the strongest plot nor does it have the most original cast. I think a large part of the appeal is that it feels like a refreshing change of pace from the typical Gundam series. There’s no war, there’s no life or death struggle and there sure as hell is no trace of tragedy; it’s just a nice cartoon about nerds having fun. I’m a nerd and I enjoy having fun so it’s easier for me to relate to the various characters starring in this show than, say, Amuro Ray from the original Mobile Suit Gundam or Kamille Bidan from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam or Heero Yui of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. The lack of dire straits puts more focus on just a having a good time. I tend to more easily forgive the short comings in plot and characters for this reason. It’s not supposed to be very deep so criticizing it for that seems kind of dumb.
|Yeah, this is a cooler upgrade than the Wing Zero|
...except for that whole "action figure size" thing
As I said the cast isn’t the best or the most original but they are sufficiently fun. The drawback is that every character is basically an anime archetype and there’s not really anyone we haven’t seen before in some other show, with perhaps a few quirks added. There are a lot of characters regularly featured and, while they are familiar, they gelled well together and played off each other pretty good. Plus it’s for me hard to complain about the ensemble cast when they had a black kid, Nils Nielsen, as a major character which is very rare for an anime. The friendship between Sei and Reiji makes up the backbone of the show as their chemistry and teamwork allowing them to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks appears to be the major theme of this story; “friendship conquers all”.
|Of course they made Nils half Japanese because he couldn't be too foreign|
A drawback though comes from Reiji. Most of the show is fairly straight forward as it takes place in a world so similar to our own that the suspending of disbelief is easy to achieve but very early in the series it’s made very clear that Reiji is a prince from another world…which is f**king nuts. It’s the pink elephant in the room in an otherwise easy to believe story. I can buy that some new technology could result in a game like Gunpla Fighters but one of the main characters being an alien pretty much makes this show science fiction. Which would have been fine if the show wasn’t so grounded outside of the battles. It’s just a weird addition that makes the overall tone of the show a bit more confusing. I feel that if Reiji was a prince from a small, isolationist country rather than from a far away planet the show wouldn’t have changed much. To make it more annoying this aspect of Reiji is a very major plot point in the second half of the series but we learn almost nothing about his world, people or even why he’s on Earth. Now I know that I said the nature of the show makes it easy to overlook characters and plot not being particularly deep but in this case I think it’s hard not to be a bit frustrated when it’s the only really fantastical aspect of this show’s mythology. Hell, even in the more serious Gundam series alien races have almost never, ever made appearances. Of course a second season of Gundam Build Fighters has been announced so it’s very possible they will get more into that when it returns to television (which is supposedly set to happen later this year) and they might have planned it this way all along but for the 24 episodes that were put in front of me I found it to be my biggest issue with the show.
Still, despite the rampant commercialism on display, you can’t argue that Gundam Build Fighters isn’t an enjoyable show. What it lacks for depth it makes up with fun. It’s a love letter to Gundam fans and chalked full of references and cameos from the show’s thirty-five year history. It’s the perfect anime to watch when you feel you’ve been seeing a few too many downers and need something to clear your palate. If you’re the type of person who prefers serious works of art you will likely not get very far into a viewing of the show but if you enjoy something lighthearted and easy to digest without being nonsensical garbage you may want to give this anime a chance.
|Go Team Friendship!|
-Great action and visuals
-Cool variations on classic Gundam designs
-A lighthearted break from the more serious Gundam series
-Reiji’s background sticks out in an otherwise fairly grounded show
-The show is 100% a toy commercial, even more so than your typical Gundam series