Though Gundam Plastic Models, better known as Gunpla, exploded in popularity with the release of the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, their presence faded before resurging with a new purpose. Through the power of Plavsky particles, fans are now able to pit their Gunpla against others in a virtual reality-style battle with the best competing at the annual Gunpla World Tournament.
Sei Iori, whose father was a once finalist in the competition, dreams of one day conquering the contest himself. However, while Sei is an expert Gunpla builder, he lacks the prowess to effectively fight his creations during actual battle. In comes Reiji, a mysterious boy who is curiously ignorant of society but quickly demonstrates to Sei tremendous ability in Gunpla battles. The two boys decide to combine their strengths in order to sweep the Gunpla World Tournament and take the Gunpla world by storm.
Sunrise first announced the series under the title of "1/144 Gundam Mobile," signifying the show's Gunpla plastic model direction. High Grade kits would also be released based exclusively on the Mobile Suits appearing in the series.
Mecha series usually comes with the package of giant robots fighting space wars for liberation, conquest, and establishing a position in their perspective universe. Often or not, they adapt this style into a genre of warfare because colonies and countries rarely get along as result of internal/external conflicts. Gundam Build Fighters takes a bit of a different approach. Rather than world conquest, it adapts a competitive play involving technology that allows users to control Gundam models. These models are known by standards used in the so-called “Gunpla battles” as a sports competition. It presents a different atmosphere from the usual mecha series you may be
used to watching. However, being different isn’t necessary a drawback. In fact, Gundam Build Fighters proves itself to be unique in its own rights.
Gundam Build Fighters is a sci-fi series directed by Kenji Nagasaki that is known for being the 13th incarnation from Sunrise’s Gundam franchise. Take this show as a more competitive version of the previous Gundam franchise. By competition, I mean it as a way that shows characters’ abilities at their best when pitted against each other. They fight for: honor, respect, dignity, and some for self-interest. However, if these competitors have one thing in common: it’s their passion to fight and embrace the Gundam culture.
This series is competitive. It’s more competitive than any of its similar predecessor such as SEED, Gundam 00, or Gundam AGE. This is because the pure nature that defines Gundam Build Fighters. The key word might be ‘fighters’ here because it sets forth two important factors: the user and the Gunpla. There’s a saying that goes “a sword is only as strong as the wielder itself”. For Sei Iori, he is definitely not a strong fighter in the beginning. Coming from a normal family background, he is your average boy who has a talent with building Gunpla kits. Unfortunately, his piloting skills doesn’t match his creative mind. It seems hopeless for him to ever make it into the big leagues until he meets a mysterious boy named Reiji. While lacking common sense or social skills, Reiji’s piloting skills allows him to compete against those of the elite. It’s a source of mystery with his exact nature, origin, and how he arrived to Earth. But regardless, he is quickly able to make friends with Sei and together become a formidable duo that has earned them recognition in the community.
Gundam Build Fighters elicits a feeling of attachment on many occasions. It’s not just the competitions but the way characters develop. Sei and Reiji starts out as obscure names in competitions. However, they are able to fight their way to the top with their skills, intellect, and teamwork. It succeeds in this field of progression because we get to see how they develop with every battle. Each opponent they fight makes them stronger while allowing them to learn from any mistakes. The show also doesn’t present them as Gary Stu characters as they do take losses on occasions against prominent opponents. Not only that but it’s also important to realize that neither Sei or Reiji blames each other for losses. They learn from their mistakes most of the time and use their knowledge to fight brilliantly through competitions. Of course, they also have the support of their family and friends. In the end, you’ll feel attached to these characters with their journey.
No journey is complete without competition. This competition comes in the form of various players across the world that truly tests Sei and Reiji to their limits. Foreigners from all over the world competes in the prestigious Gunpla Tournament to become a main event. It’s noticeable that some of these characters are also inspirations from previous Gundam predecessors. All of them have their own playing style, abilities, and personalities that offers a decent diversity of play. Prominent competitors such as Mao, Aila, Nils, Ricardo, Yuuki becomes major obstacles in the competition coming from various backgrounds. More importantly is the fact of how these characters develop relationships with Sei and Reiji. In other words, these competitors aren’t just a throwaway game. Whether friends or foe, they are able to bring out Sei and Reiji at their best and truly allows the audience to see the visage of Gunpla battles. Among other characters such as China and Sei’s family plays the role of support to show an inspiration of how they believe in the duo.
Friendship and relationships play prominent roles throughout the series. Sei and Reiji are perfect examples of friends. They help each other and compliments their abilities. For example, Sei is able to coordinate and provide strategic information during battles to Reiji as he pilots their Gunpla. It’s important to realize how far their teamwork goes towards each match. Without teamwork, they would never become who they are today. Relationship also extends to other major supporting characters such Aila that adds in a different flavor to the show’s themes. On the other hand, there’s also rivalries. Being a competitive game, this should be no surprise. There’s a sudden degree of how far rivalries ranging from being friendly competitions to cheating to gain an edge. Gundam Build Fighters explores both friendships and rivalries on levels that is relatable and appreciative with its style. Rather than just a gimmick, it extends to Gunpla battles itself and becomes a pivotal factor in determining losses, wins, or ties.
Being a Gundam series also means the audience should expect plenty of action. Gundam Build Fighters doesn’t neglect action and marks it as a major advertising event with its battles. Every Gundam is unique in their design, capabilities, and style. As such, expect every single battle to be different in its own way that brings out characters’ skills to their best. On many instances, the audience will be able to witness development of these battles as fields evolve, changes added to matches, and gameplay become more complex than ever. Complexity also reaches to the characters themselves as mysteries surrounds competitors such as Reiji and Alia. We don’t know much about their origins from the beginning such as where they came from. It provokes thought and formulation of theories that makes the show even more engaging to speculate.
Make no mistake though. Gundam Build Fighters does have its problems. Among some of these include a few episodes that feels fillerish and almost as meaningless. Examples includes training montages, a beach episode, and a few that only seems to add content that almost seems like a slice of life. China also seems to disappear into the background in later episodes as the series focuses more on competition and less on their relationship. It just seems that her relationship with Sei never really had a progression besides being close friends. It’s however easy to tell where China’s feelings really lies. While it is innocent, it can also feel childish and sway away older fan’s interests. And as ‘easy to tell’ goes, predictability is a word to describe some battles with outcomes. Speaking of childish, the series sometimes will feel that way whether you like it or not. It maintains its serious atmosphere on most cases when it comes to competitions but when outside of that zone becomes more like a cartoon for fun.
Artwork serves as an example that brings out Gundam Build Fighters’ diversity to various angles. Every single Gunpla has its own design that defines its characteristics and abilities. Sei and Reiji’s Gunpla, the Star Build Strike, serves a symbol of pride for the duo with its traditional design. On the other hand, some character designs looks blend. Most of the characters seems to be just there and doesn’t stand out in any particular way. Only a few competitors in the show such as Aila and Yuuki gives off more of an intimidating feature. Background designs outside competitions also seems average with basic designs. But if we’re talking about the battle fields during gunpla battles, that’s a whole other story.
Judging on soundtrack, this show has what it takes. Just from its OST, it’s easy to realize just how intense some battles can be with its well-coordinated orchestra. There’s a mixed beat of rock and metal on most occasions that brings out the intensity of the battles. It’s what fans should expect if they come into a competitive atmosphere that GBD is offering and thankfully, it delivers. Both OP/ED songs also offers a montage of the main characters and some foreshadowing. The strengths of these songs doesn’t lie with its lyrics. Rather, it brings out the show for what exactly it is: a game for the ultimate prize.
Watching Gundam Build Fighters will feel like living like a kid all over again. If you remember playing with toys during childhood days, then this show will bring back some of those nostalgia. However, these aren’t just toys but are plastic models that revolutionizes Gunpla battles. The story will bring out these battles at its best along with the characters. Even though the story may feel slow at times, you’ll be rewarded with patience for its dynamics, relationships, and mechanics. You don’t need to be a big Gundam fan to watch this show. No, what you need is some motivation. Relieve the experience of being a kid again and being the big dog of your neighborhood.
Naturally, people don't tend to start something new without building a few first impressions. We might do this by reading a synopsis, looking at cover art, or checking out reviews. Isn't it strange that how we determine whether or not to watch, read, or play something comes from things that don't actually matter? Some of us will start an anime just because we think the opening is cool, or disregard the anime because it isn’t. Some of us will start something because there are half-nude girls on the cover, and others keep scrolling at the sight of it. Some of us will start something simply
because it claims to adhere to our favorite genres, regardless of what it's about.
We all make a few pointless assumptions about the quality of a series, but in reality, there's no telling how good or bad something might be until you actually watch it, regardless of its reputation, score, and reviews. We all have minds of our own, and it seems kind of ridiculous that we have these premature opinions on things we've never consumed.
However, is there really any other way? How else are you going to determine a first impression without watching, reading, and playing everything you come across? Clearly no one is going to do this, as it would be absolutely maddening. So, due to the lack of any solid alternatives, we have to make due with what we can. I mean, haven't you ever watched something that looked bad, but when you finished it, you were impressed by how good it was? On the other hand, have you ever thought something looked good, and once it was over, you were ultimately disappointed?
Well… prior to Build Fighters, I had never seen a Gundam series before, and since I have a friend who is a huge Gundam nerd, he desperately wanted to watch anything related to the franchise with me. As a joke, I decided to pick up the stupidest looking Gundam anime possible. From reading the synopsis, I didn't expect much. I wasn't particularly impressed by the idea of some ridiculous god-like particle allowing plastic models to fight to the death. It genuinely sounded stupid, and I was excited to gauge my friends reaction on the series that was so clearly not the "real Gundam" that he wanted me to experience.
Instead, however, I got a very nostalgic, homely, and charming anime with a genuinely impressive understanding of how to make a kids series a lot of fun. It lacks depth but it isn’t pretentious, it doesn’t pretend to be sophisticated or more than what it actually is. It’s just plain and simple fun.
The Simplicity of Childhood
The initial plot for Build Fighters is actually pretty simple. Our two protagonists, Sei and Reiji, are trying their best to win a tournament because of their obsession with Gunpla. For the most part, there’s not much going on besides from this. They have to fight and fight to get to the top, making a bunch of friends and rivals throughout. However, once you get passed the initial ideas, there are a few extra plot points they introduce in order to change up the formula. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won't talk about what exactly happens, but what the writers do is a rather effective way of keeping the series interesting. I'm not going to pretend it was foreseeable, but it was definitely intriguing.
Additionally, it's pretty cool how it tries to make every little bit of this world as fun as possible. In this universe, Gunpla battles are as popular, in fact, even more popular than any other sport on Earth would be. It seems like everywhere you go, people will be talking about or fighting with Gunpla (I’m sure this is Sunrise’s ideal marketing environment). It’s so exciting to see a world where everyone is equally as passionate about something, even if the subject matter is as silly as Gundam.
An Incredibly Fun Cast
Build Fighter's characters aren’t deep or complex, but they're all quirky enough for a lot of fun to happen on screen.
Sei Iori, the protagonist, is a huge fan of Gundam, and since his father is a world renown Gunpla champion, he feels obligated to live up to his name and get good at the game. Seeing him go crazy over every little thing is pretty entertaining, especially when he goes into hyper-nerd mode, quoting line to line from a Gundam series. He’s great at building Gunpla, but he’s an awful fighter, and that’s where Reiji comes in. Reiji is very close friends with Sei, and although he’s pretty edgy in battle, he has a great understanding of fun. His cluelessness and warped perception of the world makes way for solid entertainment, too. In terms of skills, he's the complete opposite of Sei. He’s not good at building the Gunpla, but he has a great sense of how to fight. Additionally, there’s a huge secret surrounding Reiji. It’s hinted at since episode one, but it’s never actually revealed until much later on. This “secret” really adds some spice to the series, making it feel like more than just a systematic tournament about trying your best to win.
These two meet a bunch of other quirky characters along the way, too. The most notable addition being Aila Jyrkiäinen, a fellow Gunpla fighter who has a chance encounter with the cast around halfway through the series. The chemistry between Reiji and Aila is incredibly adorable, as they compliment each others personalities pretty well. They’re similar in many ways, which is essential to Reiji being the one who is able to get closest to her. They definitely deserve each other in every sense of the phrase.
Additionally, there’s Kousaka China, Sei’s romantic interest throughout the series. These two do have pretty okay chemistry, but she’s not particularly impressive as a character. It feels like Kousaka exists for nothing more than cheering Sei on. She doesn’t really do anything throughout the series besides from show up in scenes meant for the sole purpose of comedy, or in the crowd to go “You can do it, Sei!!!”
Another important character would be Ral, the man who sorta coaches the two. He helps them learn tricks and secrets to assist them in battle, and although he does have important moments, he’s very similar to China in terms of how much you should be expected to care. He feels irrelevant, even when the series tries to make him relevant.
There is an antagonist, but they’re not revealed until quite a bit into the series. So, in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t mention their name. As villains go, they’re not particularly impressive. Very standard motivations with the kind of actions you would expect. Not the series strongest point, but still easy to hate. You want them gone, because the things they do will probably make you furious.
Build Fighters is surprisingly inspirational. Although it seems like nothing more than a kids series advertising Gundam, it’s so obsessed with the idea of chasing your dreams, never giving up, and doing what you want because it’s fun. From the cool soundtrack to the exciting openings, they really understand how to set the mood. Fight scenes are just so damn awesome in this series, with the soundtrack making fast paced fights feel exciting and powerful, yet dramatic scenes feel heavy and emotional. Additionally, there are quite a few genuinely memorable battles that take place throughout the series due to how gorgeous they are. It wants to show you that competitive spirit should never die, even when the stakes are as high as they are in Build Fighters.
You might be thinking that there are no stakes since they’re fighting with plastic models, but there definitely are. It may not be as crazy as risking your life, but in the midst of a tournament where millions of people are watching, if you lose, your Gunpla will probably be destroyed. It takes a lot of time and effort for these people to build their Gunpla, so seeing that happen to their hard work is devastating.
The Power of Accessibility
So many titles these days are obsessed with being something deep, complex, or substantial. It’s very rarely that I see a series that isn’t under the “slice of life” tag and has been made for the sole purpose of being fun. Even if you take some of the most brainless series’ out there, they usually have moments where they try to convince you that something greater is going on.
Build Fighters is so focused on being cool, fun, and entertaining that it doesn’t have time to be convoluted. It has plot twists, and surprising betrayals, but even these can be taken at face-value without any deeper thinking.
This makes the series so easily accessible. It’s not edgy, it’s not full of convoluted dialogue, and it’s not annoying as hell. Just straight up fun. This is likely because it was made for kids to begin with.
Gundam Build Fighters is still a kid shows, and unsurprisingly, the comedy style is pretty childish. Unfortunately, most of the jokes it makes aren't very successful. It’s one of those situations where you're probably going to laugh because it's cute, not because it's actually funny.
However, this isn’t a big deal. Very rarely do I not have a smile on my face while watching Build Fighters, and even if it doesn’t do a great job at being successful with its comedy, (although it does have a few funny moments) it’s genuinely adorable. The character interactions are silly, and they yell, laugh, and overreact to the stupidest things, but it’s all done in such a lighthearted way that it’s hard to stop smiling.
There's something soothing about this homage to nostalgia and childlike innocence, which takes me back to my perceptions of the world when I was a kid. Sure, it does have moments where it isn’t innocent, but these scenes are rather minor.
One Big Advertisement?
Throughout the series there are pretty frequent ads encouraging you to purchase Gunpla, and this is because Build Fighters was made to be an advertisement to begin with. It’s trying to get kids excited for Gundam models so they can convince their parents to go out and buy them. It feels kind of dirty when you think about it for a little, since the way they portray Gunpla in the anime is so legendary. It's painfully obvious that they want you to buy their products. They make it seem like so much fun to build and work on your Gunpla, when that’s probably not the reality.
If you can look past this, it’s not that big of deal. Sunrise just desperately wants to make money, but that doesn’t really make the show any worse.
Build Fighters is an incredibly rewarding experience. It does have its fair share of flaws, mostly having to do with the side characters, a lackluster villain, and a mediocre understanding of comedy, but for the most part it’s an absolute blast to watch. Its lack of sophistication might bother some old-school Gundam fans, but a show trying to be fun for the sake of fun is genuinely refreshing. From the chemistry between Sei, Reiji, and Aila to the exciting soundtrack and great fight scenes, Build Fighters has a lot going for it. Even if these things are extremely basic, it’s still a good time all in its own respect.
Gundam Build Fighters is a prime example of turning a lame idea into something worthwhile. I really was not expecting it to be this good. Even with it's strange premise, it manages to reach outside the box of its genre and become something more than I ever imagined it could be.
The idea of special particles only reacting with the plastic of model Gundams is retarded, to be quite frank. That overarching property is applied too many times to the reasoning of things that happen during the show, but it is masked by emotion and epic battles, so you gradually come to not care anymore about
how dumb the idea is. It is never fully explained how Arian and Earth are connected and how Reiji and the PPSE president are able to be there. Those 2 things aside, Gundam Build Fighters is fantastic in every other area. The story, while a little uninspired, takes flight thanks to the awesomeness of the fights and the characters.
Let's move on to the characters now. Sei is your run of the mill young shounen protagonist who loves something so much, but he's not great at something in it. Incomes Reiji to save the day with his piloting skills. Not much else can be said about him, he's not very impressionable besides his awesome Gundam building skills. Reiji on the other hand, is hilarious to watch with his "no fucks given" attitude and epic fighting technique. Unaware of his strong connection to Aila, who is bae as fuck I might add, it's hilarious to watch that relationship grow, and at the end when she returns to Arian, with him, you know they'll work it out. Some other notable characters are Fellini and Nils. Both awesome in their own ways, Fellini is just a big baller shot caller, while Nils is intellectual and witty. One more I'd like note is that Rinko is a fucking goddess and I want her to sit on my face. Everyone else has decent contributions to the series, and I can't name one terrible character.
Here's where this anime really shines though:
The visuals in this anime are striking and beautiful, even compared to today's animation quality. The fights are beautifully animated and wonderfully choreographed.
I can't say enough about the soundtrack. The timing is perfect with the background music, heightening your emotion at the right moments and really making you feel great about watching the show. The 2 OPs are fucking excellent as well.
Overall, Gundam Build Fighters has to be one of the most underrated anime in recent memory, and clearly goes beyond what most would think is a "kids' show". 9/10
In your youth, have you ever played out your imagination? Has your toy soldier ever battled across the carpet, your racing car sped along the dinner table? Do you know the wonder of outer-space and the distant stars? Dear reader, as you are presumably an anime-watcher, I am sure that feeling hasn't quite left you yet.
Gundam Buld Fighters is the playroom that has always been a reality, where our protagonists find themselves in a world where Gundam toys are alive and the world might just as well revolve around them. In short, this is a world where noone has to grow up. Fun is
the oath to live by.
But what's in a Gundam?
Gundam is a toy comercial filled with a burning passion. There's no denying it, each and every Gundam is an aniamted advertisement for selling Gundam model kits, and along the way, it just so happens they've managed to tell some of the most fantastically memorable and famous stories within the medium. A Gundam show means melodrama, war, giant robots, passion, love, rivalry, cliches, transformations, and a fair dash of cheesy, silly nonsense.
So how is this about Gundam Build Fighters?
Gundam Build Fighters simply put, is the celebration of that legacy.
In a wonderfully paced action-romp of loving care, Sunrise has managed to derive from the world of Gundam a battle-tournament spectacle of the highest quality. In this extravaganza of blatant, subtle, and hidden homage to the breadth of the Gundam franchise (animated or not), Build Fighters is a light-hearted approach to the tournament genre that will endear you with its celebration of childlike abandon.
Appearing as the usual match-up fare, Build Fighters manages to keep it fresh with a variety of interesting turn-outs, characters, and cirumstances. The series length plays to the show's strengths, and never outstays its welcome. The quirky cast are quick to show off their jovial mannerisms, and you can always expect things to turn out for the best.
You'll be treated to a party of tropes: a back-and-forth, tongue-in-cheek free-for-all of serious playtime. This isn't just a fun show, it's a show that knows it's having fun. The animation takes a drop at times, but manages to hide that, remaining stylish with well-drawn stills. What matters most is that the animators really bring it together for the big matches where you can expect dynamic, jaw-dropping, and exciting clashes. With a striking soundtrack and high-octane, talented seiyuu cast, the show is the perfect mix as an easygoing, and over-the-top anime.
There are mysteries and intrigues (masked characters, anyone?). Rivalries, and friendships born from that respect. You'll be engulfed in hot passions, the power of tenacity, a pool of cutsie boys and girls, a background of hairy men, old men, grown men, young men, and even shaven men. Many a socket popped, plastic Gundams broken, torn asunder. Amongst the passionate cries, might even love bloom? Embracing, exonerating, and caricaturing the sins and memorabilia of Gundams past, Build Fighters is a fresh and welcome return to the Gundam world franchise, accessible to both old fan and newtype alike.
Gundam Build Fighters is a show that aims to entertain, and for Gundam fans, its also a masterful love-letter. Gundam is a franchise stretching beyond the realm of anime. This show takes that fact, and has spun it into a perfect celebration: a carnival of Gundams.
We’re closing in on the 40th anniversary of the Gundam franchise from when it debuted back in 1979 and fans around the world are going through a renaissance of material as Sunrise is collaborating with distributors to bring their crown jewels out for release.
June marks the beginning of summer and to celebrate we are revealing Right Stuf’s Top 15 best-selling anime titles for the month. From hot new releases to anime classics, this list has a little bit of everything. Will your favorite titles make the Top 15?