Feb 16, 2014
Stark700 (All reviews)
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.