My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from the first half of Gundam Build Fighters, which aired during the Autumn 2013 anime season.
Looking for episodes 13 – 25 from the second half of Gundam Build Fighters? Click here!
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click through numerous pages.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 1 and 2)
This series takes the childhood idea of getting to kick faces in and do awesome stuff with your robot toys and makes that its central tenant along with a heaping dollop of Do Your Best and The Power of Friendship. That’s fine, that’s all it needs to be. Stick with that plan. It amuses me in a more classic Saturday morning cartoon fashion. I might let it build up a few back episodes at a time though.
I do like how it is primed to be able to showcase multiple units from entirely different eras against one another, and be almost a little history lesson or general celebration of Gundam as a whole outside of Turn A Gundam. We’ll get to probably see old classic mobile suits run up against each other in a sort of Dream Match environment. There is more than enough design material to work with given the strength and age of the franchise, so, it should be pretty well set on that front.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 3)
I find this series to be like eating craft store baking chocolate.
It tastes fine enough as a snack, in that while it really is not going to be very spectacular and might be chalky it will do an average job providing the rough flavor you are looking for at an affordable price of entry. Which is kind of a strange metaphor to be using, really, given how outright expensive Gundam model building is to take up as a hobby.
But it does continue to have some bright little pangs of genuine joy in all the tournament fighting and toy commercial shenanigans. Reiji’s explanation of his origin story being done via a series of full screen crayon drawings was nice enough, and that an entire bar of adult men in full uniform stood and saluted “Sieg Zeon! Sieg Zeon!” when Mr. Ral walked into the room was amusing.
I am also glad China straight up went into the Iori family shop, encountered Sei, and asked about models that might be more marketed towards girls. No blushing or finger twiddling or buying the model claiming it is for her brother who is with her. While she hasn’t had a whole lot of characterization yet, what we have seen has been pretty solid in terms of suggesting they want to make her into a not completely insulting and helpless young female character in what is definitely a male dominated series. As we’ve also been given the in-universe heads up that art and design play a large role in the raw power of the models, and her artistic inclinations have been shown and complemented on, she could turn into a strong competition contender.
I look forward to her model building. May she kick many robot butts.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 4)
We finally had an episode dealing more with female characters (both China and otherwise), and it… was not as well handled as I led myself to have believed from the earlier episodes. It seemed they were keeping them more reserved and hinting for a stronger and better rollout than this given China’s previous characterization and scenes. She immediately snaps into Passive Aggressive Anime Girl mode the instant Sei has the audacity to talk to Another Girl, which comes pretty much entirely out of left field.
Our Other Girl in turn essentially uses her Feminine Charms to Break His Dumb Nerd Stuff and Manipulate Other Boys To Get Her Things. We get alarmingly close to full blown Fake Geek Girl territory as well given her whole reveal that it was Just To Get Attention and parasitically latch on to the True Fandom Believers.
Granted, Sei attempts to put the barest of minimally positive spins on things, but… still. This episode did largely feel like having a bucket of cold water dumped on me.
That wasn’t a fun thing to do, Gundam Build Fighters.
I’ll sulk home for now, but when you come back next week bring a fun robot show to play with.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 5)
Despite the last episode of this show throwing me for a loop we are right back to chuckling about Ral talking about the beauty of anime dioramas and fights happening in childhood imaginations.
It really is like the previous episode just sort of fell out of nowhere, because everyone seems back into their previously defined characterizations. If someone had called out China as Sei’s girlfriend last week, I honestly think she would have been written to either dramatically run off or Anime Glasses Glare at them. Here she keeps walking with the group and smiles about it.
Scripting corrections aside, this episode acts more as a series of light individual shenanigans and a setup for a future battle, which is perfectly valid for where we are in a tournament fighter series at the moment. We can’t just meet everyone in the matches, or we won’t really care about them beyond cannon fodder when they need to be fought, and Mao is no different.
Tatsuya’s affairs seem to also indicate we are reaching Something Larger Is Afoot status, which is again also pretty much to be expected at this point. So, nothing surprising, but better off than where we were last week.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 6)
Sometimes one feels like Rinko Iori, just giggling to themselves about what is going on in front of them.
Sometimes one feels like Reiji, making remarks about what on earth everyone is getting so worked up over.
Ideally, these episodes kind of produce a sense of both. It’s a pretty silly thing, after all.
China comes over to the shop for model painting, and they really are teasing us about what she actually bought. Every shot of her purchase before this has been done with it firmly held in a bag, and this time we only see a collection of loose and essential generic pieces held up for painting that we can’t really make heads or tails of individually. A lot of blue would seem to be involved given the workstation, but given how blue the new Gunpla that Sei breaks out this episode is, that could have just been from that project. Given the shot composition, we don’t actually know what colors China is using.
Yes, there’s the Bearguy stuff in the intro. But at least in the previous appearance of a Bearguy in Gunpla Builders Beginning G, it involved heavily modifying an existing Gunpla set.
Otherwise: Reiji gets all Gunpla existential after not getting to fight Tatsuya… and then gets to fight Tatsuya anyway, with finals next week. Not really surprising, hence why I get more focused on Bearguy.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 7)
Looking back on it, this was a rather busy episode.
The qualifier tournament finals conclude, the cast heads to the beach and a holiday inn with their prize, Mao is back, Sei’s mom keeps trying to hook up China and her son, landsharks try and take the inn, and of all things our heroes need to fight an Apsalus III mobile armor.
And practically everybody in this world still seems to know Mr. Ral.
Sei and Reiji needing to utilize the newer Strike model, which is more orientated for continuous and multifaceted midrange engagement over the previous one which excelled more at extreme close or single shot distant ranges helps them in more ways than one, which is certainly nice for them. Our builder claims he is working on a new model for next time though, which I find kind of a shame as it means we will be rotating this one out rather quickly. On the other hand though, I do appreciate how the crux of the series allows for a consistent flow of refinement, upgrading, and replacement of the primary hero units in a way that would be really out of place in a more traditional Gundam entry.
Seeing the mobile heavy armor pop up for a showdown was quite something as well, as I haven’t watched The 08th MS Team in so many years. It’s a quirky looking specimen in the Gundam arsenal, with their thin spindly legs all extended and such. Seeing the kind of absurd havoc that titanic beast is capable of unleashing was fun to see again.
Our narrative may not be challenging, but moments like this are among the key reasons I look forward to watching this series every week.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 8)
The more gobbledygook variety of anime mecha writing was on deck this week. Lots of roundabout talk regarding the science of Plavsky particles, a parade of new characters and names, that sort of thing. Stuff that will certainly be important later, and it wants to dance that carrot around on a stick in front of us, it just goes about it rather ham-fisted because it also doesn’t want to really say too much at the moment.
So let’s talk about Other Gundam Shows.
The American Qualifier bout, as the showcase battle of the episode, I think was notably interesting in that the previous American champion, Greco, was piloting a modified Tallgeese model utilizing aspects of the one from Gundam Wing and the one from Endless Waltz. That series pretty is/was the face of Gundam to the USA, and the Cartoon Network premier of that film was their second highest viewed program of all time. Bandai royally faceplanted on that momentum, and no other Gundam series has done as well over here since. As such, I feel the use of the Tallgeese here is a nod to that, both in its selection for the older American champ and then having him thoroughly destroyed by the Sengoku Astray.
On a simulator note, Aila Jyrkiäinen reminds me heavily of Allenby Beardsley from G Gundam. Each is a female pilot representative of a Nordic country (Finland and Sweden, respectively), ridiculously well trained from a young age to hone their piloting craft, and Aila’s helmet may indicate something similar to the Beserker System. Given the care taken to Gundam history so far, that is too many little things lining up for me to not be intrigued by this.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 9)
Bearguy in Wonder Forest.
Part of me just wants to write that alone and drop the mic. But I figure this does a disservice to the actual Gunpla of our honey guzzling Winnie-the-Pooh inspired friend, since we finally get to see them in action.
A girl focused episode again, and it is leagues better than the last time they tried that. I’m glad we’re getting back around to the idea that the Gunpla are, you know, effectively just models. Toys, really. I feel that is something that sort of gets lost in the mix by the show at times, which on the one hand is funny that it is taken so seriously but at times loses track of the Gunpla as physical objects outside of the battle arena.
Of course one could be stuffed full of cotton, because of course one can make a unique backstory for the unit where the mobile suit was originally a teddy bear plushie. That’s a part of the imagination in action, and it’s a healthy thing that if you ever owned any kind of toy at all likely did a whole bunch, making up a narrative for toys on a whim that may have little to do with their “real” one.
I’m glad that caught everyone off guard, as they have always mentioned the art and physical construction of the Gunpla plays into what it can do, but it was always so serious in an attempt to mimic the shows themselves. Even Sei realizes he was too caught up in the Gundam setting and worldview to really see beyond that. Ideally, while I certainly wouldn’t want every unit to turn into some wacky hijinks machine, this leads to unique applications of other building materials in the future.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode 10)
The World Champion loses in an incredibly minor bout and was a character we really didn’t know too terribly much about previously, and so while everyone is shocked and amazied I… don’t really care.
It doesn’t really make a big difference given that a character like this often does not tend to go very far in a tournament fighter series. Much like the same way they keep parading around “Nemesis,” it is just a cheap attempt at an easy façade of drama.
Which isn’t to say the episode was terrible on the overall though. The whole Olympic Village style setup and the ballroom reception with associated meet and greet was a solid way to showcase a number of World Tournament folks in quick succession in a natural and appropriate environment, which I actually like quite a bit. It feels right, rather than as shoehorned in as these scenes can often be. Likewise, I’m in support of any environment where Ricardo Fellini gets drunk and rambles about in-betweening animation from The 08th MS team.
Am I wrong for thinking there is a massive conflict of interest for the Plavsky Particle System Engineering folks to be able to field their own tournament fighter? Given the amount of money that seems to be pumped into this sport from around the world, and the fact the functions of the Plavsky Particle is essentially a black box as far as outside research can figure it out (which is itself also an ethics issue), I see no possible way that would fly. Any victory or loss would have huge questions behind it being rigged either way, and I can’t imagine it would be worth the scandal unless we somehow warp a model robot fighting game into a Take Over The Planet affair.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 11)
I still think it is weird the Plavsky Particle System Engineering folks are allowed to have their own fighter in the World Tournament. It’s not even hidden information or anything, the announcer outright broadcasted it, and they have a god tier level Meijin personality thing to go along with it all.
The number of problems that raises boggles my mind, even for a show for younger demographics. At least the PPSE CEO minorly realizes “being too strong” is an issue regarding their standard bearer.
So Aila Jyrkiäinen and Reiji will be a thing, even if only in just a raw slapstick manner aside from any romantic implications. Sei gets to talk on the phone with China late enough where she’s basically in pajamas, so they’re staying in the loop with everything going on. Otherwise, we get a big ol’ Battle Royale, where we just throw all the championship participants in the same combat area stew and see who gets left standing. It’s functional, if not really as interesting as the duel aspects are. A lot of the cannon fodder folks it cycles through are literally in canon fodder mobile suits as well, which is actually rather disappointing on a certain level. If the duels just happened off screen and we were told the results, we could at least imagine more extravagant units.
The aspect of Reiji not really being of this Earthly plane of existence comes up again, courtesy of a reaction closeup on the PPSE CEO spilling wine all over his own crotch. The show itself has brought it up before with Reiji outright teleporting away from Sei, but who knows if they will actually want to do something with the idea this time.
We also have a Really Super Big Giant Zaku now in play for our folks to tackle next episode. I understand they make Gunpla in such larger scales, but really, it just leaves me wondering – why not showcase Big Zam?
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 12)
“We sent an auto-controlled Gunpla into the battlefield” is not a statement anyone responsible for running a global mega tournament should really be making that leads to positive results.
I know this will now be the third week I’m harping on this, but in this case we actually have direct manipulation of the battle system by the Plavsky Particle System Engineering CEO to get the 1/48 scale Mega Size Model Zaku into play .The origin of it was then announced by the actual broadcasters and the in-show fans all seem pretty OK with this level of tomfoolery to something that should have some pretty rigorous standards at this level.
I get that Antagonist Tournament Organizer is a standard enough plot engine for this kind of show but still. Had it knocked anyone out, that should be a massive controversy, and that it was so blatantly going after a single unit should be a problem in its own right. If Gunpla battle systems exist in this world at this level, one better believe there’s a lot of folks with serious cash on the line at minimum, to say nothing for how bad I feel for any intern trying to deal with the internet social media fallout.
The same goes for the whole notion that the PSSE standard bearer was told by his handler that their only goal is the championship, and they did not need to assist in defeating the giant Zaku. If the whole system can just be rigged at will (including tournament seeding, which we also saw), and the seriousness of intent is there, why is there even this concern? Just engineer things the way they want for whatever reason and be done with it. It clearly is not won by PPSE every year given the previous champion, but it just feels so silly that all of this information about their involvement in their own tournament in just out in the open. I would care more if their participation was more secret, rather than outright public knowledge.
I feel this show has been stuck in the mud for a few episodes now with this whole rigging the system thing and how it has been played, which is unfortunate because this is where things should in theory have been really be heating up. Perhaps once we are back to duels next week things will be more compelling.