My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from the second half of Gundam Build Fighters, which aired during the Winter 2014 anime season.
Looking for episodes 1 – 13 from the first 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 13)
The Shipping Episode, as if we hadn’t been dancing that jig with anyone earlier.
China, crashing with relatives, has come all the way up to the World Tournament so she can watch Sei every day. Aila and Reiji get to have their series of “harrumph’s” around and about each other in the park and making “It was nothing” remarks about how he quite literally took a swing (from baseball bat) for her. And Mr. Ral has a really, really itchy bum that he just can not help but remark on whenever all these kids are getting a little too flushed in the face.
I would honestly be impressed if we got to the end of this series without there being some kind of full blown date episode. That has to be in the cards somewhere, given how much the production team seems to like bringing these options up.
Our Gunpla matches this week then involve the every remaining contestant to essentially spin a wheel of fate, get a random number associated with an equally random weapon, and then need to fight each other with them. Again, while I understand the entire purpose of this is so that the system can be rigged by the Plavsky Particle System Engineering personnel so as to attempt to arrange the defeat Sei and Reiji, this seems kind of odd to me on a global mega tournament stage. Everything about how this tournament has been structured should be raising all kinds of viewership problems in the home audiences, because between this random weapons stunt and the previous battle royale and Giant Zaku… very little of this has really come down in any way to the craftsmanship or direct tests of skill.
Now, of course, one could say by having the tournament be more random that involves and entirely different skill set, which would be valid, but I also would as such not see the sport reaching such levels of super popularity it seems to want us have to believe. People who wanted the compelling tests of abilities on equal playing fields (which is the case in most major televised sports) would go “this is dumb and completely arbitrary” and turn it off. But it would probably make for a pretty swell series of YouTube viral videos from the event, so I dunno.
In either event: This week we played a Gundam baseball homerun showdown, complete with a little virtual stadium and mobile suits donning baseball hats. And on that level, it was pretty much appropriately amusing for just about as long as that bit needed to last to qualify as a match without the visual joke of it getting ground down too much.
We are rapidly ripping our way through tournament fodder to just the essentials, so we have relatively few contestants actually left. I imagine this means, if we go through the remaining ones methodically, we have enough material for the next season of episodes to be this whole tournament to the end, and there we go. However, we do not know how long this series will actually run, and we still have the whole “Reiji seems to actually be from an entirely different dimension” angle to deal with. They prod at it every now and again as a reminder, then let it sleep for a while. When that gun finally goes off, I’m expecting / hoping for quite a shake up rather than just more tournament battles.
In a few weeks time, maybe we will have multiuniverse adventures with Mr. Ral meeting Ramba Ral. Wouldn’t that be something.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 14)
This week was part recap, part Mario Kart, and part Dawson’s Creek.
On the latter end in particular, we have Aila flopping around listlessly in her hotel bed looking at data on Reiji, tracking him down outside the doctors office, and it’s all the sort of thing engineered to make folks want to shake one of them and go “figure it out!” In which case, I mean that as a compliment.
On the recap end, we have the whole “lets talk about the entire competitive cast in a restaurant, where they stand, and what they did to get here” sequence, which is fair and goes along with the new intro and ending bits. I do think it is kind of awkward when a scene like that happens though, and then pretty much our next big line of scenes is watching all of those same characters each individually accomplish a new thing (in this case, winning their heats in the multiple racing events going on).
Since it is basically just the tail ends of each of their races, there is no sense of weight to any of them, and we’re pretty much assured they are each going to win because of the previous lineup rundown, so that chunk felt like a large amount of extraneous material that didn’t really enhance a perception of anyone or move things along in any fashion. It all just sort of…. happened. Which is an odd choice, in an episode that seemed to be straining at budget cuts all over the place given the amount of panning shots, cutaways, and speedlines.
Mr. Ral got to get into a fist fight with a secret agent dude though, so it is great to see our mustachioed wonder non-dad ready to throw down for the purity of Gunpla battle and the like.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode 15)
So in terms of what we have going on in the background, Mr. Ral is now going out on patrols for the Gunpla Mafia and Reiji may be the Crown Prince of Arian… wherever and whatever that happens to be.
Apparently a gem is involved.
In the foreground: an actual honest to goodness regular smashup throwdown of a Gunpla tournament duel with Sei and Reiji versus their Italian champ buddy Ricardo Fellini. We haven’t seen one of those in a while!
This comes back around to one of the greater strengths of the program, in that because we are dealing with model sets in instances of combat rather that machines that are supposed to last through a longer international war campaign yet still be deployed enough to keep the viewers attention, how wear and tear is handled totally changes.
Blow off all kinds of armor chunks, blast whole limbs apart, destroy the head, and so on down the line. Usually, that would be the kind of Gundam showdown sequence saved for a season or series finale, but here we have the option to routinely break the mobile suits apart because the mechanics of building / rebuilding is as much a part of the Gunpla shtick as the actual combat. We just haven’t been down that particular road this far for some time now.
Mr Ral’s point regarding Sei’s knowledge of how Gundam stories work making up for Reiji’s inexperience (as while he has raw piloting prowess, he lacks in the strategy department) is a nice one. I hope that it does mean that outside of just having the occasional references and headnods to past series, going forwards in the tournament where we will have more robust machines to deal with Sei and Reiji may ideally be presented with previous series battle problems that pilots may have accounted for that then need to be tackled in potentially different ways.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode 16)
Sometimes this series is like an embarrassing reminder for things I still need to do. That reporter girl featured for all of a few seconds questioning Mama Iori during her little daydream sequence? Designed to look pretty much identical to Fran Doll from Turn A Gundam, which just sheepishly reminds me I never actually finished that series. It’s the little things, really.
Things that weren’t so little: I’m pretty sure we do not need full frame shots of Aila’s tongue slurping down massive ice cream cones.
All that be as it may, this was primarily about getting the folks who don’t actually build their own models to actually get into the construction spirit.
Which, in this case, means more Reiji and Aila and their mutual I Am Visibly Frustrated By You And Yet We Can’t Stop Seeing Each Other dynamic while they build the machines selected by their Mysterious Benefactor. Reiji gets a Begining Gundam, which is a nice nod to the Gunpla Builders Beginning G miniseries, and Aila gets a Command Gundam from SD Gundam. And Reiji can’t hold still worth his salt when it comes to actually nipping model parts off, despite his piloting capabilities. I hope they’ll find something to do with these little models later rather than just letting them be one offs, as I thought this was a nice little time for the both of them as characters even if Reiji still has no actual idea what Aila’s name is.
Not sure why the Gunpla Mafia went against direct orders and tried screwing around with a non-tournament battle and trying to defeat and sabotage non-tournament Gunpla models though. It’s a big risk for pretty much zero tangible payoff. That just was kind of hokey, and resulted in a bit of an anti-climatic end for C.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode 17)
Last week was a nice and light little reprieve from all the tournament shenanigans during the break period, but thankfully they are not going to drag that out for multiple episodes at a stretch. So we’re right back into moving along with the top sixteen bracket and effectively the “real” part of this whole World Tournament thing.
Admittedly, I still expect the series to throw some kind of wrench into the gears and cause a massive course shift either before it actually concludes or shortly thereafter, given all the stuff with Reiji being from another dimension. But this is as “real” as things are going to be until such a time.
In this case, we have a Day In The Limelight sort of episode, following Mao around and seeing him come to terms with his strategy and hangups when it comes to fighting Sei and Reiji.
Which is to say, he had no angle in his brainstorming that actually would have resulted in victory, which was kind of interesting to see him walk through. I think it was the right direction for the episode to take, as certainly as viewers we’re all pretty much dead certain the lead characters are not going to get knocked out in the first match of the top sixteen. What they are up to then is kind of irrelevant when it comes to anything related to drama or tension, and we can make something more watchable out of it by looking at Mao trying to figure things out with his Master and how the battle should be handled.
The “Who is your favorite female Gundam character?” thing between Master and apprentice fundamentally coming down to “Because I simply like her” was a nice way to approach that kind of argument which I’m sure has burned down many an internet thread over the years.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode eighteen)
Aila gets something sort of akin to an accidental double date, and gets to go all Aww Man, Having Friends Is Pretty Great. Reiji (and everyone else for that matter), finally gets a (fibbed) name to call her, which in turn allows Sei to nerd about about “Aina” being the name of the primary female lead in 08th MS Team.
How much of that would come from Aila actually having seen any of that program as a part of her training is anyone’s guess, but, I’m sure history and notion of that name befitting someone from another side of the war is going to come around at some point. Having Sei and Reiji needing to fight her in the tournament later seems all but assured.
While the younger set essentially gets the day off for sweets and gunpla watching, we did need an actual fight for them to watch. To that end, I thought the match between the Renato brothers and Tatsuya / Meijin Kawaguchi made for some pretty good entertainment and pyrotechnics.
Since neither one of them are primary enough characters (though certainly Tatsuya is moreso), one could reasonably expect the narrative would be able to do interesting enough things had either of them won the fight. Likewise, the Ruins field plays well to needing to utilize and consider the environment more, which made for the best showcase of the GM Sniper K9’s abilities. A lighter, streamlined, and more efficient design than the models of essentially anyone left in the tournament, I enjoyed seeing how it made use of its backpack accessory for things like mobile artillery and the deployment of 1/144th scale Zeon infantry figures. Some folks like Ral think it’s improper and against the spirit of gunpla fighting, but, I figure it’s fair game for those trying to do more of a control gameplay style that comes at the expense of many other features on the mobile suit proper.
I have to say though, I’m just as confused as Sei when it came to the EXAM System implementation. The Trans-Am feature from Gundam 00 he originally mistakes it for would have been a lot easier to work with, as that is merely a temporary unit overdrive with a massive machine exhaustion drawback once time has elapsed. The EXAM System has a rather, um, peculiar feature that would be difficult to fit into a gunpla.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode nineteen)
Nils Nielsen as a character hasn’t really been someone I feel the show has been getting much mileage out of, despite how much they make mention of how good his theories and work supposedly are. So they really couldn’t delay having him fight Sei and Reiji much longer.
Maybe that is part of why this episode felt much more workmanlike or paint by numbers this week though, as I really don’t have any investment in their opponent and for the narrative they’re pretty assured to win.
Nils did get Caroline as a girlfriend though by the corporate sponsorship logic of “My dad’s things are mine, and you are one of my dad’s things,” so… good for him? He doesn’t seem entirely put off by the crazy notion, at any rate. So I feel like he would want to be congratulated? This series isn’t so much primed for character shipping as it is more of a full fledged armada.
Regardless: I do like how, because this is gunpla fighting and not actual Gundam units, things like the giant metal swords of the Sengoku Astray do make more sense to me as objects. Gundam Sandrock from Gundam Wing had giant metal swords for instance, but it is very much the sort of thing that sounds very cool more as a custom model set than as a genuine piece of equipment for a field action military mobile suit unit.
The actual fight, however, I did feel was rather underwhelming, especially compared to the duel from last week. This was a very straightforward martial arts shonen kind of fight, with lots of yelling fist throws and talk of inner chi powers. Which, you know, is serviceable enough for moving the tournament plot forwards, but it did not really feel like top eight gunpla fighting material.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode twenty)
This whole “what is the secret of the Plavsky Particle?” thing better be good, because we are burning more and more episode time on that. Which, since the world tournament is going to be winding down anyway, they do need to set up; we only have five more episodes to start tying things up and/or lay the groundwork for an additional season. Let’s go find out this is all a multiverse simulation, or something!
Aila versus Ricardo is another case where the plot could do reasonably interesting things regardless of who happened to win the fight and we move into the top four. Admittedly, Ricardo already had a big showcase tournament showdown with Sei and Reiji where they pushed each others machines to the limit in a draw, so Aila was going to be the more likely one to actually win here to have that showdown with them next.
So, this was essentially a sendoff for the Gundam Fenice: have it ride around on a motorcylce in the snow and shoot from the hip, before having the Qubeley Papillon just dominate it. To that end, I was reminded of when I thought Aila’s whole background and setup mirrored that of Allenby Beardsley and the Beserker System, and lo and behold there it was. Likewise, I appriciated how Fellini sought to self destruct his unit rather than surrender, as this goes along with a plot point from Gundam Wing, the series the Fenice is modeled after. Additionally, self destruction being recognized as “not cool at all” was a nice shift.
I don’t really care much at all for the whole Nemesis sponsor chairman trying to win a trophy for his grandson thing though, as we probably already have enough chairmen villains. I kind of forgot this sponsor guy even existed, honestly, or who Nemesis are even supposed to be outside of Aila.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode 21)
I figure this series will likely need another season to explore much of the whole “Royal house of Arian” / Reiji is from another dimension / the fears of the PPSE chairman. This is fine, it fits the usual arc of a televised Gundam show.
But, things that stuck out to me in that department: “Aria vs Reiji Asuna.”
Please do not tell me Aila is actually Reiji’s renamed sister from whatever alternative plane he is from. I’m not sure this series would have the chops to shore up an incest romance between all the plastic model building and fighting.
This episode was kind of a weird one for me: I like what it wanted to do, but I didn’t enjoy how it approached a lot of it. I think a compelling exploration can come out of Aila’s background, even as a clip scene montage. Someone who didn’t like Gunpla battle, but had a weird talent being able to see the particles and used the offer of the institute to get out of poverty. I’m game.
But what we had for about half the episode was the most baseline “We’ve devoted so much time and money, and train all the time” kind of view. If the Flana institute has so much money and critical investors, they should have a child psychologist, or hell, other projects to work on to get their golden goose socially well adjusted. If she was nonstop scrubbing floors in a run down orphanage, that would be far more believable.
The fight itself went as expected, which the cramped forest field enhanced. This showdown was always going to be more about dialogue and feelings over combat prowess. Conversational white space straight out of The Matrix and a tsundere Gundam argument sounds about right. If there is a second season for the whole alternate universe angle, with Aila coming to enjoy Gunpla, this would be a match to revist.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode twenty two)
As hard as I may sound on this series some weeks, I do not hold a whole lot against it. Of every currently airing show I am watching, this is the one where I can most consistently just lean back during without feeling I need notes.
Which does not mean it is perfect, by any means. I would have loved to have seen more of Sir John Ayers Mackenzie earlier so his fake heart attack could be more dramatic, for instance. The series has three episodes to go, and I feel we are just shoehorning in things like Tatsuya’s stories from his time at the Gunpla Academy.
But I did get to watch a version of the Gundam F91 try to beat the ever loving stuffing out of the Gundam Exia.
For me, I happen to not care too much for the Gundam 00 franchise entries. It starts out alright, then drifts off the rails into an even further out in left field sequel. Culminating in a movie that is even more outlandish and garish to me. As such, when the Exia suit was presented, I did not want to cheer for it.
Gundam F91, meanwhile, has a more tragic history. Originally planned as a full TV series but cut down to only a movie. Incidentally, it was the last Gundam theatrical movie until Gundam 00’s A Wakening of the Trailblazer almost twenty years later. But, even with all the storyline squashing and the like, there are many parts of that film I am rather fond of. I think it has great mobile suit designs, distinct yet classic character styles, solid animation and color palates, and the first half hour or so is a really crunchy visceral ride. I definitely like it more than Gundam 00.
These are times where Gundam Build Fighters just excels as popcorn entertainment for me. I wanted the Exia to get utterly destroyed. It managed to pull out a victory, but in turn I am properly jazzed up for next week and the looming tournament finale. That is what the show needed to do, and for me it did just the trick.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode twenty three)
As everything would tend to become much more linear once the final tournament fight and aftermath start, this is our breather and general screw around week. A big Gundam themed carnival, full of franchise fanservice from across the decades and fit for all the copious cameos they can cram into twenty minutes.
I have seen a nice chunk of Gundam media, but by no means have I seen them all. Even so: there were so many references, shout-outs, and visual nods during this big celebration that any passing familiarity with the franchise would be able to provide a viewer something to latch on to. They even involved the life sized Gundam RX-78, and the brand new life sized Zaku unveiled this month!
This series is an advertising vehicle on multiple levels.
Plot wise, we have Caroline and Nils going all Scooby-Doo on us looking for corporate secrets, Tatsuya gets to have a pre-final heart to heart with Sei and Reiji, and Mr. Iori is back in the picture. Aila and China work together to build a Gunpla (and the Miss Sazabi looks suitably refined compared to its base model), our leads get to have a friendly exhibition match for the public, and Gunpla Idol Kirara gets to put Ricardo Fellini’s fancy new Gundam Fenice Rinascita in a blush inducing sleeper hold. There is not a whole lot to dig into thematically or comment upon in depth, just a fun day out for everyone before things go into serious mode.
Speaking of which: Tatsuya’s Exia Dark Matter is sporting a coat of paint nearly straight off of the Gundam Epyon. As the Exia already possesses Trans-Am overdrive functionality, I think it would be a great finale spectacle if the Flana Institute also had worked in the Epyon’s ZERO system of battlefield tactical data for the Mejin costume. Gundam Wing and 00 are spiritually linked, so it would be a nice gesture and upgrade for the Embody system.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode twenty four)
As our pre-game and setup for the battle was last week, this entry was action and execution. Go go go, we have only one episode left, kind of material.
Which I feel did bite the show in the revelation of the Chairman’s identity as a thief from another dimension. I would have liked to have a better buildup or delivery of that, as it did feel just rammed into everything else. It is not the biggest deal in the world, as we did always know something was up with him and the reveal was only a matter of time. Though it just being tossed out there as it was this week seems disappointing compared to what could have been done.
The championship battle though is, first and foremost, the most crucial part of this episode.
The improved Embody system PPSE and Flana chose to integrate into the Meijin costume serves a secondary purpose in that it renders the one under its influence unable to communicate. We are then spared much in the way of grand Gundam philosophy blows being tossed around in dialogue while the show attempts to also handle an giant robot action. The Star Build Strike in turn could just get dominated and have those visuals and pilot reactions attempt to sell the situation, as it rapidly begins sloughing off parts and acquiring increasing levels of damage. The mid-fight field change was something I am sure I wondered about happening in the back of my head at some point weeks ago, but it was a nifty quirk to see here. It would have been great had there been more diverse alterations than from outer space to the bland inside of a station hallway, though it did put the protagonists literally up against a wall.
Of all things, A Baoa Qu pops up at the end up due to runaway particle dispersal. It makes sense thematically, as Zeon’s most powerful space fortress during the original One Year War from the first Gundam show. What on earth it will actually do is another matter. Could the Chairman try and ram it into the stadium because, hey, this is Gundam and we haven’t had a colony drop or other existential terror threat yet? Will the entire audience join together to defeat it and think it is all part of a grand finale?
Will Tequila Gundam commemorative adult beverage cups remain in stock?
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 25)
For what fundamentally amounts to a giant Gundam toy commercial series, it does a remarkable job tying all its primary themes together for the finale. We have a common enemy in the form of the runaway computer and particle dispersion system, so everyone fights together. Likewise, as this is a series of model sets and combat simulation programs, the characters can verbally handwave a lot that can trip up other series.
Why are there all these new enemy robot models? PPSE was going to roll them out for sale after the tournament. Why are there such an insane number of final units? Because those enemy robots are the default artificial intelligence for when someone wants to play solo, so it can just make as many as it wants as they are not tied to actual physical models. How is the giant laser cannon on the simulated A Baoa Qu so powerful? It is charged by the energy source that allows normal plastic model kits to run around.
It is astounding the number of things that just flow when everything amounts to toys. People can walk around in space without exploding just fine because it is all just a kind of holographic arena.
Even the big theme of the power of friendship and coming together over a common thing, well worn by many a story, functions without any eye rolling. Our characters are in different ways connected by a fandom. This does not come down to a clash against a contorted philosophy or political matter, no huge enemy monologue, but more beating the biggest video game raid possible in that universe. And folks high-five afterwards, because hey: as crazy of a final fight that was against the giant space fortress, it was a fun game.
If this series blew whale chunks, I do not think anyone would have been surprised. On a certain level, this program is designed to move a merchandise line, expand its demographics, and perhaps even hook kids into the Gundam franchise at an earlier age with many characters even younger than our usual teenage and young adult solider types. It is very easy to view that in a very cynical light. And as some of my write-ups have tackled, the show does some less than optimal pacing situations and exposition dumps in various places.
But, I do feel the team behind this did grasp a lot of the celebratory parts of the Gundam series. It is a long franchise with a vast history, and a kind of cultural institution unto itself at this point. Some parts may not have turned out so well, and it has had its own hiccups over the years, but there are good things in there. This was like various staff at Sunrise were excited kids who cracked open their toyboxes and wanted to show us a whole bunch of cool stuff. There was a sense of a joyous spark, an element that they wanted folks to think what they were showing was a good thing. That we would like it too. That we would want to play with them. I think we have all been there as children at one time or another. And I think that is hard to fake.
It was fun for kids and while still having the wherewithal to make a lot of adults smile. It was a good robot show with blue skies where nobody died.