My first set of episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from Gundam Build Fighters Try, which started airing during the Autumn 2014 anime season.
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 here for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click and scan through numerous pages of unrelated material.
Check the Notebooks category or the appropriate Index page for additional posts like this one for other series
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode one]
Please set your GP base. Again.
This time last year, Gundam Build Fighters came out for what many assumed to be the logical and cynical conclusion of the evolutionary course of a robot franchise with multiple lines of model kits (many quite expensive at that). A television show, marketed to younger audiences, featuring the characters playing with said self built storebought figures in an action battle game to show the fun of Gunpla. One of the lead characters of the series is the child of a family who own a Gunpla shop, and the boxes look just as they do in real life.
The number of ways this could have gone so very, very wrong as a creative endeavor should be very apparent.
It had an uphill climb given the setup and general feelings of it, but that many Gundam fans came to rather enjoy and indeed celebrate the series and considered it good even far beyond its younger demographics I think is to its credit. It was a fun weekly ride, and a key benefit of using Gundam model kits in an action series (which is to say, no human cost of life, unlike if were they genuine mobile suit wars) was explored quite a lot. One can have any given fight turn into a series finale level brawl. Limbs destroyed, weapons smashed, armor crumpled in all manner of ways. And a character would either have another powerful suit on hand for later, or be able to fix it with new parts or alterations after not to long without seeming ludicrous.
It was like a King of Fighters game during a Dream Match year; nothing off limits, regardless of if certain entities were destroyed in their original storylines.
But as a television show about Gundam.
A neat thing about Try Fighters, for our return trip, is our central lead here is a young woman.
We are at the same school as before, but seven years in the future. Long enough to where, while Sei and Reiji had their accomplishments last season, their old Gunpla battle extracurricular club is down to one member. The aforementioned Fumina Hoshino. She is a welcome change, as while the first series had young women in it playing Gunpla, building Gunpla, and even a Gunpla idol, a central lead character space by way of being a regular school student is crucial. No shadowy ace institute or program, no being a nominal love interest, and so on. China was a normal girl in the original series of course, and given a fair amount of screen time. But her role rarely extended too far past Sweet Childhood Friend Who Encourages The Lead She Has A Crush On.
As Fumina needs to build her team with two additional recruits, and with the most longstanding inner fire for Gunpla battle of the three, her development and characterization as a carrying force for the series will be interesting to see unfold. Sekai may as well be Reiji’s younger brother for how much he has no understanding of Gunpla but likes the battle aspect once he sees it in person, and Yuuma should literally be that for China given his name and some of Mr. Ral’s comments.
So for now, we have more than enough little hooks to launch from. Why Sekai is alarmingly like Reiji is almost every way. Whatever happened to folks like China and the rest of the cast over the near decade since the conclusion point of the first show. Why did the World Championship trophy have a Dom hidden inside of it which did itself also contain a Build Burning Gundam. With what magical mustache powers can Mr. Ral continue to show up out of seemingly nowhere at the most opportune of times to observe the choicest Gunpla battle.
All this and more I will be looking forward to seeing addressed in one way or another, as we establish what has happened in the world of Gunpla since we last left it.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode two]
While last episode laid out the groundwork, here we pour the foundation.
That Fumina, Sekai, and Yuuma are going to form up a Bunpla battle team and make a run for the Championship is all but a given. It is that sort of show, and indeed last episode we already had the narration at the end about Team Try Fighters meeting for the first time and all that. So what needs to come into play are the mechanisms by which they do all join together. As Fumina has already recruited Sekai, that amounts to just needing to wrangle Yuuma into all of this as a battler rather than just a builder, and there we go.
In this case then, we have more of the backstory relating to Fumina and Yuuma having once made plans as kids that they would play Gunpla battle together and one day try and compete for the Championship. Then, some years later, Yuuma was utterly dismantled in a fight against an opponent whose phyical appearance we never really get a good look at (and, for this kind of show, I am sure we will see in due time episodes from now for an inevitable rematch). Such was he level of defeat that he quit Gunpla Battle entirely, to focus solely on the model building aspects instead. It is a serviceable background to have. That the show makes work of it in good time in addition to then also moving ahead enough to where the large school Plastic Model Club he is a member of is having a trial of absorption for the now two member Gunpla Battle Club is to its benefit as well. Yuuma does not need the deepest of reasons to have quit competitive Gunpla Battle; getting smacked around hard enough in a match as a kid is the sort of thing where one can see a person going “I am never playing this again!” pretty easily.
It also provides a bit of a natural cameo for his sister China during his flashback to originally not wanting to play the game anymore. She was with us last season, but her age would be scaled up a few years due to the overall time skip. Something particularly nice about that scene is that the show never makes the express moment to point out who she is, so the narrative flow never breaks. If one already knows she is his sister they are just fine. But if not, then context alone still provides she is a supportive family member of some kind to him and the sequence continues to function because of how it is put together.
Having shown her a bit here, their more specific familial relationship can come out in a more appropriate situational fashion later, such as our new leads later meeting China by coming over to the Kousaka house or some-such.
Aside from the expected absorption battle which the Plastic Model Club needs to lose so our series can continue to function as a robot battle production, I did also appreciate something else quite a bit this episode sought out to do.
Namely, as Sekai’s older sister Mirai is set up as someone Yuuma thinks is quite stunning (though she likely has no idea he exists and would have minimal interest), it dodges some of the potential love triangle questions one could have regarding the core team. Fumina and Sekai already had their “falling on top of each other in pursuit of the same object” moment last episode, and were Yuuma thrown in as some sort of childhood crush vector for Fumina on the team as well, this entire enterprise could quickly delve into a real relationship mess. A highlight of the original Build Fighters were its relationships and crushes were very cute and endearing, but they were means for good character moments and never distracted from the overall show.
A big love triangle between teammates would risk dragging this series into more genuine drama swamp territory, while its strengths tend to be more in an overall sense of levity, joy, and forward momentum. It seems to recognize that as well, which is a good move for a second season already introducing as game changing a mechanic as three on three battles.
Finally, on a more serious note I want to bring up:
This was the week Masashi Hirose had to step down from continuing to voice Mr. Ral due to hospitalization and health reasons. He has voiced Ral across all kinds of media since the original Mobile Suit Gundam several decades ago. Episodes three and four of Try have already been recorded with any of his Ral involvement, while Katsuhisa Houki will take over starting at episode five.
Hirose’s presence has been a lot of fun in this show given the passion he still brings to the character, and I am sure he still wants to be involved. But it is the far better decision for him to be looking out for his health and seeking recovery at this time.
I wish him the very best.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode three]
Now that the Try Fighters are together as a team, baring some formalities which needed to be taken care of this week regarding Yuuma’s transition from the Plamo club to the Gunpla Battle one, we begin to enter what one would assume to be the more episofic phase before the eventual regional qualifiers on up.
This does also mean the episode has slowed down a fair bit. Needing to deal in matters of practice simulations, Sekai not being very good with his Gunpla when he can not punch things, Mr Ral really wanting to deploy his custom Gouf for sparing and helping to coach the kids but not being allowed to have the match for comedic timing reasons, and so on. But this does not mean I felt the episode was bad.
I mean, this episode had a robot fight that was stated to be taking place in a forest field, and yet when one of the mecha was punched hard enough they burst what was actually a wall in space colony field. So that alone would be interesting, as far as ways the battlefield and game dynamics may shift this season. And even that is way less pressing in my mind than some other aspects on hand this week.
Saint Odessa Girls’ School, as the location of an arranged interschool practice match, is a really interesting place to me. For one thing, a really ornate shoujo style academy setting, complete with all the trimmings of roses and sparkles to match, is something I feel Gundam could always get a lot more mileage out of in general. It opens up avenues to a lot of really great design choices, and it is noteworthy that Mamoru Nagano of the very traditionally shoujo leaning visuals of The Five Star Stories contributed to the mecha designs of Zeta Gundam way back when. Even better than that, they act as being a prime location to naturally increase the number of prominent young women characters within the fictional universe we are dealing in here.
As the episode is entitled then, “Her Name is Gyanko.”
Real name Sazaki Kaoruko, she is the younger sister to Susumu from the first series.
Susumu himself, while floated a bit as an Annoying Rival Our Leads Are Clearing Better Than, was one of what I considered to be the weaker characters in that series. He never gets a whole lot of screen time outside of his bit archetype role, so he never has much of an opportunity to advance beyond being just a mosquito that our leads swat away sometimes before the series pretty much sidelines him. None of his scenes stand out to me anywhere near highlights of the show, looking back on it these months down the road.
The handling of his sister then looks to change some of this. For one thing, that we see her not just during the practice match proper, but also have an entire post episode scene involving her meeting up with our cast again on their way to school. It alone would suggest that we would be seeing a whole lot more of her to come, and in situations outside of Gunpla battle. Furthermore though, there is the matter that she so prominently has a crush on Sekai and everyone but him knows it, so this will also be something the series will be dealing going ahead. This further dodges any pre-release and early going fears of Team Try Fighters itself being a love triangle, in conjunction with Yuuma clearly having a thing for Sekai’s older sister (which I will assume will go nowhere). A lot of these bits in these early episodes seem to be clearly delineating this vectors early on, which I can appreciate. It both establishes its characters feelings early on (and these are middle schoolers, so random infatuations are easy to justify), and dealing with them more prominently upfront ideally leads to even better payoffs as the eventual tournament shows up and rounds advance.
Another thing with Gyanko though, and it has indeed been a significant part of conversations I have seen about this series: she is not only presented as a rival to the team in general, or a potential love interest for one. But she is also physically larger as a person compared to how Gundam often handles such characters. She is tall enough to the point where she needs to bend down to bring a lunch she prepared for Seaki to even his head level, in addition to having a more plus sized figure in general. Compared to a lot of the ways Gundam has portrayed young women and love interests over the years, from a raw design standpoint, Gyanko is quite different and rather refreshing in that respect. Her presence makes the series so much more inclusive in her own ways, in addition to the facets of having Fumina being the de facto leader of her team.
There is still so much the franchise can to do to go farther, of course.
But Operation Odessa in the original Mobile Suit Gundam was a major turning point during the war. One can hope the representative of an all girls school named as a franchise reference to that event can do something similar regarding character designs and treatments we can hope for in the years to come.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode four]
There is no ground in outer space, which is the kind of important lesson about spatial geometry one can appreciate in a series about fighting toy robots in simulated battle environments.
More seriously though, this was the most workmanlike episode of the series thus far. This is fair enough, as we have established multiple core characters over the previous three episodes. So things slowing down a bit and talking through training, which robots on the Try Fighters team specialize in what as Fumina attempts to find a new Gundam model to fill the gap between Sekai and Yuuma (as the style of the former is entirely close range combat, and the later a sniper), and the like all make sense. Given, we as viewers already know from things like the promotional materials that she will be putting her Powered GM Cardigan aside in favor of a custom SD Gundam named the Winning Gundam.
But, the question is how, and the journey of its creation and design become the goal to see play out here.
Fumina and Sekai get a nice little date day visiting the real life sized RX-78 Gundam and some surrounding Gundam displays for inspiration and such, which I hope is not an indication that this is actually being floated a more romantic relationship vector.
Sekai’s sister seems to think so at any rate, and is out and about following them around, but one can chalk that up to humor and antics of her not understanding a situation. At least, that is what I hope. Again, something of a concern of mine for this series would be if the leads needed to carry something of a love triangle amongst themselves (and as Yuuma is a childhood friend of Fumina, there is that direction the series could call on all well if desired).
Not that they can not have crushes or desire relationships of course (they are middle schoolers, they both want all kinds of things and at the same time have no idea what they want). But, a series like this which is so much of a celebration of Gundam, is best served I feel by having a large variety of characters to meet and interact with along the way. It gives a natural point for all kinds of interesting folks for our leads to develop cute crushes on. If it were to be directed more internally amongst the three of them as the series advances, there is the consideration it in turn makes the world feel smaller and more restricted as a result. Plus, after just having introduced Gyanko last episode, it would be really nice if the Hotblooded Hero Guy of the group ended up with the larger girl who clearly thinks Sekai is a pretty cool guy.
This is also the very last episode Masashi Hirose will be voicing Mr. Ral due to ongoing health complications, as previously mentioned.
He brought a lot of energy and fun to the role he had played in one form or another since the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, and here one last time he gets to talk about having an itchy butt when the kid characters talk about potentially awkward things around him.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode five]
The elephant in the room: Katsuhisa Hōki is now playing Mr. Ral, the role having needed to be recast.
He is of similar vintage to Masashi Hirose’s presence within the acting community (just about a year older than the the man Hōki is replacing, in fact), though he did take up voice acting more specifically at a later point in his career. And while animation allows for the physical form of a character to remain the same regardless of who is voicing them, that audio component does alter a lot. Our new Ral then has a more gravelly and somewhat greater tone of seriousness, and does to wit sound a little less kooky than Hōki’s take on the character. That being the case, there is the sense something is… missing, in his performance. The somewhat absentminded mentor role of the Build Fighters version of Ral benefited a lot from the ability to switch from melodramatic overselling of a situation to butt jokes, and it was a flavor Hirose has a keen ability to deliver on. Our new Ral voice feels more dramatic than overdramatic, and in turn sound wanting for it, and I could not imagine the current handling of the role delivering on itchy butt jokes.
This being said, this was an emergency recasting, so Hōki ‘s preparation time can be considered to be far less than he would have otherwise been allowed had be had the role from the start of the season. By the same note, I do feel that despite my present reservations I would rather him play the role his own way, than attempt to mimic the delivery of someone else. It will allow him to, as time goes on I would hope, refine his own feel for how the character should sound and lead to better results down the road as we get further away from the Hirose episodes.
So, I do look forward to what my opinion on Hōki’s involvement will be by the end of the season, however out of place he may sound to me at the moment.
Fumina’s story that when she was a kid she saw a woman playing gunpla battle so well that she was inspired to pick up the sport herself surprised me, in that I had expected the lady she had seen to be Aila from the first season.
With the events of the previous series occurring seven years ago in-universe, and our current protagonists being middle school age at present, this would peg Fumina to have been around the right age to have such a memory when Aila was involved in the later stages of the last tournament we saw. And yet it apparently was not Aila, nor was it a misremembering by Fumina, as an older version of the same lady from Fumina’s flashback was seen later in the episode watching over the Under 18 championship matches.
It is a curious move. While I appreciate the series taking steps to ensure new viewers are not overburdened with connections to the previous season, I feel this is an opportunity where the series could have deployed Aila without naming her. The sequence would work just as well, and viewers from the first season would have the additional benefit of seeing that generational connection. It would be similar to when China was shown a bit in Yuuma’s flashback several episodes ago, where who she is becomes a bit of a nice added bonus but does not otherwise detract from the scene if someone had not seen the first season. Of course, we also have no idea what Aila is up to at this point, so this may have been a total impossibility to involve her here depending on what her circumstances are and how she may or may not be shown later on.
In the grand scheme of things, I am pleased the series is trying to be its own thing first and hedging on the side of avoiding characters from the first season, though there is the back of the head mulling that their grand arrival is also something of an (exciting) inevitability.
In other news, Sekai gets a Gyanko / Odessa cheering section, so that is tempering me at least a bit on my Team Try Fighters romantic triangle concerns.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode six]
The notion is raised this week that the Winning Gundam developed by Fumina has hidden functions we have yet to see, which is appealing.
My biggest concern in assigning The Girl of the team with a cuter or less serious looking SD Gundam has been the potential risk she gets less prominent battle displays. China had things like Bearguy last season, and while that was amazing and whimsical in its own right it also inherently makes her much easier for her model to be used for gags and comedy, rather than as a more earnest effort to participate in Gunpla building. It is a rough line to walk, as no, I think female characters in a series like this should be able to express themselves through their building however they want.
I also do not want their efforts to be perceived as a joke though, since I would like it for this series to be as inclusive as possible rather than fall into a Boys Toys sort of trap that would somehow diminish “girlie” or “cuter” designs.
I merely worry because I care. I hope the Winning Gundam gets to wreck folks just as much as every other robot.
This inclusion I hope for does in its own way extend even to the characters themselves watching a rules video, to ensure everyone regardless of background is operating on the same page and has a firm understanding of how the tournament will progress and how games work.
This does feel at least a little odd to pull out at the sixth episode, where we have already had several battles already. One would assume those who were not already processing enough of the Gunpla battle system would have tuned out already. I suppose one can chalk it up to the consideration to frontload the season with a bit more action and diving into things with character, and being able to slow down a bit here prior to a tournament arc to deliver a proper and formal explanation for how the technicalities for things like the timer running out or changing robots between matches.
Having a sequence like that is likely better than not having having one at all, as this season does seem to be aiming to be as easy to get into within a minimum of overheard from the last season. Though I will not deny it also feels a tiny bit odd.
Yuuma working at his family restaurant for a bit as he does in this episode are the nice touches of continuity and connectivity with the first season that I have been looking for when they have presented themselves. However rarely these instances have occurred, they are a nice reminder that this series does exist within the same universe as the previous season.
Themed teams also make more of a showing this week, as they were an interesting part of the first season where they popped up. In this case, we are essentially watching Team Try Fighters versus The 08th MS Team, in a jungle ruins field to boot. Of course, as the mass production Gundam’s here are not fighting an extended ground war with the associated wear and tear over time, this tournament fight is closer to what such a unit would be capable of closer the height of their capabilities and will full armaments and supplies. It provides an added thematic backing to the affair, as much of this episode was concerned with the three lead characters fighting more as individuals than as a cohesive force. Pitting the Try Fighters against an enemy team which had outfitted itself similarly to a mobile suit suit fighting unit known by the Gundam fanbase less for the individual power of its machines and more for its unit cohesion better shows the accomplishment when our characters do manage to pull out a victory.
While it has its technical first rollout last episode, that fight was primarily about Sekai showing is ability to move freely in outer space settings. This is a more fleshed out battle for the Winning Gundam to get a proper showcase in. Its custom design is such where it breaks apart into support equipment for the other two team members. In essence then, Fumina’s Winning Gundam forces Sekai and Yuuma to work together to capitalize on such moments. It is a nice thematic move in its own right, for her to bring two unlikely folks together and they can all be friends together. Though it is also tricky to shake the sense that it does pose the risk of Fumina’s Gundam to not get to deliver as many keynote finishes or the like.
The show is liable to alter her Gundam to a different model at some later point of course, as that happened a few times in the first season. So if its SD qualities do turn out to reduce the amount of impact she herself gets to make on the game down the road, ideally there will be another model around the corner.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode seven]
Team Angelfish, despite being teased in previous competition shots, meet the slapstick fate we always expected of them. Bring a team of all aquatic Gunpla to the tournament, and once one of those randomly generated fields turns out to lack a liquid water supply they just end up all washed up.
That aside, we do have far more reasonable model building topics to get to this week outside of the opening bit. Namely, straight assembly.
In model construction terms, this means a kit snapped together with no further flourishes. No fancy paint jobs, custom modifications, etc. As the series has specifically pointed out, both this season and especially last, model quality and the further worked applied to it yields immense advantages when they are processed for Gunpla Battle. Enhanced beam damage nullification or reflection due to paint and finish, stronger joints via different materials and custom fitting, and so on down the line. All the tools in the world are useless if one has no idea how to put them to use of course, but craftsmanship and an overall tone making your Gunpla a personalized item has been a key point.
So then for mixing things up, our key designated Under 18 tournament opponent this episode (and likely future rival to Sekai should they bring him back) Shimon uses straight assembly units.
The reasoning I feel is fine enough.
He has a little brother who really likes Gunpla and putting them together, but he can not fight with them himself as the poor kid is in the hospital with… something. It is not particularly specified, and given that this show is skewed to younger demographics by design I do not find much of an issue with it. A kid in the hospital long enough for his boxing prodigy older brother to quit his specialty sport and take up Gunpla Battle with kits the child would have assembled over long medical stays, and ones imagination probably does not need things to get too specific. For a series as generally blue skies and optimistically oriented as Build Fighters often is, this is about as much of a nod to potential grimness as a seriously ill child episode it would be capable of. The episode also does not end on a downer in that department, and indeed has eyes towards the future and the kits the kid will continue to build, which is welcome.
Back on the battlefield side of things though, the straight assembly nature of Shimon’s equipment (so, in this case a regular Destiny Gundam) does cast some things in interesting lights. For one, Shimon is very skilled as a pilot, and puts up one hell of a fight. This is in some ways fitting for his boxing history and any related gamestate reading skills being transplanted over, but also him compensating in the best ways he possibly can with the tools as his disposal. He would have needed to spend considerable time seriously practicing with “suboptimally” made units, as rather than using a straight assembly kit as a stepping stone to something more they are all he has access to at the time. He is being supplied units made by a young child, after all. But, in turn he can be driven to parlay that into squeezing maximum drops of output from every potential source.
Sekai by comparison has the World Championship tier Build Burning Gundam, but is so new to Gunpla Battle that he had trouble navigating in outer space fields not too long ago in the episode count. While a quick learner, there is so much to Gunpla Battle he has yet to learn or encounter, and practically starting off with such a high class build of a unit has itself likely papered over various core deficiencies in his core play of the game. Shimon is able to give Sekai almost every bit as good as he gets outside of the most razor thin of percentages that could have pushed the victory his way, which given the build quality differences between the two of them is an incredible feat.
Masami Ōbari has mentioned before that they would like to work on a Gundam wrestling event one day, and while this episode was not quite that (and Ōbari did not work on it) it came alarmingly close to seeing that dream become reality. With Yuuma and Fumina both suffering from Field Out statuses due to suicide drives by their counterparts from Shimon’s team, we have just him and Sekai slamming their machines each other. Arms bars, lots of grappling, and multiple significant limbs damaged or outright destroyed as they tried to pull each other apart. Again, this is one of the great selling points of this series, as mecha fights this visceral in their one on one unit damage would ordinarily be season or close of a story arc tier finales in the more war campaign oriented programs. Here, this is just an Under 18 championship game. And Shimon would be a very legitimate contender on a larger stage were his brother to up his building game, as he states he will.
It does also, unequivocally, render the Build Burning Gundam in significant need of repairs. This opens doors for opportunities like perhaps Yuuma and Sekai bonding a bit more as the other leads a fix-it attempt, or even Sekai having to work more on his own model building rather than using a legacy unit made by someone else that literally fell into his hands. It has felt somewhat odd that his teammates have worked on their own kits and put their own spins on the base models, while Sekai has not needed to make much of a commitment on that front.
He will have some time to sort his Gunpla situation out at any rate, as next week looks to be another Gyanko episode and putting a spotlight on her tournament position. I like Gyanko as a character, I am glad she is in this show, and it is nice she is getting another more central billing this soon. It keeps her from becoming a bit character on the sidelines, which is important if the series may want to push the Gyanko-Sekai angle seriously. And I think it would be valuable if it did just that.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode eight]
For as throwaway as fights between teams we have never seen before can be: seeing two mobile armors go at it (an upgraded Xamel from 0083: Stardust Memory versus a Doggorla from Victory Gundam) is pretty neat.
While teams have the option to use mobile armors, my concern has always been that their substantial edge in raw size and firepower tends to be the sort of thing which can easily be made a mockery of given their tradeoffs. Teams with three mobile suits, like when Team Try Fighters went on to handily rip apart the Doggorla themselves minutes later and in short order, are arguably more dynamic for viewers to watch in addition to the corporate bonus of featuring more model kits per fight. Forcing the teams which do use a mobile armor to use that as their singular deployed unit makes me wonder if we will be getting a really swell suits versus armor fight at any point this season, as the risks for picking an armor do not seem to be worth the advantages at this time. But they could make for impressive team fights with multiple stations against multiple independently piloted suits in a regular tournament environment, and I hope we do get to see that as the season goes on, suits per square inch of battlefield be damned.
While Sekai’s Gundam was near destroyed last week, none of the repairs or the like were in focus this time or otherwise even a wrench to consider. We just moved his team on to the smackdown of the Doggorla, and he has he Build Burning same as it ever was (community assumption is “Model damage level set to B” may mean the physical model is no longer wrecked as they were previously). Which is a marked momentum difference compared to the prior season, where a lot of character moments would come out of such circumstances of repair overhauls or working on a new suit in time for the next match. I am also looking back and considering my initial concerns about Fumina’s SD Winning Gundam being used essentially just for power-up parts for her two other teammates are not coming to pass, and that increasingly seems to be the case rather than getting it to showcase more in its own right. I would like to think this comes down to Team Try Fighters having a smaller (and thus more expedient for screen time) fight.
But even so, there would still be ways for the Winning Gundam to feature more without just being there for spare parts.
Our primary episode driver though is Gyanko, being in the final four as St. Odessa is, up against the Miyazato Institute and who we are told are the previous regional champion.
While in season one we had a keynote fight between the fiery redhead lead and the character they were very much shipped with as a romantic item, that was also very close to end of that series. Since we as viewers can assume Team Try Fighters will be going on to the finals of the Under 18’s in this kind of program (and in turn they clinch that this episode), St. Odessa advancing to the finals as well would be a bridge too far at this stage. Our core trio already fought Gyanko and friends a few episodes ago, and while they could certainly do so again before the series is over via other matches, having them rematch so soon would be a bit of a fumbled opportunity. There would not be as much character time between their first and second matches for there to be more weight for whatever fight were to occur.
So Gyanko and Sekai promising to meet in the finals, sure, that was never going to happen. But, it does mean we get an array of “This is not a date but let’s go to a burger joint” events, as well as Gyanko point blank asking Seaki if he would go on a date with her if she won her match. Now, is her doing so while pretending to be far sadder and distraught by her matchup manipulative? Well, sure. But, for as intentionally over the top as she is being about everything, I can respect the series having her doing things like asking for a date and such. Of course Seaki is oblivious on a level where he is still not able to properly put two and two together regarding Gyanko’s feelings, but this is more forward progress than was seen in most of the first series and everyone nearly everyone outside of ladies man Fellini clamming up when romantic things were afoot.
As always, I feel the series does need to be careful lest everything fall into a massive pile of tangled up romance thread spaghetti. But the core notion of having a more prominent young woman in a Gundam series aggressively pursuing who she has a crush on? That I think is welcome.
All of this does mean Gyanko’s teammates are short shifted though, as even during the launch sequence of her match Gyanko gives her name followed by “plus two others.” They are torn down quickly, sure, as before. In the immediate point we are at right now, this is not a big deal, to have her teammates framed more as followers or hangers on. But going forwards, as we will surely see St. Odessa fight again in a later event, my concern would be more of their matches turning into circumstances where they are blown away in a hurry and Gyanko has to fight by herself.
A three versus one fight like this episode turned into is fine in the short term to sell the scale or impossibility of her situation and the strength of the enemy team. It also gives a bit more for the over dramatic physical reaction when Gyanko is blown away in the game and reacts in slow motion death fall style as she recalls her now broken promise to see Seaki at the next stage, as if this were a different line of Gundam series and she was being killed off. But it would be nice if this sort of thing did not happen to Gyanko every time, is what I am saying, which I can easily foree it turning into. I would like her to be taken as a more genuine character than wheeled out merely as an overblown gag machine, since I think her portrayal could be quite helpful and positive for any young women in the audience if handled correctly.
Our end of episode post credits sequence reintroduces Allan Adams, which outside of tiptoeing around things like China being Yuuma’s sister and their family restaurant, is the clearest connection we have had to season one so far. Adams was last seen as an engineer at Plavsky Particle System Engineering, and in that role he served both as being in charge of developing experimental model kits and other technology for use by the standing Gunpla Meijin as well as being a general assistant to the same.
Now he is serving in a coaching capacity with a nephew along for the ride, and as I assume we are moving towards another World Championship arc it will be interesting to see how his outlooks or philosophies may have been shaped in the years since the more dimwitted Chairman Mashita’s departure.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode nine]
Tournament Finale week.
So, to get us started, we jump in right where we left off last time. Gyanko losing, and the cast being crushed by the event in various ways. Most of Fumina’s actions or reactions around Gyanko thus far have been either ones of begrudging acknowledgment or active perturbation. Understandable, given the history and reputation there. But her heading out and seeing to talk to her effective “rival” more sympathetically moves us towards a nicer realm. There is a degree of nuance there, in that Fumina both feels compelled to approach and say something to potentially settle her down, while at the same time she also knows Gyanko would rather want to be talking to Sekai. This area of middle school crushes and all I feel the series is equipped to handle, and have mentioned as much previously. This is a much more welcome character mode to handle this with, since there are so many other things driving the conversation as well. It is not just a chat about A Boy, and that provides greater depth for them both individually and for their rivalship-friendship as the series advances.
Gyanko will be building again for future days, and given the amount of screen time she has had I can not imagine she is going far. Her coming out with the also defeated Shimon to help train / spar with Sekai off screen before the finale round notwithstanding, I do not think a character gets as much attention as she had had in a tournament fighting series only to conclude her role for the rest of the show.
So, I will look forward to whatever she makes next. The R-Gyagya had a very defensive minded design philosophy which could warrant further exploration in what is often a rather offense oriented show.
This by and large leaves us with the big fight of the Miyazato Institute versus Team Try Fighters for the finale of this arc.
Now, we are nowhere near the end of the show, and this is a tournament which is a direct qualifier to higher things. So, we can not lay all the best fights down on the table yet (or at least, one would hope as much). Solomon is itself a potentially interesting battlefield zone, given the sheer size of the military asteroid base and the ability to fight both indoors and in the general space around the facility. Going off of last season, I often enjoy the battles which make ample use of the multifaceted aspects of their respective combat zones. Part of this comes down to the general series ability to absolutely wreck things without needing to sell casualty counts or a larger war campaign (it is not like this Solomon is staffed by personnel or ), and some of it likewise just comes down to being all around compelling action choreography to zoom in and out of the geography.
That said, for a battlefield that is as keynote to the Universal Century timeline as Solomon (and thus I doubt the show will reuse down the line), I feel the episode made rather minimal use of the indoors aspect. We get about one solid scene with Fumina and Sekai going in and having a firefight exchange while Yuuma scouts around the outside of the base, and that is about it for the tunnel system. I imagine this comes down more to the fight taking up only about half an episode worth of time, and has a lot of other ground to cover, but still. I can hope and dream for more opportunities later, at least.
For the battle proper, we have two main threads to focus on and keep in mind going forwards outside of the visual spectacle of the action throwdown. Yuuma willingly making a sacrificial move with his Lightning Gundam in a suicidal attack is one A championship grade model builder on the pure design, artistic, and assembly front coming to terms with and allowing such destruction to befall their model for the greater benefit of their battle team is an important step in his development. His sniper position has allowed him to be in more removed proximity to most in-game events, but as a participant in this line of sport being willing to move in and knowingly bring devastating levels of damage to his hard built work is crucial
The second matter, and the one with far less information to work with at this time, is Sekai. His face takes damage from shrapnel after his Build Burning Gundam goes into what is essentially an overdrive mode of man-machine operating as one synergistic unity. While little more than some scratches and perhaps a teensy tiny amount of blood for visual flavor, this situation has… implications. If a Gunpla Battle participant can be at risk of physical harm, that changes a lot of dynamics with what they do. Seaki would have a broken and destroyed body had he been open to such damage in his grappling match with Shimon, for instance. Even if this may perhaps only impact Sekai (either if but just for the moment, or as a permanent state of the team), this shakes up a lot of what he and his teammates have to strategize around. Sekai may personally need to better adjust his wild dives and close range maneuvers, lest he wreck himself, and his team will have to accommodate that as a unit. Perhaps even further, should opposing teams figure out that under select circumstances the pilot himself could be taken out of commission, that is a lot of doors for dirty play and tournament sabotaging.
I am not entirely sure if I like that, mind you. A lot of this is going to come down to just what path this series wants to go down with these concepts. I am willing to play along for now, but I am also skeptical regarding if this is really going to fit into the kind of experience I come to Gundam Build Fighters for.
In other news, while Allan Adams was rolled out last week with what was arguably the strongest heads up connection to the previous season, we get a follow-up hit which supassess it this week. Tatsuya Yuuki, Meijin Kawaguchi, whatever one wishes to call him, he was here on screen and with verbal observations of the tournament final. As we begin to move more towards a world stage, this fits, and considering the show is a little over a third of the way done already this is about as drawn out as the production team could have begun to make these reveals.
It is important, after all, to establish folks like Fumina, Yuuma, and Sekai as characters in their own right so that they can champion this series. Bringing back the old guard too soon risks destabilizing the ability for the new fast to take hold on the audience. But, one still awaited when and how the former fighters would come back into the fold of course. This is a Gundam series where nobody physically dies from getting their robot destroyed.
Unless Sekai’s synergistic connection with his machine is taken to a whole new level for a most dangerous game.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode ten]
The prior season had a beach vacation romp after the initial tournament win for our protagonists, and so indeed here we are again.
Previously it was a mechanism by which to introduce a pretty standard “loan sharks threaten a down on its luck inn and its owners,” complete with a massive hammer of a Gunpla Battle model of their own, and add a new member to the friendly elements of the cast via Mao. Obviously the same events can (or at least should) not be recycled, so we ramp things into a different direction. Instead of vicious financial predators, we have a runway fashion show based entirely around which talent agency will get to roll out a future face for the looming higher level championship. Or perhaps those two things are not so different after all.
Regardless, something it does do succinctly is tie Sekai’s sister Mirai into the Gunpla Battle scene. We have been able to see her before at her professional photoshoots, and Gunpla modeling / idol culture is something the series touched on in its own way in the last series. Mihoshi (or at least an image of her) who championship that aspect before is even rolled out as a reminder to characters, and as new information for us, that she has gone on to become a Hollywood star over the past seven years. So, fair enough, it stands to reason that with the ever increasing popularity of the sport within the universe of the show that these opportunities would be not only present but highly desirable for agencies and aspiring models / idols / etc alike.
It does also mean the series gets to pull the visual song and dance number of getting to claim it needs to have a whole bunch of girls in swimsuits posing with Gunpla models on the runway. Which, short of my general fascination with shows like Project Runway (and given how little of this episode is actually “about” the styles, I do not have much to work with on this front), we all know what the series is trying to do there.
What we do get though, as the aspiring winners need to not only pose with Gunpla but need to play as well, is a video game kart racing-esque sequence.
Which we also had in the first Gundam Build Fighters, to be sure. But, never with a Bearguy. Let alone a Bearguy with a Petit Bearguy.
So, this does admittedly get into the area I have mentioned before about the young women in this series getting to use serious models or not. It would be wrong of me to not acknowledge what I have mentioned before, after all. That said, I do feel that if a Bearguy were to be reintroduced for this series, Mirai would be among the best possible of choices. She has never built a Gunpla model before, let alone gone so far as to fight with them, but the Bearguy kit does work with what a lot of her modeling items have been (plush accessories, pajama like wear, etc). So it makes enough sense for this kind of Gunpla modeling and racing competition that she would see an appeal in something that fits her usual aesthetic. It would be equally if not ever more valid were she to go in the complete opossite direction of course, such as perhaps seeing the angular suits from Turn A Gundam as an opportunity to express something she normally would not.
But, I feel I can understand what the series was aiming for well enough, and I do not think it was being more aggressively ill minded when giving her the Bearguy and Petit Bearguy.
Which does bring things to the key battle of note during the race between her and Taku, the popular leader of the in-universe rock group SGOCK Third Generation. Who does himself get a Turn A model of his own to use. And I phrase it as such given that is seems very likely the machine was built for him by another, as opposed to the collaborative process Mirai and Yuuma had with Bearguy.
Now, a Bearguy by its very nature does give a more whimsical edge to any given fight, as being an adorable bear machine fighting against a more threatening robot is wont to do.But the KUMA-F Beargguy F allowing for the family experience does provide new angles I found more enjoyable than “just” getting to see a Bearguy again. We have the visuals of a parental robot with a child on their back. Dodging enemy fire, racing along, traveling underwater, and indeed heroically sacrificing itself for the good of its young like this were a classic Disney animation or the like. It may be on the nose in more than one way for some I suppose, but I feel the series was aiming for the more over the top humor in seeing a Bearguy surge to protect the sub cub unit. And that unit, still driven by Mirai as she switches control over to it, getting to kick a Turn A in its very firmly exposed cockpit between the legs.
As far as “filler” episodes go, insofar that it does not advance the primary Try Fighters team and their aspirations, it has some nice highlights. Anything involving Bearguy is generally a solid affair in this series, so it upholds the tradition. We get to see a bit more of what happened to previous characters (such as Mihoshi), and next week it looks like Nils is back as well. As we get ever closer to the mid-series point, I feel we will be on a really solid footing for the second half of the show.
Naturally the biggest reveals I am sure will be Sei and Reiji, so that is likely not for some time still. But, I do also feel they may have their own ties or experiences with Sekai’s Gunpla synergy issue raised last week, so that would be the single biggest stumbling block I would see it slamming into at this stage.
Much like Petit Bearguy overlooking the road for the finish line, perhaps.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode eleven]
We get to see Nils all grown up now!
…And his name is now Nils Yajima, rather than Nils Nielsen. So he did indeed not only marry Caroline (who is off on company business), but took on her last name. Which is rather neat! For those who do not remember the end of series montage from the original Build Fighters, at the conclusion of that world tournament and ensuing events he and Caroline were able to recreate Plavsky Particles on the International Space Station (the first source having been lost). As they are what allow the entire Gunpla Battle system to function, this is quite the crucial undertaking.
So when Nils mentions that he knows how the Gunpla Battle system functions on a level to where he would not consider it fair for him to participate in competitive Gunpla Battle anymore, it is not merely a matter of him being a skilled engineer. Not even one who works on the system, but who essentially rebuilt the backbone process of the entire sport. It is also a natural process to both have him around but in a way where he would not impact plot events too much to overly steal thunder from the new cast, which seems to be the driving force for nearly every drip feed reintroduction so far.
Aside from Tatsuya Yuuki showing up yet again at the end of this episode, but this time within the battlefield piloting the PF-78-3 Perfect Gundam III. But that is obviously a matter for next week, as his mecha descends from the virtual heavens.
Going off of that however, this did feel very much like a very holding pattern oriented “Wait until next time” episode on the whole.
With the qualification tournament well concluded and the whimsical modeling Gunpla race of last week a solid little romp in its own right, our character do not have a whole heck of a lot to do when we get right down to it. A new tournament will not start for a time, so we are in training camp mode.
What this entails then is a rather large amount of wheel spinning. Needing to get to the site. Meeting a new team of potential rivals in the form of White Wolf. Having two members of said team acting like jerks for a time towards our main kids, with a leader to keep them otherwise in line. A challenge. A summary off screen smackdown of the same team we were just introduced to by someone else much stronger than all three of them combined. And so on.
Even the editing seems to we rather aggressive, knowing this is mostly transition material. A scene where Sekai has misplaced his Build Burning Gundam, for instance, and the rapid search that entails as they are late to their challenge is resolved off screen. We are only told about where it was as they rush down the hall. Apparently it was under a bag of candy. What gets me about a sequence like this is I feel it would be more effective if we saw the process of Sekai finding the Gundam there. The dialogue would essentially stay the same, as they are indeed already late, Sekai can not believe it was under there, and Yuuma implores him to take better care of it. One could do all that, then cut as they head out the room or such.
It is not like this is an essential scene, by any means. So I understand some corner cutting, saving some time and animation money by doing things as they were. But when an episode is already largely transitional padding for our lead characters to space out their main arcs, such sequences do also stand out more and become more prominent.
Our big moment comes in the form of a big mobile suit though. Gundam The End.
Which is to say, that is the literal name of Saga Adou’s machine. As befitting a hotshot from the Gunpla Academy in a second season series, The End is a heavy customization job. The hands of a GNMA-0001V Regnant. DE Fangs which can be mobilized into positions impossible by normal Fang use. Some aspects from the JDG-00X Devil Gundam like aspects suspiciously similar to the Devil Finger. A huge revolver as if it was someone how taken from a Mobile Police Patlabor AV-98 Ingram kit. And so on. With the flowing mantle and faces on its hands which can bite and consume, The End reminds me a lot of D from the Vampire Hunter D series.
What is all amounts to is Saga was the competitor who defeated Yuuma on such an overwhelming scale that he quit Gunpla Battle entirely for the two years afterward. Or at least, Yuuma is very convinced it is Saga. The man himself has no recollection of this event, but also admits that he fights enough people on a regular basis that Yuuma would have just been another loser in a vast sea of many others. The whole “For you… [it] was the most important day of your life.For me, it was Tuesday” opinion of the big boss from the 1990’s Street Fighter movie.
Yuuma’s skills are still not up to snuff enough to take on Saga by himself however. With both his teammates entering the battlefield though, as well as Tatsuya in his full Meijin Kawaguchi regalia, I do wonder which direction or messaging they are going to want to go with. It is not a question so much of “if” Saga will be pushed out of this fight, but “how.” Not just on a practical combat level, but what it may set up on the thematic front as we move towards the second half of the show.
Gundam Build Fighters Try [Episode twelve]
Tatsuya Yuuki has been doing so well as Meijin Kawaguchi in the seven years since the conclusion of the previous television season that he won the World Championship three times in a row and received automatic entry into the Hall of Fame.
It is not an unbelievable chain of events, as he was clearly always very talented and posed as a rival to Reiji and Sei for good reason. With the two of them off to who knows where (at the moment) in their different capacities, there would have been a sizable level of room for Tatsuya to advance a small reign over the virtual battlefield for a period of time. Though I do also wonder, with the introduction of a Lady Kawaguchi and both her and Tatsuya taking different members of Team Try Fighters under their wings this week, if the series will be looking to have our main characters take over those roles by series end rather than achieving success on the global stage winners in general like Reiji and Iori.
It would still leave the question of what the production could aim to do with Sekai. But he is out of commission this episode through due to his overactive Gunpla synergy and acquiring physical exhaustion and injury due to the performance of his model kit. I imagine the mysteries therein would be the natural road to explore, as it will need to be explained at some point.
Though to what end and how much that makes or breaks the series beyond merely becoming the best in Gunpla Battle tournament competition is going to be rather crucial.
Focusing in though on the two characters who are conscious this week however, Yuuma and Fumina have testing sessions to manage and lessons to learn. By being put through the quasi-pep talk performance ringer of some of the very best in the Gunpla Battle business.
As this arc of the show is still very much part of the bridge connecting regional qualifiers to their more imposing upper level counterparts, this would be expected of most sports series. Yuuma had his willpower shattered after seeing his Lighting Gundam smashed by the same guy he lost to a few years ago, coming to the extended conclusion that he had not advanced at all as a competitor, builder, and so on. One often may not take the words of their own friends to heart in a situation like this. So a figure like Tatsuya rolling in after monitoring the training match to pump him back up again is the sort of thing that functions not only as a narrative function of amping Yuuma up again but a way of weaving the prestigious fighter naturally into the characters own personal worlds.
The baseline result of this, course, would and does play out in the exact fashion one could imagine. The champion demonstrates and teaches a lesson of how Gunpla Battle is not merely a matter of natural talent or raw performance alone, but a matter of the heart and personal desire as well. Given the nature of this very particular sport, Tatsuya can just swap out machine with Yuuma, in turn the Hall of Famer taking command of the damaged Lightning Gundam while the aspiring hopeful is granted use of the “Red Warrior,” Perfect Gundam III. While the younger fighter finds the championship tier machine to be a wonderful work of craft, engineering, smooth performance, and impressive assault capabilities, he is outright trounced by Tatsuya making excellent use of the crippled Lighting Gundam.
Model damage is set all the way down to C, so it is not as though any further damage was on the line (and Tatsuya could by all means build a new machine if push came to shove, given the facilities at his disposal). Even so, a demonstration such as this is the kind of well worn but nonetheless useful tool that is deployed to encourage a crestfallen lead to keep going (especially in a sports show aimed primarily at a younger audience than other Gundam titles), and I believe it manages the task well.
Fumina’s time with Lady Kawaguchi receives significantly less screen time by contrast, though I am willing to chalk that up more to Yuuma being much further down in the dumps and needing the immediate narrative punch up. Given how little information there still is on Lady Kawaguchi (not even her real name), I do hope that there is a good story and character development there for her and Fumina beyond mere “A young woman also become a Kawaguchi, and Fumina followed in her footsteps.”
There would be a lot of potential moments that could be made out of a mentoring or sharing session about achieving that level of success in a male dominated field, so while we did get to see the two of them battle for a bit this episode there is the ideal of more to come down the line.
Gundam Build Fighters Try continues into Winter 2015! You can follow along with my episodic thoughts in the Hangers category!