Gundam Build Fighters
We all know and love the Gundam franchise, while others like One Piece and JoJos seem to be running without stop the Gundam line has been it’s own medium running along in the background, made up of dozens of TV series, movies, stage plays and audio dramas spanning multiple universes and timelines it’s sometimes one of the more difficult ones to get into. Gundam Build Fighters, on the other hand, sits in the corner and just doesn’t play by the regular rules. Rather than focusing on another war between various forces, it brings things a lot more down to earth by focusing on the popular Gundam Model (Gunpla) kits.
The original run of the first series (which is what we will discuss today) ran from October 2013 until March 2014 for a full 25 episodes and was later followed up by the series Gundam Build Fighters Try in October 2014. The series follows a young Gundam Builder named Sei Iori who has a dream of becoming the best Gundam Build Fighter in the upcoming tournament, he is aided by a strange boy named Reiji and his mother Rinko who owns a Gunpla Hobby Shop and Ramba Ral; a older gentleman who acts as the tutor to the boys.
The series is set in the usual shonen tournament fashion with the Gunpla Battles serving as the main action points, each battle is usually set in a small stadium and allows the characters to virtually control their Gundams in holographic areas based on battlefields from different Gundam series. Interestingly this manages to tie in with the Gunpla building aspect as when a Gundam is damaged it will be reflected on parts resulting in characters requiring a stock of spare parts, often we see the characters rebuilding or redesigning parts of their models to improve for each combat zone (it’s almost as if the series was made to sell MORE Gunpla kits, or is that just silly talk?).
The real selling point to me in this series was the development of the characters and their Gundam fights, as with most tournament based series most of the characters who appear early in the series later re-appear as allies and the series works well with this, we get a chemistry between characters that isn’t normally picked up and we grow an attachment to certain characters over the course of their struggles, this isn’t a key feature with Build Fighters rather than Gundam on a whole as they chose to keep characters re-appearing rather than killing them off quickly.
The battles are as fun as any others and it’s interesting to see a mismatch between the different franchises as the Gundam do battle and most of the battles are interesting and easy enough to watch, although with a tournament based series we, unfortunately, lose a little of the conflict and struggles as we know that Sei and Reiji will get to the finals. And this is ultimately Build Fighter’s biggest weakness, the tournament based series means we know who will end up in the final, and while the last huge battle is entertaining it does make feel like a lot of things we love from the Gundam series is missing, we aren’t going to see any deaths here or as much political drama. (Although there is some it feels like it didn’t feel as forced) and the villain being portrayed as a fop feels like there wasn’t as much at stake outside of the tournament.
Animation is on par with some of Gundam’s best, and each of the Gundams are brought to life incredibly well, giving a new shine on some old favourites and allowing them to look their best in battles, given that this one is grounded more in the modern day it is a lot more colourful and matches more slice of life series than it would most other series. Normally this would be an issue however in this case it actually does manage to work out just fine.
Music is where this series really shines and the series has an array of great openings and endings that are both memorable and exciting to listen to, during the fights the music is often re-used and works incredibly well on the subject allowing you to really get into the battles, and of course (slight spoiler warnings) the final huge battle uses the first opening, you know you’re doing well when that cliché pops up.
Gundam Build Fighters is a fun, change of pace for the Gundam series and allows casual viewers to easily slip in and enjoy without much issue whilst also appealing to traditional fans, it has enjoyable characters and the battles are incredibly fun to watch. While it’s not as demanding as other Gundam series can be it does manage to hold its own and be something different and can inspire one to start looking at their own Gunpla Kits.