Check-in Station: Gundam Build Fighters ep1 (have my worst fears come true?)
Alright! I’ll admit that I had fun watching this first episode of Gundam Build Fighters. And this show succeeded at making me smile despite my best efforts to be a grump. After all, this isn’t the gritty war story I usually love like Zeta or Unicorn Gundam, or 08th MS Team. This is exactly what I feared Gundam AGE would be, a show of simple, cute kid friendly drawings and character designs, purely designed to sell more Gundam model kits. So why is it that I’m still left smiling after the credits?
For one, it’s almost impossible for a Gundam fan not to smile at the mere sight of their favorite mobile suits. And it’s almost just as hard to not start calling out the famous and iconic designs. For us Gundam fans, each model kit we see is a small package containing a huge story and many personal memories. With the show’s hero (or one of them) Sei Iori helping his hot mom run a gunpla store, the audience is unavoidably thrown right into that atmosphere. And with the world the story takes place in holding these gunpla battles in the same esteem we seem to hold for World Cup football, you can’t escape that atmosphere outside either. It’s almost a Gundam fan’s dream come true – if they were prepubescent. And it’s honestly something I had no chance of fighting against. I could wax poetically for hours about Gundam, especially the concept of each Gundam model holding its own detailed story, but I’m gonna keep this post short. This is a kids’ show after all, no point in going over board with the first episode.
The art style of this show is Gundam AGE‘s, there is no doubt. But I find that appropriate and smart. Gundam AGE was criticized harshly early on, just because of the prejudice held against its character designs. Gundam fans were afraid their gritty, blood soaked war stories were going to forever be replaced by something akin to the Superior Defender Gundam series, but now that we know better, and that this show is clearly targeted at a younger audience, we can all relax. It’s all very simple and clean art, but it doesn’t simply things to the point of looking cheap (see Wanna Be the Strongest for an example of that from this season). And while the CG used for the gunpla commercials during the show does suck copious amounts of ass, the actual bits of it used for the show itself are decent enough. I won’t claim this show is pushing artist boundaries on any level (KyoAni’s Beyond the Boundary takes that title easily of the shows I’ve seen so far), but it is quite serviceable. Just so long as they don’t screw up the mecha designs too badly while they’re in action I should be fine with animation of this level.
The characters themselves are nothing special. Sei and his rival Susumu are just a pair of idealistic kids with a love of gunpla, though Sei has enough fire and hope in his eyes to stand out as a lead protagonist. Sei’s mother on the other hand is gorgeous! Uh huh! My type of woman. Ramba Ral’s too – OH YEAH! That’s right. The legendary Ramba “This is no Zaku, boy” Ral makes an appearance in this show as a slightly creepy older dude with a love of gunpla, and possibly Sei’s mother. For an “oldfag” like me, seeing the legendary commander from the original 0079 is a welcome surprise and treat. And it looks like he may be a recurring character, too! Absolutely awesome! I think his appearance and Sei’s mother appearance (if you know what I mean) may be the x-factors that keep me coming back to this show.
The last character I’m leaving out is a guy (I hope it’s a guy) named Reiji, who appears to be very unfamiliar with Japanese culture and gunpla, but appears to be the type of airheaded character who’s talented at most everything. It also appears he’ll be Sei’s actual x-factor as well. I have a strong feeling that he’ll fulfill the role Pharaoh Atem did in the Yu-Gi-Oh! series. He’ll be that dose of talent and skill needed to push the hero over the edge in even the most dire of circumstances. His origins are very much unknown, and the fact that he has a Japanese name, but is unfamiliar with the culture makes me suspicious, but there will be plenty of time for conspiracy theories should I keep watching this series long enough.
I’m not gonna screw around here. This is basically a kids’ battle game anime akin to Pokemon, Beyblade, Yu-Gi-Oh and others of their ilk. It’s the type of show and atmosphere I generally avoid at all costs. And it’s only because of my deep love for Gundam (not gunpla, I don’t partake in that scene) that I am actually giving this show a shot. If this show can actually manage to stay exciting while paying proper tribute to what may be Sunrise studio’s most iconic franchise, then there may be a chance I not only follow this series weekly, but also finish and like it. For now, this is merely one serviceable episode and a gateway that could lead me down a road to anywhere and anything.