This is a review of the recently finished 25 episode, totally-merchandise-driven show, Gundam Build Fighters. The robots shown in this series are known as Gunpla, a portmanteau of "Gundam" and Plastic, and are referred to plastic model toys of the franchise. The show is about a young boy, Gunpla-making prodigy Sei Iori who wants to enter the 7th Gunpla Battle World Tournament with his new robot, the Build Strike Gundam. But Sei has been cursed with utterly bad piloting skills. Thanks to an encounter with a drifter named Reiji and discovering that he has better piloting skills, Sei and Reiji begin their journey to aim for the top as the Gundam Build Fighters.
Despite being titled a Gundam show, there is no war, no deaths, no anguish, no despair, not even a shred of politics. All these examples I've mentioned are standard to any show of the franchise. There's some drama, but it's not that big a deal. Set 30 minutes into the future, where toy robots come alive with energy particles known as Plavsky Particles (A play on Minovsky Particles from the original 0079 show), this Gundam series takes on a new topic: how to jovially make fun of the franchise.
The references to previous shows and games are like waterfall. Many of them will come to you if your eyes and ears are open. From the hated G-Saviour (The Canada- produced live-action Gundam movie that was spurned and condemned by the fanbase) to the poster of the 1st Gundam 0079 movie, the show brings home the many popular stuff of the franchise. Watch Episode 23 and guess every Gundam character, organization or every robot you see. Heck, some 2ch posters have found more cameos than ones listed in ANN or TVTropes. The mass of characters, robots and references from the franchise's timelines is one of the reasons why the show is popular to its fans. But the real kicker behind Build Fighters is that it's an affectionate parody of the Gundam franchise. All the serious fights and the rivalries are played with funnily and awesomely.
Serious moments in the Gundam franchise could get someone killed, but in this show, it's a guaranteed hotblooded moment all the while safe for the whole audience. Fellini VS Aila in Episode 20 was gonna have a homage to Gundam Wing, where Fellini's Wing Fenice, about to lose, was gonna self-destruct the robot in an attempt to take out Aila's Qubeley Papillion (Referencing Heero's destruction of the Wing Gundam VERY early in that show), but his girlfriend Kirara/Mihoshi shouted at him to concede and live to fight another day with the Fenice!! Reiji VS Aila was bloody at first, but it then turned into a lovestruck fun match that got everyone surprised, all so Aila and Reiji can enjoy the match and to cement their status as the show's Beta Couple (Sei and China Kousaka are the alpha). Not to mention Gunplas playing baseball and having a wacky race.
From Amuro VS Char to Asemu VS Zeheart: rivalries that settle in hurting either of them. In this show, there are no true rivalries. While many will see Reiji VS Yuuki Tatsuya as the show's many rivalry, VERY rarely have they fought. After their first bout in Episode 2, Reiji and Sei were hoping to fight him in the Tour qualifiers until Tatsuya "quits" out of the blue. This is because he was chosen to become Meijin Kawaguchi the 3rd (Named after real life Gunpla building expert Katsumi Kawaguchi and the Char Clone), the PPSE's super-fighter for the actual Tournament. It's only at the final match of the tournament where Reiji finally fights Tatsuya and in the final fight of the show, Sei gets to fight Tatsuya. Reiji VS Osaka champ Mao Yasaka?? Sei and Mao imagined their fight in the latter's debut episode and the real match between the Star Build Strike and X-Maoh respectively lasted 7 minutes tops with Sei's robot a winner. Fellini VS German champ Rainer Cziommer is not a rivalry despite the latter calling it one, because Rainer's girlfriend fell for Fellini.
Here are the cons. Poor character developments, some of the fights do get old and clichéd and the fact that there were not enough robots to display in the show thanks to lawyer-agreed contracts.
Sei, Reiji, Aila, possibly Mao and Nils are the only few people who do get some developments and leave its large set of side characters one-dimensional. Ramba Ral is Ramba but with some butt monkey moments on him. China is just the main character's crush and good friend. Sei's parents Takeshi and Rinko are merely an older Sei and a Japanese g-rated Linda Belcher, respectively.
The Star Build Strike fights in the top 16/8/4/2 fights were tiresome. RG system then Build Knuckling all of its opponents to death. Where's the Plavsky Wings slashing through someone?! Where's the Aqua power-up of the Plavsky Wings?? For a Strike Gundam that "has to be creative" in order to win a big tournament, the process wasn't achieved. I can say the same for Aila's Qubeley Papillion and its spamming of Clear Funnels, but this "Qubeley" being the "strongest" of the tournament can be an intimidation tactic on every main character and rival.
And then there's the discontent that not all of the suits from some seasons of the franchise were able to appear in Build Fighters. At first, I did ask when I started watching: Where's the OO Raiser?? AGE-2 Dark Hound?? Legillis R?? Months later, people have found out that since Gundam Build Fighters was televised at TV Tokyo rather than MBS, both TV companies have a contract where TV Tokyo and the anime CANNOT show robots that was shown on MBS from the past 5 years, meaning ANY and ALL robots seen in the MBS-televised Gundam shows are barred from being drawn on and put onto the anime. Thankfully, some of the OVA robots like Unicorn or War in the Pocket were able to enter Build Fighters. And as a thanks to the production crew, in the finale, a Gundam 00 robot from Season 2 was able to appear, 2 DAYS after it was shown 5 years ago. That honor came to Tatsuya's Amazing Exia, a variant of Setsuna's Gundam Exia R2, complete with the cloak of Exia-R.
To conclude, Gundam Build Fighters is a fun and enjoyable show for fans and hopefully, non-fans, as the comedy and action can reel them in. A parody show of the franchise is always nice, as it can let go and be free of the violent tropes found in this franchise and give a breather, laugh it up and give Gunpla hobbyists more ideas for more builds!!
That said, feel free to watch this 25-episode anime on Gundam.info's Youtube channel, and if any of the TAY officials would like to christen this review as a "ani-tay review," feel free to PM me!!!