Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G

Type: OVA
Episode Count: 3
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha / Tournament
Vintage: 2010
Date of Review: May 12, 2014

Haru Irei sees a Gundam for the first time when he attends the unveiling of a lifesize replica in Odaiba with his father. He’s astonished by the massive machine, and after looking at scale models from the various series, he buys one of his own: the Beginning Gundam. One of his friends convinces him to try out his new model in Gunpla Battle, and Haru soon learns much more about modeling skill and sportsmanship, while bringing new friends into the fold.

Mobile Suit Gundam first aired in 1979, and model kits based on the series were released in 1980. While manga from that era like Plamo-Kyoshiro celebrated the fun of model building, Bandai decided to pull out all of the stops for the 30th anniversary of Gunpla (Gundam plastic model…get it?). Under the Gunpla Builders banner, the company released manga, anime, photonovels…and, of course, a new line of model kits. Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G is the standout of the group, and it’s not a typical Gundam show with space colonies, political machinations, and cosmic warfare. In fact, the word “Gundam” isn’t even in the title! Beginning G holds the joy of building models above all else. While you’d understandably think the whole thing is nothing but a Gunpla commercial, there’s more to the show that makes it worth your while.

I should point out right off the bat that I normally hate gratuitous product placement in television, films, and the like, but I can forgive Beginning G for some important reasons. First and foremost is the character of Haru. His excitement and single-minded desire to work on his model echoes that of viewers’ favorite toys and such when they were growing up. (Don’t deny it.) I love the fact that Haru’s friends Kenta and Rina had to hang out in his room, quietly reading manga and playing video games until he was done building his Gunpla. No disruptions! And how can you not grin Haru’s happiness and pride when he finally finishes his very first Gunpla? I still feel like that now, after every model I build. Haru truly brings out the kid in all of us.

On to Gunpla Battle. In Beginning G, this is a virtual reality setup where the player dresses in a pilot’s uniform and sits in a cockpit mimicking that of a mobile suit. They place their Gunpla in a Haro-shaped receptacle, which scans the model and creates a virtual version to play the game. Players can then pilot their mobile suits as if they were the real thing, complete with motion effects to simulate impacts. (Don’t you wish we had this in real life? The closest thing we got was the Mobile Suit Gundam AGE arcade games in Japan, which would scan NFC chips in toys and models.) An in-game unit’s strength and durability is absolutely determined by how well the model was assembled; Haru has troubles facing a master modeler, but when he battles an arrogant idol who doesn’t even build his own Gunpla, he manages to take advantage of his opponent’s shoddy workmanship. In the end, Haru convinces his opposite that working on your own model is much more rewarding.

Aside from showcasing finished Gunpla, Beginning G also serves as an instruction manual. When Haru builds his first kit, his father gives him tips, and so does Kenta. There’s closeup shots of Haru cutting pieces from the runners, fitting parts, and adding decals; later on, he discovers how to improve his skills via sanding parts and painting. The viewer learns these techniques right along with Haru, but it never feels like a boring instructional television program. You’re still watching a Gundam show! Sure, Bandai is selling a product with Beginning G, but the core focus of the anime is still how much fun it is to build a model. You could apply those lessons to non-Gundam models as well, be it cars, aircraft, ships, or anything else you like. That makes it much more important that just an advertisement for a specific company’s wares.

This extends to other characters, too. Rina, who doesn’t know much about Gundam or Gunpla, serves as a proxy for viewers who are in the same boat. It seems slightly sexist at first that she automatically builds a “cute” Gunpla, but it proves to be quite effective in Gunpla Battle even against more powerful opponents. At the end of the day, Rina is proud of her creation, just as any modeler should be.

Beginning G boasts some sharp high definition animation. Not only do the expected Gunpla Battles look great, but the scenes featuring Haru hunched over his desk while he assembles (and later enhances) his Beginning Gundam are loaded with awesome detail. The audio is of equal quality, with appropriately fitting music and sound effects, not to mention some very convincing voice work. As I’ve said before, Haru’s enthusiasm really comes across as genuine.

The ultimate aim here is that viewers will turn Gunpla into a lifelong hobby; there’s a reason the two main Gundams in the show are known as the Beginning and the Forever. Even those of us who are already obsessed with Gunpla will find much to enjoy. Case and point: somehow I was able to resist the first time around, but after watching Beginning G again to write this review, I really want a High Grade GPB-X80 Beginning Gundam kit of my own. Curse you, Haru!

Beginning G would go on to directly inspire the full series Gundam Build Fighters a few years later; the latter series is not a sequel, but the main themes are all there, along with a few Beginning G cameo appearances. Beginning G still holds its own as a fine piece of Gundam animation, and even if you discount it as a mere commercial, it’s damned clever. Well worth watching, especially for those with even the slightest interest in Gunpla.

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