Number of Episodes: 25
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha / Tournament
Date of Review: October 1, 2018
Riku Mikami and his classmate Yukio Hidaka join the hot new game Gunpla Battle Nexus Online (GBN), a virtual reality world where Gundam enthusiasts from around the globe compete for glory. They’ll make new friends and rivals along the way, partake in a variety of battles, and even face a moral quandary the likes of which the world has never seen.
This is the third series that focuses on Gunpla battling, but Gundam Build Divers is not in the same timeline as previous efforts Gundam Build Fighters and Gundam Build Fighters Try. It’s much more of a spiritual successor. This time around, Gunpla battles take place inside a massively multiplayer online game (MMO), which is a natural evolution of the concept as well as being grounded in real-world pop culture and technology. It also makes a lot more sense than magic particles physically animating Gundam model kits!
The art style, animation, and music matches that of Build Divers‘ predecessors, which is a good thing. It’ll easily keep longtime fans glued to their screens, and drawing in newcomers shouldn’t be a problem, either. Character design was able to expand quite a bit this time around, as not everyone’s GBN avatar is human. We’ve got wolfmen obsessed with martial arts, fox prettyboys, saurian space commanders, and even a hardline military ferret. Oh, and if you don’t have an avatar yet, your default appearance is that of a Haro. Cool, huh? Riku and his friends stick to recognizable human forms, at least; their pal Momoka sports cat ears and a tail, but that’s about as far as it goes. Overall, the diverse cast is quite a fun bunch, and they all bring something unique to the table. Riku is decidedly less of a Gundam dork than Try‘s Yuuma, for example. In fact, being a Gundam fanboy seems to play little to no role in Divers, which is good. The countless cameo appearances are there for the audience, not the characters, so the latter can focus on the story at hand.
As expected in a Gunpla battle show, plenty of classic mecha from across the Gundam multiverse return in Build Divers, and we’ve got a slew of new customized mobile suits as well. Everything looks really great in motion, and some of the upgraded designs are particularly impressive, like the Ogre GN-X and the Momokapool. The constant battling is unfortunately nothing new at this point, but it still makes for an exciting series.
I don’t normally do this, but I need to venture into spoiler territory for a moment, as Build Divers has a critical flaw that rears its ugly head in the final act of the show.
Our heroes discover an electronic lifeform that grew within GBN, complete with thoughts, feelings, self-awareness, all of that good stuff. Of course, this being’s mere existence and continued growth threatens the stability of the entire system…so GBN’s Game Master and his Coalition of Volunteers decide to kill it. This sets the stage for a massive battle against Riku and those who wish to protect this lifeform.
This all sounds fine, until you realize something really important: how come no one reported any of this to the press when they logged out of GBN? The creation of a new sentient lifeform would literally be the biggest news story in human history. After that news got out, there’s no way in hell the Game Master could’ve done anything about it. Sure, maybe GBN would get shut down as a result — the exact outcome that the Coalition feared in the first place — but that’s a small price to pay for the preservation of a life. This ethical dilemma is brought up during the show, but again, it’s missing that crucial piece: there’s no way that real world powers would not have found out about this and immediately intervened. Worse yet, the ultimate resolution of this dilemma raises even more ethical and technological questions, which are never addressed. All of this snaps the suspension of disbelief right in half, and this is show about superpowered fighting robots!
Aside from that glaring flaw, Build Divers is still an entertaining show. The Gunpla battle format is sadly starting to get a little bit tired, as it’s becoming more and more of an excuse for Bandai to cram in lots of reused models and references to other series. Lighthearted fare like Build Divers will always be welcome, however, especially coming right after the incredibly grim Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.