Category Archives: anime

Gundam Build Divers

Type: Series
Number of Episodes: 25
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha / Tournament
Vintage: 2018
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.

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Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower

Type: ONA/Movie
Number of Episodes: 4/1
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 2017
Date of Review: August 6, 2018

The trials and tribulations of Io Flemming and Darryl Lorenz continue as the aftermath of the One Year War is upon us. Something’s brewing in the South Pacific, and neither the Federation nor Zeon remnants are truly ready to face this threat. Worse yet, Flemming is shocked to discover that someone he thought was dead is now on the opposite side!

Just as December Sky adapted the first arc of the Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt manga, Bandit Flower handles the next story (through volume seven), comprising four more ONAs combined into a single film. The action’s confined to the Earth this time, but that doesn’t make it any less intense. The animation is absolutely gorgeous, as the story alternates between the depths of the jungle, battles among the clouds, and brutal arctic warfare. Even though the One Year War is over, there’s clearly many more skirmishes to be fought!

While the Federation and Zeon remnants are still at loggerheads, the real threat this time around is the South Seas Alliance, a religious cult made up of incredibly skilled warriors with no fear of death. They’ve also got a mysterious, powerful leader, showcasing another example of the Federation’s questionable ethics coming back to bite them in the ass. Their battle tactics are unlike anything you’ve seen, making the story all the more exciting and unpredictable.

Naturally, alongside the return of our hero Flemming, we’ve got some new characters to meet. The greatest of these is easily Federation ace Bianca Carlysle. She’s a natural counterpart to Flemming, and of course the pair get along from the start. This isn’t your cliché romantic interest, though; Flemming and Carlysle bond over a love of battle and jazz more than anything else. There’s clear sexual tension between the two, sure, but it never blooms into a real romance. (At least not yet.) Anyway, Bianca’s a solid pilot who prefers an Aqua GM to the expected Gundams or other prototype units, and she definitely holds her own during an amazing battle in the north.

Bandit Flower features loads of new and familiar mecha, with some awesome modified Acguys and other aquatic units in particular. Of course, the real star of the show is the new Atlas Gundam. Despite his loss of the Full Armor Gundam, Flemming’s performance in the Thunderbolt Sector is rewarded with the new prototype mobile suit. The Atlas is the standout mech in Bandit Flower, as you might’ve guessed by its image dominating just about every bit of promotional media for the series. (And at the top of this post!) It’s notably different from most Gundam units we’re used to, as there’s a lot of curves and spheroid parts. This is an amphibious machine by design, and we rarely if ever see that in a Gundam! Meanwhile, Lorenz is stuck with a “mere” Acguy, but he proves his skill during a mission gone wrong when he outfoxes multiple South Seas Alliance mobile suits. Just a few minor upgrades here and there really made his Acguy and those in his crew a force to be reckoned with.

The soundtrack is rife with jazz, as would be expected from a Thunderbolt project. It fits the battle sequences just fine, and always provides a nice alternative to the usual science fiction scores. It know I’ve said this before, but the high-energy jazz suits the incredible animation more than it should. I really cannot understate this.

Bandit Flower is a fine followup to December Sky, and as the manga is still continuing, we can only hope to get more animated adaptations of this fantastic story. Few Gundam tales have this level of detail, making Bandit Flower another must-watch.

Gundam Build Fighters: GM’s Counterattack

Type: OVA
Number of Episodes: 1
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 2017
Date of Review: September 18, 2017

Sei Iori and friends are invited to test out the new Gunpla Battle system, but they’ve walked into a trap! The nefarious Gunpla Mafia wants revenge, and they’re pulling out all the stops to humiliate our heroes. With new Gundam models in tow, our battlers will have to take on some seriously over-the-top opponents!

Gundam Build Fighters: GM’s Counterattack bridges the gap between Gundam Build Fighters and Gundam Build Fighters Try, showing what Sei’s been up to following the events of the former series. Sunrise wisely does not try to bring in every single character from GBF, letting us focus on just a few fan favorites.

As you’d expect, plenty of new models are introduced in this special; Bandai’s gotta sell them toys, after all. It’s a good thing they’re pretty damned cool looking, even Sei’s new “test unit” the Star Burning Gundam. Of course, Nils Nielsen’s Ninpulse Gundam is probably the best of the bunch, but wait’ll you see the big boss’ mobile suit.

The animation is on par with the other recent Gundam shows, with amazing battle scenes that really let our star mobile suits shine. On the character side, GM’s Counterattack easily balances tense battle drama with comedy, including a hilarious sequence that references a minor plot point in Mobile Suit Victory Gundam; in fact, my review for that series unknowingly mentioned the very scene that is parodied.

The whole thing wraps up with a nice little final scene that sets up Try. However, that scene does not spoil Try, so it’s nice for those viewers who haven’t seen the sequel series yet. Like Island Wars before it, GM’s Counterattack is a fine treat for GBF fans.