Tag Archives: tournament

Gundam Build Fighters Try: Island Wars

Type: OVA
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 2016
Date of Review: August 29, 2016

As they prepare for the national Gunpla Battle tournament, Team Try Fighters is invited to Yajima’s island laboratories to test out their new battle system. But when the prototype technology spirals out of control, threatening the lives of the scientists, it’s up to our heroes and their friendly rivals to save the day!

Taking place a year after the events of Gundam Build Fighters Try, the Island Wars OVA gives us another fun look at Sekai, Yuuma, and Fumina as they continue to sharpen their Gunpla Battle skills. Plenty of other Try characters like Minato and Gyanko also return, and their addition to the story leads to some great comedy. The only new character is a mysterious girl on the beach, but her true identity is fairly obvious once you get a look at her. That’s not a complaint, though, as her presence is most welcome.

For fans of other Gundam shows, Island Wars features enough mobile suit cameos to practically fill an entire series, including the glorious return of a personal favorite, the mighty Nether Gundam. (Which doesn’t last long, of course.) They all show up during the massive battle scene that makes up the finale of Island Wars, which ranks among the Build Fighters series’ best. There’s a wide variety of mobile suits new and old, plus ridiculously over-the-top (yet incredibly badass) special attacks and poses, even by Build Fighters standards. In particular, Kamiki Burning Gundam’s final attack incorporates many super sentai elements, which was a nice touch.

Another cool aspect of Island Wars is that the threat is nothing insanely threatening or world-ending: it’s just a science experiment gone awry, limited to the remote laboratory on the island. Granted, perhaps it could’ve grown beyond its limits if left unchecked, but that wasn’t the point. The Try Fighters team and friends were able to shut it down, and their main goal was to rescue trapped personnel. This fits the Build Fighters mold of being a lighthearted change of pace from the usual high drama of other Gundam series.

Island Wars turns out to be a simple, fun story, loaded with great battles, solid comedy, and some surprising throwbacks to the original Gundam Build Fighters. The whole thing clocks in at maybe ten minutes longer than a standard episode, but the pacing makes it feel nearly feature-length, and that’s a good thing. Sunrise gave us just what we wanted, and here’s hoping that any future Build Fighters OVAs hit all the same notes!

Girls und Panzer

Girls und PanzerType: TV Series
Episode Count: 12
Genre: Comedy / Tournament
Vintage: 2012

Version reviewed: Japanese, Subtitled
Date of Review: 1 Jun 2016

Grade: B

Just another series about cute girls… who drive tanks.

Plot Summary
Miho has transferred to Ooarai High School for a very specific reason: she had a bad experience with Sensha-do in the past, and Ooarai does not offer Sensha-do. Sensha-do (also known as “tankery”) is something which many girls in the country and around the world enjoy, since they widely consider it a way to learn skills which bring out their femininity to become “ideal” girls. Or that’s how the club is presented to potential members, at least. It is also the basis for a worldwide school tournament with each one bringing a squad of tanks to the playing field. As Miho begins to make new friends at school, the student council approaches her and shatters her dream. For some reason, with Miho in the student body, they have decided to bring Sensha-do back to Ooarai and insist that Miho join the club.

The Review
Do you like shows featuring cute girls? Do you like tanks? Do you like tactical RPGs? If your answer to one or more of those questions is “yes”, then Girls und Panzer is for you. Girls und Panzer is a light series and is all about fun, so if you are expecting a serious story, this is not the show you are looking for.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. Characterization in Girls und Panzer leaves much to be desired. With a cast of no fewer than twenty, there is simply no way to give all of these girls backstories, except for a few from the main team. This leads to the next point: the characters in the series are all grouped together by teams, since the nature of the show has a team assigned to each tank. Except for the main team, each one is a group of girls sharing a paper-thin stereotype. There are the eager first-years, the volleyball team, and the military historians just for starters. These secondary characters have no depth at all, and exist only to populate the rest of the tanks on the squad. First and foremost, Girls und Panzer is about Miho, and to a lesser extent, the other four girls on her team. (And because you want to know the main team’s archetypes, from left to right in the picture above: Saori is the self-proclaimed “love expert”, Miho is the reluctant leader, Yukari is the tank otaku, Mako is the quiet loner, and Hana is the gentle ojou-sama.)

But you’re not watching Girls und Panzer for in-depth character studies. Can a show populated largely by cardboard cutouts actually be any good? Surprisingly, yes. For what the series lacks in character depth, it makes up for in tank action. First of all, those interested in tanks from the era of the World Wars will surely enjoy their CG recreations here. Many different kinds from different countries are represented, and Yukari will tell you all about them. Despite the importance of tanks to the story, Girls und Panzer is not a historical or military series. It takes place in an alternate present day, and the tanks are used for a global tournament among schools. This is no war. That said, the students from some of the schools Ooarai faces have personas that match some well-known historical political factions. It’s played for fun here, though.

Finally, the best thing about Girls und Panzer are the tank battles. Those who have played tactical RPGs such as Valkyria Chronicles or Advance Wars will feel right at home. Not every moment of every episode is a battle, but when the focus shifts to the tank action, that’s when the series shines. I can forgive the lack of character depth because the battles are so fun to watch. They are also very loud. Watching on a full home theater system, when the tanks fire their rounds, you’ll definitely know it.

Being a tournament series, you pretty much know how Girls und Panzer will end before it even begins. Yes, it’s predictable. Yes, most of the characters are as thin as tracing paper. But watching the matches between the tanks is where all of the fun lies, so if you can forgive the show’s shortcomings, and are a fan of tanks or tactical RPGs, then Girls und Panzer is a show you should check out.

Mobile Fighter G Gundam

Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 49
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha / Tournament
Vintage: 1994-1995
Date of Review: September 28, 2015

It’s time once again for the legendary Gundam Fight, and the winner of this tournament will rule the space colonies for the next four years. Using the broken planet of Earth as a battleground, fighters and their powerful Gundams battle for supremacy. Representing Neo Japan, martial artist Domon Kasshu and his Shining Gundam are ready to take on all challengers…but Domon’s also got his own secret agenda. How will that play out as the fate of the colonies and the Earth itself is at stake? “Let’s get this thing started! Gundam Fight, all set? Ready? GO!!!”

With the fifteenth anniversary of the Gundam franchise rolling around in 1994, the powers-that-be knew they had to do something truly special. At this point there had been quite a few Gundam series, OVAs, and films, but they all adhered to the same basic formula. What better way to shake things up for the anniversary than to launch a Gundam show set in a completely different universe, with loads of super robot tropes instead of the real robot stuff everyone was used to?

Enter Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Events unfold in a new Future Century rather than the other series’ Universal Century. Instead of a dramatic tale of war, politics, and loss, we’ve got over-the-top fighters from around the globe duking it out for glory in outlandish Gundams. The show features exaggerated expressions and actions, catchphrases, dramatic posing, special attack moves, seemingly magical and mystical maneuvers, physics-defying martial arts, and an art style more typical of other anime series and tournament shows. In other words, it’s about as far from Gundam as you could get, except that there’s still Gundams in it.

This was not a reboot, thankfully. I’d imagine that Gundam fans would’ve lost their collective shit if all of the rich history of the Universal Century was simply thrown out in favor of what amounts to a mecha wrestling match. G Gundam was the first show to take place in an alternate timeline, and nearly every series since has taken place in its own universe as well, making it even easier for newcomers to jump on board as well as preventing the Universal Century from going stale.

So let’s move on to the particulars. Despite its vast differences from the original series, G Gundam turns out to be an entertaining show in its own right. Besides the fairly generic tournament setting, it’s the background stories and subplots that are far more interesting. Sure, the concept of the world deciding on its leaders via a controlled tournament rather than constant warfare is intriguing, but things like Earth being left a near-wasteland, those still living there having to struggle to survive, and of course Domon’s secret mission to locate the insidious Devil Gundam and clear his family name make the story worth following. Even better, that Devil Gundam plot is seemingly resolved halfway through the series, and then the Gundam Fight itself picks back up. But, of course, there’s evil lurking in the shadows, all culminating in a massive confrontation complete with a few more twists towards the end.

G Gundam is rife with larger-than-life characters, starting off with our lead, Domon. He often alternates between being an arrogant punk and an honor-bound hero, due to the stress of his mission and his martial arts discipline. As much as we want him to succeed, it’s just as fun to watch Domon get his ass kicked, as then he has to go back and train in different ways to overcome the odds. Obviously, his ultimate victory is assured as he’s the series lead, but his fights make for a fun ride.

Then we’ve got Domon’s mechanic, doctor, and obvious love interest Rain Mikamura. Sure, she runs around in a miniskirt for the entire series, but Rain can fix Gundams and broken bones, and she’s not afraid to call Domon out on his bullshit. Not bad. Even her “damsel in distress” turn towards the end of the series isn’t typical.

Rounding out our main cast are Domon’s rivals and soon-to-be allies: narcissistic boxer Chibodee Crockett (from Neo America), Shaolin temple devotee Sai Saici (Neo China), aristocratic knight George de Sand (Neo France), and convicted space pirate Argo Gulskii (Neo Russia). Naturally, they’re introduced one by one as Domon’s opponents in the Gundam Fight, but they soon became new members of the Shuffle Alliance, powerful warriors who fight alongside Domon against the machinations of the Devil Gundam. Each one has a unique personality, and their team-ups as well as clashes keep the show going.

When it comes to villains, G Gundam‘s bad guys often pop up out of the woodwork, but our recurring foes are well-crafted. The show also features some surprising antagonists further down the line. The ultimate bad guy was very unexpected, but sadly not as interesting as classic foils like Char Aznable or Haman Karn. He just seemed to be the usual supervillain bent on world domination.

Now let’s talk mecha, and there’s a lot of it to go around: G Gundam easily holds the record for having the most Gundams out of any series. Remember, nearly every country on Earth has an offshoot colony, and every colony has a Gundam. There’s also a few more on top of that, and the final space battle sequences even feature Gundam cameos from other series! (Including one that hadn’t even aired yet…) But what the series is truly famous for is that it features the most utterly ridiculous mobile suit designs across the entire franchise. Many of them are ethnic stereotypes of the highest order — for example, Neo Mexico’s sombrero- and cactus-clad Tequila Gundam, or Neo America’s Gundam Maxter, which features a football helmet, boxing gloves, a surfboard, and guns — but fortunately they don’t seem like they were specifically designed to be offensive. Often, the more insane the design, the more powerful the robot. Case and point: Neo Greece’s Zeus Gundam looks like a statue from classical antiquity (as does its pilot!), but it’s a powerful and formidable opponent indeed. Other times, eye-rolling stereotypes like Neo India’s snake-charmer pilot Chandra Sijiema are counterbalanced somewhat by something otherworldly: Sijiema’s skin is green, unlike real Indian people. Also, there’s plenty of other Gundam designs that have nothing to do with their colony of origin, such as Neo Sweden’s sailor fuku Nobel Gundam, and Neo Malaysia’s Skull Gundam, which looks like something Dr. Wily would’ve designed.

The wacky exteriors aside, what also sets the G Gundam mecha apart is what’s inside. Unlike most other series before and after G Gundam, pilots don’t just sit in a cockpit and push buttons. Instead, the Mobile Trace System is used, wherein the fighters wear a special bodysuit within the cockpit, allowing the Gundam to precisely mimic their moves. This makes a lot more sense when it comes to melee combat, where timing is everything. Damage to the Gundam results in physical pain for the pilot, which also improves reaction time. (And increases drama, of course.)

Beam weapons are relatively rare, as most fights are physical brawls. Some Gundams almost “cheat” as they’ve got support units, such as Zeus Gundam’s horse and chariot. Speaking of horses…you’d think Master Gundam’s noble steed Fuunsaiki should count as a separate mobile armor, as it can easily operate on its own…but wait until you see the pilot. It may be the most ridiculous moment in Gundam history, and it is awesome.

As for the music in G Gundam…it’s rather forgettable. It’s not bad, but it just doesn’t fit the show. This is most apparent when there’s a fierce battle between Gundams, yet the background music is some soft saxophone tune. (1980s and 1990s Gundam shows loved their saxophones.) Some of the more pop-vocal tunes that appear from time to time seem a little cheesy, too, but I guess that fits the overall tone of the show. Nothing in there is too annoying that it detracts from the onscreen action.

Last but not least, G Gundam was subject to some weird “censorship” in America. The names of many Gundams were changed for the English dub, and for much of this, you can blame Wal-Mart. They refused to stock Gundam Deathscythe Hell toys during the Mobile Suit Gundam Wing merchandising blitz, due to the religious connotations of the word “hell.” I wish I was joking, but you know how Wal-Mart is with the Bible Belt and all. Since Bandai wanted to sell loads of G Gundam toys stateside, they played it safe and changed Devil Gundam to Dark Gundam, God Gundam to Burning Gundam, and so on. Some of the other Gundams’ names were changed either because they weren’t appropriate for children (Tequila Gundam became Spike Gundam) or apparently because kids might not understand them (Nether Gundam became Hurricane Gundam, John Bull Gundam became Royal Gundam, etc.). The good news is that none of these name changes affect the plot in any way, and they don’t even sound out of place!

As you might’ve guessed, G Gundam is rather polarizing; most fans seem to either love it or hate it, with very little middle ground. (This split would be echoed decades later with the Gundam Build Fighters series, which itself takes many cues from G Gundam.) Does this make it a bad show? Not in the least. G Gundam is definitely more of a super robot show, as most fights end with some kind of ridiculous special attack (that of course must be shouted out loud in order to properly activate), but if you can get past this, you’ll likely enjoy it. Your mileage may vary, of course, but if you don’t mind a helping of cheese and you’re looking for something wildly different in the Gundam universe, G Gundam is it.