Thursday 9 October 2014

First Impressions: Gundam Build Fighters Try

Gundam Build Fighters TRY

If you'd told me just over a year ago that a series based around popular model kits and advertising them would turn around to be one of my favourites in recent times, I'd have probably laughed in your face. But then Gundam Build Fighters happened, proving to be an incredibly enjoyable experience for newcomers, casual fans and hardcore fans of the Gundam franchise as well as turning me on properly to the art of Gunpla and all the great kits Bandai have produced. Clearly 25 episodes wasn't enough to contain the awesomeness, as the show has returned again in the form of Gundam Build Fighters Try. This sequel series is once again part of the franchise's 35th anniversary celebration, and is being streamed for free with English subtitles on the GundamInfo Youtube channel.

Seven years have passed since Sei Iori and Reiji won the Gunpla World Championships, and since then the rules of gunpla battle have changed somewhat. Now run by the Yajjima Corporation, battles take place with teams of three rather than simply one-on-one. Though the sport has become even more popular, one school's Gunpla battle club has been left behind - Seiho Academy, the same school Sei once attended. Fumina Hoshino is the sole member of its Gunpla battle club, with many of its members having moved over to the plastic modelling club. Just as the end of the club seems near, Fumina meets Sekai Kamiki - a transfer student who has been training in martial arts. Persuading the Gunpla-newcomer to give it a try, Hoshina could have never expected the events that happened when Sekai finds a mysterious Gunpla model inside of the trophy Sei and Reiji won. The battle that takes place also attracts the interest of another young Gunpla builder - Yuuma Kousaka.

With quite a sizeable timeskip between the conclusion of the original Build Fighters and the start of Try, naturally its going to take a bit of time to get the audience up to speed on what's changed. This first episode was mostly dedicated to introducing the new main cast, with Yuuma being the only one related to a previous cast member (he's China's younger brother). Its a little disappointing for fans of the original that it doesn't jump straight in with the cast we already know, but it makes more sense this way - Gunpla Battle was left in a pretty uncertain state at the end of Build Fighters (despite being more popular than ever) and the time skip allows for these new rules to be set in stone. The older cast will probably show up sooner or later, and this was Try is also much more accessible to newcomers as well. Everyone wins.

The episode only really properly introduces two of the main three characters - Fumina and Sekai. It's extremely refreshing to have a female protagonist this time around, and Fumina so far is an extremely likeable character that shows just as much passion for Gunpla as Sei did back in the original (with the added benefit of combat skills). Sekai on the other hand...well, while Build Fighters seemed to skirt around its G Gundam homages Try on the other hand revels in them. Not only does Sekai show up in a way that would make Domon Kasshu proud (kicking ass and brandishing a photo), he then goes on to pilot a Gunpla that's all about fists. The Build Burning Gundam makes a superb entrance in this episode, whether you see it coming or not. And of course, the ever brilliant Ramba Ral is around to offer his thoughts on the situation too.

The times may have changed with a brand new cast in tow, but Gundam Build Fighters Try is still very much of the same - a loving tribute to a big part of the Gundam franchise that features enjoyable characters and a well-crafted story. Well, the last bit is still yet to be seen but I have every bit of faith that the creative team can catch lightning in a bottle once again. And maybe get me to buy a few more kits while they're at it as well.

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