Thursday 5 April 2018

First Impressions: Gundam Build Divers

Gundam Build Divers
Gundam Build Divers is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll and Youtube

While all Gundam shows are designed to sell model kits to some extent, it wasn't until Gundam Build Fighters came along that Bandai and Sunrise built a whole spin-off around it. While not the first gunpla-centric instalment in the franchise, the passion Build Fighters exuded for all things Gundam turned it into something much more than the generic tournament/product placement show it seemed from the outset. It's success led to sequel series Gundam Build Fighters Try in 2014, and now its returned once again for a third edition. Combing the worlds of Gunpla Battle and virtual reality gaming, its time to get those high grade kits ready once again as we dive into the world of Gundam Build Divers.

Riku chooses his gunplaRiku and Yukio

The popularity of gunpla battle has moved into its next stage, with builders now competing online in the new Virtual Reality Massive Mutiplayer Online game "Gunpla Battle Nexus Online". After scanning their gunpla, players appear as an avatar of their design and pilot their mecha as a "Gunpla Diver".

14-year-old Riku Makami is new to the world of Gunpla Battle, and after being introduced to it by his best friend Yukio aims to compete and one day battle the champion. After building his Gundam 00 Diver the pair embark on their first journey into the virtual world - taking a tutorial by top ranked player Magee, encountering a mysterious girl and tackling their first battle against an enemy player.

Riku in battleThe 00 Diver

There are many that will try to argue that Gundam Build Divers (along with its predecessors) is a series best left for the Gundam fanatics, but I'm here to make a case against that. As someone who previously only had minimal knowledge of the Gundam franchise (at the time I'd only seen Gundam Wing, much like many other anime fans of my generation) and a passing interest in gunpla, Build Fighters is what really turned me on to the franchise as a whole. The series was a huge love letter to both the shows and the subculture that had built around them, and it was almost impossible not to be won over by that love. While I'm still far from a Gundam expert, I strongly feel Build Fighters played a big part in getting me to check out those handful of shows I have. So if you're new to Gundam and think Build Divers might not be for you - just roll with it. There'll be things that go over your head, but if you're here for good-looking mecha and impressive fight scenes then you'll be in for a good time.

The main change here from the previous Build Fighters entries (other than the lack of a Back-On opening theme, though the new one is suitably funky) is the introduction to Virtual Reality, which might not seem like too big of a departure from the Plavsky Particle fuelled skirmishes but offers does offer a few new visual flares. Pilots avatars now properly pilot their gunpla, though still not in the physical cockpit sense that the mainline Gundam series has to offer. The use of avatars also adds a huge variety of character designs to the mix, with anthropomorphic animals, horned humans and more all possible within the realms of the game's character creation. The fact the game so willingly embraces furries just goes to show that it seems to have a pretty good handle on what people would actually do if they were given the chance to create such an avatar, and I can totally get behind that.

MageeThe Mysterious Girl

So far the characters aren't much to write home about, and fall comfortably into the usual kind of archetypes you see in tournament-based shows such as this. Riku quickly establishes himself as the newcomer with hidden talent, while Yukio is going to be the "fountain of all Gundam knowledge" character for the series that points out the references for the less initiated. Other characters of note introduced in the episode include the flamboyant Yukio (who isn't played as a joke like you might expect), gunpla store worker Nanami and the mysterious white haired girl who's importance is yet to be revealed. The opening credits also showed off there's still plenty more characters to come too, some of whom have already made their debut in the prologue episode that released back in February (not essential viewing to understand this, but readily available so you might as well).

Of course while having an extensive knowledge of the Gundam franchise isn't at all necessary to enjoy Build Divers, it would certainly be beneficial if you hope to catch all the references. As per the previous Build Fighters instalments this series looks to be chock full of references and homages from across Gundam's 39-year legacy - ranging from the obvious Mobile Suits to blink and you'll miss it cameos from the furthest recesses of the franchise's history. It's an extra layer to existing Gundam fans who get the chance to once again enjoy the kind of fan service that Build Fighters did best, whilst newcomers get to enjoy a series that covers all the bases and may point you in the direction of what you'd like to visit next. After all, with all those universes and timelines it isn't a franchise you need to watch it order.

A "beginner hunter"Gunpla battle

Ultimately Gundam Build Divers is just Build Fighters with a new lick of paint, but those slight premise changes are enough for it to seem interesting. The virtual reality aspect looks to offer a bit more uniqueness than Try's severely under-utilised three-on-three battle system, while the action visuals and custom gunpla look to be just as good as ever. Cynically Build Divers might just be another way to peddle more model kits, but when its presented in such a polished way it's hard to find a reason to care.


Anonymous said...

The opening gives me Lupinranger theme music vibes

Artriven said...

At least the MC is not stupid enough to use the fist like sekai, instead he borrow his friend beam saber, I like that because THAT'S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IN GUNPLA BATTLE!