2017 Summer of Anime – Gundam Build Fighters

8 Gundam Build Fighters

Hey, you got your Yu-Gi-Oh in my Gundam!

In what may arguably be the best timeline, the invention of Plavsky particles has changed the world.  How?  These particles allow Gundam model kits (Gunpla) to essentially come to life and duke it out on mini-battlefields.  They recreate lasers and explosions and everything!  The world is currently in its second Gunpla Boom, and Sei Iori–one of Gundam’s most avid fans–is aiming to win the eighth Gunpla World Tournament.  The kid’s got a lot going for him:  His father placed second in a previous tournament, he’s acknowledged as one of the best Gunpla builders in town, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise.  Only problem is Sei can’t control Gunpla to save his life.  He’s regularly beaten by local Gunpla players, and one is even demanding Sei’s newest creation so he can use it in the World Tournament.  Things turn around, though, when a brash individual named Reiji intervenes and demonstrates his unbelievable fighting ability while controlling Sei’s Build Strike Gundam.  Sei realizes with his masterful building and Reiji’s excellent controlling, they might just have a shot at winning the Gunpla World Tournament.

Y’all, this anime is fun.  Sure, I’m probably a little (a lot) bias since I love Gundam, but this was a blast to watch.  It’s not just that it’s a Gundam show that got me interested.  Gundam Build Fighters is very much in that same vein as Yu-Gi-Oh!BeybladeDuel Masters, etc.  Some innocuous toy/game for children has found not only a new life, but a sort of dominance in another world where its popularity is all-encompassing.  I love these anime where societies seemingly run off toys.  Like, the biggest thing in this world is a tournament where people bring their custom Gundam model kits and fight each other like they’re real Gundams.  It really is almost like Sunrise going, “You see how much cooler the world could’ve been if you people had just loved Gundam more?!”  Fascinating.

That being said, a lot of the problems with Build Fighters stems from the fact that it is one of those shows.  You just know how a lot of it is going to play out.  Granted, there was a baseball match in the World Tournament that caught me off guard, but you really knew every story beat.  You knew which rivals were going to be fought in which order, you knew exactly when so-and-so would find out whatever secret, you knew this particular thing would happen to that particular character, and so on and so forth.  That’s not to say this was a big detraction for me.  I wholeheartedly believe you can use every trope in the book if you pull them off well, and–for the most part–Build Fighters did.

The aforementioned rivals were varying degrees of good to great.  Mao Yasaka probably got the shaft in that respect since he turns into a bit of a joke, but his Gunpla building is on par with Sei’s, and I love the Crossbone Gundam Maoh.  Nils Nielsen had one of my favorite Gunpla in the series with Sengoku Astray.  His only real competition in my book comes from “The Italian Dandy” Ricardo Fellini and his Wing Gundam Fenice.  To me, those two have the most personality out of every other Gunpla in the series.  Their fights against Sei and Reiji are also some of the best, as well.  The two most powerful rivals, Aila Jyrkiainen and Tatsuya Yuuki (the Char), were pretty great as fighters, but they’re Gunpla didn’t reach the level of cool for me that Wing Fenice and Sengoku Astray did.  Bonus points to Yuuki for having “Amazing” in all of his Gunpla’s names, though.

tumblr_oqsbax7ub81sb5ftro1_500

Top contender for Best Anime Mom.

The other characters were a lot of fun, too.  The fine woman in gif form above is Sei’s mom Rinko Iori, and she is a delightful character.  They could’ve had her just be there, but she is a genuine goofball and is ridiculously proud of her both her husband and her son.  She also shamelessly ships Sei with his class representative China Kousaka.  I wish there would have been more with China’s love of art, but I did appreciate it was never forgotten and her artist background is definitely present in her Gunpla.  The ever-present Ral was a big surprise.  My theory is he’s the Watcher of this universe since he’s present for damn near every plot-relevant event.  Man’s there to build him some Gunpla, watch some Gunpla fight, command the respect of everyone he meets, and let everyone know what’s going on.  Along with the truly comedic somewhat main antagonists, that rounds out the main cast.  They really are an enjoyable bunch.

Another thing that made me all fuzzy inside is just how many Gundam characters show up as background characters.  Sei’s dad sorta getting scolded by Char Aznable, the Kasshu family happily reunited and building Gunpla, Ramba freakin’ Ral himself as a main character, and many, many more.  I like the theory that this series is a sort of Valhalla for the Gundam characters.  In their series’, Gundams and mobile suits meant nothing but death and despair for their war-torn worlds.  Here, they can enjoy Gunpla and just live their lives.  They’ve earned it.

I think the cameos, the custom Gunpla, and other general references make this a pretty easy pick for any Gundam fan out there.  Add to that some fun characters, a Yu-Gi-Oh! style mentality toward children’s toys, and a gosh darn tournament…and you’ve got yourself some good watching.  All that said–and despite some genuinely hype moments in the big fights–it can get a smidgen too predictable.  But hey, it’s the enjoyable kind.  Giving it an 8.5!

And before I go, did you think I could end this article without posting a certain picture?  Of course not.

TOURNAMENT!

2016 Summer of Anime – Turn A Gundam

20) Turn A Gundam

Walk A walk.

The year is 2345 of the Correct Century, and the Moonrace–a group of humans who fled the Earth some millennia ago–seeks to return to Earth.  The vast majority of Earthers don’t even know there is a Moonrace, so only a select few have been in contact with them.  Unbeknownst to these few, though, Queen Dianna of the Moonrace has already sent a handful of her people in advance to get acclimated to Earth.  Loran Cehack is one of that handful.  He’s lived on Earth for two years working for the rich Heim family, and he’s grown to love Earth to the extent he doesn’t plan to live with his fellow Moonrace when they come back.  Loran even decides to take part in the local coming-of-age ceremony.  It is during said ceremony that the Moonrace begin their return, but it is not as peaceful as Loran had been led to believe.  In an age where Earth’s technology is pre-Industrial Revolution at best, the Moonrace arrives in mobile suits.  It doesn’t look good for the Earthers, but Loran falls into the (literal) cockpit of a giant mobile suit we know as a Gundam.  Young people, giant robots, war…. No one does it like Gundam.

I haven’t talked about Gundam much on here, but I’m a fan of the franchise.  I own a good bit of the various series, and I plan on watching every Universal Century entry in chronological order when I finally acquire all of them (I think I’m only missing four or so), which I have dubbed THE GUNDAMMING.  Gundam Wing is even one of my top ten anime, and I bought a bunch of the action figures when I was a kid.  So…I love Gundam.  I didn’t go into Turn A Gundam as a rookie.  I went in with nigh-veteran eyes.  How do I feel it stacks up against the others I’ve seen?  Pretty damn well.

First off, I want to get my major complaint out of the way.  I’d love to say this didn’t detract from the series very much for me, but that’d be a lie.  This show is abundant with infuriatingly stupid/hardheaded people.  So much of the conflict in this series could have been avoided if people would have just sat down and really thought about what they were doing.  While the de facto leader of Earth’s forces in dealing with the Moonrace, Guin Rhineford, is trying to establish peace with them, the Earth Militia constantly attacks and harasses the Dianna Counter (the Moonrace army on Earth).  This leads to the Dianna Counter saying, “Screw this,” and they raze the city to the ground.  And this is just one of many, many times someone from the Militia or Dianna Counter effed things up because they didn’t just think about their actions.  It is downright frustrating to watch sometimes.  And the damned thing of it is those stupid characters are likable when they’re not being hardheaded jackasses.  Also, almost none of these people are ever seriously punished for any of it!  Just…aggravating.

Other than that, I love the series.  The characters who aren’t constantly insufferable assholes are great.  Loran, Dianna, Dianna’s Earther lookalike Kihel Heim, Kihel’s younger sister and mech pilot Sochie Heim, Sochie’s bestie Miashei, the Char of Turn A Harry Ord, survivor of the Dark History Corin Nander, femme fatale Teteth Helleh, the always unlucky Jacop and Bruno, rich bitch Lily Borjarno, Loran’s friends Keith Laije and Fran Doll, Gym effin’ Ghingnham, and so on.  And yes, I include Gym because even though he is the bloodthirstiest character in the series, he doesn’t pretend to be doing it for any reason other than, “I like to fight.”  He even kills someone I hated with a passion, so that’s a plus.  I also want to bring up Guin Rhineford again.  I could tell a couple things he would go on to do as soon as he showed up, but he was still a surprisingly complex character.  And, as with other Gundam series, I love how characters get brought back for various reasons and play different roles throughout the 50 episodes.  That’s one of my favorite tropes of the franchise.  Almost everyone has their part to play in the grander scheme of things.

This show also looks different from other Gundam series.  Just look at the Turn A–It has a mustache.  I don’t think they ever say why it has a mustache.  It just does.  Syd Mead supplied the designs for this series, so it’s no surprise it stands out visually.  With the steampunk-ish tech and landscapes, though, it kinda strikes me as a Studio Ghibli Gundam series.  It just looks like something they would’ve done.  The show is usually decently animated, but there are definitely times when you can see the scissors chopping those corners off.  It’s no visual masterpiece, but you will certainly remember how it looks.  One last thing–the disc art for the physical release is amazing.

bc9f9ec86cc1b1be1ee922f986674e101408926095_full

One of the coolest things about Turn A is how it was envisioned as the grand finale to the entire meta-series.  Zakus and Capules are found by Earthers and used against the Moonrace’s machines.  Blueprints are found for G Gundam‘s Windmill Gundam and Fuunsaiki.  One of the Moonrace pilots who actually fought in the Dark History is terrified of the Turn A Gundam because he remembers fighting against Wing Zero!  Like…this is just the best thing for someone who loves Gundam.  It’s not just great fanservice, too.  Envisioning this as a world that’s been constantly rebuilt after so many giant mech wars is kinda neat, don’t you think?  It leads to some real, legitimate fears for individuals from both sides, and the arguments between the pacifists, the warriors, and those who just want to advance the human race are grounds for darn good storytelling.

I waited a day to write this so I could sort out how I feel about Turn A.  At first, I was furious that so many awful people who ran roughshod over this series never got their comeuppance, but…that’s just one complaint.  This series visually stands apart from its brethren in a good way, it’s populated with mostly great and complex characters, the backstory is fanboy heaven, and the story itself is interesting enough the 50 episodes kinda flew by for me.  I really had to sit down and think it over, but I’ll give it an 8.5.  It’s not my favorite Gundam series out there, but it is definitely one fans both new and old should give a shot.

March Manga – The Randoms

Hey, it’s finally time for those March Manga posts I said I’d make a while back!  Of course, it took me longer than the month of March to read all my unread manga…and I didn’t even read all of it!  I intend to get to those Genshiken volumes when I get hold of the last two.

As for these posts, I think I’m gonna do them like this:  Four entries for the stuff I read, or maybe I’ll combine two of the bigger ones into one.  Maybe.  Not entirely sure.  I’mma just write and see what happens.

Jaco the Galactic Patrolman

The greatest story never told...well, not the

The greatest story never told…well, not the “greatest.”

So, Akira Toriyama did a thing.  That thing is the very short sci-fi comedy manga Jaco the Galactic Patrolman.  In case his name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the creator of the Dragon Ball franchise, which is 30 years old and still going strong.  Toriyama’s comedy has always been one of his stronger points, and that shows here.  Jaco, the self-proclaimed greatest Galactic Patrolman, comes to Earth to protect it from an object that was launched by an alien planet.  After he crash-lands he meets the old recluse Omori whose job is now convincing Jaco that humans can be good and should be saved.  They are later joined in their adventure by a young girl working as an idol’s double, Tights Brief.  Together, the thr–hold up.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Tights Brief?  Really?  What’s the alien planet?  Vegeta?  Hyuk hyuk.”  Well, hyuk not, dear reader.  This is Dragon Ball canon.  Tights is Bulma’s older sister, the object is Goku’s Saiyan pod, and Jaco himself is gonna be in the new DBZ movie.  I approve of this.  DB started off as very lighthearted series, and I feel like this latest prequel addition has added some much needed levity to a series that got surprisingly dark there for a while.  This short little manga isn’t the funniest I’ve read, but it is a nice, quick read.

Also, there’s an extra story that introduces Goku’s mom, which is something I–and I’m sure quite a few DB fans–have been waiting for for a while now.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin vol. 1

TOBE! GANDAMU!

TOBE! GANDAMU!

So yeah, that’s not Amuro’s Gundam.  This is the biggest difference that jumped out at me when I read the first volume of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin.  And yes, that’s the only volume I’ve read.  This series is expensive, and I have a plethora of other things on which to spend money.  Anyhoo, if I recall correctly, we don’t see the very first prototype Gundam in the anime.  It’s been a while since I’ve watched it, but I honestly can’t remember seeing this thing, so I assume it wasn’t there.  Other than that, the first volume is essentially the same as the first few episodes of the anime.  More grim, even though the OG Gundam itself is already kinda dark, and I think Char is much more of a jerk here than in the original.  But yeah…classic boy-finds-giant-robot-and-whoops-evil-ass story right here.

MAR

Hard to believe plenty of people in this series die horrible deaths, huh?

Hard to believe plenty of people in this series die horrible deaths, huh?

I started MARor, Marchen Awakens Romance–back when it first came out because it was created by Nobuyuki Anzai, the creator of a manga I really love (and need to finish), Flame of Recca.  I made it up to volume 11 before I put it down, but I finally picked up the final four volumes, re-read the first 11, and finished this series.  The story follows puny little fatherless nerd boy Ginta who always dreams of a magical world.  One day, in the middle of class, he is summoned to this other world to combat the imminent return of the villainous Chess–the army that almost destroyed this fantasy land years ago. It was only brought down by the arrival of an other-worlder leading the forces of good.  In this magical land, Ginta is actually strong, fast, asthma-less, and no longer needs his glasses.  He soon finds the only sentient ARM (the weapons of this series), Babbo, and gathers a gang of buddies to once more defeat the Chess.  So, this 15-volume manga is almost one big tournament series.  Really.  I think the first four set up the War Games (the tourney), and the rest of the series covers it.  It also has a cool of schtick of everything being related to a fairy tale.  The manga moves at a breakneck pace, though, and it could be good if the main character ever looked like he was vulnerable.  Yeah, he’s utterly defeated and outmatched quite a few times, but it never feels like he and the rest of his crew are in any real danger.  Also, while reading it, I kept comparing it to another shonen action-adventure manga–Hunter x Hunter…and it’s unfair to compare anything to HxH.  It’s like getting a single Bagel Bite and wondering why it’s not as fulfilling as a pizza handmade by Papa John.

I would suggest checking it out because of the witch Dorothy, though.  She’s the only character other than Ginta who didn’t lose any War Games matches.  Yes, it’s a spoiler, but I want you to understand the greatness of Dorothy.

Well, that’s it for the odds and ends of March Manga.  I think the next entry will be detailing two of the bigger things I read last month.