Weeks after the U-19 Championship match, our heroes attend the Meijin Cup Contest. For the first time in perhaps Try’s entire run, it finally remembers what made Gundam Build Fighters so good in the first place. Gunpla addicts Gee and Iro share their thoughts about the sequel to the hottest toy commercial of 2014, and why exactly it failed to live up to those expectations.
Turns out the Gunpla Festival equivalent in Try occurs in the finale, in what ends up being a questionable situation. Narratively, I guess it’s the only place you could fit it, since Try’s plot has been so threadbare and single minded for the past 10 episodes or so. Thematically though, it feels like a cheap attempt at getting back in the good graces of fans. In its own favor though, it entirely works to a certain degree. This episode has definitely been Try at its most fun in ages. It’s as if the writers suddenly remembered what made Gundam Build Fighters fun to watch in the first place, bringing back tons of cameos, silly moments, and the underlying message that gunpla is for fun and freedom. After weeks of episodes where the characters have been obsessed with winning at the cost of sportsmanship and even basic respect, the drastic characterization shift is almost jarring in how much it returns to the tone of its predecessor, the original Gundam Build Fighters.
And boy does this episode bring the fun antics out in spades. The Super Fumina is probably one of my favorite ridiculous reveals this week, and I’m completely appalled that anyone would think Yuuma deserved to win this Meijin Cup with his shitty Zeta. Seriously, does Bandai have a hard-on for the Zeta or do the writers genuinely think Yuuma is worth jack shit? As a character who could easily be considered as one of the primary factors for bringing down Try, I find it hilarious how much the show tries to convince us to like his bland shitty self.
Barring elements like that though, the finale is just one fun moment after another. Bringing back the Zaku and Kampfer Amazing was, well, amazing. And the reveal of yet another member of the Sazaki family was definitely one of my favorite jokes of the episode. The rest of the episode is a fantastic battle royale that brings out some fan favorites, like the Woundwort, the Leopard, and even a Ral-custom Dom. Special props to that last one, as it might be the first joke Try has made in its entire run that could only have been written by Gundam fans. And thematically, thats what makes this last episode of Try work. It understands that Gundam Build Fighters isn’t just about the robot fighting, but that it’s Gundams that are fighting and why that’s fun. It contains the kind of jokes that would only be written if the people working on it genuinely cared and liked the franchise. It’s something that’s glaringly missing from the rest of Try, so I was glad to see some of that return in its finale. And hey, finally breaking out ol’ Domon “Undefeated of the East” Kasshu was a hoot.
In the end though, Try’s bombastic final episode is a case of too little too late. It was undeniably a joy to watch and probably one of its best episodes, but at this point, it’s trying to bail water out of a sinking ship with a bucket. It’s not enough to make up for Try’s mistakes, and instead remains a reminder of everything it could have been.
Gee’s Final Thoughts
Where do I even start with Gundam Build Fighters Try? Do I talk about the few moments that actually worked? The tiny areas where it improved on its predecessor? Or how about just how heartbreaking it was to watch Try go from one of the most exciting things of the season into the tragic disappointment it became? In case it wasn’t obvious, Try was deeply disappointing for someone who came out of the original with a smile on his face and three gunpla kits in his Amazon cart.
But let’s focus on the good first, it’ll go by fast. Try’s opener was a bombastically enthusiastic introduction to a new world of Gundam Build Fighters. From Sekai’s unabashed martial arts obsession to Gundams exploding out of Kung-Fu Doms, Try made an extremely good first impression. Additionally, I must give props to mecha designer and gunpla master, NAOKI, whose gunpla customs and unique designs for Try led to some absolutely fantastic designs. The original Gundam Build Fighters was relatively conservative with its customs, content with recolors or extra accessories. Comparatively, Try was really willing to go all out with the visually interesting suits, such as the Ez-SR, Cardigan, Mega Shiki, and Tryon 3. They feel like true customs, that required extensive creativity, effort, and craftsmanship to make.
Additionally, Try continues to the Build Fighters tradition of having a fantastic soundtrack. Say what you will, but almost every fight had great musical accompaniment. The songs just fit perfectly and there are some truly enjoyable tracks. The fact that we got at least a couple of unique tracks just for the Tryon fight says tons about how much passion and effort went into the musical composing. It’s a shame the rest of the show lacks that same degree of polish.
Unfortunately, Try stumbles in so many other areas that nice designs simply aren’t enough to mitigate it all. Thematically, Try completely fails to understand what made the original work. The 3-on-3 format basically doomed Try’s ability to showcase interesting fights or characters. With so many suits and characters onscreen, it denies any of them the needed screentime to develop them. It hurts both the fights and the characterization in exchange for more suits. It’s a clearly mercantile decision, likely pushed by the suits from above, but it’s still a shame. It hurts every fight in the show, and it becomes increasingly apparent when the only legitimately decent fights in all of Try’s run are the 1-on-1 clashes.
As I was alluding to earlier, the increased bloat in cast size also hurt the overall characterization of Try. To put it simply, there are no Yuukis, Fellinis, or Ailas in Try. Barring Minato, no rival gets any of the screentime or writing they need to be either threatening or even remotely compelling. The Gunpla Academy are easily the worst rivals I have seen in a show in ages. With absolutely zero personality, terrible taste in gunpla, and nothing compelling or interesting about them, they’re reduced to goalposts that occasionally talk. When literally the best things you could say about that team is that Shia is hot as sin or that Adou is a fun straightforward jerk, you know you’ve utterly failed as a writer.
And that’s just concerning the supporting cast. Sekai, Yuuma, and Fumina are not exempt from Try’s failings. Sekai started off as a fresh divergence from Sei and Reiji’s brand of kid’s show protagonist. A walking G Gundam reference with no knowledge of Gundam itself, he easily had the potential to be a wildly fun character. There could have been entire episodes devoted to teaching Sekai gunpla and the world of the Gundam franchise. Instead, it’s all wasted as Sekai literally makes zero character development from start to finish. He’s still the same martial arts spamming idiot who never adapts his strategies or comes to appreciate the franchise itself. All in all, he’s wasted potential, the character.
As for Yuuma, what is there to even say? He’s a no-fun tryhard who never lightens up or does anything interesting over the course of the entire series. He starts off with a silly crush on Sekai’s sister that doesn’t go anywhere. His rivalry with Minato is completely wasted as Minato never actually gets a victory over him, so Yuuma never has any motivation to improve. Despite the fact that Minato is shown to be a better and more creative builder than Yuuma in ever way, the show is content to continue putting Yuuma on a pedestal, desperate to convince us that he’s actually interesting. Well sorry Gundam Build Fighters Try, you utterly failed.
And then there’s Fumina. Oh Fumina. By the end, Fumina is probably the most likeable character in Try, though that isn’t saying much. In her defense, almost all of Fumina’s faults can be traced to Try’s piss poor writing. Fumina herself is a great character with a ton of potential, most of it wasted. She could have easily been the Sei of Try, acting as the Gundam diehard and cypher into the world of gunpla, but she’s quickly relegated to being the token girl of the group, with all the baggage that comes with it. And despite the fact that the SD Winning Gundam is easily one of the most ingenious and creative builds in the entire show, not once does she ever get credit for being the talented builder she is. People in the show point to Yuuma as the protege of Sei, but honestly, Fumina is far more a descendent of Sei’s building style than Yuuma will ever be. And it’s a shame the show never recognizes this due to Japan’s happy desire to reduce Fumina to nothing more than another love interest for Sekai.
Overall, Gundam Build Fighters Try is a tragic disappointment. Its predecessor was one of my favorite surprises of 2014 and easily one of the most creative and enthusiastic kid’s show I had watched in ages. Try suffers from more than just being a sequel. Yes, there’s inherent baggage that comes with being the followup, but Try’s issues are far worse than that. It completely misunderstands why this show was fun to watch in the first place. All of Try’s narrative developments could have shown up in any kid’s show about a single-elimination tournament. It completely lacks any of the single elements or traits that defined it not as just a fighting anime, but a Gundam-themed one. All in all, Try is not a terrible show by any means, but it’s certainly the one that disappointed me the most. When compared to the lofty heights of its predecessor, Try is a pale imitation and a textbook example of a misaimed sequel. With a third iteration all but announced, I can’t say I’m going to look forward to it with the same fervor I did with Try, and that breaks my heart.
Iro’s Final Thoughts
The greatest weakness of Gundam Build Fighters Try is that it’s a sequel, obligated to go bigger and badder than is really necessary. While the inherent concept of Gunpla Battle is still a great way to set up dream battles between various mobile suits across Gundam history, Try‘s adherence to the 3-on-3 match format means that the show simply stretches itself too thin. Three times the number of suits (and consequently, rivals) onscreen means one-third normal screentime devoted to each one, leading to inherently duller fights and blander characters as the writers scramble to cram everything in.
In Build Fighters, characters like Mao, Fellini, and Aila were introduced long before our heroes had to fight them, and each had time devoted to earning the audience’s sympathy and establishing their respective robots. Because it lacks the time available for this, Try has to resort to cheap tricks like the identical triplets or having a single notable character acting as the face for the whole team. Out of Team Try Fighters’ five total battles in the nationals, only the first and last really feature any 3-on-3 combat, with the former against a group of no-names and the latter ending up as 1-on-1 sudden death anyway. Which is not to say that 1-on-1 matches are disappointing (I prefer them, actually) but it strikes as laziness and a lack of foresight into what Try was trying to accomplish.
The original Build Fighters is such a tough act to follow, it’s not terribly surprising that Try failed to live up to it. It isn’t a bad show, and it still serves as a wonderful celebration of the past 35 years of the Gundam franchise, but given Try’s early successes and sheer potential, it stands as a prime example of how not to do a sequel season.