First Look: Gundam Build Divers

Anime original by Sunrise
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

In the future, gunpla battle has evolved to the final frontier…VR MMOs. Now players log into Gunpla Battle Nexus Online, a virtual world where Gundam fans can meet up and live out their Gundam fantasies in the digital world. Inspired by the reigning gunpla battle champion, Riku embarks on his journey to become the best gunpla battler.

Iro’s verdict: Kids These Days like SAO Right?

We lambasted Gundam Build Fighters Try for losing some of that heart of the original Build Fighters – for edging further away from a genuine love of the Gundam franchise, and closer to just another kids-battle-with-toys show – and I think Gundam Build Divers is moving a bit in the right direction. The issue is that the original Build Fighters felt like it was in that perfect sweet spot, and we’re not quite there anymore. The VR MMO angle isn’t even bad or anything (and in fact allows for some fun gags and references) but it also adds a certain quality of kids-show-gimmick that feels as though it cheapens the premise. I wonder if they feel like they can’t get away with just “more” Build Fighters? Either way, the loss of novelty after two whole seasons simply makes it harder to get really enthusiastic about Divers, but the show is on track to be a fun kid’s show with some cool robots.

Zigg’s verdict: Undefeated of the Toy Shop

I never saw a huge amount of the previous two Build Fighters series so I’m coming into this one relatively fresh, and I do have to say I was shocked at just how blatantly this is just a straight up toy commercial (and that’s coming from someone with years of Super Sentai experience). The lovingly rendered shots of mountains of pinpoint accurate gunpla boxes, and the way everyone in the entire world seems to be an expert on building plastic models is dangerously close to outright parody, and I’m swinging between feeling it’s lovingly tongue-in-cheek and kind of gross depending on the scene. The other factor is that while I’d call myself a Gundam fan, I’ve got little or no interest in the suits themselves and thus a lot of the ‘just for fans’ deep cuts go way over my head. Honestly, this mostly seemed like a fun, dumb, very kid-focused romp with some cute character designs (check out not-Pidge’s giant parachute pants!) and average-at-best robot fights. There definitely seems to be a lot of potential, but how much of that did they already spend on the previous two seasons? I’ll stick it out a bit longer but this is not really the wheelhouse I prefer my Gundam in.

Gee’s verdict: Following The Instructions a Little Too Closely

The worst thing that could be said about Gundam Build Divers is that it feels like a perfectly adequate kid’s show. If you’re at all familiar with the original Gundam Build Fighters, you know exactly why that is damning with the faintest praise imaginable. The original was a shining beacon in the darkness that is the modern Gundam franchise. Created by people who clearly cared deeply about the property, it was a genuine love letter to the franchise and the all-consuming hobby it spawned. Four years and hundreds of dollars in gunpla later, I can confidently say the original Gundam Build Fighters anime was singularly responsible for reigniting my interest in the Gundam franchise.

And thus, Gundam Build Divers being competent but otherwise unremarkable is already immediately worrying. Even the disappointing Gundam Build Fighters Try had a stunning debut episode that left us excited for more. Not only is Gundam Build Divers not particularly interesting, but its vaunted robot fights aren’t even that good. For a first episode, Divers feels weirdly anemic. Throw in a soundtrack that pales in comparison to Yuki Hayashi’s iconic score, and everything about Divers feels like a step down. It’s paint by numbers to a distressing degree when this is the same franchise that introduced a kung-fu Gundam exploding out of another robot’s body and Ramba Ral appearing out of nowhere to referee a gunpla battle match.

I don't give a fuck, I'm making sure the Woundwort shows up here somehow.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are a couple decent background jokes and I’ll say I can appreciate one of the primary characters using a GM III so prominently. As an eternal fan of the less flashy grunt suits, it does my soul some good to see that kid busting out those fucking shoulder missiles. Of course, I expect them to pull a GM Powered Cardigan and replacing that GM III with some boring ass Gundam by the 6th episode, but hey I’ll take what I can get. At this point, my enthusiasm for Divers is mostly sustained by its surprisingly energetic prologue episode that served as an introduction to the new setting. After Try, my expectations for anything Build Fighters related has been appropriately lowered, but we’ll see if Divers still can’t manage to draw a trick or two from its backpocket. I genuinely hope it manages to surprise me, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Also, that new OP is fucking shit. Compare that garbage to this glorious thing.

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