Welcoming a new generation: Gundam Build Fighters

Sunrise Studio has always been synonymous with one of the greatest and most enduring franchises of all time &mdash; <em>Gundam</em>. Originally conceived in 1979 as <em>Freedom Fighter</em> <em>Gunboy</em>, and eventually changed in reference to the cosmetics company &ldquo;Mandom&rdquo; (alternative theories include basis on the words &ldquo;freedom&rdquo; and hydro &ldquo;dam&rdquo;) <em>Gundam</em> was created by Tomino Yoshiyuki and a group of other creators under the name of &ldquo;Yatate Hajime.&rdquo; One of the greatest feats of the series, in addition to the sheer number of universes and timelines, is the power of how the show can move merchandise.&nbsp;

Gundam model kits, or gunpla, have always been the most brilliant of licensing decisions between Bandai and Sunrise. What ties the original <em>Mobile Suit Gundam</em> and all the resulting series together is the presence of large robots (Gundam) and space colonies. Sunrise originally partnered with a company named Clover, but Bandai eventually became the holder to exclusive rights to produce detailed, scale model, yet affordable plastic kits. These kits first became available in 1980 and changed the way the toy industry worked, as it attracted older fans. Fans could actually buy, and build, models that were just as realistic as the ones they could see in the show, igniting the gunpla craze.&nbsp;

Gundam ushered in a new generation of mecha-related stories in what is referred to as &ldquo;real robots,&rdquo; which are based on realistic battle conditions and can take damage and run out of fuel. Prior to that, super robots like Mazinger Z, Combattler V, and Tetsujin-28/Gigantor, with impossible powers, impenetrable plot armour, and legendary beginnings ruled the anime landscape. Tomino and Sunrise shifted the story toward the human drama side, rather than the prowess of the mechs. Currently, the series is 35 years old and counting, and from the sound of it, won&rsquo;t be slowing down. Sunrise announced their partnership with Right Stuf last year to bring all the <em>Gundam</em> series to North America in the near future.

But where does that leave someone new to <em>Gundam</em>? I did start out on <em>Gundam Wing</em>, but I never felt that <em>Gundam </em>was &ldquo;for me;&rdquo; that is, until recently after starting <em>Gundam Build Fighters</em>. Sunrise had attempted to reboot the series to introduce new viewers with <em>Gundam AGE</em> in 2011, but that completely failed to capture anyone&rsquo;s attention, least of all long-time fans. What brought me to <em>Gundam Build Fighters </em>(<em>GBF)</em> was that the series wasn&rsquo;t really a space opera as much as a series about people that build, and yes, fight, with their gunpla. The greatest part is that no prior knowledge of any<em> Gundam </em>series is needed, while there are also more than enough Easter eggs and references to satisfy long-time fans.&nbsp;

The story centres around builder Iori Sei and his new friend Reiji, and their desire to take part in the Gunpla Battle World Championships, an annual fighting tournament. In this story line, there has been a discovery that enables built gunpla to fight as if it were real, with changing maps and all the customizable parts you could wish for. Not only do old and new gunpla appear, but the possibilities for customization and making something truly &ldquo;your own&rdquo; is important. The character designs are pleasing, and the humour is pretty light, while exuding a kind of youthful energy of people that love to make and show off their creations.

<em>GBF </em>really gets what makes <em>Gundam</em> exciting, while being completely different. There are new and old gunpla otaku that appear in the story; there&rsquo;s a character nicknamed the &ldquo;Crimson Comet;&rdquo; and someone asks if Reiji was a &ldquo;Newtype;&rdquo; but none of these references bar anyone from becoming invested in the rivalries and strategies of the gunpla fighters. It is a story of friendship, hot-blooded rivalries, and watching Gundams do battle. Gundam racing? Gundam field day? Gundam baseball? It&rsquo;s all in here. It really has the power to ignite the passion for creativity and trying new things when it comes to gunpla.&nbsp;

There are plenty of international characters which showcase diversity (but sometimes with a tinge of stereotype, like in the case of Italian contender Fellini), and the story does put effort into showcasing the female gunpla fighters, even if they are fewer in number in the total cast. Throw away your doubts and watch this show on GundamInfo, Sunrise&rsquo;s official YouTube channel!&nbsp;