Episode 1 – “Welcome to GBN”
Every otaku must eventually make a choice: A) watch a Gundam anime, B) build a Gunpla model, or C) watch a Gundam anime about building Gunpla models. Gundam Build Divers exists for all the C-pickers.
Imagine a world where seam-line masking, sprue-clipping prowess, and airbrush technique determines societal dominance–a society living under the thumb of an elite group of virtual reality prize fighters. The Gunpla Battle Nexus Online (GBN) makes these G-Stars’ hunks of plastic face off against other hunks of plastic and go “whoosh,” “pew-pew-pew,” and “kablammo” in “real life” (VR). Of course, our protagonists Riku, Yuki, and Momoka would rather die a fiery death than miss out on the zeitgeist.
Ruki, the level-headed fourteen-year-old, abandons his life of girl-wooing, improbable soccer goal-making, and all around life-winning to hole himself up in the local hobby store and get his PlaMo on. As expected, the show provides step-by-step instructions to all the ten-year-olds in the audience itching to spend their allowance: fork over the cash, open the box, side-cut the runners, and assemble. Don’t forget to school the cute shop owner on all the technical jargon!
And, of course, we come to the “dive” itself. Once subsumed SAO-style into the GBN lobby, Riku and Yuki traverse a world filled with unironic Gundam cosplayers and effeminate muscle-hunks who helpfully walk the protagonists through the online battle network’s nexus of rules. Unlike the previous two Build Fighters shows, Divers’ inaugural episode plays out like a video game tutorial–grinding out info rather than weaving in plot points.
The premiere episode, preoccupied with capitalistic propagandizing, spares a few frames for two ancillary characters: 1) The “mysterious girl”–a Gundam trope as old as Lalah Sune. The literal “damsel in distress”–a helpless female waiting for a male protagonist to happen upon her compromised body, swoop her into his cockpit, and link his trigger-happy hands with hers–and 2) The horny rascal.
Like the two series before it, Sunrise spends approximately ten yen animating the non-mecha scenes and thirteen million yen on the fight sequences. Dialogue transpires with sparse movement and bland coloration, whereas Gundam-clashes induce seizures with Michael Bay-esque fervor.
Gundam Build Divers erects a flimsy frame upon the bedrock of the original Build Fighters–churning out Gunpla addicts via nostalgia and hardcore mecha porn. While the visuals square with previous entries, the narrative arc falls flat–generic characters and soulless scenarios gut an otherwise fun ride. Time will tell if Riku and Yuki can match the Sei and Reiji dynamic–if not, a reviewer must suckle upon the eye-candy until the inevitable stomach ache.
And, please remember: