No screencaps because I streamed the first episode legally! Hurrah, GundamInfo channel!
So, Gundam Build Fighters. After the failure of Gundam AGE, Bandai is sticking to its strengths, which is in the form of honest-to-goodness merchandise. You see, Gunpla is a big thing, and even in the Philippines we have a good number of hobby stores catering to modelers. As long as they keep the story solid enough to serve the conceit of crossover Gundam action, we’ll have a good hit on our hands. I hope!
I needn’t repeat any info that could be looked up in better places in this post. Rather, I want to talk about how Gundam in the show is made into this modeling/battling thing. In Sei’s world, people build Gundam model kits not just to ogle at something pretty, but they use them to fight other people’s model kits. The actual anime franchise is downplayed, or nonexistent at best aside from the little nods the episode did.
I have an issue with this. More exactly, I have an issue with Sazaki all but bullying Sei to be his partner and fight using his Gunpla. To me, he’s what’s wrong with the Gundam fanbase as a whole.
But Schneider, he’s just a noisy kid! What did he ever do wrong?
Consider this: Gundam is A Thing with many facets: there’s the anime, where it all started. There are also toys and model kits, where it arguably ends. There are games. Novels. Manga. A freaking amusement park ride. Hell, there’s a legit Gundam car (it’s Char’s, though)! And even if we just look at the anime, there’s UC and AU. I don’t have numbers, but I can safely say that a lot of Gundam fans nowadays have never even seen a single episode of UC Gundam, and aren’t willing to, for various reasons!
Now, what exactly makes you a Gundam fan? Know what, I can’t really say! I’ve watched practically all Gundam anime, built a nontrivial amount of model kits, discussed Gundam with friends for many, many hours, and I can’t tell you what a Gundam fan should be. As I’ve already established, Gundam has many facets, and a person could like one while ignoring the others, or two, or all, and it’s not our business to decide what they should go for. Maybe someone can’t really stand UC Gundam, or isn’t willing to drop money for the expensive Gunpla habit. Maybe they just find the Kira and Lacus pairing really cute, or exclusively build SD Gundam kits. That’s okay. It’s their own prerogative if they want to branch out.
What’s not okay is the attitude that Sazaki espouses, which is “you like the same thing as I do but you like it for different reasons, so you suck!” There is a huge cesspool of hatred in the Gundam fanbase that’s based on this very sentiment. UC fans hate AU fans, modellers hate non-modellers, anime fans hate toy collectors, people with no sense of fun hate G Gundam, there’s no end to it. I’ve done my share of gatekeeping and I’ve turned around. It’s not cool, guys! Gundam is so big, we could just ignore the parts we don’t like, and really focus on what tickles our bones. It’s not like the days when Tomino directed Gundam are gone forever (and honestly, they’re not even that good to warrant such bitching), one could always rewatch the shows. Even if Sunrise or Bandai stopped doing That Thing You Like, you could always go back to what existed. Or leave. I mean, what are you going to do about it, complain on the internet? Please.
(The best/worst thing is Gundam fans complaining about the very existence of this show, yet watch it every week. While decrying it. Every week.)
Sei could have completely renounced the battling aspect to focus on the building side. He could memorize every bit of Gundam fluff so he could talk a great sales pitch for their Gunpla store. But it’s a show about competitive plastic robot battling, and everything must work in the context of selling the building/battling nature of the sport. The hero must be spurred on to fight, even if he sucks, so just throw in a dude who’s gifted at battling to be his partner. We get a slick fight, now everyone can pack up and go home.
At the end of the day, it was a solid first episode, and I was entertained. You don’t get to see a Dijeh painted in Gundam colors slash a Freedom in half anywhere else. But one annoying kid made me remember why I’ve started to distance myself from the rest of Gundam fandom in the first place–people who insist and impose their own standards of fun on others. I may have read too much into a simple cartoon, but I can only see Sazaki, and the real-life haters being the worst Gundam fans they could be.