Take the virtual game world of Sword Art Online and throw in Gundam model kits aka gunpla and you have this fun twenty-six episode love letter to the whole Gundam franchise. There is a bit of a barrier of entry in my opinion and I will address that in my review.
I remember the first Gundam series I watched. It was Gundam Wing on Toonami after school. That was one of the first mech series I had seen and I have been hooked ever since. When I say this series is a love letter to the franchise I wholeheartedly mean it. This show was a lot of fun for me as a Gundam fan. Would a non-Gundam fan have as much fun if this was their introduction to the series? Probably not if I’m being honest but it’s still fun mech action so I feel it still gets a recommendation from me.
Some of the technical stuff first, the animation is good and passable. This is no Ufotable production but it is by no means bad. There are some times where characters aren’t drawn as well from a distance and sometimes the faces are missing. Typical things animators do to save money. I forgive most of this simply because they make up for it with how amazing the mech battles look. If this does end up being your first foray into the Gundam universe your eyes will definitely be pleased with the action scenes.
If this isn’t my first review you’ve read you will know how big a fan of Billy Kametz I am. This isn’t his absolute best performance but it’s still good. If you are familiar with his role as Naofumi Iwatani in The Rising of the Shield Hero you will know this guy can yell with the best of them. In the latter half of the series he really gets to show this off and even has some emotional moments that he landed really well.
Kametz as Hiroto was definitely a happy surprise for me but I really loved the chemistry between his character and Lauren Landa’s May. They were kindred spirits and seemed to have somethings in common. It was what I would expect from Landa, I have seen her in more prominent roles lately and she deserves them. Most notably her role as Tsukasa Tsukuyomi in Tonikaku Kawaii. Now, Ray Chase as Kazami I did not expect. Chase usually plays the brooding character or a snarky wisecracker which Kazami kind of is but he is way more boisterous. He did an awesome job with nailing the insecurities Kazami feels about being a leader. The final member of the main group is Par played by Laura Stahl, she does a good job with voicing younger male characters and she does the same here.
Now, I’ve made no secret in my love of this franchise. In my opinion, Gundam is the anime equivalent of Star Wars they are very similar and have huge popularity. Almost every Gundam series is made to sell model kits and this one is no different. In fact, you could say this one more so because they use the model kits in the series itself. There have been a few Gundam series with the Build name in them. There was Gundam Build Fighters and its sequel season Gundam Build Fighters: Try. Then there is Gundam Build Divers and its sequel season Gundam Build Divers: Re:Rise.
Now you don’t HAVE to watch Build Divers to enjoy this just like you don’t have to have seen any other previous Gundam series. It will seriously lower the enjoyment and there might be a few things you don’t understand. If you don’t know your Universal Century from your Trans-Am a lot of references will go over your head. So while this series is great I have to be honest it isn’t for everyone.
This series doesn’t get as political or violent as a typical Gundam series. Some characters do die but that is because of a pretty unique situation I don’t want to spoil much of. This series is more aimed at kids and is intended to get gunpla in more hands. Just because it’s more kid-friendly don’t for a second think it does not have a message to tell. I’m not afraid to admit I teared up quite a few times during this show, though to be fair it does not take much to make me cry. Especially in an anime.
Gundam Build Divers: Re:Rise has us thinking, what exactly makes a person alive? Can only someone with blood and organs be alive? It’s not the first to pose questions about whether AI is actually alive or not but it does have a fun and interesting take on it. There are these beings called El-Divers that are essentially electronic beings that have come alive in the world of GBN, where people have their Gundam battles. The first season definitely covers El-Divers more and this season pretty much expects you to know what one is and why encountering one is a big deal.
Our four heroes get summoned to a mission that no one else has seen. Thinking they are getting the early exclusive on new story missions and loot they hop right into it. As the season unfolds it’s clear something isn’t quite what it seems with these NPD’s (what they call NPC’s). There’s a lot of talking, not every “mission” has action, and the “cutscenes” go on too long. Somehow, they are actually on another world and these people aren’t NPD’s, they’re real.
It really puts some of the earlier dialogue into focus and honestly made me ponder how we act in video game worlds a little bit. There’s one part where Kazami says “Ughh this cutscene is too long. This guy talks too much, can’t we just skip it?”. Now imagine saying that to a living breathing person who is putting their life in your hands. There is actual character growth to be had here from all of the members of BUILD DiVers, they all have their own trauma and deal with it in their own way. I think Kazami’s growth stood out the most and was enjoyable to watch. Just cause I’ve made a habit of naming best girl in things, that would definitely go to May in this. She’s awesome and has some cool surprises for you.
I loved this show as a Gundam fan, I also build gunpla in my spare time. So, I can’t wait to pick up some of the kits from this series. It’s a bit hard to recommend to newcomers but there is enough value here that I still think it would be an enjoyable way to spend your time. I will put a separate score here though if you are not familiar with the Gundam franchise at all it would be about a 7.5/10.