There’s something to be said about the marketability of Sci Fi Franchises.
When Star Wars first hit theaters the demand for toys was so high that Kenner more or less had people buying pre-orders with their Early Bird Packages.
However, the trend can be traced to a number of other franchises throughout the world.
In 1980s Japan the popularity of a new anime called Mobile Suit Gundam led to a toy craze all their own.
These toys would resurge a number of times throughout the years and eventually lead to a show based around the toys.
Gundam Build Fighters is a anime series based upon a plastic model series called Gunpla. These models are based upon the popular Gundam series and this show is the 13 installment of the mega franchise.
While the franchise is known for their similar plots; i.e. new mobile suit Gundam being piloted by young children, this series takes a different approach.
The series is set in a world were Gundam is a TV franchise. The popularity of the show has lead to something called the Gunpla Battle tournament.
The tournament uses technology that allows people to make their own Gundam models and have them fight in small 3D computer generated battlefields.
The tournament is so popular in this world that it’s seem to taken the place of sports or global card game tournaments (which are norm for anime).
The show’s main character Sei is the son of a world tournament finalist. His father owns a small model store in what looks to be Tokyo.
Sei spends most of his time building the models but when it comes to the battles he’s easily beaten due to his difficulty controlling them in battle.
Due to his lack of skills he wants someone to use his models to win tournaments and respect the craftsmanship that he demonstrates when he builds.
He soon finds that person in Reiji, who gives him a small rock, which he claims, links the two. If Sei should need his help all he needs to do is wish for it.
The two then start of working towards the fighting in their first tournament.
At a glance Mobile Fighters shares little in common with the Gundam franchise.
While the main characters seemingly know a great deal about the shows the overall plot of the show is a great deal different from the other titles.
The show ends up taking the basic concept of Gundam and then mixes it with elements of toy/card based titles like Bayblade and Yu-Gi-Oh!
The first episode even ends up hitting most of the same beats as shows in this genre. For example the appearance of a over-the-top rival, a crushing defeat at the beginning leads to a win at the end of the episode.
This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the genre weren’t already at the forefront of popularity with a number Yu-Gi-Oh! spinoffs already on TV and a new Pokemon show on the way (in North America).
Despite this the show’s production is still good.
The series features some good visuals as the animation is solid and show seems to stay with traditional 2D animation for both the characters and the Gunpla models.
The music also matches the show as it’s light and is catchy enough for a type of show like this.
However the show does little to make not look like just another cookie cutter card game based anime.
2014 will mark the 35 anniversary of the franchise and while the creators might have wanted to take the franchise in a different direction, it might not be the right one.
While the first episodes doesn’t’ really do anything wrong, it’s just difficult to shake the feeling that Sunrise is hoping to just sell more models with this show just like the makers of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters wanted to sell trading cards.
Gundam Build Fighters is directed by Kenji Nagasaki, written by Yousuke Kuroda and produced by Sunrise. The show is currently being broadcast on TXN, AT-X and BS11 and is being simalcast at Gundam.info and YouTube in some countries.