Anyone who even has a passing knowledge of Gundam can tell you that it is a big series. While it can seem daunting, people who want to get into it can take solace in the fact that given the number of entries, there’s a show for everyone. If you’re like me and enjoy dark and gritty stories, you can watch Zeta Gundam, Victory Gundam, or Iron-Blooded Orphans. If you want something more lighthearted, you may be inclined to watch something such as ZZ or Build Fighters.
Gundam Build Divers is definitely more on the lighthearted spectrum. As someone whose favorite Gundam shows are the three aforementioned “dark” entries, you might be inclined to believe that I’d write off this show without giving it a chance. While it’s true that this type of Gundam show is somewhat alien to me, I was willing to give it a chance, and if it had many merits, I’d love it, lighthearted or no.
Gundam Build Divers is centered around Gundam Build Nexus - an MMORPG based around Gunpla. The main characters frequent the real-life Odaiba Gundam Base (most notable for its Gundam Unicorn Statue). This was by far my biggest draw to the show. As a big Gundam fan, the concept of a Gundam MMO proved fun to think about. The possibilities are endless. Gundam Build Divers’ cameos were great as well. If you’re a fan of Gundam, you’ll be sure to see a reference to series you love. They even paid tribute to the box art for the Linkin Park Gundam!
So, besides fanservice, what does Gundam Build Divers bring to the table?
Not much, unfortunately.
The very thing I praised the show for, its setting, is one of the biggest things that annoyed me. Maybe Recovery of an MMO Junkie spoiled me, but GBN often doesn’t feel like a game. While it can be forgiven in that it’s a VR game, it’s still ridiculous for characters to act hurt or hungry, only to remember that they’re in a video game (multiple times).
GBN murders any tension the show tries to foster. Because GBN is a game, there aren’t any _real _stakes, so it was hard for me to get invested. Game concepts aren’t brought up nearly enough, and thus, while more than an afterthought, it felt like GBN was deemed not worthy of exploring.
What does Build Divers deem worthy of exploring, you ask? The characters. Unfortunately, they’re still "explored" about as well as other galaxies. The story primarily follows Riku, the blandest Gundam protagonist I’ve had the displeasure of following. He’s pretty much your generic middle-school shounen protagonist who converts friendship into the energy needed to tear through each and every obstacle that has the misfortune of being in his way. The shrivel of tension that exists in the show is brutalized by Riku, who, past the intro episodes, becomes a nigh-unstoppable force, making the show quite boring. It’s a bad sign that, more often than not, I was rooting for Riku to get his just-desserts. I came to roll my eyes whenever a character spoke of a low success rate, because I knew Riku would pull through all the same. It was extremely unrealistic to see Riku, a total newbie, absolutely brutalize most of his competition.
And if you thought Riku was too bland, Build Divers has you covered with Sarah - a mysterious girl whose sole purpose in this anime is to stand around looking cute. The less I talk about Sarah, the better.
The other characters don’t add much, though a lot of them do end up being more enjoyable than the main bunch. Though I must say, as far as the main group go, Ayame is a saving grace.
Again, battles aren’t that important in Gundam Build Divers. Sure, characters like to do battle, but nothing is really at stake with losing. While some of the Gunpla look quite cool, a lot of the battles lacked a certain “umph,” for a lack of a better term. My favorite challenges were actually the capture the flag events, probably because they added something new to the mix. The ending of the show has a really nice one, but it’s too little too late.
I wanted to like this show, especially since I began it with a friend, yet it didn’t do anything for me. It was hard to drag myself to watch another episode, and it felt like a chore. I didn’t really find the show funny, I didn’t find the action exciting, the characters were boring, and the story was anything but gripping. The only saving grace was - due to being a glorified commercial - the copious amount of fanservice, but even if you’re a Gundam fan, it’s not really worth the watch.
Suffice to say, while I’m wary about calling the show terrible, it was quite mediocre.