I really, really like Gundam Build Fighters.
There are many reasons for that. One is that it’s just a well-made show. The animation is good, the characters are fun, the fight scenes are well-done, and it just all comes together well. But the other reason, and arguably the most important one, is that it’s honest about needing to rely on others.
One of the most common tropes in shonen anime is the protagonist being strengthened by the power of friendship. The protagonist thinks about all the people he’s met and befriended, and this motivates him to power up and defeat the final boss. Or sometimes they’ll have a tinker bell moment where everyone claps their hands and lends the protagonist their power. But in almost every case, the protagonist is the important figure. He is the one who goes out of his way to protect everyone, and he is almost always the one who saves the day.
In Build Fighters, this is not the case.
The main character, Sei Iori, is not protagonist material. He’s a master at building high-quality gunpla, but as far as fighting with them goes, he stinks. He inherited none of his father’s Gunpla-controlling abilities, and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t win a single match. For all his dreams of winning the world tournament, he’s totally incapable of even competing.
That is, until he meets a boy named Reiji.
Reiji, despite never having controlled a Gunpla before, is a master at it. He easily defeats the opponent Sei was struggling with, and makes it clear that he’s a force to be reckoned with. After a bit of drama and convincing, Sei manages to get him to agree to help him win the world tournament.
Now in most animes of this type, Reiji would teach Sei how to control Gunpla, and likely become a mentor figure. But Build Fighters does its own thing. Reiji and Sei become partners, with Sei building Gunpla for Reiji to control. As the series goes on, the two characters end up compensating for each other’s weaknesses, and realizing how much they need each other.
This is a major theme of Build Fighters: You aren’t alone, and it’s okay to ask others for help. We all have our weaknesses, and sometimes we need others to help us compensate for that. The series revisits this theme constantly, going so far as to have it in both opening songs.
Over the course of the series, different characters end up relying on one another or realizing that they need the help of others, often in ways they didn’t expect. Some are more overt, like Fellini being told off for trying to self-destruct and take his opponent with him, or Aila realizing that Reiji is willing to help her escape her awful living situation. Others are more subtle, such as Sei being inspired by China’s passion for building a unique Gunpla. But even the most subtle examples help to reinforce the theme and bring about the idea that relying on others isn’t weakness.
One could cynically suggest that all this is simply done in the interest of getting people to buy Gunpla. But y’know what? Building Gunpla is fun. I recently got into it (in no small part thanks to this series discussing how fun it is) and I’m really enjoying it. But what makes it fun is being able to discuss it with others and share my creations with friends. My first Gunpla came out great, largely thanks to asking friends for help with translation and tips for building it.
Life is meant to be fun, and things are often made more fun with others. Whether it be relying on others for help in escaping a horrible living situation, or just talking about your favorite Gunpla with friends, we need other people. It’s nice to see a series acknowledge that, regardless of whether or not it’s done in the interest of selling anime model kits. Because sometimes, we all need a helping hand.
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