‘Gundam Build Divers‘ is a 2018 kids’ anime series based on the popular Gundam franchise. It is directed by Shinya Watada and written by Noboru Kimura. The series was produced by the Tokyo-based production company Sunrise and dubbed into English by Bang Zoom Entertainment before being released by Funimation. This review is based on the dub.
High school student Riku Mikami (Erik Scott Kimerer) and his best friend Yukio Hidaka (Erica Mendez) are huge fans of Gundam, particularly of Gunpla, an online virtual reality game where you can pilot your own mech suit. Riku pilots the Gundam 00 Diver and later Gundam 00 Sky. They both greatly admire Kyoya Kujo (Mark Whitten), the highest-ranked player, leader of Team Avalon, and pilot of Gundam AGEII Magnum. Riku decides to start his own Gunpla team with Yukio, picking up classmate Momo (Cassandra Lee Morris), friend Koichi (Kyle McCarley), jaded Ayame (Cherami Leigh), and the mysterious Sarah (Kayli Mills). Soon, they find themselves against a group of cheaters who are using “break decals” to hack into the system to strengthen their own Gundams. Riku and his “Build Divers” team are pulled into the conflict and fight to save the game they love.
The show is part Gundam, part Sword Art Online, and part Zoids. It has all of the hallmarks of a Gundam show, but having a VR setting made the violence less harsh than you would find in a typical Gundam show like Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Now, keep in mind, this is a show for kids, so they definitely toned down a lot of the political and social commentary. Now, the animation is excellent and I loved the fan-service from all of the different Gundams. There were appearances from several different Mobile Suits and Mobile Fighters that were all cool to see outside of their usual element.
As for the show itself, it is split into two story-arcs. The first one involves a group of hackers trying to rig the system in order to gain an advantage against other players while the second involves a virus that could destroy Gunpla if it is not handled. There is a lot of filler episodes along the way that were fun to watch. Of the story-arcs, I thought the first one was more interesting, but I was hoping for a tournament arc where Riku and his team could face off against the best in Gunpla.
Even as a kids’ show, I kind of enjoyed it. It had some very interesting characters and I liked watching the ol’ “power of friendship” trope that you see in a lot of children’s anime. It was fun, well-designed, and well-acted on the part of the voice actors.
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