Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE ?
For four and a half series, the Gundam Build canon has been a very different place from the often tragic, often epic-scale Gundam multiverse. Fans sometimes theorized about "Gundam Valhalla," a half-joking hypothesis spurred by backdrop cameos of iconic Gundam characters in the backdrop of Gundam Build shows just having fun-- as if this is the peaceful universe they go to after they die. Because if there was anything that characterized Gundam Build shows, it was peace. Now, Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE has introduced a mid-series twist that has shattered all expectations. This earthshaking development has shown that I've seriously underestimated this show: it isn't afraid to take risks or operate on a tremendous scale. The emotional impact is swift and shocking: this show about a video game isn't playing around.
Enormous tonal shifts are built into the Gundam canon's DNA. Its founder director, Yoshiyuki Tomino, earned the nickname "Kill 'em all Tomino" after several series with disturbingly high body counts. And at the same time, even the darkest Gundam shows maintain a sense of whimsy-- playful child characters, romantic subplots, moments of slapstick comedy. With "The Shuddering World," Re:RISE now feels more like a Tomino creation than any of the sunny, peaceful Gundam Build shows. Nothing that director Shun Kudō nor episode scriptwriter Yasunori Yamada have worked on previously have prepared me for this week's plot—a dramatic, artful battle followed by a devastating loss. The characters' stubborn refusal to acknowledge that the mission might be something more than a game—a previously irritating plotpoint—is what made this week's payoff possible. Never in a million years did I expect that the story would make good on its most consequential threat. But the Build Divers indeed failed the mission, and the terrible silence that followed (with no “restart” option) made it simply and stunningly impactful. In my review last week I marveled that Re:RISE "has become more like a Gundam show than a Gunpla-focused spin-off" but even then I never could have guessed the scale.
What's more, it's implied that the Build Divers' failure has repercussions for the real world, too. The four are unceremoniously logged out and return to a world where servers are failing everywhere. One of my big gripes with Gundam Build Divers was the way a major in-game discovery (the MMORPG spontaneously created a digital lifeform!) was not a big deal outside of the game. If they found life in World of Warcraft, that would make the news at least! The decision to make the in-game tragedy of Re:RISE affect the outer world is like a redo for its predecessor's sins. At the center of my newfound forgiving feelings is Kazami, who seems rightfully traumatized by the massacre he unintentionally caused with his loose lips. The scene where they return to the village and Kazami tries to assure the villagers—badly—shows a level of emotional intelligence that I didn't expect him, or the series as a whole, to have.
What I'm most excited about is the preview for next week. It appears that Parviz might be in a wheelchair in real life, lending new significance to his early difficulty taking flight in-game, plus marking the first time the franchise has shown somebody to use a game avatar as it was intended—to allow a person to create an in-game persona different from themself. As upsetting as this episode's developments were, the fact that it finally made me feel something this intense shows that I significantly underestimated what Re:RISE was capable of. Who knows what risks it will be willing to take from here?
Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren helps Gundam fans build their own model kits at Gunpla 101.
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