Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE ?
Friendship. Self-confidence. Never giving up. This week, Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE digs into these classic themes, at least on a surface level. By the time the episode reaches its action-packed climax, these easily-resolved platitudes are cast aside to reveal the real message of the episode: there are loads of these transforming Gunpla and they're all super cool. By episode five, the number of in-battle transformations is over the top, uncoincidentally timed with each model kit's release date. Gundam shows have always been about selling models, but this one goes in for the kill. Long before we've learned to appreciate the nuances of the characters, there are dozens of cool-looking mobile suits to entice us into making a purchase. But as neat as these models are, the show is missing one half of the equation that makes Gundam resonate: its human element.
The four main Divers are surprisingly similar to one another: they're all hiding their true selves. We know the most about Hiroto, a reserved high school student who we follow between the digital space of the game and his real-world life in Yokohama. Then there's May, the tight-lipped female version of Hiroto. Hero-wannabe Kazami puts on a gregarious front with plenty of embellished truths, but we don't really know him. And in episode five, the focus turns to the shy, fox-like Diver, Par. Unlike the other three, Par is still a beginner and he's unsure of his skills. He's worried about holding the rest of the team back, a problem that is resolved less with an infusion of confidence or support from his friends and more with straight-up magic because hey, this is a virtual world in which anything can happen. Ever since Gundam Build Fighters, this series of Gunpla-focused shows have increasingly relied on magic masquerading as technology in order to make the impossible possible. This episode places its reasoning in the story's increasingly literal premise that builders' love for Gunpla imbues their kits with special qualities. In this case, the love and care that Par put into building his Gundlander-based suit, Morgiana, has unlocked a new transformation and the power of flight. Like Hiroto, the audience has no reason to judge Par when he talks to his mobile suit: it is very much like a living creature with a will of its own.
There was nothing particularly engaging about Par's journey of self-confidence, which was more of a plot device to bring uncertainty to the team's structure than something that taught us anything new about Par. Really, this episode was all about the mobile suits themselves. The battle showed them off to a striking degree, most notably Hiroto's endlessly transforming Core Gundam. It's not surprising to learn that Bandai Hobby just released Hiroto's suit as a handful of different models, one for each of his transformational units (Earthree, Veetwo, and Marsfour so far), and the sheer amount of variations makes this feels like more of a cash grab than usual. While Gundam has always been something of a commercial, which is fine, I buy lots of Gundam models, the focus on cool transformations at the expense of a deeper story is a little grating.
That said, it might simply be time to hang tight. One of my complaints has been how faceless the unseen enemy has been—completely out of tradition with most Gundam shows that feature a masked antagonist who isn't evil but differently motivated in ways that are often relatable. After the credits, we got a glimpse at this show's take on the Char character, who is poised to add dimension to this currently black-and-white conflict. Right now I'm getting bored of the characters' inability to see that this isn't a regular mission, and a new villain might give them the push they need.
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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