Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE ?
If Hiroto thinks he has to do everything alone, he learned it from a very obvious place: the Gundam canon. Ever since 15-year-old Amuro Ray first got told that piloting the Gundam was something only he could do so he better buck up and shut up, Gundam shows have starred moody teens with way too many adults counting on them to fix everything. But this is Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE, which flips the script for the sake of its younger audience. In a neatly-plotted episode with no extra fat, Hiroto finally learns to rely on other people. It's a reminder that we're far from the usual Gundam message, so the same tricks won't work.
This week, Hiroto's real life and digital experiences align even more tightly than usual. Hinata brings his family some ray fins as a gift, foreshadowing the ray-like mobile suit the team battles later in the episode. She also remarks on Hiroto's parents' considerate teamwork, to which Hiroto disagrees: it's best not to help out with cooking (or fighting underwater) if it's not your forte, he thinks. There's also a deeper parallel between Hiroto's present actions and his past memories, both times in which he took on a monster opponent all on his lonesome. He's repeating history when he bites off more than he can chew as well.
Why does Hiroto avoid team battles? A flashback helps to answer that question. It's not easy to piece together the timeline, but it seems like Hiroto's teammates weren't up to the task so Hiroto had to finish the job himself, destroying a virtual city in the process and, more devastatingly for him, disappointing Eve. I am not quite sure how his solitary pyrrhic victory in the past convinced him to go it alone in the present, but the choice is yet another way to parallel the similarities between the Build Divers. Freddie points out that Hiroto and May are alike but the likenesses don't stop there. Though their reasons for not being team players were different, Kazami also had to learn to ask for help and Par also had to learn not to withdraw from the team. By bringing together these four unlikely, previously isolated players, Re:RISE is really hammering home this message about people being better together. While it's a positive message, it hardly contains the high drama of the usual Gundam "war is bad" moral, and there's Re:RISE's greatest weakness. While other Gundam shows can coast on the significance of their anti-war message, this low-stakes MMORPG story needs to be entertaining in other ways, or else.
Finally, I have to ask: are any of the women in this game real? It's being pretty heavily hinted that Eve was an El-Diver in the same vein as Gundam Build Divers' Sarah, and it seems as if she disappeared the day after the battle the Coalition of Volunteers fought to save Sarah's life. Something happened to other electronic lifeforms on that day, it seems. Now we're realizing that May might not be a real person either when her suit transforms into a DARLING in the FRANXX-ish feminine cyborg. What's she doing here? What's her mission for Magee? Far more interesting than the moral message of the show are the threads of plot just now beginning to surface.
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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