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First Impressions: Gundam Build Fighters, Unbreakable Machine Doll

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Mate, listen. Just because I’m an otaku pig who loves moe/ecchi pandering garbage doesn’t mean that I think that all efforts at pandering are equal. I look upon your feeble attempts to satisfy my shallow kinks and I laugh. And for the record, your character design sucks.

I’ll start this first impressions post with Unbreakable Machine Doll. I’d been looking forward to this show because it seemed like it would have some interesting world-building concepts. The cute girl on the promotional art had nothing to do with it, naturally. As it turned out, she was annoying, and almost every single aspect of this premiere was bland and uninteresting.

Let’s go back to what I was saying about not all attempts at pandering being equal. On paper, I kind of get the appeal of having a human doll who does everything you say and wants to jump your bones at every opportunity. Actually, I don’t get the appeal of that at all, but for the sake of the argument, let’s just say I do. But I don’t feel as if the creators had any affection for her character whatsoever.

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Urgh, seriously? And she even says that to a little kid. What a stupid jealous bitch.

The guy is a total asswipe as well. I don’t think he smiled once in this entire opening episode. And he only seems to think of himself and his angsty protagonist problems.

Probably the part of the episode that sticks with me the most was when the haughty blonde chick challenges the protag and he’s supposed to be an utter loser and yet he manages to fight her on equal ground and save her through gobbledygook magic. Didn’t Infinite Stratos open with that exact same plot device?

I don’t know if anyone else feels this too, but I think the best kinds of series in this genre are the ones where you can sense the creators were smiling as they worked on it. No matter how tired the cliches are, the sense of earnestness leaps off the screen. I had pegged this series as being one of that kind, since the light novel is well-regarded, but alas, it had this stuck-up, uptight feeling to it throughout, much like the protagonist. Perhaps this is the result of a lazy adaptation? The animation was rather poor, especially the CG.

This is all a shame because the setting actually does show some sparks of imagination. It seems to be set in a fantasy world based on the late nineteenth / early twentieth century and reminds me of Fullmetal Alchemist. Any action scene set on a train is an immediate plus in my book. The puppet system also seems like it’s well thought out and rather neat from what I’ve seen so far. No doubt it’ll be elaborated on in further episodes to come.

Not sure if I want to stick around and see all that, though. Am most likely dropping this and reading the novel instead. But the utter soullessness of the characters just doesn’t sit right with me either way.

Next up, that other “pandering” series, except for kids and toy robot fans: Gundam Build Fighters.

I can’t say I’m really all that against making a kiddy show out of Gundam, since the entire franchise has always been a glorified toy commercial. Yes, it did manage to spin complex war stories, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, but if there’s one thing to be said about Gundam as a franchise, it’s how adept it is at changing and adapting with the times. The same can’t be said for the fans, though, and from what I’ve seen, reactions to this series from those who consider themselves Gundam “purists” have ranged from outrage to tired apathy. It must be a sad feeling, seeing a franchise you once loved go out of its way to exclude you.

Well, perhaps that’s a little unfair to say, because this first episode of Build Fighters actually did sneak in a lot of references here and there that only older Gundam fans would notice. Most likely, this is the kind of series that Gundam‘s original audience would now be watching alongside their children. Now that actually sounds like fun!

I saw what you did there

I saw what you did there, Gundam

As for the “kiddy” part of the premiere, I’d have to say that it actually did quite well for itself for the most part. I’m not quite sure how the battles are even meant to work, but the idea of getting your toy robots to fight in a virtual battlefield strikes my inner kid self as SUPER FUCKING AWESOME. The fact remains that the setting is still ridiculous and poorly explained, however.

There’s also an underlying “wish fulfillment” theme being developed in the script, which to be frank I don’t approve of. In the climax of the episode, we see the main character make a wish and this mysterious kid turns up and fights his battles for him. What is that meant to be telling the kids who watch this?

On top of that, the rival kid is annoying, and not just in the mildly irritating way. Schneider wrote a very pointed and insightful post about the problematic depiction of the Sazaki’s character and how it’s symptomatic of many Gundam fans’ attitudes. That’s the elephant in the room when it comes to an anime like this, and I suppose if I have to be honest, even if there were no butthurt fans marginalising any potential audience for this, I don’t think Build Fighters succeeds well enough on its own terms to garner much of a following anyway. But who knows.

Personally, I’ll be giving this series the three episode test at least, because hey, I think the main character’s a sweet kid and I like his friendship with Reiji. That’s enough to keep me entertained for now. I know it’s not a series for everyone, but a little nostalgia now and then doesn’t hurt, does it?

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Posted on October 9, 2013, in Reviews and Impressions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I think that Gundam BF has a huge potential and it’s hard for Sunrise to fuck it up (like they did with AGE, as most Gundam fans will remind you) as long as they stick to a standard sports-tournament plot. Gundam as a franchise has a large volume of mechs and just setting up fights between mobile suits from different shows would make a lot of fans happy. I was just being somber in my post, but I’m actually hyped as fuck.

    Reiji is a weird element, though.

  2. Just watched the first episode and I’m more or less agree with you, but this is a certain watch for me since that the battle choreography is slick, strategic and sensible. I think it has the potential to become good when plot and character progression becomes steady.

    The way controls are done is not clear, but that is true for any mechanical toy anime ever, but at least the battles themselves work as if actual Gundam battles are going on. The battlefield forming scene reminded me of Accel World, except that in Accel World it’s based on actual visual images while in this anime it appeared that the battling platform emits particles that form optic illusions and battlefield data, which is similar to how card game anime visualize card duels.

    The rather immature writing at this point is more or less justified in-universe as if I am in Sei’s shoes, I would be tempted (but ultimately avoid) to do what he did and he is for the most part, an immature fanboy of Gunpla who lives under the shadow of his father and I expect he will bring himself out from that some time after he meets Reiji. I won’t consider this anime to be decent if he ends on living under Reiji’s shadow instead.

    The setting is indeed poorly explained, but I don’t get why it is stupid. Also, if the linked article is an indication, then Sazaki’s defeat by Reiji essentially means that Sazaki is in the wrong, just like how typical Gundam fans are in the wrong for bullying new fans who admire additional/different elements that old fans couldn’t care less about. I don’t even think that Sazaki would appear in later episodes more than being a cameo.

    Nevertheless, your first impression of Gundam Build Fighters gave me some insights on how should I watch the later episodes. Hopefully it pass your three episode test. :-)

    • The setting is indeed poorly explained, but I don’t get why it is stupid.

      Ah, I should probably say – it’s no more stupid than other toy-promotion anime which makes the world revolve entirely around glorifying a children’s game with some violent implications. Perhaps “ridiculous” or “silly” is a better word for it, because stupid implies it’s a bad thing. My apologies – that phrase came out sounding unnecessarily negative when I read back through it.

      Anyway, thanks for offering your thoughts on this series too. I do think it has potential!

  3. At least Yaya was having fun? It is perhaps a bit ironic that the only character who didn’t feel like a doll was the actual doll. I’m not really sure how I feel about the show as a whole yet, but I think it could go places… Maybe?

  4. The light novel is great, definitely worth reading. Can’t say much for the anime since you ripped it a new one, but yes, it certainly didn’t feel like the light novel at all. Yaya is as annoying in the light novel, sadly, but Raishin is a lot more likeable. So is Charlotte. She’s actually pretty cute in the light novel. She seems like an ass now, but that’s the point. She becomes dere dere as the series progress, so much so her friends all find her disgusting “kimochi warui” when she thanks them or apologizes (ie becomes more polite as compared to now). A running gag of sorts.

    As for the “utter loser”, I think you’re mistaken there. Raishin scored the second lowest in theoretical test scores, but as Yaya puts it, he is the best at actual combat. That was why he could fight Charlotte evenly. He is also a strategist, if you see from the light novel, but he just sucks at studying (like most typical shounen protagonists……). In terms of combat capability, there are few who match him. He’s not the strongest – he gradually gets stronger throughout the series, but he’s not a loser. He just sucks at studying (and I think his being Japanese but trying to take an examination in England anyway contributes to it, no doubt his English sucks and this is supposedly set in Liverpool, England).

    And he actually smiles. In the light novel anyway. But the anime no doubt skipped that to compress a couple chapters’ worth of content into a single episode. The fight scene was not as well done as in the manga or the light novel……probably budget limitations?

    Sorry if I sound defensive here, because Unbreakable Machine Doll is actually my favorite light novel series (I own all 12 volumes). The anime might suck, but I can guarantee the light novel is a good read.

    • No problem! I did assume this was more of a butchering of the source material than the actual story being bad. I’m happy to hear that the characters are indeed more likable in the novel, so I will definitely pick it up and give it a read.

  5. Character design was indeed horrendous. The colours were inappropriately used.

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