The most recent Gundam series, Gundam Build Diver Re:RISE, reached its conclusion yesterday. With the show wrapped up, I wanted to take a moment to look back on this entry in the Gundam franchise.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Re:RISE was fighting an uphill battle. A sequel to the controversial Build Divers series, Re:RISE was saddled with an MMO-style setting that had already proven divisive. However, this series differentiated itself from its predecessor early on by offering something Build Divers lacked: a compelling central cast.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have a problem with the protagonists of Build Divers, really, they just aren’t very memorable. Riku, Yukio, and the rest are an unimaginative collection of shonen tropes who get the job done, but don’t bring much personality to the table. Re:RISE is maybe not the most imaginative cast either, in fairness–we’ve got brooding protagonist Hiroto, bumbling-yet-cocky Kazami, emotionless girl May, and shy rookie Parvis–but they’re a lot more interesting than the two-dimensional Divers crew, and they all get solid character development as the series progresses.
Re:RISE also tells a more interesting, mature story. While Divers was fairly low-stakes, the sequel ups the ante significantly. Hiroto has already dealt with a significant loss prior to the show’s start, and its repercussions are felt throughout the series; on top of that, there’s a devastating mid-season twist that completely changes the show’s tone.
The whole season really hinges on this turn, which I thought was brilliant and subverted my expectations in a very smart way; I don’t want to give it away for those who haven’t seen it, but the show certainly went off the rails in the best way. In some ways, the latter half of Re:RISE reminded me more of something like Digimon Adventure than a standard Gundam, giving it a very unique place in the overall metaseries.
Where Re:RISE really shines, though, is its mechanical design. Hiroto has perhaps the most interesting suit in Gundam history: the Core Gundam, which can switch between multiple different loadouts and support units thanks to its “PLANETS System.” It’s a fantastic gimmick that allows Hiroto to continually tinker with his mech, subverting the usual Gundam trend of the ‘mid-season upgrade’ by sprinkling various different Core Gundam forms throughout the show’s entire run. My personal favorite is the sniping specialist Uraven Gundam, introduced early in the second half of the series.
Adding to the appeal of the Core Gundam: the model kits for it are excellent. The small base unit (the Core Gundam itself, without any of the PLANETS parts equipped) comes together surprisingly well, and it’s easy to equip the various different armors. It’s one of the slickest gimmicks I’ve seen in recent gunpla, and makes for very enjoyable builds.
Action sequences are memorable and exciting as well; the show made a noticeable transition away from its predecessor’s “signature move” approach to combat. Where Divers was ridiculed for its heavy use of deus ex machina, Re:RISE consistently delivered excellent fight scenes. Not quite on the level the original Build Fighters, perhaps, but probably the closest a Build show has got since then.
That’s probably the most apt praise I can give the show–it doesn’t quite reach the high of Build Fighters for me, but it’s a major step up from Build Fighters Try and Build Divers owing to great action, a solid cast, and a fascinating plot that sets it apart from other Gundam shows. It’s refreshing to see that a franchise as old as Gundam can still be as fresh and inventive as Re:RISE proved to be; I’m honestly going to miss this oddball series, with its tiny Gundam and its planet of dog-people. On the plus side, it ended well (with a massive fight full of fanservice shoutouts), and its entire twenty-six episode run is available for free on YouTube, so I can revisit it any time. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out!