Gundam Build Fighters (2013) isn’t just one of the top-rated recent Gundam shows, but one of the top-rated shows of the past decade, period. A veritable love-letter to Gunpla, Build Fighters is a show for, by, and about Gundam fans. It offers humor and heart through references so arcane, it’s clear the creators dredged the depths of the Gundam canon.
Welcome back to Deep Dive, Tom Aznable’s reader-favorite column all about catching the more esoteric aspects of the Gundam multiverse that make it into the show. Nothing passes Tom’s eagle eye for spotting this stuff (we suspect Newtype abilities), but this column focuses specifically on rare sightings and deep cuts. Read on to see what you may have missed:
Episode 03: Full Package
Best Mecha Collection
The original line of 1/144 Gunpla was released by Bandai as part of their “Best Mecha Collection” line. This line of plastic model kits would ultimately be dominated by mobile suits and ships from Mobile Suit Gundam, but also included robots and vehicles from other sci-fi series as well. In fact, the original RX-78 Gundam was Best Mecha Collection No.4, preceded by several super robots: Daidenzin (from the Super Sentai series Denshi Sentai Denziman), God Sigma, and Gordian.
Ral’s Gunpla of choice in this battle is Best Mecha Collection No. 9: the Gouf, of course! As is plainly seen by how stiffly it moves in Gunpla Battle, kits of this vintage have a very limited range of movement by modern standards. Gunpla in the Best Mecha Collection didn’t even use polycaps, though the only Gunpla of the time that did were the 1/60 scale kits.
Ral must be a bit of a purist to not do any kind of customization to his Gouf, since this lack of poseability is exactly the kind of thing that led to the popularity of Gunpla modification tutorials in hobby magazines at the time.
“That’s some precise firing! As such, it’s easy for the computer to predict.” Mobile Suit Gundam (anime)
While this gag is definitely making fun of the stiffness of what is now a 40-year-old model kit, this is also a direct reference to a moment in Amuro Ray’s final battle with the original Ramba Ral’s Gouf. When the Gundam opens fire on the Gouf with its beam rifle, the Gouf is able to dodge these shots with fairly small movements. Ral’s lines after this feat make up the very quote being closely paraphrased here.
Beam Saber Landing Pose, Mobile Suit Gundam (anime)
Gundam Build Fighters does its first riff on the iconic RX-78-2 landing pose, and it won’t be the last time you see it in this franchise. This is of course the pose the original Gundam lands in after cutting its first Zaku in half in the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam.
“Your own strength didn’t win the battle! It was the performance of your mobile suit! Don’t forget it!”, Mobile Suit Gundam (anime)
After Amuro Ray defeats the original Ral’s Gouf, Ral manages to swing away to safety while jabbing at Amuro with this line. Amuro fires back by calling Ral a sore loser. In this case, I’m pretty sure Mr. Ral is being exactly that.
Creos’ Mr. Color is the official paint line of Gunpla, with Gunpla instructions referring specifically to Mr. Color paints in swatches and even a Gundam-specific subset of paints branded as “Gundam Color.” Randal Pro here seems to use very similar branding, but it looks like an actual bottle of Mr. Color Thinner got snuck into the shot as well.
MSN-01 Psycommu System Zaku, Mobile Suit Variations (design series)
Making its anime debut, we have the first mobile suit in the Newtype-specific Zeon MSN-line (the more famous MSN-02 Zeong being the second)! Of course, the Psycommu Zaku appears here as a Gunpla kit. It would later make its in-universe mobile suit debut when it was prominently featured in a new epilogue created for the Gundam Thunderbolt compilation movie December Sky. The Psycommu Zaku actually shares its model number with another obscure MS, the apocryphal Kikeroga, which appeared in the original outline of Mobile Suit Gundam before its episode count got cut down.
RMS-009 Septem, After War Gundam X (anime)
YMS-09 Prototype Dom, Mobile Suit Variations (design series)
Two not-quite-Doms squaring off! The Septem is Gundam X’s stand-in for the MS-09 Dom used by the show’s stand-in for Zeon, the Space Revolutionary Army. Its opponent is the Prototype Dom (not to be confused with the YMS-08B Dom Test Type). You can’t really see it from the back, but the Prototype Dom in many ways resembles a half-step between the Zaku II and the final Dom, despite the fact that those MS were developed by two competing weapons development companies within Zeon.
Topp Team Zeon Uniform, Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (anime)
This distinctive olive drab and gray Zeon uniform only seems to have appeared in use by the Topp Team in The 08th MS Team. More specifically, this guy’s uniform most closely resembles the team member Dell. Actually, since this seems to be the only time this kind of uniform has appeared, and the Topp Team’s Zakus all appear in a yellow color scheme, maybe the implication is supposed to be that their gear is all sun-faded? Just a thought.
Flanagan Institute, Mobile Suit Gundam (anime)
I almost called these guys dorks for this line and this whole situation, but then I remembered that I’m the one writing a column pointing out 40-year-old references in a cartoon about fighting model kits, so here we are.
Anyway, the Flanagan Institute is Zeon’s Newtype research laboratory, which studied potential Newtypes and developed the cutting-edge Newtype-interfacing Psycommu system. The eponymous Dr. Flanagan himself aided in the study of Lalah Sune’s Newtype abilities and the development of her Elmeth mobile armor. While Lalah is definitely the Institute’s most famous alumnus, a number of children studied by the institute also appeared as the focus of The 08th MS Team’s somewhat divisive finale “Last Resort.”
So basically, Reiji is so good that my guy with the glasses here suspects Newtype abilities.
G-838 Mahiroo, Turn A Gundam (anime)
The Mahiroo appears late in Turn A Gundam, used by Gym Gingham’s personal forces. Fun fact: this mobile suit’s name is actually a meta-reference to the name of its designer, veteran animator Mahiro Maeda.
ZM-S19S Shy-Tarn, Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (anime)
The lone Zanscare cosplayer in this group of Zeons is the most likely owner of this Gunpla – you have to respect him for having his own style. The Shy-Tarn is a heavily armed mobile suit meant to defend the Zanscare Empire homeland against invaders.
MS-14C Gelgoog Cannon, Mobile Suit Variations (design series)
The Gelgoog Cannon is a limited-production fire support variant of Zeon’s high performance Gelgoog mobile suit. It had previously made its animation debut in a 2009 PSN-only ONA prequel to the PS3 game Gundam Battlefield Record 0081, directed by the eventual director of Gunpla Builders and Gundam Thunderbolt Kou Matsuo.
Personally, I don’t think it’s an accident that the first international Gunpla Battler to appear in Build Fighters hails from Italy. Ral mentions the new Gunpla Boom winning over Europe and North America, but in the ‘70s and ‘80s, tons of robot anime made its way to Italy, including the original Mobile Suit Gundam. In fact, Italy was likely the first country that Gundam was exported to, with its first episode airing there a mere two weeks after the series ended in Japan – and months before even the first Gunpla were released.
“Fly, Gundam!” Mobile Suit Gundam (anime)
His Gundam literally does fly here, but Sei’s dad is also namedropping the theme song to the original Mobile Suit Gundam, written by director Yoshiyuki Tomino himself under his Rin Iogi pseudonym.
ZMT-D15M Galguyu, Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (anime)
A couple of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos go by on the monitor showing an aquatic Gunpla Battle at the regional qualifiers. First up, we have another Zanscare suit, the Galguyu. This is a transformable amphibious unit that’s also kind of a scaled-down version of Zanscare’s powerful Abigor mobile suit.
Flounder Gundam, Mobile Fighter G Gundam (anime)
The Galguyu’s opponent is the Flounder Gundam, one of the many goofy marine-life themed variations on the Mermaid Gundam that Neo-Denmark sortied in G Gundam’s finale.
“With the resources we sent… Zeon can fight for another 10 years” Mobile Suit Gundam (anime)
Why should Ral have all the fun quoting Mobile Suit Gundam? It should be pretty obvious that Sazaki’s favorite character is the original Gyan’s pilot M’Quve, and this is one of his most iconic quotes, said during his retreat after a major Zeon loss at the Battle of Odessa.
The Blue Destiny Unit 1 had previously had its anime debut (outside of games anyway) also as Gunpla in Build Fighters’ direct ancestor Gunpla Builders: Beginning G. This, however, is the Unit 3’s debut, though it looks like someone has beefed it up with some 1/100 scale arms! The Blue Destiny units were modified versions of the RX-79[G] Gundam Ground Type outfitted with the EXAM system, a technology designed to simulate the abilities of a Newtype pilot. Units 1 and 3 also both happen to be the ones Yuu Kajima (aka the player) piloted in the events of the Blue Destiny Sega Saturn games.
“One shot?” Mobile Suit Gundam, (anime)
After all the line’s that Ral has quoted from his own namesake, this time he’s quoting Char Aznable. In the second episode of Mobile Suit Gundam, Amuro successfully destroys a Zaku with the Gundam’s beam rifle in his first space battle, shocking Char at the realization that the Gundam’s firepower is enough to destroy a Zeon mobile suit with only one shot.
Yuuma Kousaka? Gundam Build Fighters Try (anime)
China introduces this brown-haired, brown-eyed little boy as her younger brother – a younger brother who ostensibly in seven years, will become the blue-haired, blue-eyed Yuuma Kousaka, one of the protagonists of Build Fighters’ sequel series. This is a formative moment in the life of a talented builder and battler, and evidently Sei himself left enough of an impression on young Yuuma that he’d morph into his veritable doppelgänger in his teens.
“You’ll see the battlefield of Newtypes!” Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (anime)
It’s the end of our third episode, and appropriately enough we have a reference to the preview sign-off from the third Gundam series: Gundam ZZ. This one is a bit more obvious in Japanese than it is in English, since “You’ll see the battlefield of Gunpla Battle!” doesn’t sound too natural. The word used here for battlefield, “shuraba (修羅場)”, is a fairly distinctive one, so the reference is unmistakable. “You’ll see the battlefield of Newtypes!” was the sign-off for ZZ’s first eight episode previews, with all the ones afterward getting unique lines more specific to the coming episode.