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 04: Gunpla Idol Kirara☆
Jerid Messa and Kacricon Cacooler, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (anime)
The episode begins with our heroes taking on opponents who look suspiciously like Titans pilots Jerid and Kacricon. Their Gunpla of choice here is the Marasai, a mainstay of the Titans mobile suit forces that both of these men would have piloted. These are the first Gundam character lookalikes to show up since Mr. Ral, and they won’t be the last.
Mihoshi’s outfits in both her incognito and idol personas are heavily influenced by Gundam characters. The Kirara persona most closely resembles the pink-haired Coordinator songstress Lacus Clyne from Gundam SEED and her doppelganger Meer Campbell from Gundam SEED Destiny. In fact, even her custom Gunpla’s color scheme is reminiscent of a Zaku Warrior that would appear with Meer live on stage! Her “civilian” guise looks very similar to what Sleeves cyber-Newtype Marida Cruz wears while infiltrating the colony Industrial 7 in the first episode of Gundam UC.
Mihoshi is a fan of the GM variations from Gundam 0080! As a big fan of Yutaka Izubuchi’s designs myself, I’m inclined to say she’s got good taste. This cold weather variant makes its sole anime appearance in 0080’s opening scene during a Zeon raid on an arctic Federation base.
RH-35E Draken-E, Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (anime)
The Draken-E was, as Sei says here, a middle mobile suit used by the neutral Side 6 colony of Riah. Middle mobile suits, as well as petite and junior MS, are exosuits that are significantly smaller than their military counterparts and are typically used for maintenance and industrial work. The Draken-E, however, appears as part of Riah’s defense forces and is equipped with weapons.
While the GM Sniper II had long been considered a fan-favorite design, it was the last 0080 design to get the HGUC treatment by a significant margin: most of the OVA’s MS had been released as part of the line in 2003-04 and 2008. When this episode aired in 2013, the GM Sniper II kit had only been out a little over a year. This, however, also meant that the GM Sniper II is perhaps the highest quality Gundam 0080 kit in 1/144 scale, and it even included a tiny Draken-E that came with two different arm configurations.
GF13-044NNP Mandala Gundam, Mobile Fighter G Gundam (anime)
This makes two episodes in a row that that tiny screen in the corner gives us a cameo, and it’s another G Gundam one at that! The Mandala Gundam is Neo-Nepal’s representative Gundam, based on traditional Buddhist imagery: its head is adorned with tight snail-curls, its limbs are made of prayer beads, its lower half is a bonsho bell, and it wields a khakkhara staff.
RX-78GP04G Gundam “Gerbera”, Hobby Japan (magazine), Gundam Evolve (anime)
The “Gundam Unit 4” Sei is referring to here is the RX-78GP04G Gundam “Gerbera,” which never actually appears in Gundam 0083 alongside its sibling GP units in Gundam form. Instead, it’s passed on to Cima Garahau’s pirate fleet in a shady deal and turned into the significantly more Zeon-appropriate-looking Gerbera Tetra. Incidentally, the HGUC Gerbera Tetra kit was only months old at the time of this episode’s original airing.
The GP04G had already made a cameo in animation as a secret design plan during the credits of Gundam Evolve episode 4, and would eventually receive the Re/100 model treatment a few years after this episode in 2015. A mid-conversion variant of the Gerbera Tetra with a more Gundam-like face, called the “Roll-Out version,” appeared in the anime short Mayfly of Space 2 created for Gundam 0083’s Japanese Blu-ray release in 2016, and received a P-Bandai HGUC kit that same year.
Gundam Encyclopedia (ガンダム大百科)
Kirara’s idol image may be manufactured, but that doesn’t mean she’s not putting in that work. She’s reading a book called “Gundam Daihyakka”, and while this edition doesn’t look like it’s based on a specific, existing volume, that title has been used multiple times by different Gundam reference books over the years.
Fighter or Booster?
Yuuki’s distinction here between a “fighter” or “booster” here is probably more to do with the characteristics of a Core Fighter versus a Core Booster than what those words actually mean in a more general sense. Typically across the Gundam metaverse, a Core Fighter functions as a lightly armed escape craft built around a Gundam’s cockpit. A Core Booster, on the other hand, refers to a Core Fighter attached to a much more heavily armed Booster unit, allowing the fighter to act more effectively independent of a mobile suit. In the case of the original RX-78-2 Gundam, the White Base’s two Core Booster units (in the movie versions anyway) functioned as powerful air support units, but did not act as upgrades to the Gundam itself. I think it’s the difference in power here that Yuuki is referring to.
The Build Booster that Sei has created is based on the Strike Rouge’s Ootori system (though personally I think it looks closer to the Akatsuki Gundam’s atmospheric Oowashi pack). While the Ootori did demonstrate that it could function autonomously to some degree, it did not appear to act as an escape craft like a Core Fighter would. And that’s where the Ootori and Build Booster differ: as Reiji is able to continue fighting directly piloting the Build Booster, much closer to how a Core Fighter might function.
“You still don’t know the true Gundam!” Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack (anime)
This week’s preview signoff references the tagline that would end the initial trailers for the movie Char’s Counterattack.
Dedicated in loving memory to
the Gunpla Cat
(May 2007 – June 2020)