Beginning with the Mobile Suit Gundam anime and feature film in 1979, the mech media and merchandise empire and its spinoffs have traditionally sorta centered around one or more youths hopping inside awesome humanoid mechs to stop civil wars between people living on Earth and those who've colonized space. This fall the newest iteration of the franchise, Gundam Build Fighters, is about a middle-school student who is really good at building Bandai's plastic Gundam model kits... and then battling them like Pokemon with friends and rivals.

Following in the footsteps of 2010's Gunpla Builders, which celebrated the 30-year-old hobby of building Gundam mech model kits, the new series is aimed at younger kids who are both new to the series and perhaps new to putting together models. The new series intends to pay homage to all previous Gundam incarnations, with characters building and battling 1/114th scale versions of all of the most famous mechs from Gundam history (Don't worry Toonami kids, Gundam Wing will be a big deal in it).

Like a lot of modern animated series -- especially anime marketed to kids -- the series will blend traditional and CG animation as it shifts from focusing on human characters to battling robots. In accordance with the anime, Bandai will be releasing tons of corresponding model kits every month that fans in Japan and elsewhere can pick up in real life.

Build Fighters joins tokusatsu powerhouse Ultraman Ginga with its people + toys formula this year in Japan, although Ginga, of course, has a henshin element. Fans of manga like Clamp's Angelic Layer (or Chobits), Atlus's Robopon games, Nintendo's Custom Robo games or the Medabots franchise should be right at home with BF's tropes.

As a toy dude, I'm pretty okay with the direction of this series, but mostly only because as a manga dude I have Vertical's two new Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin hardcovers to read. A steady stream of translated and reprinted Yoshikazu Yasuhiko mech drawings brings about a harmony not unlike that struck by man and machine in Gundam lore, no?

Gundam Build Fighters will debut in Japan this October. No word on whether it'll find its way to North America.



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