Gunpla builder Sei Iori plays the Gunpla Battle video game and prepares to launch from the Albion in his custom Build Strike Gundam. Sei spots several Zaku IIs and thinks he can easily take them out, until his father Takeshi tells him that he didn’t snap in his arm properly. A Zaku then blasts the Build Strike, causing Sei to wake up from his dream. Sei examines the Build Strike kit and realizes he fell asleep before finishing the right arm. His mother, Rinko, calls him from downstairs and asks him to run the shop while she goes out to shop for food. She tells him to be good to the customers, but Sei wonders how to do that in an out of the way store with no customers. A boy named Reiji sits atop a skyscraper under construction and wonders how much bigger the place is than Arian. A security guard tells him to get down from where he is, and Reiji declares that he’s decided where to go. Sei dusts off the shelves and stops to speak with two customers: a man and his son, Keisuke. They both admire a display case of Gundams that Sei built. The man says that Sei must be good at Gunpla Battle, which makes Sei nervous. The man then notices a trophy from the 2nd Gunpla Battle Championship World Tournament, which belongs to Takeshi. Keisuke asks about the Wing Gundam, but his father doesn’t recognize it, so Sei starts babbling about its abilities and history. Keisuke wants to get the Wing Gundam, and his father says that if he builds it well, he could win at Gunpla Battle. A boy named Susumu Sazaki comes in and disagrees, saying that well-built Gunpla alone won’t win a match. Sazaki then pulls out his Gyan kit and challenges Sei to a fight. Sei accepts and chooses the Wing Gundam as his unit. Plavsky particles setup the forest game stage and scan the Gunpla. Sazaki attacks with his beam saber and immediately puts Sei on the defensive. Sei jumps and transforms to get some distance, but Sazaki tosses his shield and destroys one of Sei’s wings. Sei tries to fire the buster rifle, but Sazaki cuts off the hand holding it. He then beheads the Wing Gundam and stabs its torso, winning the match. Keisuke is impressed by Sazaki and decides that he wants the Gyan instead. Sazaki reminds Sei of his poor piloting skills and thinks they should team up. Sei refuses again and says that Sazaki is too rough with Gunpla and can’t be trusted with them. Sei wishes he had better control skills like Takeshi, who used the Gundam to take down an Asshimar and Re-GZ with one shot in a tournament. Sei runs off when Rinko returns, which makes her wonder what’s wrong. Sei walks alone and wishes he could win a battle.
A 7th Gunpla Battle World Championship commercial shows off various fights, including a Messala versus a Rig Contio and the Gaz-L and Gaz-R against a Den’an-Zon and Den’an-Gei in Einerads. A Dijeh slices apart the Freedom Gundam, while an Eagail and Lumber Gundam are destroyed by a red Wing Gundam. Sei watches the commercial and realizes he can’t beat guys like that, but he doesn’t want to team up with Sazaki. Reiji walks up to Sei and asks what the video is about, and Sei is surprised that Reiji doesn’t know about Gunpla Battle. Reiji offers Sei some of his bun, and a baker accuses Reiji of being a thief. Reiji says he just took it because it was outside the store, so Sei deflates the situation by offering to pay for the bread. Sei then buys Reiji a soda, and he doesn’t know what that is either, but he likes it. Reiji apologizes for causing Sei trouble and vows to pay him back. He gives Sei a gem and tells him to wish on the gem if he’s in trouble. At the Seiho Academy, Sei’s classmate China Kousaka comments that the gem is beautiful. Sei completes the Build Strike and shows it off to Rinko, although the weapons aren’t ready. Rinko comments that it has the same aura as the Gunpla Takeshi built. Sazaki appears and is impressed by the Build Strike, which he wants to pilot. Sei wants to prove himself and offers to give up the Build Strike if he loses. An old man named Ral listens in and decides to judge the battle. The battle begins in a desert stage, and Sazaki drops his weapons so that Sei can’t make excuses about losing. The Build Strike’s mobility is impressive, but Sei’s skills are still lacking. Sei loses his beam saber and is knocked to the edge of the ring. Sei wishes that he could win, and Reiji appears and makes him charge forward into the Gyan. Reiji says he came because of Sei’s wish and takes control of the Build Strike. After getting accustomed to the controls, he starts fighting and kicks Sazaki away. He knocks away Sazaki’s beam saber, forcing him to pick up his other weapons. Ral is impressed and wonders if Reiji is a Newtype. Reiji charges in with the beam saber and slices apart the Gyan to end the fight. Sei is amazed to have won, but Reiji has disappeared. Sei runs out into the street, but Reiji is nowhere to be seen. Sei realizes that Reiji is the fighter who can best control his Gunpla. Sei eventually gives up and goes home, where Reiji is eating his dinner.
Coming off of Gundam AGE, Build Fighters represents a pretty major departure from the norm for Gundam. It uses the same concept as Gunpla Builders, which coincidentally was also written by Yousuke Kuroda. it also features loads of fanservice, including appearances by lots of obscure mobile suits. There are even voice actor cameos, as Ramba Ral’s original voice actor plays the lookalike Ral, and Rinko’s mother is voiced by the same actress who previously played Toniya Malme and Murrue Ramius. I enjoyed the wacky concept behind Gunpla Builders and wished it could be extended to a longer format, and Build Fighters fulfills that. The twist here is that star Sei Iori is great and building kits, but he sucks at the video game. Enter the mysterious Reiji, a boy so strange that he comes across as an alien or some otherworldly fairy or genie. The idea of them teaming up has potential, and throughout the series I’m sure we’ll see all sorts of cameos from the franchise’s 34-year history. The story here isn’t particularly deep, and it’ll probably take on a typical tournament format, but those elements alone aren’t disqualifiers. If the execution is good, the series can rise above these anime tropes. At the very least, Build Fighters is a refreshing change from the Gundam status quo and represents the biggest shake up since G Gundam.