Go back to the beginning and Try again, show.
In the final episode of Gundam Build Fighters Try, there was a contest where the winner was chosen based on his or her peerless design and craftsmanship of their own Gundam plastic model (Gunpla). At the end, it came down to two finalists: one of the three protagonists and his rival. Their numbers were 6 and 9 respectively. Initially the victor was thought to be number 9, but it turns out that the card was upside down, and the protagonist was the true victor after all.
Why am I telling you this tidbit from the final episode? This is because it most represents my thoughts on the show. I was so into thinking Try would be a definite 9 rating, but after thinking about it I had to switch it around to a 6. Now I’m thinking it ought to be less than that. The more I ruminate on it, the more I think it’s the biggest disappointment to the Gundam franchise than even Gundam SEED Destiny.
Much as I like Gundam SEED, I’m not at all one to deny it was a product that could’ve been so much better. Destiny just failed to improve upon what was still a promising idea. Build Fighters Try did not have that excuse. The first series was an absolute joy, and really nailed it when it came to its lovable cast and its showcasing of Gunpla’s appeal. So how did Try fuck up so badly? Like Destiny, it had the same production crew and the same promising universe, but even then… Wow. What a way to mess up a good thing.
I hated the main characters of Try. They were so boring and so perfect that they just frustrated the hell out of me. This is outrageous since at the start everything seemed to be in place. Everybody both complemented and contrasted one another, and each had their own unique propensities to make things interesting. Unfortunately, these never were fully developed in the end. Sekai is essentially Reiji with the brain of Dragonball’s Goku, just an empty headed schmuck who’s always naïve about the world and always eager for a fight. Yuuma’s just boring, his psychosis after a bad Gunpla battle made for an interesting setup but it doesn’t really go anywhere in the realms of personal struggle. He was always that super genius prodigy who knew how to build Gunpla and was always there to support. Fumina?
Oh god, what a major disappointment she was. Fumina originally started out as some plucky heroine who wanted to save her school’s Gunpla Battle Club and was eager to work with anybody for it. Once we hit the midway point, she becomes a supporting character in the story she started. This bleeds right down to her choice of Gunpla: an SD Gundam that’s mostly relegated to supporting the other two. Then the series gets even more insulting when it hits the moments where all she does is unleash a gimmicky contrivance from her Gunpla to win, and not because of her skills. The instigator of this entire series became a bit player when all is said and done. Hell it could be said that it also extended to her wardrobe too. Initially she fought in a striking athletic outfit with windbreaker jacket but then it is replaced by a boring sweater. Add Yuuma’s prudish getup and Sekai wearing his karate gi like a dork and you’ve got a trio that deserves to lose.
Also they tried to stop the aforementioned rival from gattai-ing in their battle. What a bunch of assholes.
The entire supporting cast fares a bit better, but even then they were wasted opportunities too. I’d rather spend time with Suga, Gyanko, and Shimon instead of the Try Fighters. However they don’t mean much in the end either since they were defeated early in the series. The entire competition was filled with boring rivals from the needlessly elitist Gunpla Academy (hardass blondie, waifish girl, and delinquent), to a wasted surprise cameo from the last series on top of some easily-beaten schmucks. It was so unlike when Sei and Reiji fought in the World Championships, where they were building up their own network of eccentric friends and rivals. I don’t even care for these assholes.
The returning supporting cast doesn’t fare much better either. Seeing Mr. Ral again was nice, but he never seemed to do much of anything other than just rewind footage of Gunpla battle during strategy meetings near the end. The Adams guy who was coaching Meijin last season returns, but after being beaten by a bunch of commoners, his motivations seem very… strange given that instead of going grassroots and seeking people like Sei and Reiji, he just ups and goes back to building up elite fighters. Meijin I guess was nice to have, but somewhat unnecessary to have around all the time (and don’t get me started on his pointless female counterpart: Lady Kawaguchi, who only existed to motivate Fumina one time). Overall… eh when it comes to the returning characters from the original series. Then it gets worse when you factor in Try’s treatment of Sei.
Build Fighters Try ruined Sei by deifying him. We liked Sei because he was an adorkable schmuck who loved Gundam and wanted to be part of the world his father was in. When Try comes along, he’s some faraway figure who is so perfect and so legendary. The distance kills his appeal for me, as his approachability and friendliness were hallmarks to the first series. To have him completely absent (sans one small cameo), while having China be his mouthpiece is rather rude on behalf of the writers. There is no point in making him some mystical figure that does peculiar things like hiding Gunpla within Gunpla within a trophy. Even worse, he shortchanged Yuuma on one occasion.
In one episode Sekai’s Gunpla, the Try Burning (an insultingly boring design), is heavily damaged in a fight. Yuuma is without much material to fix it, so I would imagine that’s a good opportunity to come into his own as a repairer. Sei Iori says NOPE, and actually has China travel halfway across the world to give her brother his personal repair kit. A moment of character growth for Yuuma is shortchanged by divine intervention. Utterly galling. Don’t even get me started on the forced bit of almost being assailed by thugs near the episode preview, and then next episode the entire resolution is solved without any violence. Shit, Reiji got his hand injured last series when that happened!
Like Kira Yamato, Sei Iori casts an unnecessary shadow over who are apparently the main characters of a sequel series. Sure he doesn’t come back and usurp their position, but the fact he exerts a considerable influence over them remains.
Sure Gunpla Battles don’t have much for stakes, but in the first one every major Gunpla Battler had their own little MO in the tournament. Sei wanted to be part of the world his father was in, with Reiji obliging him since he’s a bro; Ricardo wanted to see how far he can go with Fenice; Aila was a test subject for some elitist Finnish science lab; Nils wanted to find the secret of Plavsky Particles; and so on. Then you had the intrigue with the Chairman of PPSE trying to manipulate the tournament because of Reiji. Shit was happening and it was interesting. The World Tournament was an appealing cacophony of dreams, visions, and machinations that somehow came together through weird, wild, situations.
Try ain’t got any of that. It was absolutely bereft of that tension, instead replacing it with boring stuff.
Yuuma and Fumina just wanted to fulfill a promise to make it to the NATIONAL (not international) championships. Sekai just wanted to fight because he wants to fight. In fact almost everybody just wants to fight. In fact the only one with ANY likable motivation is Yuuma’s rival, who has a menagerie of reasons to keep at Yuuma much to the poor guy’s consternation. The national championship of Try goes off without any sort of hitch whatsoever. There’s no conspiracy, there’s no machinations behind the scene, there’s no cadre of colourful individuals growing to be friends with one another. It’s just fight, fight, fight, all the damn time. The only big form of tension happens whenever Sekai feels pain from using his Gunpla (because of some dumb assimilation thing or whatever). Nothing comes of it, since all he needs to do to heal from it is go to sleep. This just results in a boring competition. If there’s no major stakes or any emotional plight, why the hell should I bother? They stripped off all the juicy meat from the last series and left only bone. The Try Fighters did not undertake any personal or emotional struggle in their fights, just meaningless trump cards from last-minute transformations and whatever Jigen Haoh moves Sekai pulled out of his ass. Not even having new three-on-three Gunpla Battles helped, in fact it just made it all the more crowded and less desperate. Nothing here got something against say… Ricardo vs. Sei/Reiji or Aila vs. Sei/Reiji.
Then when things wind down we got a final episode that felt like one gigantic ‘fuck you’ to the audience, where the contest eventually disintegrated into a battle royale that somehow got EVERYBODY IN THE ROOM to fight. It made no goddamn sense, and it just flitted from pointless conflict to pointless conflict until the three flew off into the distance because… Gunpla is freedom I guess. For fuck’s sake, they STOPPED a rogue crystal from engulfing the World Championship Arena and Sei had to lose Reiji in the last series. The finale of Try was just absolute vanity.
This was a goddamn disappointment. It’s my hope something comes up during the world tournament to keep things interesting, but I’m not hedging my bets on it. Gundam Build Fighters Try was one big miscalculation when it came to continuing the Build Fighters timeline. It left me rather disenchanted of its future and the possibilities that may come from it, since everything and/or everyone that had any vestige of intrigue are left behind for the much more boring, contemptible, Team Try Fighters.
I wouldn’t recommend it. Just rewatch the first series twice and you’ll be good.
Small Addendum - I'll give some credit where it's due. The music's still pretty good (kinda like Destiny's was! How 'bout that?) and this was an awesome OP: