Kazami, the Build Divers' resident loudmouth, can be a bit grating. But when his old teammates show up to confirm exactly how flawed he can be, Kazami needs to decide if he's going to stubbornly ignore the facts or swallow his pride and grow up. This week, Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE uses its least-likeable character to deliver a surprisingly heartfelt treatise on growth and identity. Sure, it's not enough to make up for the show's usual helping of blandness but it's a welcome burst of character development in a story that normally gives us far more reason to care about its cool mobile suits than it does their run-of-the-mill pilots.
Say what you will about Kazami, at least he makes viewers feel something—even if the standard reaction is irritation. Kazami complains about the specifics of the mission, feeling like he is “above” fetch quests and extended dialogue. I think we've all known somebody like Kazami, a blowhard who sees everyone else as a supporting character in the movie of their life. What's great about “Hero on the Brink” is that it doesn't attempt to coddle Kazami or apologize for his flaws; conversely it judges him pretty harshly. It's a step in the right direction, and perhaps the first time I've cared more about what will happen to Kazami himself as opposed to when his Gunpla will be available for purchase (became available in October 2019, turns out). However, like with Par, the Kazami arc could probably have been made into just one episode instead of two. This sluggish storytelling keeps the plot moving at a glacier's pace.
As Kazami bemoans his losses, particularly in contrast to Par's new (and hard-earned) success, we realize that the self-styled hero and the timid fox are two sides of the same coin: both struggling with a lack of confidence but coping in opposite ways. Now that Par is beginning to grow as a team member, we see Kazami's bluster for the insecurity that it really is. What makes Kazami's arc more successful so far is that, unlike with Par, we get some backstory. Members of Kazami's old team show up to tell the Build Divers what they've pretty much guessed—that Kazami can put his own desires over his role as a team player. Mu Dish exploited this perfectly, using their success as evidence that Kazami hasn't, and can't, change. Of course, all this whaling on the guy just might be the tough love he needs to finally improve. We conclude the episode with Kazami and Hiroto on the verge of a new mutual understanding—perhaps Hiroto, the actual leader and hero of Build Divers, will be able to trust Kazami, and Kazami will respond in turn by becoming somebody worthy of that trust.
This focus on Kazami is a welcome distraction from the most glaring hole in the plot—somehow, our protagonists still haven't realized that this isn't an ordinary mission. As the oddities add up (now there's another Gundam, perhaps an antagonist, showing up where it shouldn't be), I'm starting to wonder just how long the story plans to keep up this pretense. How it finally delivers the big reveal is going to have a major impact on my overall opinion of the show.
Lauren helps Gundam fans build their own model kits at Gunpla 101.
Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.