In the year 4999, the biggest sports event around is held in the famous "University Satellite" in space, where girls from around the world compete for the title "Cosmic Beauty". 16 year-old Kanzaki Akari daughter of Mido Tomoe (the highest ranking Cosmic Beauty ever) hopes to do well aboard the University Satellite and become famous like her. Along with her friends Kris and Anna, Akari faces any competitors who come her way. But will she able to keep up when the other girls, even her friends, are doing better in sports than her? And what about the violent upperclassman, Mylandah, who seems to have a grudge against her...?
Yet another anime where another girl faces impossible odds and ends up succeeding in the end? Please.
That was my first impression of this series. When I watched the first two episodes on VHS years ago, I thought to myself, "there's nothing mind-blowing or interesting about this anime here. All it has going for it is cute characters. I think I'll pass on the rest of the series." It's a good thing I decided to give Battle Athletes a second chance a few months later, or else I'd have the same opinion of the whole series as I did when I first started it.
Still, the first thing that will come into your mind upon watching Battle Athletes is how recycled the art style feels, right down to its character designs recycled from other AiC productions such as Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki and El Hazard.
The plot is no winner, either. Determined underdog, who has a famous mother who was good in something (in this case, sports), attempts to duplicate her parent's abilities and live out her dreams at the same time. And of course, the parent she looks up to, in this case her mother, is dead. So she tries her hardest, gets harassed by upperclassmen, and then shows them just how good she really is. We've seen all this before in series like Gunbuster, and it's no different here. Well, except for its oodles of fan service (not like I'm complaining about that or anything).
Battle Athletes's story (as little as it is) would be a waste if it wasn't for its cute, likable characters, even if they all are archetypes. Akari's a sweet, likable enough girl. Although not as humorous as her TV counterpart (no "Akari House" here, I'm afraid), she still manages to be likable without gratingly cutesy or obnoxious about it. Her best friends, Kris and Anna, aren't as developed of characters as she is (in more ways than one); Kris is the obligatory best friend who tells Akari never to give up, and Anna is the obligatory crybaby. Still, though, they're fun. Other characters include African cat-girl Tanya (who typically runs on all fours and, well, acts crazy) and two-time Cosmic Beauty champion Lahrri, whose dialogue consists of almost nothing except for "I want to set a beautiful record". Then there's Akari's "rival" (more like the villain of the series), Mylandah, who can be best described as "completely insane". Yes, let's go with that. There's also Headmaster Grant, the sole male on the University Satellite. He cares for the girls he teaches, even if he is a bit perverted (especially around 14 year-old Tanya, whom he trains to use her body to distract guys in one contest. In a funny bit of irony and, though, the rival boy she tries to seduce with her body is actually gay and completely unaffected by her, um, "feminine charms").
Being only 6 episodes long, the action in this series moves fairly quickly. Unfortunately, however, a short time frame results in rushed character development. All of a sudden Akari becomes this Mistress of Wonderment at sports, and her best friend Kris suddenly becomes her rival and is no longer on friendly terms with her. But unlike AiC's previous OAV series (Magical Girl Pretty Sammy), Battle Athletes does indeed have a beginning, middle, and end. It's just that it goes by so fast that before you know it, the beginning suddenly becomes the end. Fortunately, little plot twists and revelations keep you from being bored in case you were to marathon this show (which isn't exactly the best way to go with this series).
Animationwise, the art and animation are well done for an OAV series. In typical AIC character design, the girls are very cute and easy enough to tell apart from the technicolor haired cast, and the music sounds like something you'd expect in an anime revolved around sports. The Japanese voice acting is also well done, with Natsuki Rio giving an especially good performance as Akari (her only major role in anime outside of HEVN in Getbackers), and Kawakami Tomoko (Misuzu, Air) also giving a good performance as Akari's best friend, Kris. Perhaps the strangest voice casting role, though, is that of Akiko Yajima as crybaby Anna, whose seiyuu is better known for her role as the title character of Crayon Shin-chan, as well as Dorothy from Big O.
The dub, meanwhile, is, well..bad. Really bad. Mid-90s ADV Films dub bad. The voice acting is so loud and irritating that it destroys the emotional impact of just about every scene that involves characters talking. I was lucky that I only saw the first third of the series dubbed, because the show is a lot better with the original voices intact. It's honestly one of the worst dubs Pioneer/Geneon ever put out in their 15 year history.
While hardly revolutionary, Battle Athletes is a fun little anime if you're looking for something short, sweet, to the point, and riddled with eye candy.
Nowhere near as good as the TV series (thus supporting my made-up rule of AiC's "TV series later follows OVA then surpasses it in every way" syndrome, along with Magical Girl Pretty Sammy), but still a fun, if not unoriginal, ride. Those who like cute girls, fan service, or both in their anime can add one star. Those expecting the same experience in the video games and TV series, or those who just don't like sports anime in general, can take off one star. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: One of Akari's roomates gets naked (front and all) in the second episode, along with many other scenes of fan service (to quote Akari herself in the 3rd episode preview, "Leave it to Pioneer!"). There's also quite a bit of cursing in the English version, and violence of both the slapstick and non-slapstick kind as well.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, English dub;VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (6/6)
Battle Athletes © 1997 Pioneer LDC / AIC / TV Tokyo / SoftX / Mannensha / Aeon
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