Battle Athletes was an anime which I always had my eye on, but I never really got up the gumption to rent the darn thing. There aren't really a whole lot of anime focusing on athletic competition, and I guess it's for that reason alone that Battle Athletes caught my attention. So, I finally decided to rent it and see exactly what it was all about.
The story begins in the distant future, where a great athletic competition is held between competing women from across the galaxy. They gather and train on a space station called University Satellite and then engage in a series of athletic events to win the coveted title of "Cosmic Beauty" (hey, I didn't make this stuff up). Akari Kanzaki is one of the competitors, a young hopeful trying to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who has become a legend at University Satellite. But she'll have her work cut out for her as she is competing against the toughest opponents in the galaxy including the previous two-time Cosmic Beauty.
For about the first thirty minutes I truly detested this anime. Just hearing the hokey narrator cry out "Cosmic Beauty" was enough to set my teeth on edge. The characters seemed a bit too "squeaky" for my tastes, coupled with some really high-pitched voice actors. And then when Akari began exploring the training facility I began thinking, "There's no way I'm going to watch three hours of anime about some girl doing the hundred meter dash." The whole thing just seemed a bit too saccharine, a bit too predictable, and far too corny for myself to stomach.
All the changed, however, as I neared the end of the first episode. First, the antagonist gets introduced, a fierce upper-classman named Mylandah. Just looking at her blood-red eyes is enough to give you shivers. Then we get introduced to Akari's roommates and subsequent teammates, Kris Christopher (yeah, I though so too) and the diminutive Anna. The character development really begins to shine as the girls learn about each other and cumulates with a hilarious ending involving some strange rituals on the part of Kris.
And that's just the first episode. The story line progresses nicely as the girls compete in a variety of events including battle lacrosse and a strange hybrid of soccer and volleyball. A handful of characters are focused on, each with a unique personality. Akari fulfills the role of the young underdog, attempting to break out from her mother's shadow. Kris is a bit on the religious side as she competes to bring herself closer to God. Lahrri is a two-time cosmic beauty going for her third consecutive title and competes only to break records. And, of course, the insidious Mylandah, whose competitive drive spells disaster for anyone in her path.
Unfortunately, the overall plot is your typical "underdog participating in competition out of her league" fare which seems to permeate most athletic tales. Akari eventually reaches the "big competition" and you just know how the whole thing's going to end. It's all rather unbelievable since Akari begins the series as a decent, but somewhat klutzy competitor, and it takes a rather large suspension of disbelief to buy into all of this. But it's certainly a fun ride getting there.
On a more technical note, production values are pretty solid as far as OAV quality goes. There's lots of bright colors, decent animation, and somewhat stylish artwork. Some of the characters suffered from eyes that looked like they should fall out of their heads, but it's anime, so what else can be expected. The English voice acting was quite well done, with the only exception being the brief dialog from a competitor with a rather heavy Southern accent.
Battle Athletes is a decent, if uninspired anime, with a solid mix of good character designs, a dash of humor, and old-fashioned competition. It may not be entirely original, but it proves worthwhile entertainment, nonetheless.
The Verdict: * * * 1/2 (above average)
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