Yuri Anime: Stellvia, Volume 8

August 17th, 2006

Twice, I thought over how I would approach reviewing this, the final volume of Stellvia. Twice I thought about the plot, the characters, the Yuri, and twice I had the same thought: Battle Atheletes.

These two series have quite a lot in common. Both are series that ran in Dengeki Daioh magazine, both have lead females whose extraordinary talents save the world, and both have a cast of supporting characters that are more interesting than the lead herself.

So let’s do a compare/contrast for fun. To start let’s compare the Yuri:

Battle Athletes clearly wins here. There are so many potential couples – many of whom make *sense* and are not just random pairings of two women who stand next to each other on the screen. And there are at minimum, two canon couples – especially if we count the manga. Mylandah and Lahrri and Kris and Akari are couples. No ifs, and or buts. In contrast Stellvia has only one Yuri couple, but a very decent one it is. I once again enjoyed the heck out of Yayoi’s and Ayaka’s public acknowledgment of their feelings. Not as good as Kris’ and Akari’s manga kiss, but just as public. ^_^

Comparing them as space stories:

Stellvia wins, no question. While both series have invading aliens, threats to the planet and the like, the Battle Athletes anime has so many other, incredibly stupid add-ons to the basic formula that even thinking about it makes me squirm. Stellvia sticks with bug-eyed monsters and a gigantic threatening alien energy menace.  I think, perhaps, the aliens in BA might have not been so bad if they hadn’t chosen the stupidest plot complication EVER as their means of attack.

But, as I thought it over, the real point of comparison has to be their lead characters. And this is why, both times, my mind connected the two. Because once again, Stellvia is vastly superior. Akari from Battle Athletes is the typical idiot savant character. She can do NOTHING right, ever, no matter how hard she tries. But she never really tries, until a crisis occurs and her innate skills mystically pop into overdrive. (This is far more prominent a theme in the anime than the manga, which was mostly free of this.) At every step up the ladder Akari starts back at the lowest level until a miracle catapults her to the top.

This happens to be something that generally bugs me about anime – one of the main themes of nearly every anime is “hard work” – and especially “teamwork” – will get us to the top. There’s a lot of cultural reasons why this is so that I won’t get into but what bugs me is that, in anime it is so rarely either that really gets anyone to the top. Sailor Moon never really works hard at anything, she just *is*. The same is true for most heroes and heroines of manga and anime. Of course fighting series are full of work, but the heroes follow a similar pattern – they are defeated, then come back and defeat the person who just beat them – usually by having miraculously, sometimes magically, sometimes just from sheer “guts”, powered up a gazillion orders of skill/power.

In stark contrast, Shima works her ass off through the whole series. Volume 8 of Stellvia has scene after scene of her working hard enough to make herself puke. There is the teeniest deus ex machina at the end of the series, at zero hour, when the clock has counted down to one second, etc, etc; but as Shima has spent the entire series actually striving to do this *one* thing, I can forgive it without prejudice.

And her moment of lucidity arrives just as infuriatingly cool – or is that, clueless – Kouta melts down completely. That was worth watching the volume for because that boy was annoying the living daylights out of me.

So, yes, Battle Atheletes has more Yuri, but I genuinely think that Stellvia is the better series. It makes sense. No cows. No transgender psychotic murderous twins, no resurrected dead parents. Just one teeny little handwave and a lot of good solid human moments.

Ratings:

Art – 7 Consistent, mostly, throughout, but never great. The CGI stuff is quite good.
Story – 9 I kept nodding over and over as key “space opera” points were handled, competentely
Characters – 9
Yuri – 7
Service – 3 The uniforms. Ugh.

Overall – 8.5

Stellvia was one of my best anime of 2004. Over here in 2006, it’s still in my top twenty of things I’ll reach for to rewatch. My only regret was that the sequel was never, and will never, be made.

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4 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    The thing with Battle Athletes is that it really ended with Akari winning the Cosmo Beauty; the whole thing with the aliens was just an encore for people who wanted more of the silliness from the first few episodes (ie, people like me).

    Of course, Stellvia was STILL a much better series.

  2. Philip72 says:

    Yayoi and Ayaka made a public acknowledgment of their feelings?

    Damn I missed that part!
    I must have been distracted by the phone, or having a bathroom break or something when I marathoned Stellvia.

    What episode was that in?

  3. The final episode, as they fly off to die.

    (No, I’m not being sarcastic. This is a space opera – all confessions come on the brink of certain death.)

  4. radtrad says:

    Regarding Akari: I think you are misunderstanding her character. From what I recall, Akari overcomes whatever is holding her back at both the Antartic training camp and in the contest on the Satellite once she realizes that there is someone else who she can somehow share her victory with (Ichino, later Kris). What’s being portrayed isn’t a sudden explosion of talent, but a recovery of sufficent motivation for the needed effort. This is what sets her apart from Kris, incidentally; Kris is ready and willing, in both the OVAs and the TV series, to go it alone if need be, though she would prefer that someone else be with her. To Akari it’s meaningless if she doesn’t have someone to share it with.

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