Sorry for not posting for the last few days – I’ve been juggling trying to get ready for Otakon this weekend, and catching up on myself. Before we begin today, let’s offer up paeans of thanks to Eric who provided us with the subject of today’s review! Thank you Eric!
Battle Athletes, Volume 1 is…old school. Old school art, hair, opening theme, character design, everything. It’s so old school that a few minutes after turning it on, I had to turn it off to regroup mentally. ^_^ Once mentally prepared, I turned it back on – and was pretty pleased with what I saw. It took some retrofitting my brain used, as I am, to what’s currently running now, to enjoy the old animation, the whiny heroine and the screaming. There was a *lot* of screaming.
The story follows Kanzaki Akari, the daughter of the former greatest athlete in the universe, Tomoe Midori, on her quest to become the world’s greatest female athlete and win the title her mother held – Cosmos Beauty.
Unfortunately for Akari, she has inherited few of her mother’s traits. She appears to have barely any athletic skills, is a crybaby and generally whiny. Of course it can’t stay like that, because then there’d be no story, so when Akari is moved to save another competitor’s life, her heretofore non-existent athletic skills skyrocket into hypercompetence.
Thankfully for the audience, Akari is surrounded by much more interesting characters. There’s the offensive Chinese stereotype Ling-Pha, and the strange “weird foreign tribal-type” stereotype Tanya. Then there’s Akari’s best friend Ichino who, voiced by Hisakawa Aya, is the perfect Osaka stereotype. Completing the main cast is Russian stereotype Ayla and America stereotype Jessie. And one of the things I thought while I watched the latter two compete was that, when this anime was made, the concept of US vs Russia athletic competition was far more politically charged and intense than it is now. ^_^ Now, anyone under the age of 20 (if we could get them to sit still for this anime at all) would be like, “so?”
The basic idea of the anime is that we are following these women as they train to attend the Satellite Training Camp, where they will be training even harder to try and become competitors for Cosmos Beauty. So we see a variety of futuristic and often silly “athletic” competition. And a variety of service as well, since of course as female athletes they never wear pants.
Compared to later episodes, Volume 1 is marginally gay…except for those moments when it’s massively gay.
Ichino pings most people’s gaydar right off, something that’s borne out in later volumes. But I kind of think Akari has it right when she says that Ichino is like an older brother to her.
Ayla and Jessie, by virtue of being powerful, talented athletic women who seem to be very focused on one another read totally gay…even if, in a real-world situation, they’d just be excellent rivals and maybe friends.
Jessie, the less lesbian of the two gets the first open proposition of the series. When running around looking for Tanya, in what is otherwise an incredibly stupid episode, another student confesses her feelings to Jessie and asks if she can call her onee-sama; she suggests that they could start off by training in sports, but maybe they could segue into this and that. Jessie replies that she appreciates the thought, but isn’t interested.(This whole scene reminded me strongly of the old schoolness again, because the translation just sort of plays fast and loose with what’s being said. “Onee-sama” is not translated as big sister, much less kept as is. They sort of randomly assign words to what the classmate is saying. And Jessie’s “I have no interest” is, as often is the case for some reason in anime, translated as “I don’t swing that way.” Another phrase I’d like to see corrected in current anime translation. “Thank you for the thought, but I’m not interested in that” is so much less crude than, “No, I don’t swing that way.” Jessie is voiced by Itou Miki and speaks in a tone reminiscent of Sachiko’s formal voice – I really just don’t see her being that crude. But hey, this was translated a gazillion years ago before Onee-samas and Yuri ever made it to the shores of America. So I’ll let this one slide, but I would like to see it done correctly going forward.)
The final episode on the volume is Yuri enough for most, as it follows Ayla’s growing obsession with Jessie, and ends in a swimming match. For many, many reasons, I loved this episode. Mostly for the swimming. I swam competitively as a kid (without ever being good, mind you) and my love for swimming has never left me. Watching these two women swimming and obsessing about each other was definitely my happy place for the day. ^_^
So, I gotta say, Volume 1 was a lot more Yuri than I remembered it being. And it was a good chunk of fun too.
Art – 6
Story – 7
Characters – Everyone other than Akari – 8. Akari – 5
Yuri – 5
Service – 5
Overall – 7