Battle Athletes OVA

March 28, 2004 on 9:14 pm | In Battle Athletes | Comments Off on Battle Athletes OVA

Battle Athletes has two incarnations: an OVA series and an alternate universe TV series, Battle Athletes Victory. The two are apparently very different, and the OVA is widely disliked.

Battle Athletes begins with an exceptional account of a war that tore the world apart, and the natural disaster that ironically unified it. Then they detail the unmanned war that humanity had with an alien race, which was eventually solved through mankind’s superior athletic prowess.
Naturally, this meant that all good human children would aspire to be the ultimate athlete – the Cosmos Beauty! They would Aim for the Top! and Aim for the Ace!. The male equivalent is not known, although it could feasibly be some title like Prince of Tennis.

After it is established that each year budding young athletes go to Space University, no mention is made of these aliens ever again. They lost to the humans and they went home, it would seem.
So what we’re left with is the freshman class of 4999. The foremost character is Kanzaki Akari, daughter of the most famous Cosmos Beauty of them all – the athlete who beat the hundred metre record and ran with God.
Akari is another in a long line of never say die sports anime protagonists, but her lack of self confidence is a blessing and a curse. She strives to improve herself but can’t see her own qualities.

Following this she moves in with her team, the even meeker Anna Respighi and the spiritual (read: nudist) moon dweller, Kris Christopher. Their trials only last two episodes, oddly enough, and then that whole concept falls apart. Not only is Anna’s secret revealed to be the most bizarre twist ever, the whole idea of competing within the school is thrown to the wind when three representatives from the girls’ satellite take on three from the boys’ satellite (answering another question posed by the series), and then making way for the Great Competition.

Despite my seemingly mocking summary and mention of events and characters, Battle Athletes was compelling, well animated and boasted interesting relationships. There were only two problems with it: the aforementioned disbanding of Akari’s team with no suggestion of replacement, and that the first episode features Akari’s best friend who is never seen again after the induction ceremony. I can only suppose that she slipped on a puddle on the way to her dorm, suffering a broken leg that automatically disqualified her after training so hard all her life just to get to that point. That has to be it.

The suggestions of lesbianism are rather awkward, but I’m finding that I have to get used to awkward female on female crushes in anime. Fortunately the idea of athletic competition as “the next best thing” was not very deeply explored. Kris and Akari have one of those beautiful friendships that reminded me of that of Noriko and Azumi in Gunbuster – and that’s probably the best comparison that can be drawn: Battle Athletes is Gunbuster with sports and without quite so much tragedy. It’s incredibly watchable and features the coolest principal ever.
It’s gentle and fun … and inspirational in its own way.

It’s hard to believe that Battle Athletes was animated as recently as 1997, but it’s also hard for me to believe that 1997 was actually seven years ago (as opposed to yesterday). One of the last series from before cells were cast to the wind, Battle Athletes possesses that old romance and charm as well as a healthy amount of conviction. It might be silly, but it believes in itself – and that’s important.

Battle Athletes Victory is silly and knows it – when I watch it next week I’ll have to see how it fares.

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