Battle Athletes Victory – Episodes 1 to 4

March 31, 2004 on 6:17 pm | In Battle Athletes Victory | Comments Off on Battle Athletes Victory – Episodes 1 to 4

This is great.
Battle Athletes was a silly OVA. Battle Athletes Victory shows no restraint and is therefore a master stroke of genius. As with so many other Pioneer anime, the fundament is the same, but other things are wildly different.

Akari is now a blundering athlete with a heart of gold and entirely no self esteem. She lives in her mother’s shadow. This is the stage where all of the students are actually in training to go to the University Satellite, instead of being inducted. It’s a different angle and definitely allows it to stand apart from the OVA – especially as Akari does not possess the ganbatte attitude.
The sports are extreme, almost to the point of sadism – but they’re so ridiculously sadistic that they become hilarious. The first event that we see is a race wherein the girls run while drawing steamrollers. They have trouble at the hill … but even more when they get to the mine field! It’s stuff like this that makes it gold. Yet when the real injuries occur, then it takes on a serious tone. It’s good comedy in that it knows when to laugh and it knows when to cry.

Director Akiyama also brings the taste of excitement to it all. Bike Hard! was a pure adrenaline rush sport, that really brought me to the edge of my seat. It was just so well done. There are also episodes which have very little to do with sport – Night of Woong-A-Ji was about faith versus practice and also about respect but mainly about face painting.

And in the year 4999, not everything is about futuristic sports – the fourth episode features a swimming competition. In a fifty metre pool. But it still works. Most of the sports aren’t simply made up, which is good, but they’ve kept this one at its purest level – the only added spice was endurance.

The other thing is that the characters are great. Itchan is marvellous, with Hisakawa Aya in her Osaka best. She is such an encouraging, no-nonsense character and they milk the Osaka stuff for all its worth. Most of the training school’s broadcasts are by a big Osaka network – “Hello, everyone, especially those in Osaka!” and their attention to Itchan regardless of her participation is also very funny.
The greatest new addition is Wong Ling-Pha, the Chinese princess. She’s so devious, and her team of servants so … servile … that it would be difficult not to love her. She’s the one who plays both the evil and good cards within the same moment. Truly great.
Jessie survived the first episode and she and Ayla look to be the greatest rivals.

The lesbian overtones look like they can only get stronger, but the thing is that there has to be one complaint: this is not a DVD. It can be given some leniency because it came out in the stone age of anime on DVD, a year when not even one hundred anime DVDs had been released. Still, one OP and one ED to a disc and no eye-catches is just wrong, as is putting previews for every episode on the following disc at the end.
Considering that the OVA had 15 chapters to an episode and Victory has one, it was a step backwards in authoring. But the quality of the series manages to rise above that.

Frequently hilarious and offering promising characters, Battle Athletes Victory is easy to love.

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.

Noir – episodes 17 to 26

March 28, 2004 on 3:04 pm | In Noir | Comments Off on Noir – episodes 17 to 26

Noir was one of the most thrilling, twisting anime series that I have seen since Vision of Escaflowne – in fact, I can’t remember how long it has been since I’ve seen something so surprising. Many series get their dramatic impact from the characters finding out something that the audience has known all along – for example, that Misao was Pixy Misa.
Noir is one that keeps everyone guessing all along.
Continue reading Noir – episodes 17 to 26…

Noir – episodes 14 to 16

March 25, 2004 on 11:03 pm | In Noir | Comments Off on Noir – episodes 14 to 16

Noir is an amazing beast. The appearance of Chloe and Altena gave the impression of being the series’ vitality, then they all but disappeared and the strengths of Mireille and Kirika became more apparent.
Continue reading Noir – episodes 14 to 16…

Noir – episodes 11 to 13

March 24, 2004 on 10:04 pm | In Noir | Comments Off on Noir – episodes 11 to 13

Worthwhile questions and increasingly pertinent plotlines make Noir a forever improving series.
Continue reading Noir – episodes 11 to 13…

Noir – episodes one to ten

March 24, 2004 on 12:58 pm | In Noir | 1 Comment

I gave up watching Noir last year after the third disc, when it became too good to wait two months between each set of episodes. One year after the first disc’s release, the seventh and final came out last week and I decided to watch it all.
I’m still in the episodes that I’ve already seen.
Continue reading Noir – episodes one to ten…

All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku OVA

March 21, 2004 on 12:25 am | In Nuku Nuku | Comments Off on All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku OVA

This has long been one of my most romanticised series, but it didn’t have the flair that I was so hoping for. I like a good OVA series, but Nuku Nuku lacks direction despite its excellent staff backing.
Continue reading All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku OVA…

Dragon Half

March 20, 2004 on 11:35 pm | In Dragon Half | Comments Off on Dragon Half

After last week’s Assemble: Insert comes another silly OVA. Dragon Half tried to tell a story, but then they stopped making it for mysterious reasons that have gone down in anime folk lore that no one can confirm or deny.

There’s probably never been this much SD this side of the AIC SD shorts. So what there was was funny, and incredibly weird. It would have been nice to see more of Mink’s parents, because they were a comedy team. Cheerfully violent spouses are always nice. If it’s mutual … and animated. The famous My Omelette ED lasted forever, and the animation didn’t always make sense there. Oddly, the SD designs looked better than the standard designs.

It’s odd to think that back in the day studios could just animate whatever they wanted for no particular reason other than to make it.

Magical Project S – Episodes 22 to 26

March 17, 2004 on 11:16 pm | In Pretty Sammy, Tenchi Muyo! | Comments Off on Magical Project S – Episodes 22 to 26

This series peaked many times in the last ten episodes. Each time it reached one, it jumped right over to the next. It may be a terrible analogy, but Magical Project S was mountain goat anime.

It became terribly weird to watch anime in which Aeka was the ultimate evil and Ryoko was a devoted and loyal servant of Juraihelm, but these aren’t the same characters as before. Ryo-Ohki had human intelligence and an entirely different gender (which is why he was so embarrassed to be in the bath with Sasami). Sasami was a very good lead and Misao was great when she emerged from her chrysalis.

The final ten episodes raised Magical Project S from a simply enjoyable series to a rockin’ fun great series. That said, it’s not simply a case of “tolerating” the first fifteen. Development was handled very well and Tsunami was great, although quite how she was fit for ruling I’m not sure. But that’s the whole point!

The omake movie trailer was hilarious, and I wish all fake movies could be like that. It took a while for me to warm to the second ED, but it grew on me for sure. A good series has an ending that makes you sad to see it go, but ultimately satisfies. Magical Project S did just that.
It was a triumph of direction for Akiyama Katsuhito, who directed the worst thing that I watched last year – Armitage III: Dual-Matrix. When he works with traditional AIC material, he is a king.

Magical Project S – Episodes 2 to 21

March 14, 2004 on 11:23 pm | In Pretty Sammy | Comments Off on Magical Project S – Episodes 2 to 21

I started to fear that this was falling into the trap of Jubei-chan: that is, too formulaic. Fortunately, like Jubei-chan, it turned itself around.

After the smash hit first episode, Pixy Misa’s English dialogue really started to grate. However, after the second she really seemed to tone it down somewhat, which was a great relief.

Around episode sixteen it took the mahou shoujo genre’s greatest hook: emotional jeopardy. Team Sexy Madam actually posed a threat to Sammy, which made things more colourful, and Pixy Misa was revealed as a surprisingly weak fighter (as opposed to simply a coward).
But then episode eighteen came up and the ultra genuine emotions came out and the tears never stopped. It had to happen in a series in which best friends are pitted against each other as magical girls, and it did. With five episodes left, I have to wonder what will become of the rest of them.
The appropriation of other characters, such as Yosho and Tenchi’s father, and my old favourite, Washu, were welcome additions. I just hope it didn’t peak too soon.

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