As the chubby kid in school, I have an allergy to all sports and sports related entertainment, and so I go into Battle Athletes Victory with a little trepidation. Instead of dread and terror, what it delivers is a tireless blend of comedy, character development and a strangely compelling storyline that far exceeded my expectations in a genre I tend to avoid.
Set in an athletics school, Battle Athletes Victory is packed to the rafters with competitive svelte beauties. The extreme track and field events put the strength girls' relationships and their competitive spirit to the test. The daughter of a highly renowned Cosmo Beauty, Akari, shoulders the expectations of her peers that one day she too will rise to the University Satellite as the strongest and fastest participant. Starting off as a weak, blithering idiot, she is soon picked up and forcefully kicked into shape by her best friend Ichino. Seeing the hidden potential in Akari, her competitors support her through frequent bouts of inner turmoil and preposterous self doubt to gradually build her into a strong competitor.
Focusing on the rivalry between the top two students, Battle Athletes Victory explores the relationship between the cold and bitchy Jessie, versus the robotic Ayla. The two complement each other perfectly and are given ample screen time to develop a competitive rapport. As the show moves into space, the antagonistic attitudes continue with new characters Mylandah and Lahrri; each with their own reasons for fighting, they give an engaging reason for the viewer to empathise with their onward struggle, without being bored with just one feckless protagonist.
Unfortunately, as more science fiction is introduced, the cohesive plot takes a nose dive and the story gropes desperately for new devices to keep itself running for 26 episodes. Veering away from the fun and careering headfirst into the stupidly bizarre, the only redeeming point being the return of a host of familiar faces to balance the pure insanity of the Nerilian invasion. Although a half alien-girl, half car creature called Countach is funny – car enthusiasts will understand why – it takes away from the sporty heart of the exciting penultimate battle, one where Akari will be asked to prove she can excel past her own mother.
Although the show is guilty of repeatedly preaching the “fight on to win” message, it’s still a surprisingly enjoyable ride from start to finish. What I found more irritating were characters giving up part way through a battle, then suddenly finding the self-belief to become a winning athlete – regardless of how much time they lost languishing over personal issues. However, no matter how unbelievable or unlikely the challenger, everybody loves an underdog and you find yourself cheering them on towards the finishing line.
Demonstrating typical 90’s bold and slightly blocky animation, Battle Athletes Victory romps along in the realms of mild fan-service. From the brightly coloured Lycra-coated lady bits, to a plethora of long shapely legs, the animators seem to have aimed the artwork at males in quite a subtle way; there are no obscene bouncing breasts or in your face panty-shots, instead each girl is squeezed into a skimpy swimsuit that I’m sure helps their sporting abilities, and just happens to look great from behind as they cycle. Overall, the animation hasn’t stood up well to the test of time, and some of the proportions of the characters seem very unfitting for the planet’s best athletes – such delicate and willowy competitors would seem out of place at a regional sports meet, let alone the Olympics.
The entire soundtrack is inoffensive yet forgettable, starting with a mediocre J-Pop opening track it never gets into the exciting pace of an engrossing story. The original Japanese voice acting is superb; however the English dubbing is some of the worst I’ve had the misfortune to experience. For example, Akari has a voice that doesn’t match her character – although a cute klutz, there is no emotion comes through in her monotonous and whiny voice. Bucking the trend, the highly amusing and a purposefully stereotyped Chinese girl, Ling-pha, has an Engrish voice actor who was velly velly good, and added to the overall comedic charm of the show.
Playing host to the strong female protagonists Akari, Ichino and Kris, Battle Athletes Victory makes a pleasant change from numerous other shows in the genre; the relationships and bonds are a satisfying part of an otherwise sport-centric show. Although the girls have many vulnerable moments, the strength and skills they obtain from helping each other is quite touching at times. The lack of males and close proximity of the female characters leads to some unlikely sexual advances; a lesbian kiss becomes a well used comedy device that added depth and development to an otherwise innocent cast.
Though the characters have many flaws and weaknesses, the sporting idols are still believable despite an overzealous use of stereotyping. The zany Tanya is a wild and buoyant terror from Africa who sits alongside Ling-Pha as a witty distraction from the voyage of self discovery undertaken by the more serious competitors. Providing a well padded back-story, each character is rounded and adds to the team dynamic, offering strength in times of trouble and a competitive reason to keep fighting.
Shining like a gem in the rough, Battle Athletes Victory is a welcome change from the plethora of decidedly mediocre sports anime available. Despite numerous glaring flaws, it is a fun and frivolous way to spend 26 episodes – something that will appeal to quite a wide audience. Kids will adore the competition and quirky characters, whilst older viewers will appreciate the humour and fan-service of a well balanced show.
The year is 4998. Girls from all over the galaxy come together to train for the title of Cosmo Beauty in a bevy of athletic events. Akari, our heroine, wants to go to University Satellite where her mother once went and won the title. That is, if her bad luck will give her a chance! Add into the mix a cutthroat competition between star athletes and complicated midterms, and you have some rough competition revolving around bizarre plots and insane hijinks! Oh, and did we mention the field events? Bring your hard hats everyone, as the galaxy will never be the same!
As a not-so-closet perv, I love watching anything involving panty-shots, handfuls of cleavage and an innuendo fuelled plot. Although most of my reviews will err on the risque, I also love the obscure, the twisted and things that make you think - drop me a line if you want to discuss any of them!
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