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Battle Athletes

Rating: 3.5 stars
"Fun, with a bit of depth and an emotional tug."

Summary Information

Battle Athletes Box Art

US Release:
Geneon

Genre: Drama
(Sci-Fi Sports Melodramatic Comedy)

Suggested Age/Content Guide:
13-up / V1 N2 M1 L3

Series Type: OAV

Length:
6 30-minute episodes (ep. 1 is 45 minutes long)

Production Date:
1997-05-25 - 1998-06-25

What's In It

Categories:
School Days

Look for:
Serious Catfights
Fistfights
Athletic, 51st Century Schoolgirls
Super Technology
High-speed Footraces
Really Wild Athletic Competitions

See Also

Sequels/Spin-offs:
Battle Athletes Victory (retelling)

You Might Also Like:
Ayane's High Kick
Princess Nine
Gunbuster
Dual

Original Title: バトルアスリーテス 大運動会
Romanized: Battle Athletess - Dai Undoukai
Literal: Great Athletic Competition

Plot Synopsis

In the distant future, after centuries of war with an alien race, it was agreed that the dispute would be settled by a contest of physical strength between one representative of each species. Though the alien race was physically far superior to humans, the human champion miraculously defeated his challenger, ushering in an era of peace marked by human kind's drive to improve itself physically.

Our story begins at the turn of the 51st century on a satellite training facility constructed for the purpose of honing the skills of Earth's best and brightest for a competition to decide who is truly the epitome of the species--the "Cosmo Beauty."

The story follows Akari Kanzaki, the daughter of a past "Cosmic Beauty" and a Freshman entrant into the orbital training facility. Determined to follow in her mother's footsteps, she will work with her classmates to overcome the rigors of training, school bullies, and her own lack of self confidence in her trek toward the great competition. She is joined by a number of other students, foremost among them Akari's roommate Kris Christopher, an emotionally solid priestess-to-be from the moon. Also along for the ride are their other roommate, the quiet, shy Anna Respighi, and Tanya, a rather boisterous friend of Akari's from earth.

Review

Rating: 3.5 / 5
Reviewer: Marc
Review Date: 2005-01-23

Screenshot from Battle AthletesAt first glance, Battle Athletes seems to be pretty much what you'd expect from Pioneer--fun characters, a little bit of story, and plenty of action. But, although the look is similar to Tenchi Muyo and similar fare, it leans much more toward melodrama, and will probably appeal to a different crowd. Something like a shoujo-tinted take on a sci-fi sports drama given a Pioneer twist, Battle Athletes takes a fun premise in a different direction, serving up a light-yet-serious coming of age story.

Aside from the overdramatic introduction to the setting (which is rattled off in the first five minutes of the first episode), the plot is pretty much another girls' high-school athletics drama/comedy, this time in space.

Battle Athletes starts out sprinkled with situation comedy, but though it could have easily turned into a cute girls in space romp or a really silly comedy (which the alternate reality of the TV version is), the focus is more on character development and the building of friendships, with enough emotional (not to mention physical) tension to satisfy fans of more emotionally-oriented stories. The last two episodes in particular are quite sobering, and it can't even be called a comedy by that point.

The same goes for the characters--though most of them seem to be just caricatures at first, several turn out significantly more complex than I was expecting. The emotional depth of a few of the characters--Kris' deep religious beliefs standing out the most clearly--is impressive for a series like this, and the cast alone was enough to keep me interested.

Screenshot from Battle AthletesAnother point worth noting is that, although the plot is pretty obvious for the most part, it manages to serve up a few surprising twists. The last episode in particular is interesting--even though the outcome is pretty much foreordained, I was a bit surprised at how things turn out and the road they take to get there. Definitely not another generic "yay, I did it, and everybody's happy" ending--maybe I'm a softy, but I found the final episode surprisingly emotionally affecting.

Important to any sports show are the athletic competitions, which are also handled quite well. We've all seen our share of come from behind victories, and although Battle Athletes sticks to the formula, the story manages to keep things interesting, and somehow even manages to pull some tension out of an ancient cliche.

Artistically, Battle Athletes is very well done. The character designs, as you'd expect from AIC, are attractive, with lanky physiques and particularly large eyes on the cutest ones (if you like cute--in the old fashioned sense--girls, you probably can't go wrong here). The many girls at the school have quite a range of looks, which I appreciate both for variety's sake and for telling the characters apart.

Screenshot from Battle AthletesThe animation, again as expected, is very smooth, with a fair amount of sports-related action. The sports are quite creative, and although I could have imagined them having more fun with really wild events (which, again, the TV series does), the slightly more realistic slant fits better with the rest of the plot. The great zero-G scenes deserve particular praise--there is a really cool random gravity fight early on (you won't see that in Apollo 13).

This brings us to the voice cast, and the choice of which language you watch it in will make a big difference as to the character of the show as a whole.

The acting in the original Japanese is very well done, with good casting and plenty of variety to go with the characters, and good performances all around. The standout is unquestionably Kris--she has an unusual and surprisingly deep character, and a voice that works perfectly with it. The rather frightening Mylandah is also quite well acted. The subtitling is accurate, but a little dry... which Pioneer apparently thought they'd fix in the dub.

It's not that the dub is badly acted--the acting is surprisingly good--but the dialogue has been altered to the point where it actually changes the personalities of the characters, reminding me of ADV's penchant for rewrites. Many of the characters in the English version wouldn't even be recognizable if they didn't have the same face, and the dialogue is considerably cruder. Basically, the Japanese version is about idealized Japanese high school girls (most of them cute), while the English one is about attitude-equipped American high school girls. There are also a lot more jokes thrown into the English version--guess they thought the extra humor would sell better or something.

The English dub is a lot more likely to appeal to fans of sillier and raunchier anime (yet again, the TV version), while the original dialogue will appeal more to fans of melodrama and the cuter sort of anime. Either way, you'll probably hate one or the other.

In all, Battle Athletes is another enjoyable ensemble series from Pioneer, but not quite what I was expecting. Lighter on comedy and more prone to melodrama, particularly toward the end, it's a nice looking sports show with a varied and interesting cast of characters. Don't come expecting another dumb fun series, but if an athletic soap opera with cute girls, a spot of wacky humor, and a fair amount of action sounds good to you, Battle Athletes is definitely worth a look.

If you'd rather see hijinks than drama, take a look at the TV series version; it's a more standard take on the same concept.

Related Recommendations

Battle Athletes has a lot in common with a variety of sports anime, such as Ayane's High Kick or Princess Nine. It also bears some resemblance to light comedies in the Dual or Tenchi Muyo vein, though the romance is replaced by peer bonding and friendship in this case (no boys on the station). It shares some themes with Gunbuster as well--though Battle Athletes is considerably more humorous, both are melodramatic coming of age stories that deepen toward the end.

US DVD Review

The DVDs are nice productions, but rather minimal compared to some of Pioneer's other titles. Aside from a nice video transfer, each disc has Japanese and English stereo soundtracks, both of which are very crisp (though the Japanese track seems to sound a little better, particularly on the end theme, which remains in Japanese). There are two subtitle tracks, one that's a translation of the Japanese, and one track that's a transcription of the dub for the hearing impaired; the latter includes sound effects, and is quite a bit different in the details than the former, as discussed above.

Each disc also includes a little character gallery and a set of promo pages for every Pioneer title available at the time (interesting resource/historical reference). For some reason there is no chapter index on the discs (go figure; there is a list of the chapter breaks on a card in the package, but you'll have to jump around manually). The discs originally each came with a chapter index insert and some cute Battle Athletes stickers.

Content Guide

Would be suitable for younger viewers, if it weren't for the occasional nude scene/raunchy joke (more frequent in the dub). Pioneer calls it 13-up, that's probably fitting (some parents might find it more offensive than others, though, and the dub is worse).

Violence: 1 - Some relatively intense fighting, but not really life-threatening.

Nudity: 2 - Occasional nude scenes, though not detailed.

Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - A couple of raunchy jokes/comments, with more in the dub.

Language: 3 - The dub has more rough language and crude comments than the Japanese subtitled version, which only ranks a 1.

Notes and Trivia

The Battle Athletes franchise began its public life as a radio drama in early 1996 on "Orikasa Ai's Moonlight Cafe." At the end of 1996, a video game of the same name was released for the Sega Saturn. It was followed up by the OAV series and shortly after that by the TV version, as well as two more games ("Alternative" in 1998, also for the Saturn, and "GTO" in 1999, for the PlayStation). There was also a comic adaptation, subtitled "A.D. 4999."

Battle Athletes Victory is what the TV version goes by in the US, but as with other Pioneer OAV to TV conversions, it has no continuity with this series, despite sharing a premise and several characters.

Battle Athletes has a lot of good old fashioned wild sci-fi stuff, most of it quite well done. The zero- or random-G scenes are pretty well done as far as realism goes, although you wouldn't actually be able to run along the floor of a zero-G lacrosse court. The shuttle launch at the beginning is also quite impressive, but I seriously doubt that we'll be using shuttles like that 3000 years from now, particularly if we're capable of waging an interstellar war.

The titles of the six episodes (or "Missions") are, for reference, Chronicle Beginning, Oath Entrant, Screaming Advance, Match Unexpected, Objective Tension, and Stage Yonder.

Original Japanese Cast

Akari Kanzaki: Rio Natsuki
Kris Christopher: Tomoko Kawakami
Anna Respighi: Akiko Yajima
Tanya Natdhipytadd: Aya Sakaguchi
Lahrri: Yuriko Yamaguchi
Mylandah: Akemi Okamura
Tomoe Midou: Miki Takahashi
Jessie Gartland: Miki Ito
Student A: Kae Araki
Student B: Michiko Netani
Student C: Chiharu Tezuka
Announcer: Miho Yamada
Chief of the Dorm: Shiho Niiyama
Control Officer: Takeshi Igarashi
Grant Oldman (Headmaster)/Prologue Narrator: Koji Nakada

English Dub Cast

Jetta Bird, Tessa Ariel, Debbie Derosa, Dorothy Melendrez, Ramri Darro, Diva West, Jackie Gonneau, Lia Sargent, Jayne Alan, Rebecca Olkowski, PJ Lee, George C. Cole, Anne Sherman, Lex Lang, Steve Areno, Dan Martin, Susan Myers, Bebe Elam, Tiffany Roberts, Deja Romersa, Laoren Maxwell, Wendee Lee, Marie Danielle, Melissa Williamson, David Lucas

Crew

Original Concept/Supervisor: Hiroki Hayashi
Director: Kazuhiro Ozawa
Art Director: Takeshi Waki
Animation Director: Shinji Ochi
Writing: Hideyuki Kurata
Character Design: Ryuichi Makino
Conceptual Design: Noriyuki Jinguji
Music: Takayuki Hattori

End Theme: "Mune wo Harou" ("Be Proud!")
Vocals: Rio Natsuki
Lyrics: Natsuko Karedo
Music: Takayuki Hattori
Arrangement: Junjiro Seki

Animation by AIC

Availability

Available in the US from Geneon (formerly Pioneer) on three bilingual DVDs. Was previously also available on three dubbed or subtitled VHS volumes.

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