Battle Athletes is a comedy sci-fi sport anime by Hideyuki Kurata, a manga by Nakano Yuki came out at roughly the same time as the original OVA. It later turned into a longer television series both with the same basic story. I’ll be looking at the longer series from AIC, the eclectic studio with works ranging pretty widely in quality with Oreimo on the low end and Sasameki Koto on the high end. My biggest concern is simply that it’s a sport anime and most sport anime are as dull and monotonous as the games they’re based on. But who knows, maybe this is one of those rare exceptions that does something unique and/or has really compelling characters. Or it could be your typical story of a group of one-dimensional underdogs pulling together and managing to grasp victory. Let’s take a look and find out.
Our story opens in a training ground in Antarctica where a bunch of young female athletes are racing across an obstacle course while dragging giant steamrollers. It urns out that after an event that wiped out most of humanity, humans rebuilt and set up training schools to try and get the top athletes. The best students go to a satellite University to compete for the coveted “Cosmo Beauty” title. What I like about this series is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It uses all the regular elements of a sport anime, but it uses them in a tongue in cheek way, mixes in sci-fi elements and just plays up their absurdity in general. So, while it is predictable, the comedic elements keep the viewer invested and keep the action interesting. That being said, the series has its problems too. The biggest being that it’s pretty racist. For most of the athletes, the series will give some specific country or place of origin: China, Osaka, Russia, the United States, a specific encampment on the moon and so on. There’s one character, however, whose area of origin is a continent. Her name is Tanya and her area of origin is “Africa.” Not like that’s a huge continent or anything. To make it worse, she’s a very… “primitive,” is unfortunately the most apt term, character. She’s superstitious, she runs on all fours, she’s simple minded to an absurd degree, she even howls at one point. Who knows, maybe the nations of Africa were too busy making artistic and scientific advancements, but they didn’t want to offend the rest of the world so they found the dumbest, but most athletic girl they could, made up a bunch of superstitions to teach her and sent her on her way. They bet on the rest of the world being too clueless to notice that Africa has multiple countries. Another issue is that the het romance, although there’s very little of it, is really creepy and involves major age and power imbalances. On the positive side, the yuri romance, which there’s a lot more of, is pretty cute and well handled. Was Hideyuki trying to actively encourage lesbianism or did he just figure people would accept the het regardless of how screwed up it was and, consequently, he didn’t bother trying to make it good? The world may never know but this is the writer behind Read or Die, so the former seems likely.
The major characters are, for the most part, decently fleshed out and developed. The major exception being the aforementioned racist stereotype. One nice little touch is that Akari’s development arc is pretty realistic. She goes through both good and difficult times with certain elements becoming prominent based on which end of the spectrum she’s on. Each cycle she goes through becomes demonstrative of her growth. She becomes better at handling both extremes with maturity and grace as things progress. I also really liked Akari’s love interest, Kris. She’s just amazing.
The art is nothing special. It’s pretty standard late 90s fare. About the most visually interesting it gets is towards the end when certain elements are introduced that I can’t really go into without giving spoilers. That being said, it is competent artwork.
The voice acting in this is really good. You have some really great actresses like Hisakawa Aya, Kawakami Tomoko and Itou Miki being among the biggest names. The music is pretty nice as well.
The ho-yay factor is a 6/10. Primarily because of Akari and Kris. Although Akari and Ichino have their moments as well. There’s also the dynamic between Lahrii and Mylandah.
And that’s Battle Athletes. To be honest, I rather liked it, in spite of its racism. It’s a fun series with some good characters, and one really bad one. The jokes are usually very effective, Akari and Kris have a lot of cute moments and it is an entertaining watch, if you can ignore or forgive its issues. Final rating: 7/10. Next week I’ll look at Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge.