Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: N/A
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 14.98
- Running time: 85
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Battle Athletes
Battle Athletes Victory Vol. #8
By Matthew McGinn
February 06, 2002
Release Date: December 07, 1999
If you skip to the bottom of this review, you may notice that my setup is a little bit hurting. At times I have access to some excellent equipment, but for this review I had to settle for the mediocrity of my TV speakers again. For this reason, I will not comment on the audio. The video is the usual Pioneer standard - very good. I did not experience any detractions beyond rare and minor pixellation. The packaging on all Battle Athletes Victory DVDs is quite satisfactory. Pioneer may have been attempting a 'kiddie' angle with the white keepcases, but these provide a nice contrast with the bright colors of the labels, which all feature good renditions of a cast member.
I was fortunate enough to purchase a couple of the DVDs that contained stickers featuring SD versions of some of the main characters. Aside from this, there are no obvious extras save for Pioneer's aging catalog. I can't complain because I purchased this series in its entirety when the MSRP of each volume had dropped to $14.99, as I expect some fans may have also done. The opening and closing credits are found only before the beginning of the first episode and after the end of the last episode of each volume. I can't say I like this as a collector, but the quick transition between episodes lends itself handily to all-night viewings like I ran with the last five (!) volumes. I am a bit annoyed about the lack of more specific chapter stops and lack of commercial bumpers. This series is truly a decontented release from Pioneer, but I can forgive them thanks to the lack of damage to my wallet.
This might sound strange coming from someone whose favorite live action movies include Patton, The Professional, and Full Metal Jacket, and especially from someone who is a huge pro football fan, but I really, really, enjoyed this series in its entirety. I purchased the first volume of the original Battle Athletes OAV series (on VHS, no less) on the same day I bought my Pioneer DV-414 over a year ago. I was quite disappointed as I drowned in a mire of giga-kawaii, unappealing character designs, and the idea of Saturn V rockets as mass transport. I am actually more willing to give the original series another chance after Battle Athletes Victory, but the result of that first viewing was that I ignored BAV as it appeared on DVD. It was not until Pioneer dropped the SRP of the series that I decided to give it a shot, and I pretty much purchased the whole series incrementally over two weeks. Even then, it was over a month until I broke the shrink wrap and started watching.
To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. I haven't actively watched a comedy series since ancient viewings of somebody else's old fansubs of Ranma 1/2, but I was strangely compelled by BAV. Yes, it's still all about Akari Kanzaki, the clumsy daughter of the late Tomoe Midoh, the greatest athlete of all time, and her long, half-hearted attempts to become Cosmo Beauty, the solar system's greatest athlete. Of course, Akari fulfills every stereotype of a teenage Japanese female lead in an anime series. She tends to be pathetic at first, whines like Luke Skywalker, is always late, and hides in a box half the time, but she's likeable, and that's half of a successful anime. Akari is first introduced at a training academy in the now-temperate Antarctica in the year 4998. This is where hundreds of female athletes go through various Olympic-like trials and exams in an attempt to be selected for one of three appointments to the University Sattelite, where the competition is held to choose the Cosmo Beauty. At first, Akari's only friend is Ichino, an energetic student from Osaka, though her 'rivals' include the powerful Jessie (the American), and Ayla (the Russian), Tanya (the cat-girlish African), and Ling-Pha (the stereotypical Chinese girl). The first half of the series takes place in the Antarctica facility, and is more comedy-oriented. Interestingly, the second half leaves most of the major characters from the first half behind in favor of a mostly new cast, the most significant of which is Kris, a religious settler from the Moon colony, excellent athlete and eschewer of male companionship (Akari discovers this soon enough). The mysterious trainer Mr. Miracle appears as well, and Tanya also assumes a much larger role later in the series. The second half is much more melodramatic, with the exception of a cow (you'll find out).
Without spoiling the plot, the emotion of the series ranges from slapstick to heartbreaking. Some fans are of the opinion that series that try to combine comedy and drama cannot work, but they probably didn't watch Cowboy Bebop for some reason. It should be noted that although this series is dominated by a female cast, it isn't really a shojo series - there are no Fabio Lanzonis here, and the Headmaster, the only male protagonist, looks more like a Geese Howard than a Tamahome. Besides, the character designs of Atsushi Okuda are obviously designed to appeal to male fanboys - I also like these designs much better than those overwrought designs of the orginal Battle Athletes OAVs. Even without the ability to understand much Japanese, I enjoyed the voice acting, especially those of Rio Natsuki (Akari), Tomoko Kawakami (Kris), Aya Hisakawa (Ichino), and Miki Takahashi (special guest). I also like seeing Miki Ito (Jessie) in a credits roll, if only because I liked her as A-ko. I declined to listen to any of the dub. Oh, and unlike some other anime localizers I could name, Pioneer always lists the Japanese cast... I suppose what makes Battle Athletes Victory so satisfying is the depth of its character development -unusual for a series like this- and the David vs. Goliath mentality of the competition. Yeah, I know that's the theme of almost every sports movie and TV series ever made, anime or not, but because Akari is so likeable (especially once she turns off the waterworks, er, stops crying every two seconds) and because she obviously has the greatest potential of any of the characters in the series, you can't help but root for her and wonder excactly which obstacle she'll overcome next. Some of the dialogue, as you might expect, can get corny at times, but because the characters are so cool, this never detracts from the series.
I especially liked this series because I watched so much of it at once and stayed up so late to do it. It reminds me of my 4AM anime-watching at FanTek cons in the early 90s, before anime was readily available. The surprise ending is more than worth the wait, and is as satisfying a resolution as one could hope for, leaving few loose ends. For that matter, the whole optimistic theme of this series induces me to rate it above Evangelion, baby, because when you watch Battle Athletes Victory, you're glad you did. You can call me a philosophically ignorant philistine all you like, but the fact remains that Akari succeeded where NERV failed.
Oh, and the repeated theme of incredible comeback victories isn't so improbable as you might think. As a New York Jets fan, I watched all of the Monday Night 'Miracle' against the Dolphins, and if it can be done in real life once, it can be done plenty in anime. I'm not going to start contrasting Akari Kanzaki with Vinny Testaverde, but you know what I mean.
Any self-respecting anime collector should really pick this series up if they haven't already, as it is an exceptional value. Above average production values, good animation, enjoyable characters, no Sword of Damocles (doom & gloom) storytelling, Akari's House, and the right combination of slapstick and melodrama make this second only to Cowboy Bebop in my book of anime TV series. I never expected to like Battle Athletes Victory as much as I did, but then nobody expected the Jets to win that game, either.
Overall Rating: A
Philips Magnavox TP2784C 27" TV, Pioneer DV-414, Monster S-Video cable. No external speakers used.