Sometimes you just feel the need to sit down and relax with a fun show that doesn't require too much thinking. You know, when your brain's all numb from too many overly intelligent series in a row (like RahXephon, Planetes and FullMetal Alchemist), and all you want or need is to watch a bunch of cute animated girls in tight outfits running, swimming, jumping, and bouncing around in heated competition. It is for breaks like these that the geniuses at AIC created the Battle Athletes Original Video Animation and TV series. May they go forth, be bountiful and multiply so that their numbers soon equal the number of grains of sand on all the beaches in the world!
I had my first taste of Battle Athletes way back in the summer of 1997 at Anime Expo. The BA OVA was shown on the in-room anime channel and I gave it a quick shot, and then I ran down to the dealers room to pick up some Mononoke Hime bootleg soundtracks before that closed (eh, the TV was unsubbed and confusing.. I confuse easily). It wasn't until a few years later when the TV series (that followed the OVA) had been released in the States, and had been marked down to $14 a disc, that I really decided to give the whole girly-sports show another try. And even then it was only because an ass load of online lamers were spitting out over-emotion-filled (and almost dirty) haikus about the BA phenomenon that I thought it might be worth my time and money. I followed the lamers' advice and first got the 26 episode TV series, Battle Athletes Victory, and then soaked up the whole thing in about three days. I was amazed at the funness of it all, and at the same time I was confused as to how it could have gone under my radar for so long! It was brilliant! The use of sports, cute girls, tragedy, triumph, major plot twists... Everything was pretty close to perfection. So then I went out and bought the original BA six episode OVA figuring that the original story must be even better. And well, eh, it was good, but it did not compare to BAV.
Let's get down to brass tacks.... Brass monkey? Whatever. BA (both OVA and TV) is all about Akari Kanzaki and her attempt to become the next Cosmo Beauty in the year 4999, when humanity has colonized the solar system and beyond, and men and women have honed their bodies into physical perfection. The Great Competition is the showcase of the bestest female bods in the universe, but the contestants are not judged on curves and evening wear. Instead, the winner of the Great Competition (herefore known as the Cosmo Beauty) is the fastest, most coordinated and least fatigable woman at the University Satellite. And the rivalry is FIERCE. Both BA and BAV (BA being the original OVA and BAV being the retold TV version... Keep up with me here) have the same general storyline (Akari, daughter of the greatest Cosmo Beauty of all time, Tomoe Midoh, tries her best to release her inner potential while making new b.f.f.'s and fighting off strong willed [sometimes insane] challengers), but the TV series has a much longer run in which to study Akari and her place in the world. That extra time is much appreciated.
See, the original OVA is only 6 episodes long. Combined that's only three hours of storytelling. The TV series is like thirteen hours long. Because of that there are some major changes to certain characters and subplots, and while not all of the changes are for the best, they're completely understandable. Think of it this way: Say somebody gives you a day pass to go to Disney World. You're all like "Fuckin' A!" And you go and enjoy the shit out of it. But then, a few months later the same person comes back and says, "You liked that day in Disney World so much that we decided to give you a whole WEEK in Epcot, MGM Studios, that gay Disney Safari Place, Universal Studios - Islands of Adventure, and a whore house of your choosing!!" Sure, you may be a little sad that you didn't get to go back to the original Disney World theme park, but you get sooooo much more new fun stuff instead. Even if you picked up some crabs from that house of ill repute.
Okay, you know the general plots of BA and BAV (anything more would ruin some of the really fun surprises inside), now I'll tell you about the changes between the two and why they needed to be made. First of all, the most major of changes goes to Akari Kanzaki herself. Ms. Rabbit-haircut has the most altered personality of everyone involved when comparing her BA and BAV characters, but this change was also the most necessary and understandable. In the original BA, we meet up with Akari as she, and her fellow athletesses travel to the giant University Sports Satellite to begin their training for the last leg of the Cosmo Beauty competition. Akari is already battle hardened (well, sort of) and very determined to win. In contrast, in BAV we first meet up with Akari as she struggles to even make it past the mid-point of her first academic/sportly semester at the Antarctic Training School. She's very timid and seems to only be there because of a promise made to her dying mother. She has no real desire to be the Cosmo Beauty. It isn't until she meets fellow Japanese battle athlete, Ichino (aka "It-chan"), that she finds a reason to be all she can be, and turn herself into an army of one. Then she gets serious in order to make it to the Satellite with It-chan, and hopefully have one of them make it to the highest crowning point. Well, needless to say lots of good and bad stuff happens along the way (Akari is kicked around by some more senior students, wonders if she truly has the potential for anything inside of her, and has to decide who she really is fighting for before the Antarctic Training School Final is given). None of this Earth-side stuff is in the OVA. Nothing that happened to Akari previous to the Satellite is even mentioned in the OVA. And the biggest crime of the OVA is that there is barely ANY Jessie Gurtland to be found in it. Jessie is so fucking fine, and she really only gets a chance to shine in BAV. And, in all honesty, she's the real reason Akari even made it to the University Satellite in the first place (this is kinda hinted at in the OVA, but made perfectly clear in the TV continuity).
Anyway, due to massive time limitations, the OVA starts halfway through Akari's quest for the title. Understandable. Also due to time limitations is the fact that barely any of her and her teammates' training in the Satellite is shown (this is really sucky considering this is a sports show, and the whole point of a sports show is to see the main character improve gradually over the course of the telling). We see her arrival, midterm and then final... You're kind of left wondering, dude, WTF? It's like watching Rocky Balboa being the enforcer early in the first movie, then jumping straight to see him fight Mr. T in Rocky III, and then flying directly to the final bout against Draco in Rocky IV. You just sit there thinking, "How the shit did this stallion guy get so damn good?" But I digress.
BAV takes its time introducing the main and secondary characters, and it has the time to allow us to meet even more people than BA's already semi-large athletic class. But perhaps the most notable (and possibly coolest anime character of all fuckin' time) makes his only appearance in the BA TV series: Mister Miracle. Miracle is a chocoholic with a passion for molding potential Cosmo Beauties into pure pedigreed pieces of perfection. He's already shaped more than a half dozen Cosmo Beauties, but can he do anything for Akari? Hell, will he even choose to help Akari? You'll just have to watch to see if any of his miracles take place (and he will make you say "Ah!" twice before it is through).
Let's see, other than those left out or barely even touched upon from one version of BA to the other, I would like to point out that the personality changes to most of the other athletes and faculty of BAV are a major improvement over the original BA. Grant Oldman (headmaster of the University Satellite) is 10Xs cooler in the TV series. Myllandah is INFINITELY better in BAV too. In the original she really just comes off as a high school cheerleading bee-yatch with a bone to pick with whoever tells her she's not two snaps up. In the TV series she's simply and completely PSYCHO. And she's a major threat to those that cross her. Lahrri is also less human and more of "the perfect sports machine" in BAV than in the original. Tanya is more bouncy and fun (and more likeable), Kris Christopher is less perfect, and therefore more understandable, and Anna is not a... Well, let's just say that even though Anna has a big secret in both BA and BAV, her secret in BAV is much less frightening.
But the biggest difference between the two stories would have to be the reason for the University Satellite and ultimately the Great Competition. BA makes it out to be like the Olympics of today's world, but fails to explain why only women participate. BAV tells us that everything happens for a reason. And the payoff (while a little silly) is oh-so-much more enjoyable. There are so many more peaks to climb in the TV series! You feel Akari's fatigue as she ascends, hand over hand to each new challenge, and you fully understand her grief when she fails. So, while Battle Athletes the OVA is a fun, short exercise (heh, GET IT?!?!), I would recommend you watch Victory first, and then go back to the original. The way certain twists are played out in Victory is much much much more fulfilling than in its predecessor. It's so much better to be surprised with the TV series' path.
FINALLY! A show about Girl Power that doesn't all out stink! Unlike that terrible Princess Baseball show I saw a while ago, this one delivers. Seriously, I was totally rooting for Atari to win win win in every competition she participated in. And boy did she participate in a lot! She did soccer, running, swimming, lacrosse, pole vaulting, midget wrestling, horse punching, log rolling, pie eating and bitch slapping! Oh wait, were some of those from MXC? Sorry, but you get the point.
Atari was pretty cool for a heroine. Sure, she was a bit of a crybaby at first, but that's understandable. She was an only child who was kinda spoiled by her mom growing up which turned her into a bit of a wuss who would burst into tears at the first insult slung her way just like that pussy-bitch, Jenna Thaxton, on the dance team who used to act like she was the cat's meow when she was really just kitty litter! That's right, you heard me, Jenna! You complete BITCH! What was wrong with you?! You'd get all up in my face and be like "What's WRONG?! Don't you know I'm the Queen of Crap?!" But then you'd crumble like a lesbo cookiee as soon as anybody queefed in your direction! Hah! You whining sack! I'm glad Bobbie dumped you after giving you the clap at the prom! You sooooo deserved that!
Holy sweet Moses! I think I may need to cash in some of my favors I have with Bob From the Future in order to get the chap to take me to 4999 in order to study some of those girls from this show. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm talking about studying their bone mass, and muscle capacity when it comes to sprinting, jumping and apparently stopping runaway spaceships WITH THEIR BARE HANDS. Sweet turtle turds! Fascinating...
This show reminded me of that one time quite a few years ago I had accidentally run over this bicycle guy down the street from my clinic. He was in pieces (I never did find one of his testicles after that), so I took him back with me and put him back together, grafting his organic body with that of a cheetah addicted to crack. Now, in order to cleverly hide his cheetah heritage I had to permanently Nair his legs and cut off his tail, but the results speak for themselves. The last I heard he was going to enter some fancy schmancy Frenchie bike rally or something... I hope ol' "one nut" is doing okay and not getting into any trouble for his genetic tinkering.