Battle Skipper Anime Review
Bishoujo Yuugekitai Battle Skipper
Beautiful Girl Commando Unit
US Release By
Toy-Marketing Mecha-girl Action
3 30-minute episodes
At the elite St. Ignacio Academy, you will find the enormously popular Debutante Club, where future leaders of the nation are groomed. But the club has a darker side--it's run by the heir to an extraordinarily rich and equally bad family with its hands in all manner of weapons manufacture. Only one thing stands in their way: The mysterious Exstars, a team of astoundingly powerful do-gooder mecha. But who pilots them? None other than St. Ignacio Academy's honorable but critically understaffed Etiquette club, including three ill-trained new recruits. Let the battle begin!
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I'll be blunt: Battle Skipper is a cliche-filled, fanservice-sprinkled, marketing-driven retread of an anime series whose sole purpose is to sell goofy-looking robot toys, and it doesn't even do that well. The series has worse-than-no plot and a collection of cute but forgettable girls to try and distract you, but ironically, the action--what you'd think would be the high point--is uninteresting at best and hilariously bad at worst. The clunky looking mecha that it's ostensibly designed to sell are so goofy looking that the battles look as much like kids banging toys around as cool anime. At least the two end themes are borderline-listenable low-rent JPop.
The only thing Battle Skipper good for is heckle-fodder--if you want to mock the string of badly-executed anime cliches with friends, have a ball.
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Seeing Tomy--yes, the toy company--listed as creator in the credits of anime is not a good sign. When the opening scene consists of a girl in the shower on a space station shaped vaguely like the Motorola logo it's an even worse one. Don't let the couple of big names in the Japanese voice cast and the word "Slayers" on the box fool you; the trio of episode-length, fanservice-seasoned toy commercials that make up Battle Skipper are exactly the sort of vapid shlock you'd expect a committee to produce based on a toy line.
The series plays like a list of anime cliches: With the shower scene (second most classic of fanservice shots) out of the way, we're introduced to the generic uber-rich-girl villain the exposed body belongs to and her generic spectacled subservient stud. They eventually come up with a nefarious reason to do battle with the Exstars, mecha-equipped defenders of peace, justice, and shameless marketing to adolescent boys.
The Exstars, in turn, consist of two semi-competent girls from the school and their three semi-reluctant new recruits. Backstory? Sorry, not here. With the Exstars comes that all-important most classic of fanservice shots, the "school uniform removed-then-replaced by stylish, skin-tight battlesuit" sequence. The transformation sequence doesn't even make sense in this series, but it just had to be there. At least one of the girls looks freaked out and makes some confused comments during her transformation for a change, but they still strike dramatic poses for no conceivable reason.
Thus is set up the epic battle between St. Ignacio Academy's heroic but understaffed Etiquette Club and the evil powers behind the Debutante Club. (I wonder if there's any relation to that other group of anime Debutantes--maybe they've gone bad in the future?) Stick around and you'll be treated to lots more random cliches: A robot combination sequence, a rich-girl willpower stare-down, evil AI robots, chatty good robots with funny accents, a flying mecha base, the threat of your club getting cancelled, and an annoying non-finale.
That summarizes the attempt to take every adolescent male anime cliche you can think of and work them all into one marketing-driven mess of a series. The whole thing is embarrassingly illogical--just skipping the plot entirely would've been better than the excuses that pass for dialogue. I'd expect the apparent target market (who probably still think girls have cooties) wouldn't appreciate the brief flashes of skin, but maybe they figured they'd pick up a few particularly desperate older viewers that way.
There are a smattering of awkward gags, which I took to be desperate attempts by the production staff to convince themselves that they were making a parody of garbage, not actual garbage. I hope it made them feel better, because it certainly isn't going to convince the audience (although I did like the superstud villain getting dissed).
Surprisingly, Battle Skipper is actually focused much more on the characters than the mecha it's designed to sell. This might be because dialogue is cheaper than action, but my guess is it's because the Battle Skippers are so lame. Stiff, boxy, silly-looking contraptions, it's so painfully obvious they're based on toys it's almost a joke. Usually the animation team makes an effort to make the animated advertisement more exciting than the toy itself, but these chunky things motor around so ridiculously they don't even seem to function within the paper-thin logic of their own world. Oh, well, I guess there's something to be said for truth in advertising.
As you might guess, the action--usually the sole reason for watching a series like this--is uninteresting. The animation itself isn't outright terrible, but the execution is lame. The art is standard fare for a lower-budget mid-'90s series: Cute but forgettable girls and bland backgrounds. The mechanical designs of course look like toys--black, spiky badmecha and colorful, equally chintzy-looking goodmecha.
The acting in the English dub ranges from not-so-good to terrible, but the abysmal writing shoulders a lot of the blame (not that there was much to work with). The Japanese is much better--Ai Orikasa plays the villain much less broadly than she could have, and Kikuko Inoue is unfailingly pleasant, as always. Not that it helps.
The two end themes are, surprisingly, the high point; the first one sounds like a toned-down, low-rent version of a Max song (a decent hyperactive J-technofunk girl-group), which is to say weak but passably catchy. The second might have actually been decent if the singing wasn't so bad. (I'm actually a little surprised they didn't manage better, given that Inoue is a capable singer; maybe they didn't have the budget to pay her to sing.) The rest of the soundtrack is maybe a step and a half above elevator music.
I've run out of insulting things to say, so it's time for the wrap up: Battle Skipper is a cliche-filled, fanservice-sprinkled, marketing-driven retread of an anime series whose sole purpose is to sell goofy-looking robot toys, and it doesn't even do that well. The only thing it's good for is heckle-fodder.
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There are plenty of other series that do empty-headed girl action, and do it better. A few: Debutante Detective Corps (wackier but more fun), Wild Cardz (hyperactive and weird premise), Z-Mind (oddly realistic retro girls-piloting-robots), and I'll throw out Magic Knights Rayearth for a fantasy-themed transforming girls show and Moldiver for a funny ditzy superhero girl show. Heck, why not Battle Athletes Victory (the TV version), too.
Notes and Trivia
Battle Skipper is, of course, based on a line of colorful toy robots from Tomy. USM's DVD even includes some of the original ads, which somewhat ironically don't seem to have anything at all to do with the setting established by this series. They also fit better, since the ad-Battle Skippers and their pilots look a lot more like Yu-Gi-Oh spawn.
There was also a manga version of Battle Skipper by Akira Matsubara; it was published alongside the video release (all three episodes were released simultaneously in Japan) in the monthly "Dengeki Comic Gao!"
Battle Skipper was the last production of old-school studio Artmic prior to their bankruptcy; they were known for producing some cult-favorite '80s classics like Megazone 23, Gall Force, and Bubblegum Crisis.
The Exstars (or Ex-Stars, on the back of the box) are spelled Exters in the original onscreen text. Whether this was a spelling mistake or the creators had something else in mind and USM tried to make it sound cooler, I'm not sure. Not that it matters much--they both sound pretty silly.
There are a couple of real St. Ignacios, but the one most likely to have a Japanese school named after him is St. Ignatius de Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order--he sent St. Francis Xavier to Japan as a missionary in 1549, and the Jesuits are known for starting schools. The only other candidate is probably St. Ignacio Clemente Delgado Cebrián, a missionary to Vietnam who was executed in the 19th century.
US DVD Review
The budget-priced DVD (which includes all three episodes as "The Movie") is surprisingly good for such a crappy show. It features English and Japanese stereo soundtracks, a reasonably clean 4:3 video transfer, and a number of extras: A storyboard comparison of several scenes, with the original storyboards split-screened with the anime version; Japanese TV commercials for the toys; character profiles; an art gallery; and a trivia game (which is actually better than it sounds, though it's mis-named--it shows you a scene and then asks you a question about some detail in it to test your powers of observation and memory). It even split-screens the credits, with the Japanese credits and illustrations on one side and the English ones on the other.
Only two problems, one minor and one that would be significant if the story wasn't pointless: The only Japanese cast translated are the main characters (shown on the bio pages and printed on the package), and the subtitles are dubtitles, which differ significantly from the Japanese in a lot of details.
While you'd think it'd be clean enough for kids, the modest amounts of nudity (and I suppose not-so-serious violence) bump it up to USM's 13-up category.
Violence: 2 - There's plenty of fighting, but it's far from graphic, or even very serious; the worst is one girl getting briefly roughed up by some thugs in a potentially sexual manner, but it's cut short and turns out to have been a setup.
Nudity: 2 - A bit of skin in the opening and transformation sequences, plus a bra or two.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - That same scene above.
Language: 1 - The dub seemed clean.
Formerly available in North America from the late US Manga Corps on a budget-priced hybrid DVD inaccurately labeled "The Movie." Prior to that was available on a single dubbed VHS volume, and before that on three individual dubbed VHS volumes. All of the above are out of print but quite easy to find for dirt cheap at last check.