There arenít many shows that can go from being an OAV and turn into a TV series that surpasses it. This is one of those rare shows, and while odd it certainly deserves the reputation it has garnered for itself.
Akari Kanzaki is the daughter of legendary athlete Tomoe Mido, the greatest in the line of female sportswomen to gain the title of Cosmo Beauty in the age after Humanity's ĎGreat Fallí. However, it doesnít seem like much of her motherís talent has rubbed off on her at all, and her best friend Ichan finds herself helping the underachieving Akari along as they go up against all sorts of other super powerful girls from all over the world. And once they get to the university satellite the competition will be from across the galaxy! That is, if they get there. However, many of them donít lead as simple lives as the others expect, least of all Akari, and just why are there the Great Competition and the title of Cosmo Beauty in the first place?
Iím not big on sports anime, which is what this undoubtedly is. Iím also not big on anime in which character are ridiculously powerful, which this also is. Yet I canít help really liking this show, because those aspects are just the setting for a very deep story that just likes to play around rather than wallowing in its angst, and while initially unsettling for western audiences you quickly come to see that there is a great deal more than first meets the eye about this show. Split into three distinct arcs giving away too much would spoil a plot that develops a lot. Suffice to say that the character all end up with a good amount of depth to them, even though some we donít see for extended periods of time, and they all act in ways that are both typical of their type and totally surprising, shedding new light on their character and how they deal with the stress that they are under.
The tone of the show is for the most part light and very silly. The sports they come up with are often just plain daft, or powered up to obscene levels. However, most of the characters arenít afraid to be larger than life for the sake of that tone, so it all fits together well. Itís also quite a shock when you realise you have just watched a powerful scene in such a silly seeming show and not realised the transition until you have reached the climax of the drama. Itís quite an achievement. My only complaint is that the final arc of the show is both too short and a little too daft (when you see the contestants Akari and co. go up against youíll know what I mean). It could have used some more drama along with the comedy after the end of the last one, and we donít see nearly enough of the character as they stand then. Getting to see more of Ichino and Kris play off each other, and perhaps get a little closer inside their heads would have been nice, and likewise there was more character depth that could have been done for several of the others too. Still by the close it doesnít disappoint, so that is a point in the final arcís favour. It also leaves room for relationship speculation without leaving it too open or ambiguous. Iím surprised more people havenít capitalised on that in fanfic.
With an atmosphere like that this should be fine for older kids and up. There is some violence which can seem a bit cruel at times, but itís short and resolved well in the end. Also some bad language, especially in the dub, but nothing a twelve year old of today wouldnít have learned already!
Visually this isnít bad. Iíd say it was average overall with some moments of very nice fluidity for the key events, and some moments of equally good character animation in some more character based scenes. Good colour, some nice character designs and rather wild hair at times. Overall itís nothing flashy, but it does its job.
The dub isnít a masterpiece unfortunately. There are quite a few main characters in this show, and they all hit the mark every now and again, but with some, especially Tanya the feral African track runner, it falls into the usual pitfalls. It sounds rushed some of the time as they try to match mouth movements, which can even lead them to add lines to pad out the dialogue after theyíve done so. It also seem that the actors just donít get the level of drama that the characters are conveying, as if they werenít actually watching the screen as they spoke. It sounds a bit canned. Thatís not common considering they tend to get the light, silly side well, and that makes up the majority of the show, but it is noticeable and did detract from it a fair bit for me. One last and somewhat damning comment as far as the purists will be concerned. One of the girls' names is changed a little, as it was pretty unpronounceable in English, but thatís not the biggie, itís one of the scenes sheís in. Theyíve actually mixed up the names, presumably on purpose, and then re-written the script around that, changing the date of the flashback and leaving the plot feeling very weird. They take liberties with the script more than that, but for the most part itís not a problem. That scene however is just bad work, and it highlights the other liberties in there, especially with the lines theyíve added to pad out the dialogue, forcing a certain interpretation of a purposefully oblique line or altering the interpretation you would otherwise have made. In the end itís not that awful compared to some, but my advice is donít bother, especially for the purists.
They do tend to go on about the wonder of sports and a fair bit of transcendence stuff - Ďseeing the lightí and so on - when it comes to a big event, and frankly that didnít do much for me, but there is a whole lot more than that to this sports show. This is a very meaningful series wrapped up in a fun, sometimes silly package, which means it should appeal to a large variety of viewers, from those who like power shows to those looking for a warm and deep story about friendship. A superior and very worth while expanded retelling of the original OAV, and recommended to all.