What is this?
Set in the year 5100, elite athletes from around the solar system compete to become Cosmic Beauty, the champion of a huge athletic tournament. Potato-loving protagonist Kanata has her eyes on the prize, but does she have the determination to win?
Battle Athletes Victory ReSTART! is based on Rui Takatō's Pale Blue Dot Battle Athletes Daiundōkai ReSTART! manga and streams on Funimation on Saturdays.
How was the first episode?
The word for this premiere is clumsy. Be it the writing, the worldbuilding, the animation, or especially our protagonist, everything about this sequel(?)/soft reboot feels like it was cobbled together in a nervous panic moments before being pushed out the door. Maybe some of that is just a consequence of me not being familiar with the original Battle Athletes. I actually have a friend who swears by it, and I hope I'm not risking that friendship by saying this premiere was pretty lackluster.
A big issue is the animation. This isn't the first sports show this season to get whacked with the ugly stick, but it definitely shows the wear more immediately than Farewell, My Dear Cramer. Outside of a few decent cuts in the OP, the sports action here is observably stiff and awkward, with characters jerking forward with no sense of weight or momentum to their movements. A character falls dozens of feet down a cliffside and lands on her back, but it doesn't even register as painful because she never feels like a physical body colliding with anything. Even run cycles seem to be a problem, which doesn't bode well for what is presumably going to be a showcase of physicality in the series proper. Some sports series can get away with cutting corners, but ReSTART is decidedly not one of them.
Then there's the actual premise. The show just kind of drops us into the idea of interplanetary Olympics without any preamble, which I assume is something you're expected to know about from the original series. I can mostly roll with that, but then a trio of faceless aristocrats immediately start lore dumping about how they're the REAL rulers of the cosmos, not the Cosmos Beauty Queen, and it's all Greek to me. I'm also kind of confused at the scale of this whole thing. The impression I got was that 1 candidate from each planet (plus Earth's moon and Pluto) in the solar system would attend this college to compete, but this is a huge god damn campus for maybe a dozen students. So are there competitors from outside the solar system? The galaxy? These are questions that could be answered eventually, but here they just feel like unnecessary distractions.
But all that could be dealt with if I liked the characters, which sadly I don't. Kanata has one note, and that note is “Potato.” Nearly every single gag involves her mentioning, holding, or eating a potato and it gets tired very quickly. Her only other features are being loud and too stupid to function outside of athletics, which makes her kind of unbearable after a few minutes. There are attempts to make her feel more human with her relationship to her roommate, a disabled athlete named Shelley, but it's overall pretty treacly and poorly considered. In general she just isn't a compelling protagonist, and would be enough to sink the show for me on her own. With no charm, no understanding of the larger world, and no spectacle, this definitely misses the mark for me.
I have vague memories of the original Battle Athletes from back in the day, but I can't say that it really stuck with me. Now after having watched the first episode of its newest incarnation, I find myself with similar feelings. In part this is likely due to the fact that, despite taking most of the episode to get protagonist Kanata into space to the University Satellite where she will compete to become the Cosmo Beauty, not much about the contest, the world, or anything else is really explained. The only thing I can say with any confidence is that Kanata loves potatoes.
In fact, Kanata's athletic prowess seems to stem from her life as a potato farmer's granddaughter, apparently on a (futuristic) farm where everything is still done entirely by hand. As a little girl, Kanata saw a meteorite crash to Earth, and the surviving person aboard, a girl about her age, hands her some sports wristbands and begs her to someday enter and win the Cosmo Beauty contest. She then vanishes while Kanata is off getting help, but at the end of the episode may have popped back up, a teenager who doesn't remember Kanata. This may indicate that she is not, in fact, the same person, but her twin or cousin or some other relative taking on the other girl's wishes in much the same way Kanata is. In any case, this is perhaps the most solid piece of plot in the entire episode.
From what can be pieced together from the rest, apparently Cosmo Beauty is part of the Divine Grand Games, a competition put on by the Solar System Control Committee, a group of three guys named after Greek letters to find the queen. Of the solar system? Sure, that sounds about right, given that competitors come from all of the planets and Earth's moon. (No word yet if other planets' moons are involved.) Kanata beat out a girl named Anna to be Earth's representative, and in all honesty probably saved Anna's life after she fell from a mountain she was free climbing. Of course, Kanata jumped off the mountain to save her, so physics obviously doesn't mean a lot here. (Kanata apparently built a log cabin by hand at the age of ten, as well, like some sort of moe Abe Lincoln.) Also there are apparently kangaroos on the moon. If you were wondering.
Probably the most successful moment of the episode is when Kanata, newly arrived on the Satellite, meets Shelley, the girl who will become her roommate, and notices that Shelley has a prosthetic leg. Kanata dashes after her and grabs for Shelley's suitcase, intending to “help” the other girl. Shelley indignantly snaps at Kanata that she doesn't need help or pity, reprimanding her for making assumptions about Shelley's body. It's a lesson that not only Kanata needs to learn (only help if you're asked in these cases, or at least ask before grabbing), and since Shelley's body is clearly a bone of contention for other girls at school, this could be a good theme for the series overall. For now, though, I'm left with that one thought that kept jumping to the forefront of my mind for most of the episode:
Wow, Kanata sure loves potatoes.