Battle Skipper

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so the saying goes. If so, Battle Skipper is ninety minutes of genuine sycophancy towards the whole of the anime canon. This pretty-looking 3-OVA series (wrongly advertised as a movie in its DVD incarnation) has action, giggling teenagers, fan service, mecha, and girlpower galore. Problem is, it's less like a new creation and more like a collage of clichés taken from better programs.

We've got three girls just entering high school: the bookish yet athletic brunette Kanami (with trademark bigger-than-my-face glasses), the spunky blonde-with-ten-foot-pigtails Saori, and the shy, blue-haired giggler Shihoko. Students at an all-girl Catholic school, they attend an assembly advertising all the various societies the campus has to offer. They decide that they're going to avoid the popular Debutante Club, run by the trendy but icily nasty Sayuka. Instead, they join the archrival guild, the Etiquette Club. But they soon find out that there's a lot more to their association than just the norm when they stumble their way into mobile suits called Battle Skippers. The Etiquette Club is actually a front for the ExStars, who use their mechs to try to stop the Debutante Club's attempts at world domination, and the threesome readily join in the action. Each of the girls will have to find her hidden strengths to defeat Sayuka's minions, finish their studies, and still stay insanely perky.

If you've never seen any anime before, you might actually be impressed with parts of Battle Skipper. It's got some very nice animation with bright colors and enjoyable character designs. From a pure tech perspective, Battle Skipper's got the goods.

But if you've seen more than a dozen anime (and at least a couple of shoujo style titles), you'll have seen most of the plotlines somewhere else. Our heroines are plucked almost straight out of Magic Knight Rayearth, a show that I thought was just decent but was certainly better than this...the mecha could come out of any Patlabor clone...the unnecessary transformation sequences are lifts from Sailor Moon...and so on. The plagiarism continues throughout.

I found myself guessing at one point at possible surprises the show could throw at me; sadly, none of them came true. I couldn't find a single original thought in the entire program. (I grant that I did laugh hard at one line, but only one.) It just struck me as lazy to a fault. It also seems desperate for any sort of audience. Why else would you combine shoujo characters with lots of fan service unless you wanted the broadest audience possible? But the result is an annoying pastiche.

As I did some research on the show, I found out that the OVAs were created to sell toys of the Battle Skipper mechs, which explains a lot. Consider me cynical, but any show made with the sole purpose of advertising a pre-existing line of metal crap to children is already suspect. Occasionally, a show like Transformers will still be fun and entertaining, making the product secondary to the story. But this...this is a marketing department run amuck.

Battle Skipper -- brief nudity, violence -- D