Content Warning: Fanservice; ableism.
What’s it about? As a child, young farm girl Kanata witnessed a meteor crashing to Earth. The girl who crawls from the wreckage begs Kanata to win the intergalactic title of Cosmo Beauty before vanishing without a trace. Kanata has chased that goal ever since and finally gotten into the prestigious University Satellite, where representatives from every planet compete for the crown.
“Why is there a Battle Athletes reboot happening in 2021?” I do not hear you asking, because my household is the only one on the planet still holding a torch for that title. The original 1997 OVA and its TV series retelling dressed its cast of all-female athletes in skimpy outfits but came light on actual fanservice and took their competitions seriously, with a side of yuri subtext to boot. While parts of it have aged poorly (notably some yikesy racial stereotyping), I was still happy to see Discotek rescue the license. But is that the same as crying out for a comeback?
I’m not so sure, but here we are regardless. ReSTART! is at least a mostly newbie-friendly reboot thus far. It doesn’t really do much beyond the very basics of worldbuilding, but I’ll always take dropping in details naturalistically even if it leaves things vague over a massive infodump. That said, those looking for a clearer outline of the premise won’t get much beyond “there’s a big competition which our heroine wants to win, and the title she’s chasing has some kind of conspiracy behind it.”
It works primarily because Kanata is a sweet, slightly dense protagonist from the same school of “earnest country folk” as Umamusume’s Special Week. It’s fun to see those gags framed in a distinctly ’90s throwback style (at one point stretching the limits of “homage” to their breaking point by literally just replicating part of the Cardcaptor Sakura opening). The real heart of the episode, though, is Kanata cheerfully telling a bully who challenged her that she once built a log cabin barehanded at the age of ten before completely crushing her… and then making friends afterward. That’s the kind of heroine I can get behind.
And the show agrees with me! Unfortunately, with a different kind of “behind.” My God, is ReSTART obsessed with ass shots. They’re an intrusive distraction from the slapstick and comedic chibi inserts that give the episode charm. Even worse, the animators decided to throw one in while Kanata is telling a moving story about how her grandmother inspired her.
The yuri subtext is back from the original too, which I’m mostly on-board with. Kanata reunites with the girl she met as a child only to realize with horror that she doesn’t remember their past promise, an emotional hook that’s clearly going to be a driving force for the series. However, I’m not so much on-board with yuri subtext when it involves Kanata saying weird shit like “that lonely look of yers is awful cute” to her little sister.
I’m willing to hold out to see if the fanservice is a typical case of “first-episode only” nonsense meant to get those (enthusiastic for) butts in seats before dropping off. I’m especially hoping that we here at AniFem will get some write-ins from disabled viewers, as quite a bit of screentime here is dedicated to Kanata’s new roommate Shelley Wong, who faces discrimination as an athlete because of her prosthetic arm and leg. She even pushes back against descriptions of her talent as “miraculous,” as the term devalues her hard work.
There’s enough good here that I’m hoping ReSTART will rise above these bumps in the road rather than devolving into a fanservicey nostalgia-grab. But fortunately, if it does fail, there are other sporty gals to check out this season.