Battle Skipper was last released on DVD in 2003. You can still buy the entire series for under $7 on Amazon. Currently, Battle Skipper is not running on any app, making illegal (and crappy quality) YouTube rips, VHS tapes and the DVD your only chance to watch the show. Below are the official VHS links for those of you still rockin' a VCR:
Oh Battle Skipper. I wanted to like you. I really did.
A little background. Back in 1997, I started pestering my mom into letting me buy anime VHS tapes. She had gotten me hooked on this "underground" culture through weekly VHS rentals from Hollywood Video and Blockbuster, coupled with blocky .AVI clips on a still teething internet, late-night showings of lesser known titles on Cartoon Network's Saturday Japanime block (Two years before Toonami started and several ahead of Adult Swim) and random screenings of Speed Racer, and now it was time to graduate into VHS collecting.
Battle Skipper originally was released onto three VHS tapes in North America, each at $24.99 a pop. Shortly thereafter, the three tapes were comprised into one "movie" tape, initially priced at $59.95, and then dropped down to $24.99. Then in 2003, ADV re-released the U.S. Manga Corps tapes onto DVD, again as a "movie". I got the first tape on clearance at Coconuts for $15, but hadn't gotten a chance to collect the others until recently, when I plunked down $7 for the DVD.
And trust me, at $7 (DVD + shipping) that's about as much as you should be paying.
It's never a good sign when the main character is ABSENT from the DVD front cover. The story focuses on the rivalry between Reika (the star) and her distant cousin Sayaka, but more on that later. First, let's go into some technical details.
The "movie" isn't actually a movie. It's a three episode OVA, animated by defunct studio Artmic, which is probably better known for animating Bubblegum Crisis's OVAs. The show was hastily put together by Tomy, to hawk a new toyline, which would have gone head-to-head against Gundam and Transformers. A full series was talked about, but after the three episodes failed to capture an audience in 1995, the show was halted, the OVAs went to VHS, and eventually, the toyline fizzled out. When the separate VHS tapes failed to attract a larger audience after it was dubbed by U.S. Manga Corps, the series was repackaged as a movie and sold on the cheap. The show was released long before anybody knew about or cared about HD quality printing, so you're getting 4:3 SD prints which look about TV quality. The contrast is muted and the colors appear dimmed due to age and cheap film stock, so it does you no good to gripe about the quality. It never existed. And to make things even more lazy, the "movie" still retains the slap-dash credits after each "episode". So it won't even feel like a movie. It feels like what it is, you just bought three episodes of a dropped series.
If you buy the DVD version, you have the choice between English dub or English subtitles. The VHS is in dub only. Most notable of the English cast is Lisa Ortiz, who voices Saori. Ortiz is better known to dub fans as Amy Rose in Sonic X and as Lina Inverse in SlayerS, but here, much of the acting for all characters is flat. The Japanese version adds a little more inflection in the voices, making the girls sound a bit less like porn stars, so it's food for thought when you're deciding which version to watch. The script is kept close enough, but the Japanese version has fewer instances of ad-lib. And yes, the box is telling the truth, the director of SlayerS was a part of this, but wisely, he never bragged about it.
Now to the story..... there hardly is one.
The show begins with Sayaka, a spoiled teenager with her private spaceship and mech military. She's a snippy red-head who is addicted to wine and has her own personal man-slave, Todou. These two look like what would happen if Team Rocket let themselves go. When Todou isn't quickly taking orders or being seen doing evil things, he spends much of the show being whipped by Sayaka while still pining for her love.
Sayaka attends a Catholic school, in which she is allowed to do whatever she wants, because her family is loaded. She runs the Debutante Club, which has tons and tons of loyal members, and is positioned to swallow whole the Etiquette club, run by Sayaka's distant cousin, Reika.
Reika has no personality whatsoever. It's no wonder she's missing from the DVD box, she's so cardboard that she'd likely tip over the minute you pull the disc from the shelf. In a sad attempt to balance her out, she's paired with Rie, a brash, rude and vulgar girl, who spits out the same cliche one-liners you've no doubt already heard from other "tough guy" characters. The girls need to expand their club quickly, or the head nuns will allow Sayaka to disband them, even though the club literally poses absolutely NO threat to anyone ever.
That's where Shihoko, Saori and Kanami come in. The three freshmen invite themselves into the club, after a horrendous speech by Rie. Not long after this, the trio sneaks into the HQ after dark, and discovers that Rie and Reika are secretly fighting as Exsters/ExStars, a group invented to fight crime. They each pilot a low-to-the-ground mech called a Battle Skipper. And on paper, this looks like a fantastic premise for a hot kids' show, habut it's not.
Shihoko is clumsy, flakey, and offers no value to the team. The first two episodes have her being more than a handful. Her blue hair makes her look semi-interesting, but all that changes when you realize her hair clips look like tumors.
Saori looks like a cheap cash-in on Sailor Moon, but her similarities are in looks only. Unlike Shihoko, Saori is cynical, except for episode two.
Kanami looks like your typical Moe nerd, but she's actually the best fighter out of the five, and has no ounce of shyness at all. If she had been made the star, the show might have survived.
The first episode is very shallow. Aside from the school antics, the plot ~ which shows up randomly in the last ten minutes ~ centers around Todou being ordered to rob a bank by Sayaka.... which makes absolutely no freaking sense. We establish in the first five minutes that Sayaka is not only rich beyond reason, she also has the city eating out of the palm of her hand. Not only doesn't she need the money, she can always ASK for it. WHY send a team of mechs to go rob something that technically is yours anyway???
Episode two gets uncomfortable and fast. Saori is attacked by Todou's men and is nearly gang-raped, when she is suddenly saved by Todou, who is disguised as the hot new priest at the school. When she tries to kiss the disguised Todou and thank him for saving her, he drugs her and uses her to expose the ExStars. As if the rape implications aren't alarming enough, the other girls can tell Saori has been hypnotized, isn't acting right.... and they don't see this as a problem until AFTER their original base is discovered by Todou.
But most baffling is episode three, and this explains why there was never a full season for the show. In a hastily written episode, Sayaka declares an all out war against the Battle Skippers and the ExStars, enlisting her own, predominantly female based army against the girls. She starts by getting the head nuns to threaten the Etiquette Club with expulsion if they don't disband within 24 hours. (Hah?) This mildly perturbs Reika, who decides to come alone and unarmed to Sayaka's base. (Why?) The other girls find out where Reika is, convince themselves she's been kidnapped, and head out to rescue her, resulting in a badly timed battle scene, full of comedic miscues and lazy animated backgrounds. How does Reika escape? Does she unleash a terrible new weapon? Is there a climactic sword fight aboard the S.S. Brat? Nope. The deciding factor of good vs. evil boils down to Sayaka's mother, essentially paying off the school to reinstate the Etiquette club, and effectively giving Sayaka a time-out. (That's it. I quit. *Slams the door behind her.*)
The animation in every scene except the final battle is decent, about what you would expect from 1995 and well shaded, but the costumes are all over the place. The ExStars post-transformation suits look like ripped up dad coats, while the battle suits look like leotards after a moth took a can opener to it.
The Battle Skippers themselves are unimpressive, short, clunky and come in dull colors. What's worse is that their A.I. is more flaky than Shihoko, leading to spots that are less comedic and more embarrassing. Most of the time, they don't even open up to their full capacity and spend most of their on-screen time being driven like cars.
And then there's the obvious content issue. The commercials on the VHS tape suggest the toys were aimed at both boys and girls between ages 6-10, but the rampant alcohol and rape scenes earned the series a PG-13 rating. The transformation scenes also show detailed nudity on Shihoko and Saori, which ads a PedoBear level, as the two are supposedly 16 years old, but look 14.
Battle Skipper is basically a fluff piece. There's no hardcore edge to it and at under 90 minutes, it makes for a quick romp. Not for kids, despite the toys.
Codename Sailor earth
Codename Sailor Earth is a lifelong anime and wrestling fan. IRL she is cartoonist Koriander Bullard, formerly Koriander Ake, a happily married Chicagoan. Her favorite anime is Sailor Moon. A baby in the late 80's, the first anime titles she ever saw were Speed Racer, Voltron and Robotech.