#1 Sci-fi wrestling
The year is 2061 and the entertainment world has become obsessed with a new type of combat sport. “Neo Pro Wrestling” holds all of the chaotic appeal of regular wrestling, all the drama and showmanship, but with the extra addition of specialized power armor.
It’s a sport that is as much about the physical capabilities of its athletes as it about the engineering prowess of their teams. Fights involve tag teams of 4, and that’s about all the rules you get. Teams can install performance enhancers, use gadgets like boosters, or even outright bring weapons into the ring. Nothing matters, so long as they put up a good show.
Wrestling is already delightfully over-the-top as it is, but this futuristic alternative sees people tossing their opponents into the air, triple-flipping after them, then performing a midair grapple to piledrive them back down. Every fight is full of such amazing moments, but these act as a the cherry on top of already amazing battles. Each fight is unique and exciting to watch thanks to amazing choreography that makes even the regular kicks & punches feel super impactful.
The solid animation work by J.C. Staff really gets to shine here.
#2 An underdog story
The actual story of the anime follows a Neo Pro Wrestling team known as The Pretty Four; a group of young girls led by a stressful, older manager and a motherly coach. They’re an amateur team at best who sometimes fight other bottom-tier wrestlers and double as an idol group, which makes them popular, but a laughingstock among the more serious leagues.
This changes when one of their amateur battles is rudely interrupted and The Pretty Four are challenged to come face real opponents in the upcoming tournament.
What follows is a classic story of a band of rookies undergoing intense training and bonding with each other in order to have a chance at beating rivals who are far more experienced and powerful. The Pretty Four gain a fierce new coach who puts them through a hellish training regime and their idol careers fall by the wayside as they commit themselves to becoming the best fighters they can be.
There is a lot of appeal in watching the girls grow. All of them have enjoyable personalities and enough going on to fill meaningful character arcs. I took a liking to Ginko in particular, who is the captain of the team. She’s a great fighter and quite the hothead, but struggles with feeling envious as her team members surpass her in popularity and her opportunities to shine in matches grow fewer and far between. She has to learn how to deal with these feelings and regain her self-confidence, but that turns into an uphill battle for her.
All the girls enjoy similar growth, which made The Pretty Four an endearing cast that is easy to root for.
Besides having to overcome foes that are older, more experienced, and frequently bigger than them, The Pretty Four also face problems that are much less fair in nature. Spurred on by an ancient grudge, the CEO of the mega-conglomerate Shibano Enterprises will stop at nothing to make sure that The Pretty Four are eliminated from the competition.
Many episodes are either all about his misdeeds or at least complicated by them. Equipment gets sabotaged, espionage is employed, and many attempts are made to demoralize or disband The Pretty Four. These plans grow more extreme as the tournament draws to a close, with one later episode seeing Shibano Enterprises hire a retired war criminal to attack the girls in their private lives. It gets really insane and cruel.
A fun dynamic here is that the CEO is acting entirely on his own. His daughter is determined to have Shibano’s teams face The Pretty Four in honest combat, and she grows increasingly frustrated with her dad as his plans are discovered and thwarted. The man’s absolutely frightened of her too, which made these interactions a fun pay off to the storylines.