Series Review

August 2016/5th Anniversary Review

Well, this has been a long time coming, this review I mean. I originally planned to do this last year for my anniversary but life interfered with that plan. But luckily now that is my fifth anniversary of going this anime blogging venture that began what seems like a long while ago. But anyway, onto this very special review over….

AH My Goddess (2005-06 TV Series)

Director: Hiroaki Gohda

Writers: Hiroaki Gohda and Akira Watanabe (among many others)

Studio: AIC

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Keiichi Morisato is just an ordinary college man with an extraordinary misfortune. At least that’s what seems to be the case, in a universal viewpoint. Anyway, one evening while tending to his apartment, he makes a phone call that at first would have been a wrong number, but it turned out to be something more. He accidentally called the Goddess Help Hotline, an otherworldly customer service organization that work to increase the overall happiness in the world. It turns out that Belldandy, a Goddess First Class, picked up the other end of that phone call and ends up paying a visit to Keiichi in order to grant him a wish, like a genie. Of course, Keiichi decides to make her stay with him and so by decree Belldandy (and soon her other sisterly Goddesses Urd and Skuld among others) come to live with our nice couple. It is sure to be fun times for Keiichi.

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What really grabs me when it comes to Ah My Goddess, as discussed before in prior reviews for this franchise, is about the characters and relationships which drive the story. This series contains some of the richest and fully realized characters, even down to minor characters like Megumi, Keiichi’s little sister and members of the Auto Club. But the standout is Keiichi and Belldandy, the central couple of the story. Now while it might seem at first to be an unlikely pair, Keiichi being a regular Joe and Belldandy being a Goddess of the Yamamoto Nadeshiko variety, they do over the course of the TV series develop a very nice and formal relationship of love and devotion. Though as the TV series covers only so much material from the manga, their story stuff feels unresolved at times.

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Luckily, Fujishima must have figured out that shortly in the manga’s run, so he introduced some other Goddesses. One of them is my favorite character in the series overall, that being Urd the smexy older sister of Belldandy, of sorts. She comes into the series right at about the time that Keiichi and Belldandy have settled into their lives together, and helps to inject some life into the story. She has the best intentions in mind, to get Keiichi to advance his relationship with Belldandy even though they seem content with how things are. She is probably the most nuanced character in the cast, and given her heritage that’s not a total surprise. You see she is a Half Goddess, Half Demon and that allows the show to explore her character in ways that are most interesting. The episodes where she is the focus are some of the best in the TV Series, particularly an arc of the second season where she does confront her own heritage and learn to reconcile it.

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There is also the aspect of magical realism that Ah My Goddess presents, the meeting of the mundane with the fantastical. There’s essentially a world hidden from humans in the AMG universe, with its own spirits and otherworldly beings. There is also a clear dichotomy between good and evil in the Goddesses spread happiness and positive energy whereas the Demons spread misfortune though they co-exist somewhat together in a clearly established legal system of sorts. I like the way that Fujishima explores the nature of reality, as a very complex computer program, with the concept of a super computer Yggdrasil operating with the Goddesses acting like tech support for the universe.  Pretty nifty if I say so myself.

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If that is a lacking element it is the story. It is fairly standard slice of life episodes when it isn’t about the Goddesses or more fantastical elements in the universe. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but it’s the thing that sticks out against all the good aspects the series has going for it. Of course, after 50 episodes, it just stops. Yes, I am aware of the OVAs that released after the TV series, but those have yet to get a western release so bit out of luck there. Considering the manga ended just some time ago, it would seem unlikely that we would get another anime TV series anytime soon.

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It must be said that the production on the TV series, well not as strong as the 90s OVA or cinematically brilliant as the Movie, still holds up well. Hiroaki Gohda likely stands as one of the few directors to have actually helped all entries of an anime franchise. Granted, the character design work is based on Hidenori Matsubara’s work from the 2000 movie then the manga. Though interestingly the manga’s run around and after the TV series’ initial run adopted this character design right up to the end of manga in Fall 2014.  That being said, this is probably the last great show AIC truly made as they have since splintered into various offshoot studios and such. Still the TV series look good for the most part, though there are the occasional moments that dip in quality. Another thing of note is Shiroh Hamaguchi’s music. Granted, he is perhaps more well-known for music on anime like GaruPan and One Piece alongside video games like the Final Fantasy series, his music is very special to me. When I first watched the TV series about a decade ago, the first thing that got my attention was the opening song for Season 1. It was the first OP that really grabbed me and never has let me go, for better or for worse.

Ah My Goddess S1 OP

Ah My Goddess S2 OP

Now the English release for the TV series is very interesting. Both seasons were produced by NYAV Post within a year or two of each other, but released by different companies. Media Blasters released Season 1 in singles then box set collection, meanwhile Season 2 was a co-production with ADV Films, who released also in singles then Funimation picked up the license and released it in box set collection, which is how I got a hold of both seasons. The English dub for the TV series is quite good, helmed by and done by a very competent team of NY dub actors/actresses. Highlights include Eileen Stevens who plays the part of Belldandy to a tee, and Vibe Jones as Urd is a delight and another reason why I like the character. In addition, it is a neat treat to hear Juliet Cesario (played Belldandy in 90s OVA) and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Urd from the Movie) again in somewhat major supporting roles in the second season; they’re both terrific actresses in their own right, all’s the better to hear them in dubs.

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So that’s Ah My Goddess, a wonderful TV series in a franchise I hold quite dear to me. It was one of the first show that I came across when getting into anime, and even a decade on it still stands out to me as one of the best anime that I have seen. People may recall I did a 10 Anime Favorites some years ago on my old blog and included Ah My Goddess, well I still stand by that. I recommend this show whenever people ask me about what anime to watch first, and that’s certainly a great thing.

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So, thanks to all who have been following me in my five years of going anime blogging. The landscape of blogging for me has changed so dramatically since I started back in 2011. I thank OG Man for being a great pen pal and anime colleague these past few years. I would also like to thanks the folks at Animation Revelation who helped me out with getting my stuff more exposure. Finally, I give thanks to Mike Ferreira and the staff over at Anime Herald for giving me a shot at working with another site besides my own, love working with you all there are wonderful.

So will there be another 5 years of going this? Well, heheh we shall see….. Anyway, next months will be a set of some very interesting reviews that I got planned.

Til next time, dear readers….

 

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