Ah! My Goddess! The Movie Anime Review
US Release By
Romantic Comedy and Battling Dieties
Its been three years since the goddess Belldandy moved in with technical college student Keiichi as fulfillment of his fateful wish back in the OAV, along with her sisters Urd and Skuld. Things seem to be going smoothly for the dreamy couple; their twin rider motorcycle is looking great and a new batch of freshmen promises a badly needed infusion of new blood into the Motor Club.
But there's a disturbance in Heaven. A dangerous dissident who had been imprisoned in a special seal on the Moon has been set loose. At the same time back on Earth, Belldandy's mentor, Celestin, reappears after disappearing many years ago without explaining anything to his star student. Not only is he proving to be a rival for Belldandy's affections, he also wipes Belldandy's memories of Keiichi completely clean. Now, Keiichi has to fight to win back his love while the goddesses on both Earth and Heaven have to work overtime to thwart a sudden attack on Heaven itself.
As the latest installment of one of the most beloved of anime franchises, "Ah! My Goddess!" the Movie had a lot of expectations to live up to. And it does! While there are a lot of events that have unfolded since the OAV (all shown in the original Manga), only a few new characters appear. The three grounded goddesses are still living at Keiichi's, and the Motor Club members are still trying hard to win recognition. But now we have a glimpse at Heaven's upper management with goddess Peorth and her team of system administrators working hard to maintain the Yggdrasil System that runs pretty much everything. All the character designs have stayed pretty much faithful to the original (and are just as breathtakingly rendered and meticulously animated) but also sport a few subtle adjustments here and there. Most noticeable is Urd, who looks a bit more mature now. After all, it's been three years since the events of the OAV.
The rest of the art is not far away either. Our first look at Heaven is breathtaking, with a unique techno/magical look. The way the anime portrays magic as computer programs and subroutines (complete with operators spouting technobabble) is quite enjoyable to watch. Everything from the control room of the Yggdrasil System to the chambers of the Big Guy Himself is beautifully detailed. Add to that the series's signature magical spell effects, angelic music (a musical sequence near the end is especially beautiful), the dance-like motorcycle races, and you have one of the most beautiful anime movies ever produced.
Storywise? The movie introduces Keiichi's first true rival (outside the manga), which is a bit fresh after the girls-after-the-lonely-guy style of the OAV, and the couple have to face what is perhaps the toughest trial they have ever been subjected to. As such, the movie has a slightly darker mood than the OAV but still provides a few smiles as the forever-sweet Belldandy has to relearn everything she forgot. The rest is just the cliched story of the noble villain who wants to right the wrongs of the world using the wrong methods. The plot moves logically and smoothly, but rarely surprises the viewer. And anyone who has seen the OAV will be quite familiar with the type of drama in the movie. Still, even if it's extremely predictable, the story is not bad at all, and with the prerequisite feel-good ending is quite a satisfying addition to the series.
The original Japanese cast are back and as delightful as ever, and the English dubbers haven't been lazy either with a good performance (they are not the same cast of the OAV though). Still, you'll probably find yourself listening to the Japanese track more often since the true highlight of the Japanese cast, the angelically voiced Inoue Kikuko, is her usual captivating self.
If you liked the original OAVs, are a fan of the genre, or just someone who appreciates animated eye candy then you'll love this movie.
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Notes and Trivia
This movie is a part, of course, of the long-running Ah My Goddess! franchise. The story started in 1988 as a still-ongoing manga series (41 volumes as of 2010) by Kousuke Fujishima, and has spawned two OVA series, this movie, a four-season TV series, an unrelated spin-off TV series of humorous shorts, and even a light novel by Urd's voice actress, Yumi Touma. All but the second OVA series are available in English, although some are no longer in print.
The title can and has been translated as both "Ah! My Goddess!" (which is a direct mirror of the Japanese), and "Oh My Goddess!" (as a parallel of the common exclamation in English). Most of the English anime releases, including that of this movie, use the former, while the latter was used by AnimEigo for their early release of the OVAs and Dark Horse for their manga translation. If Wikipedia is to be believed, Fujishima has apparently mentioned Oh My Goddess! was closer to his intent.
US DVD Review
The DVD comes in a beautiful jacket with a metallic sheen. Inside is an insert introducing the main characters (in case, heavens forbid, you haven't seen the OAVs!), and a laminated mini pencil board with renditions of the goddesses on both sides. The disc offers the usual choice of Japanese and English dialogue (both in stereo or full 5.1 surround), anamorphic widescreen video, and includes an image gallery and the TV and theatrical trailers. But the most delightful extra is the episode of TV series "Adventures of Mini Goddesses". A spin off series of comedy shorts that feature mini versions of the three goddesses and the wacky fun they have with Gan-chan the resident rat in Keiichi's house.
13-up for some brief nudity and relatively serious subject matter; the theme of rebuilding Heaven might go zooming above the heads of younger kids.
Violence: 1 - Magical mayhem, but no one dies.
Nudity: 2 - Very brief shots of partial nudity; Urd is unusually proper this time!
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Although its a romance there's nothing explicit going on.
Language: 1 - Nothing unusual.