Mike wonders aloud which anime would be a good fit for the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 1st 2006
Ah! My Goddess
DVD 5: In Your Eyes
Life in a household shared with three goddesses, one of whom is your loyal girlfriend, can be both lively and hazardous, as Keiichi Morisato has discovered. Whether it's a full-fledged demon, the protective and possessive little sister of his love, or an older sister who means well but often has unintended side effects when trying to help his relationship with Belldandy along, dangers abound. This time around Skuld is the main culprit, as her tampering with one of Urd's formulas causes Belldandy to become unusually aggressive, while on another occasion Keiichi finds himself taking on womanly characteristics and on a third Skuld's efforts to prove herself worthy of her own companion angel get out of hand. When Belldandy falls ill as a partial side effect of these hijinks, Urd comes to the rescue, but the rules she must break to do so get her license suspended! Left vulnerable by the temporary loss of her goddess powers, the Devil in Miss Urd emerges.
This span of episodes, which covers #19-22, represents both some of the best and some of the stupidest content in the entire series. The latter can be seen in the “Keiichi as a woman” segment, which is almost painfully bad, while the former comes from Urd's flashbacks to the time she got her angel and her reconciliation with her angel World of Elegance, who appears for the first time. In such moments the series realizes its full heartwarming potential.
Unfortunately that's more the exception than the rule. Although it has its enchanting moments, over the long haul this newest adaptation of Kosuke Fujishima's long-running manga has revealed its main weakness: the pure, innocent grace of Belldandy and the charm of the storytelling, which together form the foundation of the manga, aren't translating well into animated form. It isn't for lack of effort, but something definitely feels lacking. Belldandy isn't quite as compelling as she is in the manga, and Keiichi's timidity at advancing their relationship (despite Skuld's interference) is more tiresome than it ever was in the manga. Together these factors are making AMG feel more like a supernatural take on a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy rather than the sweet and endearing romance it should be.
So why didn't a problem like this emerge in the original OVA? Length and pacing. The TV series advances Keiichi and Belldandy's relationship at a glacial pace (although in fairness this is also a flaw in the manga) and has the sheer length for such a problem to develop, while the OVA moved along at a much faster clip and was much more compact. Another factor is Skuld's characterization in the TV series. Although she was also possessive of her sister in the manga and OVA, here her efforts are elevated to the level of an obsessive, gratingly annoying meddler. This volume also uses the great supporting cast only minimally; Megumi, Sayoko, and the Auto Club members only appear in one episode, and only briefly at that.
The part of the storytelling that does work right in these episodes is the use of Urd, and it's actually not because of her wilder aspects. Though Belldandy and Keiichi are still the stars, Urd is the one keeping the series afloat through this stretch. An explanation of the goddess ranking/licensing system in episode 22 is also a welcome bit of trivia, and the return of Marller is welcome for the ways she seriously stirs things up. Thanks in part to her presence, the action and drama get ramped up in the later episode, resulting in some genuine suspense and an actual cliffhanger.
Character designs retain most of the essence of Fujishima's original drawings, although Keiichi looks a little more mature and Belldandy's smile isn't quite as overwhelming. (She does look quite good when allowed to take on sexier poses, however.) Compared to the original OVA, faces are a little longer and a bit less rounded and clothing styles beyond the goddess outfits have been updated. The only new designs to come up in this volume are Urd at two different childhood ages and her angel, the former two of which are quite appealing but the latter of which is unimpressive compared to her portrayal in the movie or manga. Color schemes favor warm, somewhat muted tones which make the series look lively and cheery without being garish. The animation, while still a step up from the OVA series, remains unremarkable compared to other recent series.
Although the soundtrack continues to be anchored by playful string and woodwind-based tunes, it's at its best in its more sentimental numbers done in support of Urd in episode 21. It also takes on a more heavily-dramatic tone, complete with supporting background vocals not dissimilar from those heard in the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, during the action scenes in episode 22, which creates an abrupt contrast with the jaunty eyecatch music. The melodic opener remains unchanged from the beginning of the series, while the closer has changed from the more country-themed love song used in the first half to the upbeat love song used for the second half. Same tone and lyrical content, different style.
Of the English dub performances, the highlight is Vibe J-One's vampy rendition of Urd, which better captures the spirit and tone of the character than the original Japanese performance. Balancing that is Annice Moriarty's Skuld, whose effort sounds strained and irritating instead of the bratty tone she was probably aiming for, unlike the more sensible Japanese performance. The average quality of the rest of the performances is about even with the Japanese dub, with most voices being well-matched to the originals (especially Megumi). The strength of the dub is about the same as those of the OVA and movie, so which one's best depends entirely on personal preference. The dub script continues to stay reasonably close to the original.
Although AnimeWorks has offered some nice extras on previous volumes, this time around they're limited to company trailers and a production art gallery. Menu screens remain unchanged since the first volume.
The fifth volume of Ah! My Goddess is not by any means a bad viewing experience, and it does have its moments, it's just not all it could – and feels like it should – be. The ending offers the promise of more dramatics in the next volume.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Urd is a stand-out in every aspect.
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