Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 28th 2006
Ah! My Goddess
DVD 6: Last Dance
Urd has become the legendary Lord of Terror! When she gets her hands on the Ultimate Destruction Program, all of existence may be threatened, so the Almighty preps a Valkyrie to send after Urd. Belldandy, with her full power now unsealed, must try to save Urd before she can do too much damage and before things get bad enough that the Valkyrie is unleashed. The body-jumping Lord of Terror proves a tricky foe, though, and Belldandy must also contend with the danger the situation poses to Keiichi. When Fenrir appears, the only hope for the goddesses may lay in a magical flute. . .
Afterwards, the heavenly computer Yggradsil temporarily shuts down due to the side effects of the epic conflict, forcing the goddesses to rely on their unique alternate sources of powers. The problems with Yggradsil also have physically radical side effects on Urd and Skuld.
The sixth and final volume of the first Ah! My Goddess TV series begins by using two episodes to wrap up the “Lord of Terror” story arc before rounding out with a two-episode follow-up which focuses on Urd's sudden age regression (in episode 25) and Skuld's sudden age progression (in episode 26). Viewers unfamiliar with the manga may feel like those episodes were just tacked on, as the dramatic peak of the series to date is unquestionably episode 24, but in a series that has no definitive overarching plot it matters little whether or not the series ends on a dramatic high point. The 26 episodes in this series also present only a fraction of the content in the 30+ volumes of manga that have been released so far in Japan, so there's still a lot more stories to tell.
The most common complaint lodged against the series, even by dedicated AMG fans, is that it's too bland. Unfortunately that's not without justification. Sure, Keiichi and Belldandy make a nice couple and clearly care for each other, but this incarnation ultimately fails to fully achieve the spark and tenderness of a couple like Kaoru and Aoi from Ai Yori Aoshi. That's why, for the second straight volume, the best episode is the one focusing on Urd. Though more of a gentle, low-key episode, Urd's short-lived experiences in child form outshine the flashy action, drama, and muddling with Norse mythology seen in the “Lord of Terror” episodes, which get somewhat ridiculous in execution. (The use of Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent – called only Midgard here – is especially lame.)
The strongest point of the series for dedicated AMG fans has always been its faithfulness to its source material, and that's as true in the last four episodes as anywhere in the series. Although one chapter gets skipped, episodes 23-26 are more or less a direct adaptation of volume 6 of the manga. Nearly every other episode in the series has also been based, at least in principle, on one or more chapters from the manga. The series does jump around a lot after the first few episodes; storylines as late as the “Sora Unchained” arc from volumes 19 and 20 have been adapted so far, while vast gaps of content have been skipped over. AMG has never been known for having a tight chronology, though, so the jumping around causes no significant continuity discrepancies.
Despite all the flashiness in the “Lord of Terror” episodes, the artistic highlight of the volume is once again Urd's immensely appealing child form. By contrast, Skuld just doesn't look quite right as an adult, Fenrir is unimpressive, and Midgard is pathetic. The only new design that does work is the Valkyrie Lind, who's attractive but also convincing as a warrior. In fact, the series as a whole fares best on its artistry when being appealingly cute rather than pretty. The major magical effects in the Lord of Terror episodes are a visual spectacle, but in recent years digital artistry and animation have raised the bar so high on such displays that the ones here aren't particularly distinctive. The animation also generally remains unremarkable, with a weak point being the CG reconstruction scene at the beginning of episode 25. It's still a good-looking series overall, but it isn't a stand-out by current artistic and technical standards.
The musical score works hard to define the tone of each episode, giving the action in the “Lord of Terror” episodes dramatic overtones while lending a softer and more sentimental feel to the final two episodes. The opener and closer songs remain unchanged, although episode 24's closer has different visuals that are specifically in synch with how the episode finished.
The English dub continues to be competent and a respectable match for the original performances, with the weaker performance of Skuld at normal age being balanced out by the superior rendition of Urd at any age, though Skuld sounds much better in her adult voice. A separate English VA is not listed for the child version of Urd, but if that's really still Vibe Jones then it's one of the most effective English examples of youthening an adult voice that you'll hear anywhere. The English script is also good, staying relatively tight to the original in most places.
After a disappointing batch of Extras in the previous volume, Anime Works sweetens them a little by including the textless closer for episode 24 (and it's one you'll want to watch textless). Also present are the standard company trailers and production art gallery.
The first TV season of Ah! My Goddess ends on no special note, giving the impression that the production staff already suspected that the series would get renewed – and, in fact, a second season is airing in Japan as I write this. It isn't as effective as some other recent romantic anime at promoting its romantic elements, and fails to fully capture the charm of the manga, but it is as faithful an adaptation of the manga as could realistically be expected, is reasonably well-made, and it does have enough appeal to be at least mildly entertaining to AMG fans and non-fans alike.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Excellent English voice work in some roles, faithful to its source material.
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