Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
Ah! My Goddess
DVD 2: Love Plus One
Keiichi's idyllic (and somewhat awkward) life with his new housemate Belldandy gets a little more complicated when his sister Megumi enrolls at Nekomi Tech and winds up staying at the shrine! Convinced the two make a great couple, Megumi sends the two out on a date... but she isn't the only one trying to meddle in Keiichi's love story. Belldandy's troublemaking sibling Urd descends from the heavens to correct a problem with System Force, the Goddess' heavenly computer, caused by Keiichi's unorthodox wish. Being the goddess she is, instead of fixing the problem, she decides to fix Keiichi instead... with a kiss from Belldandy!
The latest animated adaptation of Kosuke Fujishima's beloved romantic comedy Ah! My Goddess keeps trucking along in volume two, and thankfully, the show starts to pick up a little in the five episodes included on this disc. Admittedly, it's still paced like a snail race and the dub could use a polish, but otherwise, it's an enjoyable and relaxing way to spend a few hours, provided you're a fan of the manga. If you aren't, then you're going to have the same problems with this story that you've always had.
This volume introduces a few new characters, including Keiichi's down-to-earth sister Megumi and Belldandy's salacious sexpot sibling Urd, who gives the show a much-needed boost (especially after the first volume which was almost painfully slow). It's a little strange that it takes eight full episodes, about a third of the entire series, to introduce Urd, who's a major player in the storyline; why they chose to spend so much time focusing on the awkward early phase of Keiichi's relationship with Belldandy is a mystery, but by the time Urd shows up, she's a welcome breath of fresh air. The show is vastly more interesting as a result. The same can't really be said for Megumi; for now, her character has yet to really bring anything new to the table, aside from making Keiichi's life that much more awkward.
For Ah! My Goddess fans, the show continues to be a real treat. It's a long-awaited proper adaptation of the manga, and for that, it should be applauded; the series had been adapted into a short OVA series many years ago and then into a movie, and neither of them really captured the full scope of the likable and now-iconic storyline. So far, the TV series seems to be the most faithful and appropriate adaptation yet. Fans should be pretty happy with it.
If you're not a fan, though, the problems with Fujishima's story are just as glaring in this series as they were in every other version. For instance, Belldandy remains a total subservient, naïve doormat, blindly devoted to the reactionary milquetoast Keiichi who's too inept to properly return her developing feelings for him. People tend to go either way on the Belldandy character; either she's an obnoxious, archaic fantasy girl for men who prefer their women to act like indentured servants, or she's the archetype of perfection, a flawless example of graceful femininity. Depending on which camp you fall in, the TV series will go out of its way to reinforce what you already think. Combine this with the deliberately slow pacing and you've got a show that will divide people right down the middle.
The production values are surprisingly average for a franchise known for its lush design and attention to detail. The animation quality hovers between ‘average’ and ‘mediocre’ and never really ascends to the level of fluidity promised by the gorgeous character designs. The cast has been appropriately updated and redesigned to look like modern anime characters (as opposed to earlier chapters in Fujishima's manga, where Belldandy bears an uncanny resemblance to Cyndi Lauper circa 1986), but they hardly move at all in some episodes. Single frames are beautiful, but sometimes movement is unconvincing and there are a lot of shortcuts taken. It's a forgivable offense, but it's hard not to wonder why they didn't dump a little more money into this thing.
The dub remains a mixed bag. Keiichi continues to emote too much; his performance in English lacks the quiet subtlety of the Japanese version. Sure, the character gets mad and overreacts plenty, but even when he isn't shouting about something, his English voice actor is trying a little too hard. Belldandy and Urd are merely okay, serviceable performances that get the job done without being anything too special. If you're sick of reading subtitles, the dub will do just fine, but if you want better performances, watch it in the original Japanese.
Even though two new characters are introduced in this volume (which contains five episodes thanks to a generous decision by Media Blasters), the story still doesn't really move much and it all feels like filler. There's no telling when they're going to introduce an arching storyline or if this thing is going to go anywhere at all. Regardless, the episodes contained on this disc are harmless, relaxing fun; Ah! My Goddess fans will undoubtedly be pleased with what they see. Everyone else might find themselves a little bored by it all.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : A
Music : A
+ Classic storyline, beautiful character designs, Urd.
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