With the setup out of the way, the series starts to highlight the girls in individual stories that vary in cuteness.
What They Say
Life at the temple goes on for Ikkou and his half-dozen harem of unattached and unobtainable priestesses. When Sakura parades around during a festival in her secret weapon of an outfit and runs across a reader of her website, she discovers he needs some help that only she can provide. The temple gang also ends up dealing with different issues like helping a live-action hero performance, taking care of a stray cat, and advising Yuko the tomboy over a love letter. Every day brings something different, and the only constant is that Ikkou will get an eyeful of priestess skin whenever things get sticky.
While Media Blasters has been dropping dubs on a lot of series, they haven’t done it here since this is a show that should sell pretty well. This release has a pair of standard bilingual audio tracks done in stereo, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The series is rather standard in its audio design as it’s keeping things very centrally focused with only a few areas where there’s noticeable directionality. Depth and placement aren’t really a big deal here and often we don’t have many characters actively talking at any time so it’s not really needed. The mix is good for what it is and everything comes across cleanly and without any problems.
Originally airing in 2005 for the first season and 2006 for the second season, Ah My Buddha is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series has a nice bright and colorful look but never crosses to that line where garish lives. The colors have a very solid feel throughout, skin tones in particular look really good, and the animation quality is quite good all things told so that helps to raise the bar a bit. There’s a touch of line noise in a few panning sequences but cross coloration is essentially non-existent here. The only areas that had any significant noise are the ones that deal in the darker areas, such as the night time blues which are in the buildings as well, as they have a bit more movement than you’d seen during a daylight sequence.
Ah My Buddha has a really appealing cover design to it, another sideways cover from Media Blasters who seems to love them, where it features a close-up of Sakura as she takes off her glasses since she’s dripping with water from a bath while we also get Yuko doing a dive while wearing a very revealing outfit that’s essentially see-through. The show exudes a good bit of fanservice from this cover and it’s nice to see it layered and framed the way they have it. The logo looks really nice and the entire layout is very eye-catching. The back cover is kept to a top to bottom format where it’s made up of a mostly pick background. The summary goes through the basic expectations of the series with notes on the amount of skin that shows and we get some nice artwork and several shots from the show as well. The discs special features are listed very largely, larger than the episode count. The remainder is given over to the production information and a clean technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu is nicely done as it uses the piece from the back cover of Sumi laying down with something of an uncertain and nervous look to her. The layout is done with a shade of green that’s soft, using the symbol from the back cover as well, which gives it a very strong design. The navigation along the bottom is clean and easy to navigate which is a big plus and submenus load quickly and without problem. The disc doesn’t read our players language presets and defaults to English language with sign/song subtitles.
The only extras included in this release is a clean version of the closing sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second installment of Ah My Buddha faired a little bit better for me than the first one simply because it got past the big area of introductions. With the setup out of the way, they’re able to focus a bit more on the characters, as much as you can in a harem comedy, and work their backgrounds and personalities a little bit more. Each of the episodes here focuses on an individual character without having it seem overly forced by having all the other characters involved. In fact, Ikkou feels positively pushed to the sidelines throughout and barely mentioned more often than not.
The opening story was the one I had the most fun with as it uses the school festival as its backdrop while having several of the girls competing in the competition. The whole idea does have some spiritual background to it with how the temple used to give out food, but now it’s a big food stall market where everyone sells food. The temple even gives away a grand prize to the booth that sells the most during it, so that means sides are taken up as Sakura and Haruka are competing against Sumi and Chitose. Of course, Sakura has big plans and she intends to win, even going down to having her and Haruka wear t-backs so she can attract old and young customers alike. It’s all very risqué and it drives Chitose nuts in trying to figure out how to deal with it.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the main focus of the story. It’s actually on a young man who finds her there at the festival and reveals himself to be someone she met online. She actually spends her time feeling superior to others online by doing an advice talk in a rough and forward manner that helps some people. Of course, this guy got her advice after he died so he’s actually a spirit, but they spend a good part of the festival together and we get to see Sakura really soften up along the way while becoming an engaging and interesting character. She’s self aware of her personality traits, flaws to some, and has no real remorse over and tries to live as she wants. That she learns how her cruel advice has helped in some way, especially in helping Dream Hunter move on to the afterlife, gives her a slightly different view of what she’s been doing and may cause her to change some of it going forward. At the end of this, Sakura went from a character that I could take or leave to one that I think I like the best in the series so far.
One episode that surprised me was the one that focused around Haruka and her love of the Kamen Ranger franchise that’s been running for decades. Her somewhat light bouncy approach to things is amusing in general, but she has a love of this that is quite cute to watch, but it’s also in watching how Chitose gets into it as well as she used to watch videos of it while living in the sticks and being years out of date. The two of them and Ikkou get sent off to a department store where there’s a haunting going on and end up running into a group of spirits from some seventeen years prior that used to be the traveling actors for the stage show who died before making it big. There’s the fun of the re-enactments and all the little geeky in-jokes related to the Kamen Rider franchise which is done with a bit of love to be certain. I normally really hate these kinds of episodes, and the sentai genre in general, but this one has a surprisingly nice feeling about it.
Another surprising episode is the fourth one here, as we can ignore the third one completely. The fourth episode brings us to Yuko for awhile as she’s suddenly received a love letter from another student. With her sporty and athletic nature, as well as her aggressive side, she’s really not sure what to make of this or whether she wants to make anything of it. She’s got the two sides inside her fighting over it and that just makes her feel even worse. She has the adorable moments of having makeup put on and getting the reactions from others at school, but she also finds she wants to keep being who she is. It’s a cute episode overall, but one that sends the wrong message about not being able to have both. There are certainly plenty of feminine women out there who are very sports oriented and aggressive and Yuko is the kind of character that could easily pull off both. While I disliked that aspect of it. I did like getting to know Yuko better in it and she became more personable along the way.
And that’s what’s helped make these episodes pretty good as they really do focus on the primary character and don’t try to include everyone in every storyline. Allowing each episode and character story to breathe, and to keep it from being all about Ikkou and his relationship with the girls, is a huge plus in favor of the show. It doesn’t come across as frenetic and fast paced as other harem comedies often do. They keep up on the fanservice side to be sure, going a decent ways at times as well, but it’s not a dominating part either. When you have a segment where all the girls have their clothes stripped away, it does feel like it’s not something that happens often, even when watching four episodes in a row. The way the fanservice plays out is done rather well and it keeps it from feeling like it’s constantly in your face. It’s certainly there, but in a somewhat restrained kind of way.
While the first volume didn’t really grab me in a lot of ways and left me somewhat disinterested at times, the second volume has proven to be more fun overall as it gets past what the opening of most series like this are like. The characters are getting fleshed out – and showing more flesh – and the relationships are forming rather nicely as it’s not all centric on bedding and acquiring Ikkou. In fact, Ikkou is really a bit player in all of this as he’s mostly just useful for chores and occasionally climaxing in order to provide the necessary power to do certain exorcisms. I like the show more now than I did before, though with some reserve because it is a harem comedy and one based on a manga so it’s going to go through the motions for the majority of it. At this point, I’m liking the cast more and that helps immensely.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.