The second part of Ah My Goddess starts off nice and fun, but then turns into a surprisingly good story as two part focuses on Skuld and Urd delve a bit more into the true psyche of a goddess.
What They Say
Based on a long-running manga, the equally beloved anime series AH! MY GODDESS warmed hearts with the story of a shy college student, Keiichi, who unwittingly acquired his very own goddess, Belldandy, after misdialing a number for takeout food. The anime continues with the sequel series, AH! MY GODDESS: FLIGHTS OF FANCY, which finds Keiichi and Belldandy pursuing their sweetly shy romance despite the interference of bumbling friends and scheming rivals. This collection continues the anime series with four more episodes.
For this review as I'm tending to do when I have box sets is review one disc in English and one in Japanese. The disc in either language presents no real problems with transition as the sounds comes through clear and concise. Manga have done a good job with the 2.1 release as it's very powerful and works well considering all the sound effects with the combination of technology and magic that Ah My Goddess is based on, and the Japanese 2.1, whilst considerably weaker is still very good, if not groundbreaking as some of the sound affects don't seem to come out as well as you may expect. There wasn't any problems in combination with the subtitles so overall a very good job.
As with the audio, the video is very good '" the video is in incredible colour and comes through onto your screen in full and/or wide screen, with no trouble with coming through with it's time towards coalition and subtitles. The main strength of the video is how it shines through which when you combine it with the visual effects, gives it a real sense of power through your screen which both older and a lot of newer shows don't seem to be able to get through to the viewers. This is particularly prominent in the scenes with the angels '" especially with Skuld and Noble Scarlet and it shows how smooth the transition is. Great stuff.
There was no packaging for this test disc.
The menu is very attractive on both discs, the same used both times, it's on a beautiful blue background with a shot of Belldandy on the bottom right with cherry blossoms blowing through the menu to the opening theme song, whilst Yggradsil is shown as well. It's the same menu as the previous discs meaning it's the same scenario, the menu selection is very simple, with episode select (ep 1 being the play all) but no scene select which is always a pet peeve for me. The menus are fairly stand and simple when selecting languages or extras.
Like the previous volume, the extras provide a real treat or two for dub fans. Two more commentaries, and both very different. On Disc 1, we have two well known VA's in the terms of Veronica Taylor (Chihiro) and Dan Green (Troubador) '" a bit odd as they never appear in the same episode (and commentate in Troubadour's ep) however the main reason for these two pairing up is that they are friends legitamatelly, so they have a few fun stories to tell and whilst do talk about their roles in AMG, it's definitely more a comedy segment, especially as when they talk about their roles (in particular their famous roles in Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh respectively). Dan in particular is very funny, comically egotistical, talking about their other friends in the VA industry, and how Dan seems to always play characters with split personalities '" and says he's definitely not typecast.
The second interview on Disc 2 is also fun '" this time we have Vibe Jones (Urd) and Annice Moriarty (Skuld). They enjoy talking in character and their previous roles they discuss, but also showcase more of what else they do, such as that Vibe is in musical theatre whilst Annice is in college whilst doing voice-over and stage work. Annice in particular seems to enjoy talking about the show and some of the things she likes to do, such as about her training to do the trapeze and also hangliding '" this is more a fun discussion rather than just a fun day like the previous disc and whilst neither commentary really talks about the show that much, they are both just fun to listen to.
Rounding up the extras we have both cleaning openings and endings as we get a new opening and ending by episode 14, and some production sketches and artwork of a number of the side characters, like Chihiro and Troubadour from this volume, and Shiho, Tamaya, Otaki and Satoko which are pretty details, especially during Otaki's, as we get to see the sketches of his costumes he uses during his episode.
Ah My Goddess continues it's merry way, with the usual charm and comedy, but adds a little bit of drama into the game, and finally gets Skuld involved in such a way that it's probably the favourite part of the series so far.
The first disc is very episodic, but fun. It starts off with Peorth still around trying to grant Keichii his wish'using shoujo manga as a reference. This in turn leads to her forcing Keichii into a date'but of course the other goddesses tag along much to her annoyance. Peorth is fun trying to get Kei alone, using his weakness against water at one point to try and get 'mouth-to-mouth' but it ends up in a fun competition between Peorth and Belldandy, which whilst a predictable ending, still makes you smile. It does lead however to the climax in the next episode, where Peorth is trying to make Belldandy jealous, and whilst she doesn't show it, Belle is worried she will have another jealousy fit. It leads to Keichii admitting that he does have his desires, but about Belldandy and not Peorth. With that, his wish is 'granted' and Peorth leaves Earth '" which whilst funny and quite tender, seems a little anti-climatic.
The next two episodes don't follow that up either, and instead we get two one-shot stories, albeit both fun. The first one involving the Auto Club's creator, a woman named Chihiro return to the Auto Club to see what's been going on in her absence. Funnily, Otaki and Tamaya are scared to death of her and leave the club in Kei and Belldandy's hands. Chihiro is a perfectionist and even seeing the slightest adjustment to her 'babies' turns her into someone you don't want to tread on. She however does get a soft spot for Kei, as he's got similar mentality to her when creating things, which leads to a race between the two, with the story of Chihiro being frustrated at her work, as whilst she's a legend in her field of engineering, she wants to create, not follow rules to the letter. It's an underlying theme for the ep and is quite story filled for a one-shot. The second one-shot however is pure fun '" it involves an old boyfriend of Urd's coming down to Earth to try and reconsider their feelings. His name is Troubadour, and he's a very over the top singer spirit, who feels immense jealousy within 10 seconds of seeing Keichi near Urd. Urd, on her side, is both amusing and annoyed, but you can see there was a spark there, albeit one which aided both sides. Not a serious episode at all and not really relevant, but still fun to watch.
The second disc however brings us a couple of two-parters that focus on Skuld and Urd, and it does increase the enjoyment even more so. The first part is basically Skuld getting upset that she can't use magic, and that she is treated like a kid. Urd mocks her that she can't even ride a bicycle, so Skuld challenges her to a bet that she can ride a bicycle in 3 days. However, Skuld's main weakness is that she has always relied on her technology skills to get by in life, and Belldandy is surprisingly harsh to her in that she can't rely on that all the time. Skuld gets rather upset by this and runs away. During this time, she meets a young boy named Sentaro who is a young bike rider who basically teaches and befriends her in bike riding, showing that doing things for yourself can be both rewarding and fun. It's also interesting a possible love interest for Skuld which caught me out of left field, but at the same time it's very sweet as Sentaro is a very likeable character, with boyish bruises but also a gentleman's charm, getting embarrassed shaking Skuld's hand at the end was adorable.
With Skuld's now found confidence without relying on her technology, she starts to improve in her magic skills. Sentaro also is becoming a regular visitor (although one weakness this show has is that here, the goddess' powers are shown quite frequently, and yet it's almost like no-one believes it. In this sequence, Sentaro is actually told that they are goddesses, but he seems to accept it without question') and then spies on Belldandy and her angel Holy Bell, and asks innocently why Skuld doesn't have an angel. Skuld eeps at this, and tries to get her egg to hatch, but somehow accidentally swallows it. Belldandy and Urd both try to get it out of her, knowing it's dangerous '" however as they do, to their amazement the egg hatches, and the new angel Noble Scarlet, a very small angel is born for Skuld. After that, the episode turns into three small sagas '" Skuld accepting Noble Scarlet, then upset at her when she does something unexpected, and then after accepting her again, she sadly returns back to her egg due to her obedience and Skuld's lack of power. It's actually quite sad and sweet especially as it also involves Sentaro's race and how he wanted Skuld to cheer her on. It's touching and great to see Skuld involved more as she's always been a favourite of mine, as whilst she's bratty, she truly cares about her family and is probably frustrated that she isn't powerful enough to help them.
The last arc is also fun, as it involves the return of Marrler, and of course, the Urd/Marrler rivalry continues from when they left off. However, Marrler is back with a purpose, and that is to separate Urd's demonic and angelic halves. She succeeds, which leads to the evil Urd sealing Skuld, and going to seal Belldandy. However, Belldandy always seems to avoid being caught by her, but the angelic Urd breaks free from her trap, and frees Skuld as they head off to stop the demonic one. However as the failure of trapping Belldandy becomes apparent, the demonic Urd changes strategy '" and kisses Keichii. This caused Belldandy to freak out and run away'but is saved by the good Urd before she could go haywire. This is a good episode again for Skuld as despite their bickering, she truly loves Urd, and can't hurt her demonic half even when she has the chance because it's also part of her big sister. They try to trap the demonic Urd so they can reunite, which combined both comic, serious and Marrler interventions as apparently Marrler is fed up with the demonic Urd as well and would rather fuse them back together and return to feuding '" it leads to Skuld causing a trap to get them together, and all seems well. At least until the next fight'
The discs have a number of strengths and weaknesses. First of all, this collection has to be the most time that Belldandy and Keichii have not really been in it '" the focus is definitely on Peorth, Skuld and Urd for the majority of this volume, so whilst that works in some ways, it doesn't focus on the crux of the series, the relationship between Belldandy and Keichii. There are some moments like when you think Belldandy is going to unconsciously use her powers due to jealousy, and when she runs away after 'Urd' kisses Keichii, but it's resolved straight away so it ruined a potential Belldandy moment. And in the moments Keichii did get involved, another character overshadowed him (Peorth/Chihiro). And whilst the comedy was good, some of it seems not necessary (the Troubadour episode whilst fun didn't really give any new information on Urd's background for example). Peorth's storyline as well just kind of ended very anti-climatically, and in the end didn't seem to really bring much to the story either as a foil for Urd, or as romantic rival against Belldandy.
On the other hand, the Skuld episodes were excellent; finally giving some much needed character development for the least developed of the goddesses. Until now, she's been seen as a brat, who loves her big sister (Belldandy) and apparently hates her other big sister (Urd). However, in her two part episode and in Urd's small arc, she showcases she loves both of them and can't bear to see either of them hurt. In her own heart, she shows the insecurities of being the third goddess that has to rely on her brain rather than her magic compared to how strong the other two are, which showcases her frustration well. And in Sentaro, we finally get someone who Skuld can play off, both as a friend and even a romantic interest (Noble Scarlet pushing Skuld for a sweet kiss on the cheek has me grin from ear to ear), and the Noble Scarlet episode showed that Skuld can play off all emotions from happy, angry to sad, and definitely sweet. The return of Marrler seemed to be just an after-thought as was never really explained, but it gave a bit more insight to Urd as well, as her demon and angel sides collided, and whilst it was comic at most points, it did actually allow Skuld to shine a little bit more, so that was good in my book.
A good mixture of what was weak was weak, what was good was good, and a few moments of excellence make this still a strong worthwhile show. Whilst the Belldandy/Kei moments were kept to a minimum and Peorth's character seemed to fizzle out after a promising start, it did get it right with the comic moments, and really did it well in regards to developing Urd a bit more, and developing Skuld a lot more. Whilst fans of Belldandy may be slightly disappointed, the romance aspect was still there, surprisingly from Skuld and Kentaro, and it's still a great show to watch and listen, whether for the fun or the romance. Still highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, English VA Commentaries with Veronica Taylor (Chihiro), Dan Green (Troubadour), Vibe Jones (Urd) and Annice Moriarty (Skuld), Production Artwork, Clean Opening/Endings
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV '" Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers '" Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.