Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: A+
- Video Rating: A+
- Packaging Rating: A+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 106
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Ah! My Goddess
Ah! My Goddess The Movie
By Karen Gellender
February 06, 2002
Release Date: November 27, 2001
The theatrical adaptation of Kosuke Fujishima's "Ah! Megami-sama" manga delivers with gorgeous visuals and a truly epic story. Unfortunately, it may be a little too ambitious for it's own good.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more beautifully animated movie anywhere in the world. The colors are vibrant and clear, and I have no complaints about the DVD authoring. If there were any flaws in the video, then they were too subtle for me to pick out on my 19 inch TV. The character designs are slightly less idealized than the popular Oh! My Goddess! OVA, but everyone still looks beautiful. The only possible exception is Keiichi, who is not nearly as cute than his OVA incarnation, but the goddesses have always been the heart and soul of the series and they do not disappoint.
There are several different versions of the audio track, two English and two Japanese. I usually don't pay much attention to audio, since my low-end set-up is a bottleneck no matter how good the DVD is, but the Japanese 5.1 sounded wonderful even on my blah television speakers. You really get the feeling of what it would be like to see this on the big screen, in a cavernous theatre rather than your living room. So if you're like me and have yet to invest in a quality AV set-up, you won't be missing out on anything with this release.
Nice, but this isn't a feature-laden DVD. The picture gallery has 32 images, most of which are very pretty (some of the manga-style shots are hard to see on a smaller set), but there's no music playing and it's basically window-dressing. The Japanese trailers are exactly what you'd expect, just some shots from the movie with Japanese text superimposed over it. The best thing here is the first episode of the "Adventures of the Mini-goddesses" series, which is several minutes long. It's amazing how light and silly this episode is in comparison to the melodrama of the movie, but both language tracks are great and it whet my appetite for the upcoming release of the whole series. Interestingly, the credits-sequence is played twice, once in English and once in Japanese-which would normally go unnoticed, but the fully animated credits sequence featuring the chibi-goddesses is so adorable, some might find it to be the best thing on the disc. The only thing conspicuously absent from the extras section is 'behind the scenes' stuff on the making of the film, but perhaps I've just been spoiled by CPM's Utena Movie DVD with it's plethora of features.
The main menu uses the same design as the packaging, with a chipper piece of music playing. Some of the more obviously digitally animated scenes are used between menu selections, and it's decent looking. Basically, everything is simple and straightforward without any bells and whistles, but this could be a good thing considering how overworked some menus have become lately.
One of the best packaging jobs I've ever seen on any disc, period. I've seen this title sitting on the shelf in a few stores, and it stands out beautifully with it's iridescence. This could be a title that a lot of people previously unaware of anime buy because they were struck by how good it looked on the shelf. As you've probably seen / read by this point, the cover features a glowing image of Belldandy in her classic blue outfit looking ethereal, with the stars behind her. The back features screenshots of Keiichi, and Belldandy with her angel. My only complaint (because you know there has to be one complaint) is that the disc has a rather boring image on it of only one feather. There are a lot of angel feathers in this movie I'll admit, but hey, feathers are an angel thing, not a goddess thing. Anyway, inside there's a limited edition mini-pencil board, and an insert with some character art and profiles; a feature I wish more discs came with.
The most important thing you have to know about this movie is that there are two layers of understanding it. The first is for those who have seen the five episode OVA released by Animeigo, who understand the basic set-up and will be a little confused by manga exclusive characters that aren't explained. The second is for people who have read large portions of the original manga and understand all the cameos, but they are completely pre-occupied during the movie since they have to explain to their friends who all these people are. My brother was in the first category, and I was in the second, and our watching of the movie went something like this:
"Who's the brown-haired girl?"
"Oh, that's Peorth. Strange, she seems totally out of character"
"What are those winged-things sticking out of their backs?"
"Oh, those are goddess-angels"
"Why is Urd's half-black?"
"Oh, that's because she's a Devil / Angel hybrid"
"Urd is? SINCE WHEN????"
......and you get the idea. There is no set-up whatsoever; Even the basic premise of why the goddesses are living with Keiichi is never really explained. Given what I said about casual buyers picking this thing up based on how gorgeous it looks on the shelf, there's also a probable third category: People who have had no initiation to the AMG universe and spend the whole movie going "What the #%^&?" Needless to say, a brief recap would have helped immensely.
However, since I did get all the references as a fan of the manga, I can't say that the complete lack of set-up bothered me personally that much. What was more irritating was that while this movie is chock-full of interesting characters, the only characters that really get a lot of screen time are Belldandy, Keiichi, Celestine, and to some extent Urd. Skuld in particular gets passed over - the few scenes she has reduce her to almost a cartoon of her real personality. None of her intelligence and complicated feelings toward Keiichi and Belldandy are addressed. In fact, most of her screen time is wasted while she makes strange faces at Keiichi and insults him. As a Skuld fan, this was probably the biggest disappointment in the movie.
Urd fares a little better, but her most marked personality trait-her sassiness - is left out. She wears a few semi-revealing outfits, but she's so GOOD most of the time, she's practically 'Belldandy light'. The beauty of Urd's character is while she often acts selfish and manipulates others for her own amusement, when it really counts she'll fight harder than anyone else for her friends. We only see Urd's altruistic side here, and in contrast to Belldandy, all 'good' characters are just redundant.
As for Chihauru, Hasegawa, Megumi, the rest of the Nekomi Tech motor club-Why are they even here? I think they were put in just so the fans could see these characters animated, and while I like all the above characters very much, they have absolutely NOTHING to do with the main story.
There are several racing sequences in the movie that seem to be building up to a 'big race' at the end of the movie, but this race never comes. The 'sidecar racing' scenes end up having nothing to do with the main plot, and they seem to be a ploy to cram some much-needed action into the melodrama. Still, they are some of the best sequences in the film, and I kind of wonder if they did plan to have a huge race at the end of the movie but ran out of time and / or money before it was animated. They must mention the upcoming race five separate times in the movie.
The strange plot here centers on Belldandy's mentor Celestine trying to remake the world without the interference of the Gods, even if it means destroying the world as we know it. Yawn. Maybe if Celestine was an evil villain you loved to hate, this would work better, but in the end he is revealed to be a softy and a "we're all friends here" attitude prevails. The lasting appeal of the AMG universe has a lot to do with how the characters react on an interpersonal level - despite the divine elements, they all have very human feelings that viewers will remember long after the thrill of digitally animated spell effects has worn off. The movie seems to sidestep the nuances of the interpersonal relationships almost entirely in favor of a hackneyed plot that I've seen in more anime than I care to remember.
A huge plot point in the movie involves Belldandy losing her memories of Keiichi, and her becoming aware of this and wanting to become more like "the person she was".
However, post-memory-wipe Belldandy acts EXACTLY THE SAME as pre-memory-wipe Belldandy except for her annoying tendency of calling Keiichi 'Morisato-san'. We can't identify with Belldandy's struggle to regain her identity, because she never loses it. Knowing how popular Belldandy is, the creators were afraid to change her into anything less than her perfect normal self for fear of fan outcry. The effect of all this is that I wanted to reach into the screen and slap Belldandy and tell her to get over herself already.
Finally, the dub is basically good but a bit of a mixed bag. Melissa Williamson is probably one of my favorite dub actresses, and she does a great job as Urd, arguably better than the original. David Lucas is good as Celestine, the only problem being that dub fans have heard his very distinctive voice in so many different shows at this point that you can't help but think of his other roles, which takes you out of the movie a little. Peorth's voice actress sounded very bland to me in the original track, so the adult-sounding English voice was a welcome change, especially considering how much time she spends giving everyone else orders. The weakest link here is Ruby Marlowe as Belldandy, which is a bad thing considering that she has the bulk of the dialogue. I've been impressed with several of her performances over the past few years (particularly Lain in SE Lain and Mima in Perfect Blue), but she isn't that great at making sappy dialogue sound convincing. It needed a really talented voice actor to make Belldandy's oh-so-perfectness heartfelt, and Marlowe's performance sounded forced.
In the end though, it hardly matters what a highly critical fan like myself thinks. You could write a thesis on the plot holes in this movie, and that doesn't change the fact that it's some of the most gorgeous eye candy available in any medium. Despite the fact that we don't get to see much of her character, it's still really, really cool to see an animated Peorth. Belldandy is beautiful. Buy this movie.
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