Ah! My Goddess The Movie (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, April 01, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001

What They Say
Trouble in Paradise! Belldandy's mentor, Celestin, was imprisoned for attempting to overthrow the Goddess system, but now he's back! Using a system virus, Celestin, corrupts the Goddess system and removes all of Belldandy's memories of Keiichi!

Will Belldandy's love for Keiichi prove to be the key to ruining Celestin's plans, or will it be the final ingredient necessary to destroy our reality?!

The Review!
Ah! My Goddess is one of the big fan favorite series of the past decade, but also is one that has had just very little to show for it. Five OVA's and a bucketload of manga about sums it up until the arrival of the cute Mini-Goddesses and then the 2000 release of this movie. Thankfully, though there's little anime material, each instance of it is virtually perfect. The movie is no exception.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Pioneer's done a great job of covering the bases here with four audio tracks. Two in English and two in Japanese, each sporting a good stereo mix and a great 5.1 discrete track. We listened to the Japanese 5.1 track and it's probably one of the best 5.1 anime soundtracks out there yet. It's quite immersive with background noise and when the big action sequences come up, you feel it in all the speakers. There's a lot of show-off sections on this disc with the surround audio that it'll be one I know I'll be using to show off the ability of a 5.1 setup.

Simply stunningly beautiful.

Adding yet another notch to their list of special releases, the AMG keepcase sports a cardboard cover with some nice shiny reflections on it. The back side of it gives a rundown of the show and some animation as well as the features and all the usual production info. The artwork on the back also makes use of the shiny nature of the material, and it's definitely eye-catching.

The keepcase itself is clear, and the artwork is the same as the front cover sans the shininess. The back cover uses a different set of art pieces than the cardboard cover, but covers much of the same information. The cover here is also reversible, with that side containing a great image of Belldandy in her original arrival costume with feathers floating about with an all-white background. The insert uses part of this cover for its front piece, and when you open it up, you get a rundown of all the main characters with a nice piece of artwork with a brief paragraph on them. The back side to it lists the 36 chapters that make up this movie.

Interestingly enough, when playing on the Skyworth the player bypasses the menus entirely and just starts playing the movie. But on the Apex it goes directly to the menus. That aside, these are some great looking menus that make excellent use of the CG animation in the show to mix it into menu form with some nicely layered cel animation. The colors and vivid nature of the menus as well as the good selection of music works well. The menus are nice and fast and easy to navigate, selections are quick to access and language selection was spot on. Great job overall from a group I haven't heard of before.

This is probably the only area where I'll say this release pales next to the Japanese release, and even then you had to buy the Limited Edition set to get the good extras. While that set had a second disc full of extras such as making of and more, Pioneer managed to get a couple of minor ones for this release. The inclusion of the TV and theatrical teasers and trailers is a good plus and the art gallery has some nice artwork showing the Japanese posters and releases as well as conceptual artwork. The main reason the grading got a boost here is due to the inclusion of one of the Mini-Goddess episodes, a separate series that I can't wait to see more of again.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The movie takes place during the 3rd spring since Belldandy's arrival on Earth and into the life of Keiichi Morisato. Things are definitely much more comfortable around the group now, with life having moved into something of normalcy, though still enough oddness with people like Skuld and Urd around.

The movie kicks off with the unlocking of something on the moons surface by a faerie butterfly looking woman, something that's been wanting to be free for quite some time to bring its plan to completion. This is just the tantalizing taste of things to come though, as after the opening credits we spend time with Keiichi and Belldandy at the Nekomi Institute where the clubs are out in force trying to acquire new members.

A good crowd is watching the Motor Club's presentation done by the shy Hasegawa, as various vehicles are brought about and shown off. The big piece though is the sidecar modification that shows up at the end with Kei and Bell riding it, with her shifting her position on it as it goes around curves and the like. The crowd gets very interested when she stands up and takes off her helmet. That's right guys, hot babe in the motor club. Look at them sign up!

This of course is when Tamiya makes his big speech wearing nothing but a green speedo outfit. Oh man, hilarious moments to be sure. It definitely helped to thin out the herd of applicants to those who are really serious about the motor club. One of them is a woman, a rather quiet and one whose rather attractive.

The movie starts shifting into its plot fairly quickly after that, with the arrival of Celestin on Earth. Celestin's something of a mentor to Belldandy in her youth, and the two were apparently something of an item. Though when it comes to goddesses, I'm getting the feeling that being an "item" carries some different connotations than it does on Earth. When he arrives walking down a lane where the cherry blossoms fall, Belldandy sees him right off and runs to him. The fear in Morisato's eyes is evident right from the start.

This is also when Urd receives a call from Peorth (yay, finally animated) in heaven. It's quickly surmised that the one who escaped is Celestin, and that he's headed in an Earthly direction. Urd knows that he's going to head right for her sister, so she grabs a broom and is there in no time flat, but not in enough time to stop him from casting an amnesia spell on her.

This spell also cleverly was used to cast a virus into the network that all the goddesses are connected to. Celestin's goal of destroying and replacing the network that causes only suffering in his eyes takes a large step forward with this. Belldandy finds herself not knowing Morisato anymore and treating him as if he's just a regular client. Heaven is closed off while they isolate the virus and the woman who helped Celestin escape is working with him to bring his plans to fruition.

This leads to a series of encounters between all interested parties as Heaven fights off the virus. They can't help Belldandy until that's done, since she's the infected carrier. The frustration caused by this on Skuld and Urd gives them a good amount of fleshing out, something that was fairly weak in the OVA's.

Thankfully though, between the OVA's and the movie, there's precious little that's different. Character designs are slightly updated, such as Keiichi having something of a different haircut, but that's the only real visual change. In terms of how things are told, the main change there is that there's a visual representation of their goddess form when they perform certain acts. The half-wispy form floats from their backs and above them and performs various actions while tied to them. They also have the ability to go off on their own to perform things such as attacks in unison with the physical body.

There was little real mention of this addition to things, but it works nicely within the show. When Belldandy is infected with the virus, we see her spiritual representation covered with black crystals protruding from its body. The way it was used during the action sequences was quite good as well, with it adding a different level to the actions being taken by the people and giving the visuals something new play with, something that's more its own.

The animation in this movie is simply breathtaking in many places. Gorgeous backdrops, such as the locations in Heaven and many around Earth. The Lunar surface in the beginning as well was wonderfully done. The character animation is also exceptionally fluid and in keeping with Fujishima's wonderful designs. Finally having a high quality version of Peorth animated was more than enough to make this movie worthwhile.

The movies pace is quite well done also. There's a lot of lulls throughout it, which is something of a trademark of the AMG universe. The best times are spent with just Bell and Kei talking to each other and getting through their day. We get a fair dose of this, but with the balance of wonderfully choreographed action sequences. The battle between the various parties with Celestin in one of the Earth locations towards the end was just fabulous to watch.

IF there's any real complaint I have about the movie, it's that for a good part of it, it lacks what makes AMG so special; Belldandy and Keiichi. When she loses her memory and goes back to "day 1" mode, we lose a lot of that relationship. We sympathize with both of them of course, but I'd rather see more of them working together as their relationship exists now, not as it doesn't exist. This does continue in the tradition of giving Keiichi more of the brunt of things in trying to keep everyone else going and with soldiering on in the face of having to deal with such overwhelming powers.

Pioneer's put out a magnificent release here. With the exception of the extras not being up to the DTS LE release in Japan, this one matches the Japanese regular edition masterfully. Fans of these characters won't be disappointed by its localization and fans of the original dub cast will likely find just as much to enjoy here. I listened to the dub while writing the review and fully intend to check it out again in full 5.1 sometime soon. These folks nailed it down pretty fast and give a great performance.

Highly recommended.

Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Trailers,Mini-Goddesses Episode,Mini Pencil Board (limited supplies)

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A
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