Ah! My Goddess TV Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, November 17, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What They Say
The days never grow long at the Morisato residence, where Skuld builds a robot to protect Belldandy from Keiichi's hesitant advances. Unfortunately, when the robot itself falls in love with everyone's favorite goddess, it won't let anyone near her.

Then the gang heads to the beach for summer break, and Urd pulls out two of her favorite things: swimsuits and love schemes. Keiichi gets a mission: if he can't kiss Belldandy on the moonlit beach, he won't be able to be with her forever!

The Review!
With Skuld now firmly in the mix, things for Marller get more difficult and Skuld herself adds plenty of trouble.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its English language adaptation. The included stereo mix for both it and the Japanese language track came out really well and overall have a good full sound to them. Dialogue is nicely placed across the forward soundstage when appropriate but most of it is fairly much a wide or center channel approach. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions. Music in particular really comes across well here though the stereo channels.

Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The presentation of the show mirrors the original OVA release in terms of how it wants to be viewed, which means that there are some soft areas to it and the backgrounds are real world in design and feel. There's a lot of very vibrant animation to this which comes in the character animation itself as well as things such as the vehicles and the various magic that's used throughout it. While this isn't theatrical level animation, it is the kind that makes it easy to go and watch the movie and then this without really feeling any different about how it looks. Colors are solid throughout this and aliasing is pretty much non-existent as is issues with cross coloration. There's a touch of mosquito noise in a few areas but that's about the extent of the issues. This looks fantastic on our setup.

The covers for the series have been good so far with some great looking artwork but this volume goes the extra step and gives us the three main women in their swimsuits as we finally get the gang to hit the beach. While it's not quite mellow mellow it is nicely detailed with good looking designs and a neat layout. The back cover is a very soft white piece where it's split down the middle with the left half providing a collage of pictures from the show while the right side has the summary and basic features and production information. The bottom provides the usual technical information in the very easy to read grid. No insert is included in this release.

The main menu is a simply but effective piece that mixes different parts of the release together nicely. The left third of the screen has the blue cloudy skies for a background and has all the menu selections listed along there. The right side has the series logo and starts with a fade in of Belldandy and then shifts to other images from the show and brief clips as the music plays along. Access times are nice and fast and the menu is very easy to navigate. The player presets picked up the language easily enough but the sign/song subtitles are listed as the first English track so we didn't get the right track automatically selected.

The only extra included in this volume is a textless ending.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ah My Goddess continues on pretty much in the same manner as previous episodes in that there's some very minor overall storyline material going on but it is for the most part very episodic. There isn't a particular formula that works for the series, though the manga does have some arcs to it, as the core of what the show is all about is the people that come into lives of Keiichi and Belldandy as they try to get to slowly, sometimes painfully slowly, know each other better and better.

This volume has some good enjoyable material to it that helps things progress a bit more and plays with the trusting nature of the leads, particularly when it comes to Skuld's methods of getting on Belldandy's good side. I've always liked the character but admit that her childish nature is something that's hard to explain when she's actually a goddess whose been around as long as she has been. Regardless, her time on Earth now has given her a chance to try and get closer to her sister and while she's still not a fan of Keiichi, she's worked things out a bit better with him. But she's still not above trying to force him out of the picture as we see in this volume. One of the things she's done is to create a new device called the Big Sister Helper Robot Banpei RX.

Banpei's designed to lighten her sisters load of things to do around the temple but as with anything that Skuld creates, it causes all sorts of problems. The initial round of power issues are nothing compared to when it rewrites itself a bit and becomes a Belldandy protector, attacking anyone that gets close to her including Keiichi and Urd. Belldandy is oblivious to it in a lot of ways which only adds to its cuteness. Banpei's attacks on them are almost amusing as it uses the broom stick to thwart them but it has a lot better weapons at its disposal. One of its tricks is that it can sense when Marller is around and it launches into a combination of a musical and rocket attack which completely takes down the cute demon girl. Banpei of course settles into things over the course of the volume but its initial run is a lot of fun to watch.

Marller certainly doesn't like it but she's able to come up with a creative new approach to taking down Belldandy so she can fix the balance going on in the world. Her initial problems in dealing with Banpei leads to a creative solution for getting close to Belldandy and going after her; she learns about Keiichi's sister and uses her body to avoid detection by Banpei. Even better, she invokes one of the demons she can control named Senbei whose gift is related to luck in that the worse luck someone else has that he's able to bestow upon them, the more his own value goes up. A quick example has him causing Asano a mild problem that spirals into a larger one that puts him deep into trouble. Marller manages to sneak him into Keiichi's clothes and attempts to cause him all sorts of problems but with the protection that the relationship is under and Belldandy's own luck in the universe, Senbei finds himself up against a really challenging opponent for the first time.

One of the episodes that I enjoyed the most here is one that is really the lightest in content as the gang heads off to the beach for a break from things and it's here that Urd pushes Keiichi to finally give Belldandy a kiss and to tell her how he really feels. There's a lot of fun in between the attempts at this just due to the standard kind of beach adventures you get plus having Skuld trying to stop it from happening and bringing in a motorized waterproof version of Banpei that she and the others can ride around the water. The fable that's told to inspire Keiichi when combined with Skuld's attempts at keeping him from reaching his goal is a bit forced at times but it's so endearing at times and Keiichi is such an earnest and honest guy that you can't help but root for him regardless of the kinds of barriers he faces.

In Summary:
All in all this volume, an area that's typically fairly mild for episodes, is pretty solid and enjoyable as it gets us more familiar with the cast and adds some new quirks to the mix. Marller continues to be the main thorn in the side of things but even then she's not a constant that's causing trouble since there are plenty of others that can fit that bill. The series has a rhythm that's quickly established early on and it's carried through most of what's come since and will come afterwards so what we're getting here is what it'll continue to be like in general for some time. Having enjoyed the manga and enjoying the previous OVAs and movie, the show simply meets my expectations and continues to provide some good light entertainment.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ah! My Goddess