Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, November 02, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What They Say
Skuld's tired of being called a kid. After all, she is a goddess. However, not only can Skuld not yet use her powers, she can't even ride a bicycle! When a boy offers her bike riding lessons, Skuld also learns something about the power of friendship. Next, Keiichi and the three goddesses go to a hot springs to relax. Much to their surprise, they encounter Mara who's apparently happy to see them. Still, due to the Lord of Terror fiasco, our heroes are understandably suspicious. Does Mara really want to make amends, or does she have other plans?

The Review!
Skuld takes the center stage for awhile and begins to really grow in a surprising way before Urd gets messed up nicely by being split into two.

This season is little different from the previous one in that it has the two standard tracks associated with it. Both the Japanese and English tracks are done in a stereo mix which comes across well though fairly simple. The show is generally dialogue driven with only some mild moments of ambient sound or use of magic so there isn't a lot of activity for it in general. In listening to both tracks they sound pretty comparable in terms of dialogue placement. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With solid production values and plenty of light animation scenes, the transfer for this show in general looks very solid and pleasing on the eye. Outside of a couple of areas of noise with some of the characters hair, this is a very clean looking show. The only area that looks bad is during the opening sequences as there is some noticeable blocking going on in the backgrounds. The opening also looks pretty horrible for the font used for the credits, though not anywhere near as bad as the scrolling end credits which are almost unreadable at times.

With a lot of white space and a white keepcase as well, it's appropriate that Skuld gets the cover this time as well as having it with her angel. The soft purple shade used works well with the design as it allows for Skuld to really stand out here. The logo, with the addition of "Flights of Fancy", is done in silver which looks great against the soft purple shadow around it. The back cover is similar in color and design as the left side features the summary and a few shots of the show. The right side has more shots as well as a breakdown of the discs extras and production information. The technical grid along the bottom has all the pertinent information in an easy to read format as well as including the total number of volumes in the series. No insert or booklet is included with this release.

The menu design keeps to the same kind of feeling as it uses a brief clip of animation from the opening with Belldandy holding the bagpipes as petals float by. Having the clouds slowly move by looks great as it goes underneath the larger area where the navigation is. Episodes are selectable from the top while the languages and extras section are quick and easy to access. The disc correctly read our players' language presets and defaulted to Japanese with full subtitles.

The third volume of the series has a couple of good extras on it. For dub fans, there's a commentary track by English voice actors for Skuld and Urd in which they talk about their experiences with the series. The clean opening and closing sequences are included as well here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second half of the second season gets underway quite well with this volume as it keeps its focus on both Skuld and Urd. Each of them have a pair of stories that lets their characters grow and change while being nicely examined. What makes it even more enjoyable is that Belldandy and Keiichi take a back seat for the majority of it which means the others get more time to really shine.

Skuld has always been the cute kid of the group, something she hated being called by Urd. It never helped that her magical powers were non-existent and she has had to survive and grow by using her technical prowess. Even worse was that her angel hasn't been born yet so that's not helped her grow in her abilities in any way. What's strong with her however is her adoration of Belldandy, which has led her to learning how to ride a bicycle by herself. This isn't easy with her personality, but Belldandy encourages her along on it because of her belief that people really do need to stand on their own and feel their bodies move and live in a certain way. Skuld has plenty of difficulty with this, especially since Belldandy doesn't help as she had wanted her to.

Skuld's growth comes when she meets a young boy named Sentaro who is rather good at riding a bike, enough so that he's entering a local dirt bike race that's right around the corner. Skuld comes across him when he's messing around a bit with his bike and she shows him how to adjust it so that it'll perform better. As the two spend time together, with her explaining her situation, she begins to care a bit for him which is how her powers begin to unlock. Her experiences in this changes who she is in a way that's critical for a goddess which is also a way in which her angel can start to hatch. Of course, Skuld forces matters and her youth gets in the way of a proper progression of such things, but the end result is that Skuld has changed significantly by the end of these stories and isn't quite the child goddess she was before. And for a series like this, which seems to thrive on keeping things the same, it's a surprise.

Urd makes up the second half of this volume in which Marller makes a return appearance. I've always enjoyed the character since she's a bit daffy and provides a weird skewed view of how things appear from the Demonic side of the show. Her plans are often ill thought out and end in such a bad way for her that you'd think she'd learn after awhile. She does try to place nice for a bit when she comes across the usual gang taking a hot springs vacation. All of it is a ruse of course as she's intent on separating the two halves of Urd and using the Demonic Urd to gain her some added reputation and score some new souls to tip the balance. The storyline runs over both episodes and pits the two halves of Urd against each other which is admittedly fun to watch.

Urd's dabbled in the darker side before but this does have a nice twist to it in that, even though it's a clone body of sorts, they're completely separate beings. The angelic Urd is amusing since she does take on a softer appearance both in personality and design. But even with that there's still some of the spark to her that has made her who she is. The time spent on Earth with Keiichi and the others has loosened her up a bit and it's the darker side that keeps her playing some of the practical jokes and other aspects of her personality that aren't quite above the board. The split of the two personalities does have its moments where you enjoy it, but neither feels like the proper Urd that we've known over so many episodes and incarnations. As much fun as the arc is, I was rather relieved that it ended after only two episodes.

In Summary:
After the episodes with Peorth and the amount of fanservice and lightness, it was actually enjoyable to get into something a touch meatier and with more growth and expansion for the cast. It is of course growth and expansion within the confines of what this series is about, but it's there nonetheless and it makes all of the characters more appealing. Skuld has always been a favorite to some extent since she's got spunk, comes up with amusing devices and is the most outgoing and honest of all of them with her emotions. Seeing her grow up just a little bit, which takes away from those positive aspects, isn't always an easy thing to see but the character she's becoming is one that looks to be quite promising should the material ever truly go there. All in all, these episodes reminded me once again why I enjoy this franchise so much and why I look forward to more of it.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Commentary with Annice Moriarty (Skuld) and Vibe Jones (Urd)

Review Equipment
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.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
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