Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, January 04, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, January 08, 2008



What They Say
Things were already grim with Mara around, but the situation becomes much more ominous when Hild – the Ruler of all Demonkind – arrives. But when Hild offers to resolve Mara’s mess, the price may be more than Urd and Belldandy are willing to pay. Even then, Mara is not content to leave Keiichi and the goddesses alone. An undaunted Mara hatches yet another scheme to seek revenge on the foursome. On the other hand, when one of Skuld’s new inventions doesn’t work quite as planned, Keiichi soon realizes that not all his problems are related to demons!!

The Review!
The ruler of all the demons makes her appearance at long last which means we get some neat little jokes and winks about the nature of things.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
With a lot of white space and a white keepcase as well, Urd and her mother Hilda get the cover here and it looks quite good. There's a good difference to it in comparison to previous ones just in that Hilda has so much white hair and that causes it to look very different. The soft red shade used works well with the design as it allows for the character artwork to really stand out here. The logo, with the addition of "Flights of Fancy", is done in silver which looks great against the soft red 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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 Marller and Senbei 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)
As the second season draws closer the last volume, you start to wonder if a larger storyline will start to take place to carry things through. Some potential seeds for that are brought in during this volume as Urd's demonic mother, the ruler of hell, comes in to play at the request of her daughter. Bringing in a character like this is fun while adding some interesting third party observations on the core cast of characters.

The fallout from the Heretical Pot being used on Urd is being felt at first here as her two sides are in conflict with each other. Not outright conflict as they've found a temporary balance that works, but one in which the goddess side is slowly gaining ground on the demonic side. The result is that the darker side of Urd is being driven out slowly and those memories are disappearing. She has what's really a firm split personality right now but the goddess side is clearly dominating the demonic. In the end, there can only be one side of her left through the use of the Heretical Pot and it's clear that it's going to be the "good" side of her. Whether the demonic side accepts this or not is the crux of the matter. Their only hope, beyond going to the Almighty himself, is to seek out Urd's mother.

There's a general fear in calling her, both because of who she is and what kind of deal she'll make to restore the proper balance within Urd. Hilda is a positively fun incarnation of the ruler of demonkind as she's almost childish in a way with her whims and power. She's clearly had a strong influence on Urd as the two really are quite similar in a lot of ways and she has a strong love for her daughter, even though she's gone on to become a Goddess instead of a demon. Her natural first impulse is to agree to things if she can have her daughter back in the deal, but that's simply not going to fly since Urd wouldn't be who she is if she did that. The negotiations are amusing as everyone gets involved in them.

It's through things like that and Hilda's other tampering that we get a new view on the core cast of characters. Skuld is rightly afraid of Hilda and rarely speaks her mind around her and Urd is a mixture of submissive and defiant depending on the situation. Belldandy keeps to her usual self and actually manages to impress Hilda at one point. The most striking comment is when Hilda talks about how much like her father that Belldandy is, though it's hard to tell if it's actually a compliment or not. What amuses the most is the way Keiichi holds his own during all of this, as if he doesn't really realize who he's talking to and what he's really getting away with. It further cements the uniqueness that he is and his relationship with Belldandy.

Even as serious as the storyline gets, there is a good mix of humor brought into it as well which helps. The lightness within the characters and the innocence of Belldandy helps to keep it from getting too serious or dark in nature. The storyline is also balanced well in the follow up episodes as we get more comedy oriented stories. One of them revolves around Marller sending a pint sized ninja assassin after Belldandy and the sisters, but she ends up becoming ensnared in the openness of the household and the way everyone interacts with each other. It's got a great moment where the assassin turns herself from her pint sized form to a full sized and tries to seduce Keiichi. She almost makes something happen but then her rat tail shows through and blows the entire thing up.

Another really good episode, even if it does get silly in a bad way, involves Belldandy not having her powers for awhile. That leads to events where everyone they know suddenly needs to store things at the shrine. Keiichi's personality lets it happen and they're stuck for space, which means that Skuld is there to save the day with a new gadget. Using a method of space-doubling by grabbing space from the future, they're able to set things right. But as expected, her gadget goes horribly awry and Belldandy and Keiichi find themselves stuck in a room of infinite space with no way out. Skuld and Urd frantically try to come up with ways of saving them before Keiichi starves to death while Keiichi and Belldandy simply… dance. It's goofy and their relationship shows some simple strains after all this time because of it, but would we really expect anything else from them at this point?

In Summary:
Ah! My Goddess continues to add new characters with what seems to be every volume, but the addition of Hilda is very welcome and appropriately place. Hilda brings in some fresh perspectives on the characters relationships, as well as her own dalliance that resulted in Urd being born. The episodes here wrap up the split personality storyline from the previous volume, work in some residual fun with Hilda and generally sets the series back on course for more simply, silly and sweet episodic fun. Every now and then the show brings out a bit of meat to chew on and then it returns to the fluffier material. This volume is just like that and it's still a very welcome aspect of it all. Ah! My Goddess simply makes me feel good inside.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Commentary track with Alyssa Brodsky (Marller) and Kevin Collins (Senbei)

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