Ah! My Goddess The Movie (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, February 06, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Overall Rating: 4.4
(on a scale of 1-5)
As I mentioned in my review for the second disc of the OAV series, I got this film at the same time as I received the other disc. I'll be focusing this review on the film, but I will be contrasting it to the OAV series. And I also think that if you've never seen any Oh My Goddess work, start with the OAV. The film assumes you are familiar with the story and the characters. You wouldn't be too bad if you've never read the manga, but there are plenty of characters that only appear in the manga that are in the film as well. Anyway, on with the review.
Pioneer scores with another perfect score in the technical department. This movie looks absolutely gorgeous and the sound really blew me away. This film has some beautiful animation, sound design and music and this disc does them justice. It's a really first class piece of work. The menu's got style and works quickly, another great job. The cover is not only eye catching and lovely but has all the info you need to know including languages, region, parental rating, number of channels, length of the disc and extras. Your extras include an art gallery including production art and design sketches. You also get a cluster of Japanese trailers for the film. Add to that a episode of the Mini-goddesses and a beautiful pencil board featuring the four goddesses (including manga favorite Peorth). Pioneer knows how to make a great disk. Well done!
When you have an established story and characters that are as popular as Oh My Goddess it would seem like a great idea to make a film. In fact the characters from the series lend themselves to make a very entertaining film. But sometimes it just doesn't work. And as much as there is going for this movie there are a couple things that just didn't work at all.
The story goes like this. It's been about three years since Belldandy entered Kei's life. Things seem to be going great until the unexpected happens, again. A god named Celestin appears. He is Bell's former mentor, and he has returned after a long disappearance. What Bell doesn't know is that Celestin has been locked away on the moon, for some offence to the gods. Now he is prepared for revenge and he is going to use Belldandy to exact it. His first step is to remove all memories of Keiichi from her mind. But what does he have in store for them afterward. Urd, Skuld and Peorth attempt to solve the riddle, as Keiichi tries to spark some memory in Bell. All the while Celestin waits for his perfect opportunity to strike...
What does work are the artistic elements of the film. The animation is simply breath taking. It infuses a world based on reality with magic as only animation can do. The characters are very alive and the backgrounds are fleshed out. Camera movement and editing are also well used. While not as artsy as Utena, it works just as well for what it is trying to do. This is an epic scale movie, and so the animation works on the epic scale. The opening scene on the moon sets up the style for which the movie is shooting for. The character designs seem a bit closer to the manga and a little less stylized. In a way it reminded me of the more adult look to Tenchi Forever. The sound design is also top notch. The goddesses and their magic powers are full of excellent and exciting sound design. Heaven itself, and the Yggdrasil system are also well executed. Again the sound and visuals are on the grand scale and are effectively pulled off.
The score is perfect. It's not nearly as overpowering as the OAV score and really does a great job capturing the emotions of scenes. The ending theme as well as the song at the climax of the movie are very good and fit with the feel of the film. You've got the Warsaw Philharmonic working on this movie and again the epic sound matches the epic feel of the movie.
The English cast does a very good job. I'm rather fond of the OAV cast and was disappointed that they were unable to work on the film. But the new set of actors hold their own against the classic team. All of our mains do a top notch job. Belldandy, Urd, Skuld, Keiichi, Celestine and Morgan are all cast perfectly and do a masterful job. A few of the supporting roles were not quite working, most notably Peorth. She just kept pulling me out of the story. But overall this was a very good dub.
The major element that didn't work is for me the most important. The story really didn't hold my interest. I once heard someone comment that Belldandy is not a very interesting character. She is so good, and pure and wonderful that she is just not made for conflict. Conflict is what makes a good story. So it's up to the other characters to make the story fun, and make it work. I agree. Bell on her own can not hold a story. And what we have here is Belldandy holding the whole story. What's interesting is that the last two episodes of the OAV also revolve around Bell. Yet she is not alone in that story, the conflict is centered on her and Keiichi. It makes the story much more moving and work on a better level. Here we don't have enough time to really get into her relationship with Celestin, and the story just never really takes off. In addition I got the feeling that the writers and director were going into this project knowing that they wanted epic. They wanted big. So they decided to bring in as many characters from the manga as they could. The result is a whirlwind of cameos that are fun, but don't really add to the story. This was an interesting premise that just wasn't executed to well.
The end result was simple. I was bored. I was bored with Oh My Goddess, something I never thought would happen. With such a great production I found it hard to believe, but pretty pictures and great music and sound do not make a great story. I think the creators wanted to make this a big, beautiful production, and lost sight of the reason people love Oh My Goddess. It's not because of the magic spells, or the heavenly computer, or the moments of beautiful goddesses floating in the night. It's the relationship between two lovers, Kei and Bell. It's the relationship they have with Skuld and Urd and their pals at the motor club. Without that, it's just not Oh My Goddess.
Roman J. Martel
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Phillips Flatscreen (27 Inch), Sony DVP-NS300
Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 106
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ah! My Goddess