Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: A-
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: AnimEigo
- MSRP: 24.95
- Running time: 87
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Ah! My Goddess
Oh My Goddess Vol. #1
By William Reynolds
February 16, 2002
Release Date: August 14, 2001
Well, here it is -- the Holy Grail for romantic saps who like a mix of magic and realism in their anime. Now that I've made the obligatory Sugar Alert warning, I'm free to go on and call Oh My Goddess one of the all-time great OAV series, and an anime/manga classic. The original manga has been a top seller since 1989, and these five anime episodes have set the stage for a feature film, a TV series (Adventures of the Mini-Goddesses, a "super-deformed" comedy), tons of merchandise of all kinds, and a veritable galaxy of web pages and shrines. The Norse goddess Belldandy (a.k.a. Verthandi) has a whole new crowd of modern-day worshippers in the anime community. Cynics, or those who prefer moodiness, action, or buckets of blood in their anime, may not see what the fuss is about. But for those of us who like to see good people doing good things, or believe nice guys don't always have to finish last, this show is as good as it gets.
Grain of Salt Warning: I'm watching on a pretty low-end setup, so your mileage may vary. The digital remastering is a touch soft here and there, but it's generally very clean and does a fine job of bringing out color, especially in the background paintings. I saw almost no film damage anywhere. This show dates from 1993, so it will never look like it was minted yesterday, but the care taken by the art staff is obvious, and the clarity of DVD makes it easier to enjoy the art even as it points out the show's age. One strange thing: I noticed an ugly white flash at the end of the closing credits for Episode 2. It only lasts about one frame, but it looks like a postproduction glitch, and it's not evident on the VHS release. Hard to believe that no one in a professional editing room would catch this, while Joe Slob At Home (namely, me) could plainly see it in casual viewing.
While the overall sound is perfectly fine, there are some weird inconsistencies in the audio editing. For one thing, at the end of the first opening credits sequence, the final musical chord sounds like it is abruptly cut off. (Later episodes allow the music to finish properly.) Another oddity occurs at the end of episode 2, going into the closing sequence. There is a cymbal crash that fades out on the final scene -- but then the end of the crash can be clearly heard repeating itself at the very beginning of the credits. Oops! These may be minor things, but I've rarely if ever heard similar glitches on other anime DVDs. Maybe I've been lucky.
The Japanese audio sounds pretty much as it did on the VHS release, only with a little extra refinement and clarity. The music track is still a bit "hot," threatening to cover the seiyuu in a couple of places, but if you're used to the VHS sub release you probably won't notice. The dub actors are more closely miked, but not always to their advantage.
Ooooh, pretty.... The cover is an elegant illustration of our three goddesses, with Belldandy in the foreground. If Belldandy doesn't sell this disc, I don't know what will. The fonts are well chosen, and the main title on the spine is easy to read. The back cover is...pink. Mostly it's taken up by a very detailed (too detailed?) summary of the first three episodes. While this is nice for potential buyers to have, the excessive verbiage means that there's only room for one small illustration on the back cover. Everything else is a big pink rectangle filled with text. I predict you'll be looking at the front whenever possible.
Menus are clear and easy to use. The main menu opens with video of Belldandy casting her spell from the opening of Episode 1. It's a clever idea, but it takes a while; the result reminded me of the Please Save My Earth menu. The actual menu screens are very nice animation with background music.
Extras are fairly generous on this disc, including a commentary track that includes the English dub actors and director. Hopefully we'll get another such track for Volume 2. There is a nice slide show of cel art, production art, and promotional paintings. One of my favorite extras on this disc is the "karaoke" track. Two karaoke tracks, actually -- a simple music-and-effects track without subtitles, and a "silent movie mode" with subtitles. Invite your otaku friends over and have an OMG seiyuu party. Or try reading a script from Urusei Yatsura or something along with the images. (I'm sure some of you out there can think of even more twisted ideas....)
Since "What They Say" pretty much tells you all you need to know about the episodes themselves, I won't bore you by repeating the synopsis here. In short, these first three episodes introduce each goddess in turn, and things get more and more unpredictable for poor Keiichi as we meet Belldandy's sisters.
It's hard to describe the impact of Oh My Goddess on its fans. While it's reasonable to say that individual elements such as artwork, fluidity of animation, music, voice acting, scripting, et cetera, have been equaled or surpassed by other anime OAVs, this title combines these elements with such an effortless beauty that the sum is definitely more than its parts. While the overall world of the manga has been compressed pretty brutally to get us through an original story arc in 5 episodes, the atmosphere and characters come through very well. Some have pointed out that Belldandy seems more "weak" or passive here than in the manga. While it's true that she almost never loses her temper in the anime, she really isn't given much reason to do so (except toward Urd). But it's unfair to characterize her as "weak." I, for one, couldn't live a life of absolute integrity and purity all the time, so for what it's worth, she's stronger than I am.
The scripts combine light comedy with romantic schmaltz, never lingering too long on either. The background music is mostly airy synthesizer stuff (Vangelis, anyone?), very appropriate for the gentle atmosphere. The famous opening and closing songs are performed by "Goddess Family Club," our three goddess seiyuu. The voice acting on the English dub is generally good, though they sound a bit pressed to make the script sound natural, and the script itself wanders off on its own tangents occasionally as it tries to conform to "lip flap." The Japanese voice cast is, in a word, spectacular. (On the commentary track, the dub actors mention their awe of the original seiyuu.) AnimEigo has subtly rewritten some of their subtitle script, and it is now both more accurate and more colloquial than the original VHS subtitles. (But why is the episode "Burning Hearts on the Road" listed in its preview by the inscrutable title "Brown Sugar and Apple Pie?")
Whether or not Oh My Goddess makes the "Recommended" list on this site, it has pretty much carved out a place for itself as essential basic viewing for anime fans. Yes, it's drippy and sappy and romantic and melodramatic and occasionally goofy. And no, we wouldn't have it any other way.
Panasonic RV-31 DVD player; Panasonic CT-20G5 20" TV; Aiwa bookshelf stereo mini-system; Monster cables.