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    Review for Ah! My Goddess: Series 2 - Flights of Fancy Part 2 (2 Discs)

    8 / 10



    Introduction


    Has it been two months already? Time flies when you're swamped with anime. But if there is a bright spot this year, a little oasis of charm and sweetness to lighten the load, and make this reviewing lark feel even less like work than it already does, then it's the continuing release of Ah My Goddess - Flights of Fancy. After a spluttering false start from ADV, Manga have taken up the reins and are bringing this delightful series to UK audiences at last, and if you haven't already partaken of the first two-disc instalment, what's keeping you? Anyway, the next, two-disc collection is here, eight more episodes of the fluffiest, ultimate feel-good anime, three more hours of sheer magic to chase your blues away.

    Ah! My Goddess takes its cue from the sitcoms of the sixties, shows like Bewitched and I Dream Of Jeannie, where an average Joe would meet the girl of his dreams, only there would be more to her than meets the eye, causing his life to change in unexpected ways. Here Keiichi Morisato is the average Joe, but Belldandy trumps the witch and genie by actually being a goddess, a celestial being who comes to Earth to grant one wish. Life isn't all celestial perfection for Keiichi though, and the mayhem increases when Belldandy's elder sister Urd, and younger sister Skuld also move in. You'd think that with the Lord of Terror defeated at the end of the first series, life would get back to an idyllic bliss for Keiichi and Belldandy, as they inch inexorably forward on the path of true love, but life is never that easy, especially in a romantic anime comedy.

    The previous volume had left Keiichi in something of a pickle, when he had somehow dialled up heaven again, and summoned the Goddess Peorth. Now Peorth insists on granting Keiichi's deepest desires. But Keiichi already has the ideal goddess by his side. Doesn't he?

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    The next eight episodes of Ah! My Goddess - Flights of Fancy are released on two discs from Manga Entertainment.

    Disc 1

    09. Ah! The Goddesses Go Head to Head on a Date!
    Peorth is still there trying to get Keiichi to make his wish, but somehow that's transmogrified into making him fall in love with her. Skuld's manga comics offer a little inspiration, and Peorth asks Keiichi out on a date. She isn't expecting everyone else to tag along though. It turns out that her rivalry with Belldandy extends beyond the professional. Meteors at 20 paces, ladies?

    10. Ah! I Just Can't Say It!
    Peorth is still there, still trying to elicit that wish from Keiichi, and Belldandy still watches on, her usual amiable self. Or is she? Urd takes Keiichi to task, telling him to be a man, or to risk another jealous Belldandy episode. It's time for Keiichi to be honest about what he wants, but Peorth doesn't let him finish, and grants the wrong wish. But maybe this time it isn't about Keiichi, maybe it's Belldandy who needs to be honest.

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    11. Ah! Grasp Your Dream With Your Own Hands!
    A letter signals bad news for the leaders of the Nekomi Tech Auto Club, and Tamiya and Otaki make themselves scarce, leaving Keiichi holding the reins. The reason why becomes clear, when Chihiro Fujimi arrives, looking for her former underlings. She originally started the Auto Club, but she's now moved onto bigger and better things, chief engineer of a works racing team. Seeing Keiichi tinker with a mini-bike intrigues her and gets her nostalgic, and she quickly challenges Keiichi to a race. But Belldandy has seen that there is more to her challenge than mere nostalgia.

    12. Ah! A Goddess's Tears and His Dreams!
    The TV's on the blink, but missing her favourite Samurai drama rerun isn't why Urd is feeling melancholy. It's the plum blossoms that have her in a reflective mood, recalling the plum spirit Troubadour, who was her boyfriend before his restless spirit took him wandering. Now he's back, to pick up where he left off, but seeing Urd in the company of a mere mortal like Keiichi ignites his jealousy. I don't think life insurance covers acts of gods and goddesses.

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    Disc 2

    13. Ah! Let Those Feelings Awaken!
    Skuld is still a young goddess, and while she is quick to be riled, she isn't too bothered at Urd flaunting her powers, especially when her own haven't developed yet. It doesn't hurt that she has her own handmade gadgets to fill in where magic fails. But when she sees Belldandy effortlessly riding a bike, she wants to be just like her older sister. It's enough for a friendly wager, with Urd daring her to learn to ride in just three days. Skuld has never been one for perseverance, and learning from Belldandy and Keiichi is a frustrating affair, one that sends her into a sulk. But before Urd can count her winnings, Skuld meets a young boy named Sentaro who offers to teach her. But Skuld may just learn a far more important lesson.

    14. Ah! My Darling Cupid!
    Sentaro's learning all about goddesses, although he's remarkably levelheaded about it. But when he sees Belldandy's angel Holy Bell, he naturally asks about Skuld's. Skuld's too young to have an angel yet, but she still promises to introduce her to Sentaro regardless. Desperate for her angel to hatch, Skuld tries all sorts of measures, almost leading to disaster, but against all the odds, Noble Scarlet is hatched, and Skuld soon has a new best friend. Noble Scarlet is small but willing, and tries her best to help. She sees Skuld's hesitant affections for Sentaro, and recalling the romantic manga that Skuld likes to read, decides to push things in the right direction. Which is why Skuld is too young to have an angel…

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    15. Ah! I'm Half Goddess, Half Demon?!
    A visit to an outdoor hot spring baths may be just what the goddess ordered, and it is relaxing enough, even though no one knows exactly who got the tickets. Marller is there, although fortunately it's her day off, meaning their professional rivalry is put aside for some personal bickering with childhood friend Urd. Of course there is an angle, Marller's plan is to clone Urd, and using a nifty bit of mystical kit, split the demon half of Urd away from the divine half. Marller just wants to cause mischief, but evil-Urd wants to take over the world, and she starts by sealing Skuld away, and making Belldandy jealous.

    16. Ah! Shimmer Without Fear Of Darkness!
    Good-Urd manages to escape Marller's trap, and provide a set-back to her dark doppelganger, but Belldandy is concerned. She alone knows what separating Urd into good and evil means, not just for the world, but for Urd as well, but she's constrained from telling anyone. Good-Urd knows, but the only way out that she can envisage is terminal for both her halves. With Belldandy unable to speak, and both Urds irrevocably set on their mutually destructive paths, it's down to Skuld to save the day, and she's still sulking because evil-Urd sealed her away.

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    Picture


    The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer on this disc is clear and problem free to my eye. It may be an NTSC- PAL conversion, but it is an exceptionally good one, free of ghosting and judder, and with smooth animation. In my opinion, it is a mite softer than the region 1 discs, but certainly nothing to fret about. This is still as good as television anime usually gets in this country. As for the animation, especially compared to the OVA, it's a case of swings and roundabouts. The character design and world detail is simplified in comparison to the original episodes, but the animation is much more fluid, with CGI blended in seamlessly as is the case with most modern anime. The world is also more expansive, with a lot more of the background detail filled in.

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    Sound


    It's just your basic DD 2.0 English and Japanese for Ah My Goddess, with optional English subtitles and signs. I feel that the English dub sounds a little goofy in comparison to the original language track, but I guess that's a matter of personal preference. If like me, you prefer the original language tracks, it's worth noting that the original cast reunite after 12 years for this series, providing a nice degree of familiarity to fans of the OVA. ADV also pulled off something of a coup in terms of continuity, by retaining the same English dub cast from the first season. There are some more Japanese Celtic theme tunes to enjoy, and if the opener of Season 2 doesn't get you liking the sound of bagpipes, nothing ever will.




    Extras


    I would like to once again point out the incongruity of the hack and slash, swords and blood Manga logo, and the sweetness and fluffiness of the Ah! My Goddess franchise. There's no sign of Funimation's presence on these discs, but there is an ADV logo at the start, and ADV are credited on the discs as well.

    Also different from the Funimation re-releases are the animated menus, and the distribution of the extras.

    Disc 1 gets the textless credits, and a 90-second production art slideshow.

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    The commentary on this disc accompanies episode 12, and is disappointing compared to the commentaries in the previous set. Veronica Taylor (Chihiro), and Dan Green (Troubadour) have something of a luvvie-in as they just turn up for a chat and reminisce. Veronica Taylor's character was in episode 11, so she doesn't have much to say about this one, and the two spend more time talking about the other anime they have done, instead of supplying us with pertinent Ah My Goddess info.

    Disc 2 gets the textless credits again, including the second ending theme.

    The commentary on episode 15 has Annice Moriarty (Skuld), and Vibe Jones (Urd) coming together for a chat. It starts out promisingly enough as they talk about their respective careers, but quickly turns into a good gossip about the recreational possibilities in the New York area. Not at all interesting.

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    Conclusion


    Call it filler, call it a mid-season slump, or just call it poor writing, but it's an affliction that many series suffer, where the momentum and pace of the main story is lost, and things begin to feel a little aimless. For some anime series, it can be a disaster, but with Ah My Goddess: Flights of Fancy, it's hardly noticeable. The quality of the animation doesn't diminish, the quality of the writing still remains high, and the episodes are just as entertaining as before. It's just that the story shifts away from the central characters of Belldandy and Keiichi, we take a breather from their infinitesimally progressive romance, and we concentrate on the supporting cast. And with characters as interesting and as rounded as Urd and Skuld, it's actually a pleasant diversion to get away from the central duo for a few episodes.

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    We begin by rounding off the Peorth arc first though. Peorth is the goddess that Keiichi accidentally contacted in the previous volume, and just as with Belldandy, she's willing to grant any wish that Keiichi has, except 'I wish you'd leave me alone' of course. But unlike Belldandy, she's a lot more brazen and forward about it, and it seems that her interest in Keiichi quickly moves from the professional to the personal. But in reality, it's actually a personal friction between her and Belldandy that is behind this, and the rivalry quickly overwhelms the desire to grant a wish. Peorth is an interesting character, and I had hoped that she would be a permanent addition to the Morisato household, but her first spell on the show lasts a mere four episodes. There is the impression though that she is more Urd than Urd, and having two similar characters in proximity for a lengthy period wouldn't be good for the story.

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    It's around episode 11 that the show diverts attention from the central characters, and in this collection it's just as entertaining. There's a nice story when the Auto Club's original leader returns, looking to find new direction in her life after achieving success with a major racing team. In an interesting switch, it's Keiichi's seniors Otaki and Tamiya who cower and run for cover when she arrives, indicating the same relationship with her that Keiichi has with them. The arrival of Urd's ex-boyfriend is suitably fiery, although I have to admit that I find Troubadour more annoying than funny. I suppose it makes it worthwhile when he gets zapped by a couple of Urd's thunderbolts. Given the sort of manipulative ex-boyfriend that he turns out to be, I'd say that Urd was remarkably restrained in her reaction to his return. Restrained and Urd aren't normally two words that go together in a sentence.

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    The best of the non-relationship episodes follow, with Skuld taking her first tentative steps to Goddess-hood. A goddess truly comes into her powers when she expresses her feelings of love, and in Skuld's case it means first love. For someone I considered excessively bratty in the first season, these two episodes are really sweet and enchanting, as trying to learn how to ride a bike, she finds the ideal teacher in a local boy named Sentaro. It's a classic coming of age tale, as she stops being so selfish and capricious, starts thinking of others, and by doing so awakens her abilities. Of course she's not going to grow up overnight, and the haste to do so causes problems in the next episode, when Skuld tries prematurely to access her angel. It's a charming, magical and entertaining tale, with just a hint of tragic loss and regret to it, just enough to get a lump in the throat.

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    The collection rounds off with a two-episode tale. There's a hint of danger when demon Marller returns, and in a curious remake of the old Star Trek episode, Urd gets split into her good and evil halves. It's enjoyable and fast paced, there are plenty of memorable moments to savour, but it's hard to get away from the feeling that the good-evil twin trope is a worn and tired one now, that has shown up again and again since Jekyll and Hyde, and the story ends with the same punchline as the Trek episode, that good-Urd and evil-Urd can't exist separately, one without the other. They need each other to survive, not that the story can end any other way. Fortunately, there is a sly twist to the end that leaves me chuckling.

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    This middle instalment of Ah My Goddess: Flights of Fancy loses a little momentum from the first by drifting away from the central romance for a few episodes, and it also ends on a somewhat clich├ęd, if still entertaining note. But then again it does have my favourite episodes of the series, which surprisingly aren't about Belldandy and Keiichi, but about Skuld, the annoying brat from the first season, who becomes warm and likeable, if still a little bratty here. Shows that make you feel this good ought to come with a health warning. You don't want to overdose.

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