Review of Oh My Goddess! Volume 1
The Ah My Goddess property is an extensive one, originating from the pen of Kosuke Fujishima. The long running manga has spawned many spin-offs, and lately I had the chance to review the delightful Mini Goddess series. Most recently, the story has been revived in a full-length television series, and there was also an earlier feature film, but the animation had a relatively innocuous beginning with a five-episode OVA. Those five episodes were released in the UK by MVM on two discs as Oh My Goddess! I look at the first volume here, which has the first three half-hour episodes as well as more than the usual amount of extras. Having seen all of Mini Goddess, it`s a relief to finally meet the Average College Student mentioned in the intro to every episode.
Oh 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.
Ep 1. Moonlight and Cherry Blossoms
Keiichi Morisato is a student at Nekomi Technical College, and his somewhat diminutive stature doesn`t help his self-confidence any. One night, when he`s left behind at the dorm, he calls out for a takeaway meal. He doesn`t have much luck getting through, and a wrong number results in a visit from the goddess Belldandy. She offers to grant one wish, and Keiichi, captivated by her beauty and thinking that her appearance is just a prank, wishes that someone like her would be his girlfriend. A celestial flash of light later, and his wish is granted. The only trouble is that girls aren`t allowed in the dormitory, and as soon as the other students return, he and Belldandy are evicted. The first order of business is to find a new place to live. Fortunately the `Ultimate Force` is working to uphold their contract. But just when Keiichi may be overcoming his shyness and adapting to living with a goddess, his sister Megumi shows up.
Ep 2. Midsummer Night`s Dream
Summertime and the heat isn`t helping Keiichi study. Five months have passed since Belldandy came into his life, and he isn`t getting anywhere with that relationship either. Megumi convinces her brother to take Belldandy on a vacation to the seaside. Meanwhile, he gets a video in the mail, a risque title from Goddess Films called Sexy Dynamite Part 2. Only this video isn`t what he expects. Instead another goddess named Urd appears to advise him on how to move his relationship with Belldandy out of first gear. Belldandy`s older sister has many tricks up her sleeve, and Keiichi will need all of them during their vacation. But things go wrong when one of Urd`s love potions misfires.
Ep 3. Burning Hearts On The Road
Keiichi has another houseguest now that Urd has been exiled to Earth. With Belldandy fulfilling his wish, that leaves the youngest sister Skuld alone to take care of matters in heaven. She`s had enough, and comes to Earth to get her sister back from Keiichi. Meanwhile Keiichi has been selected to participate in a drag race for his college honour. It also means that he has to design and assemble the bike. But when a rival racing club from Nekomi makes a bet on the race, with Belldandy as the stake, Skuld sees her chance to break the celestial contract.
This is one of the earlier of MVM`s discs released in the UK, and as such is pretty much an identical release to the Region 1 version, down to the NTSC coding. As such it isn`t a pretty transfer, subject to rainbowing and a little soft at times. Colour bleed is apparent, and sometimes the image can be a little intense. The Oh My Goddess title card is a case in point, with the red text looking almost blurred against the white background.
It`s a shame that the transfer is lacking, as the OVA nature of Oh My Goddess means that there has been extra care taken over the animation, and the character designs are excellent.
You get a choice between DD 2.0 Japanese and English, with translated subtitles or just the signs. The dialogue is clear throughout, and either language track is more than acceptable. Oh My Goddess has some great music, and the tunes for the credit sequences rank among my favourites for an anime series.
This release of Oh My Goddess is the Region 1 version in all but Region coding, with the NTSC transfer not the only thing to make the transition. You`ll find that the Easter Eggs are also identical. One can be found with some nifty navigation from the episode select screen, while the other is hidden on the audio/subtitle screen. They both lead to brief slideshows of more Oh My Goddess product. If you select the correct angle, and turn off the subtitles, you will also be able to see the clean credit sequences.
Oh My Goddess gets some nice animated menus, as well as multi angle credit sequences. The original Japanese credits are shown as part of the animation, while the English credits are overlaid on the screen as part of the subtitle stream.
On the disc, you will also find a 2-minute slideshow that shows stills and artwork from the show and from the manga. The rest of the extras are a curious mixed bag. There are four audio tracks for each of the episodes, the Japanese and English audio, a commentary track and a music and effects only track.
The music and effects track is presented in two ways, Silent Movie Mode that plays this track with the subtitles, or Dub Your Own OMG, which turns the subtitles off, presumably so you can add your own voice to the characters.
Finally there is the commentary that is present for all episodes. The English language Voice Artists talk about the show, the story and the characters as well as the translation and the dub. It is fairly light-hearted and there are a couple of informational snippets worth listening out for.
Oh My Goddess is sweet! Fortunately it isn`t the cloying saccharine sweetness that can easily overwhelm a story, but the gentle and heartfelt sweetness that insists that you care about the characters. I suppose that it could easily be placed in the harem genre, that of hapless teen surrounded by plenty of pretty girls, but Oh My Goddess differs from the others of the genre that I have seen. It lacks the slapstick silliness of Love Hina, and eschews the sci-fi overtones of Tenchi Muyo. It also avoids the cliché of having more than one pretty girl falling for our wimpy hero. Instead Oh My Goddess focuses directly on the relationship between Keiichi and Belldandy, and in something of a change, we actually get to see it develop.
Keiichi Morisato is the wimpy teen so beloved of these comedies, diminutive in stature and lacking in self-confidence, he`s a prime target for a beautiful girl to fall head over heels in love with. If only the real world worked this way. There is a slight difference between the Japanese and English versions, in the English he wishes directly that Belldandy would be his girlfriend, in the Japanese he wishes for a girl like her. The end result is the same, his wish is granted and he finds that he has a Goddess for a roommate. The first episode concentrates on the `getting to know you` phase of their relationship, as Keiichi wonders just how real the wish actually is. And while the episode ends on a positive note, with Belldandy obviously having affection for him, it`s telling that their relationship hasn`t progressed by the time of the second episode five months later. Belldandy`s sister Urd appears to move the relationship along by hook or by crook, but her plans go awry. While she provides the comic relief, Keiichi and Belldandy`s relationship remains genuine, and her reaction when Keiichi comes under the effect of the love potion is well observed. The third episode widens the scope, with Belldandy`s younger sister Skuld arriving, and her jealousy of Keiichi causing some problems.
Oh My Goddess is a feel-good anime that entertains from beginning to end. Its strength is in the characters, these are people that are easy to care about and root for. It may be utterly sweet without a hint of cynicism, but it manages to pull it off in a way that other shows would find impossible. This disc may be a little long in the tooth now, and the image quality isn`t ideal, but it still manages to show why Oh My Goddess is such a popular property.