Throughout my anime-watching career, I’ve seen a fair amount of hyped/fanboy series. Some of these (such as Witch Hunter Robin, Hellsing, Full Metal Alchemist for a newer one, or Berserk) are damn good; I’m talking good on a variety of levels: plot, imagery, or the core feel and impact it has on you. On the other hand, I’ve also been privy to series that are extremely hyped and loved by pretty much all anime fans, whereas I’ve found them to be quite average and unexciting. Bebop is one of them (yes, I know I am fairly alone on that thought), and Ah! My Goddess is now another.
After that lovely intro, I’m sure you can get the overall idea of what I felt of this series: generic and overrated. That being said, let’s tackle why I thought the plot was lackluster. First of all, I really don’t care if this was an OVA which helped spawn harem comedies or a lot of “romantic comedies”, that doesn’t mean it is exempt from sucking automatically. The fact of the matter is, the story isn’t that great, period. Yes, it does have a slightly original feel to it due to the whole “goddess-help-line-through-the-phone” thing (hence the 5, not a 3), but the originality and uniqueness pretty much dies there. Keiichi, on accident, wishes for the goddess Belldandy to stay with him forever. Of course, you know that cheesy attempts at romance are to follow, along with the obligatory (and much despised, in my case) woman becomes the servant of the household to please the man. This is a cultural difference for me, obviously, but it doesn’t change the fact that I get irritated every time I see one of these “romantic comedies” where the woman, no matter how independent or fantastic as a person before, ends up becoming the cooking/cleaning bitch of the home to please her man as soon as she feels the first twinge of hormones.
Another big problem I have with the plot is that like many other short “romance” OVAs or series, there is almost no time for you to learn about the backgrounds of the characters, or watch their romance grow. Instead, you see them meet, then suddenly it’s months later and they are much closer as a couple, and so on. I’m sorry, I just don’t work that way. If I am going to really feel empathetic about a relationship (especially since the theme of the last two episodes is heavy on the pain of potentially losing each other), I need to see it build up. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien is the best example of a series that succeeds at this, dragging you through painful steps of the relationships, so you feel just as crushed when they start to unravel. Ah! My Goddess, however, ends up as simply lackluster in that field, making you feel not only unempathetic, but also bored at the supposed strife the two main characters go through.
Of course, the story also has other “must-haves” of romance OVAs, such as the obligatory “forgotten promise”, and the scheming friends or relatives who are always trying to get in the way. All in all, the plot really did not impress me one bit. Again, I don’t care how notorious the show is, or how many other series it helped spawn… it was average, period.
The animation of AMG is very strange to say the least, and very inconsistent. The first episode leaves quite a bit to be desired, with some of the oddest layering effects I’ve seen. Backgrounds (much of the time) have literally no solid black lines anywhere on the screen. Now, there are series that pull this off well, like the recent Paranoia Agent. The difference, however, is that in series like Paranoia Agent, the characters also don’t have many (if any) solid black lines as well, so it looks consistent. In AMG? The opposite: characters look normal for anime, with black lines outlining each feature on their body, clothing, and hair. I’m sure you can imagine how silly this must look, with two very different looking styles superimposed on each other. Really, it just made it look tacky and unfinished. I can only assume the OVA had a poor budget, but the styles still could have been consistent. And speaking of consistency, sometimes, the shading and characters actually looked damn good. Granted, this was only once in awhile, and soon would degrade back to “OH GOD NO BUDGET” land. Backgrounds, in addition to the no solid line thing, were fairly bad and incomplete, to say the least. In one beach scene, the sand area is just a lightish blue color with NO shading or lines at all. Only the things in the foreground have any sort of color or focus, leaving the scene to look incomplete and ridiculous. It was almost like the detail or backgrounds were just an afterthought – an afterthought that should have been thought of.
The only thing that the animation excelled at was the character designs, sometimes. Keep in mind that the characters suffered the same fate as the backgrounds sometimes, being very poorly shaded and strange looking. But the rest of the time, mind you, the characters usually were quite detailed and attractive. For its time, I’m sure the animation was a lot more highly looked upon. And don’t get me wrong, I watch lots of older series, so it isn’t like I’m being biased. The animation, I felt, was just very poor compared to what it could have been.
The audio is really the one part of the OVA that I enjoyed. The intro was a stereotypical bouncy J-pop tune, which seemed to fit the tone of the series. The rest of the music was so overly cheesy that it somehow fit as well, like you are watching a bad 80s movie that makes you grin from the cheese-factor. For example, I’ve heard plenty of older things that have saxophones in the songs, but never where the saxophone is very obviously from a keyboard, and sounds completely fake! Classic, I tell you.
Voice actors were good all around.
I’m fairly torn on how to score this section, but I think above a 6 is necessary because some of the secondary characters (namely Urd and Skuld) played their roles quite well, albeit stereotypically. Urd was the temptress and the comic relief all in one. Although I didn’t care for the random ecchi she managed to throw into the OVA, she still changed the tone from trying to be funny (and failing), to actual funny. Skuld was a good supporting character as well, but did tend to get a bit annoying when she fell into her stereotype of the whiny overprotective little sister.
But Keiichi and Belldandy? Again, I had a hard time with the pacing of the OVA, and the idea that they were in love (as opposed to Belldandy just being a stupid girl who enjoys being a slave). I didn’t feel anything for them, because there wasn’t enough time for their personalities to develop. And really, I didn’t feel like anything had changed! Keiichi became happier with having a servant, yes, but he was gaga for her to begin with, so not much changed after months. Belldandy, though admitting feelings of love further down the line, had always been in a servant type role with Keiichi since the beginning, so nothing changed there either. I don’t know, the character interactions just seemed generic and very predictable.
First animated transposition of the manga, I've first seen these OVA only recently, long after I've seen the more recent anime series. This might somehow influence my judgement (toward a more positive value, probably), but I'll try to stick to what I actually think of these 5 OVAs as a standalone thing. I know I won't be able to fully satisfy this assumption, but well... Here we go!
An normal college student (Keiichi Morisato) sees his life completely changed after luck, fate or something brings a beautiful Goddess in his room at the dormitory.
These changes diffuse to its personal life, to school, and also to "higher places", and in these OVA there is a quick look at these experiences.
Not exactly the most original plot, but what it lacks in originality is then compensated whit a really good mixing of the various aspects of the anime. Romance, magic, and a little of comedy find a very good balance, with none being too invasive, but also none being neglected. I'd also mention the fact that while nowadays the story might not be such an original work, there is also to consider the fact that these OVA have their birthdate back into the 1993, and the manga in the 1989, and back there I cannot really say whether it was a innovation or not.
Another point of note is that 5 episodes of an average of 25 minutes each did not allow for a deeply developed story, and every now and then there is the feeling that something is missing, that some details are left unexplained.
In the end, good story, not excellent, but still good. In fact I could increase the score a little, as it could pull a couple of tears out of me. Just a couple. 2. No more, no less. But still it was not easy task. But in the end, it surely deserves a 6.5, and that is also enough.
I should again remember the year: 1993, as it is obvious that if compared to more recent products, this graphic does not look that impressive. Bit still I do not have any bad critic on the animation quality. Simple, but also effective, in fact I think it is even better than some of the more recent anime.
Unluckily I did not watch these OVA in original language, but but in italian, so this part of the review shouldn't really receive much weight in my overall evaluation...
Still, at least the opening song was the original one. Cute, but it diverges from what I usually appreciate... But this is a personal opinion.
A high evaluation might seem strange, as there isn't much time to develop the characters' personalities and also there aren't that many characters. Indeed, just like for the story, for the characters there are some missing links in the relationship development, especially between one episode and another, and also due to the limited time at disposal, some of the characters' decisions just pop out of nowhere. Still, for some reasons, I do like them. This is probably where the influence from the other series fights its way into my judgement...
It's not bad. Surely not bad. As said before, it lacks of a few things in both the story and the characters, but it makes up for a decent work.
It is a little scarce if taken as a standalone, so if you feel like incomplete after seeing this one, I suggest a peek to the 2005 version, which i judged very good!
Ah! My Goddess captures eloquently the emotions it displays in a clever story. It has a lot going for it. It is actually laugh out loud funny, the music is brilliant, and many characters smack of feeling real.
Oddly, Belldandy, the Goddess, is the least interesting of the characters. Both of her sisters. Urd and Skuld, have likable personalities, as does Url's mother and many other satelite characters. The relationship between Belldandy and Keiichi is used to introduce inventive "problems" and story plots.
It's an uplifting comedy. Both comedic and humorous, The series lacks resolution because there are going to be more seasons of this one, almost certainly.
It never hurts that the music of an anime is good. The first main theme and the second closing theme are both delights, but the incidental music in the soundtrack, too, is quite a bit better than most animes.