There are just some anime franchises out there that every otaku knows about even if they haven't seen them. Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, and Love Hina are just a few but Ah! My Goddess is one that deserves to be on the top of that list. Originally a manga by Kosuke Fujishima, Ah! My Goddess has been around in some form since the late 80's and is still popular to this day. With an OVA in the early 90's, a TV series known as Mini-Goddess, a movie, and two newer seasons it's certain to say that a cult following is keeping this franchise hopping.
When looking at the latest incarnations of the series you have to go back to the manga roots since the story has more to do with that than anything else. The first season was published here in the States by Media Blasters but ADV has recently started releasing the second batch of episodes. The nice part is that the voice actors are basically all the same so fans will nary notice a skip in continuity between the two as far as the English dub is concerned.
If for any reason you are unfamiliar with what Ah! My Goddess is all about let me fill you in. It all started back in the day when Freshman Keiichi Morisato was selected by Yggdrasil, Heaven's computer system, to make a single wish for anything he wanted. Heaven sent the angelic Belldandy down to collect the wish though to make a long story short he winds up wishing that he had someone like Belldandy who would stay with him forever. Needless to say when he got his wish it was more than he ever expected.
Belldandy winds up living with Keiichi and the show becomes a magical girlfriend comedy before long. Most of the series follows their relationship and development as people though an eclectic cast of characters helps fill the pot. Urd and Skuld are a pair of "goddesses" that basically move in with the pair and before long you can imagine the insanity that ensues. If you're coming to this second season with no knowledge of the first I'm going to try not to spoil things for you. Instead I'll just talk about the show from this point on instead of dealing with past events.
In the previous volume the Keiichi and Belldandy hit a little snag when Yggdrasil experiences a problem and loses the wish that binds them together. With the wish no in effect Belldandy is unable to stay with Keiichi and naturally that wouldn't make for a very compelling show. Skuld and Urd worked hard to fix what was wrong and before long everything was back to normal. The remaining episodes were Christmas themed and relatively standalone with nothing major happening other than the introduction of Sayoko, the rich girl.
In this second installment the first episode doesn't really involve Keiichi and Belldandy. It's rather amusing because it starts out unsuspectingly with the pair in class and talking about the lecture at hand. Keiichi apologizes to Belldandy about how boring it is and she responds by saying how it's fun and educational. They go on to repeat those lines multiple times during this episode only to be interrupted by the Senior of the Auto Club.
The Senior is having girl troubles and doesn't know how to approach one particular member of the opposite sex. With a little help from Keiichi and Belldandy some magic is worked and the two are drawn together; furry costumes and all. This was an amusing side trip for the series and it helped break up the pacing. After this episode it's all back to Keiichi and Belldandy.
I appreciated the second episode on this disc because it showcased a side of Belldandy we have never seen. Keiichi gets a mysterious love letter from a cute girl who turns out to be an exorcist, though she excels at summoning demons rather than dispelling them. At any rate her presence enflames Belldandy's jealousy which is a trait not known to goddesses. Her power erupts in unpredictable fashion though Urd uses it to help get rid of a pesky demon by controlling Keiichi's motor functions in an inappropriate manner.
The remaining episodes here feature Keiichi calling up his sister but accidentally dialing another Goddess Helpline. This introduces Peorth into the fold and she comes to grant Keiichi's wish. When she discovers the rest of the goddesses here and realizes that something is amiss and goes out of her way to seduce him proper and cancel out Belldandy's wish. It's amusing to see her go through all of the trouble to get into Keiichi's pants and best the other goddesses. This was a highlight of the program so far and offered the best moments I have seen from the second season. It'll be interesting to see what her character adds to future installments.
Overall the second season of Ah! My Goddess is off to a great start and it's safe to say that ADV is handling it quite well. This batch of episodes was better than the first though they still offered some more of the same if you've been a long-time viewer of the series. If you're looking to get into the show then you should probably start with the first series or at least try to find the original OVA before diving into the second season.
Ah! My Goddess' second season receives a remarkable looking transfer by ADV. The show is presented with 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and is quite attractive when you get right down to it. The artwork is clean, the visuals are sharp, and the digital flaws are kept minimal. There were a few areas where some grain and compression cropped up but overall there was little to complain about.
Like Media Blaster's treatment of the first season ADV has included two 2.0 stereo tracks for the second. English and Japanese are what you'll find naturally and each offers a dubbing of quality. I found the Japanese to be the better of the two though the English offered plenty to enjoy and familiar voices behind beloved characters. While the range on the soundstage is notably limited there were no technical flaws during the four episodes here.
This second disc offers clean opening and closing animations, some previews, and an audio commentary. This commentary track includes the voice actresses for Belldandy and Peorth as they sit around and talk about themselves over the seventh episode. They basically give a run through of their work history and how they came to be involved with the show. It wasn't the most compelling commentary I have ever heard but as far as anime ones are concerned it was nice to listen to a track that wasn't full of laughing and jokes the entire way through.
Ah! My Goddess is such a classic show and familiar concept that this latest release feels like an older one somehow. It's similar to the OVA though it feels a little more faithful to the original manga. If you have ever been a fan of the Goddess adventures then picking up the latest series is a no-brainer. This is a fun show with an endearing cast and upbeat atmosphere. This second volume brings four episodes to the table that each have something special to offer. Unlike the first volume's focus on Christmas, this one pays more attention to its characters and the world around them. Recommended