The ‘magical girlfriend’ genre of anime and manga has been a staple for some time. Ever since Rumiko Takahashi’s classic Urusei Yatsura popularised the type, generations of unsuspecting layabouts have found themselves cohabiting with a gorgeous girl with magical powers. One of the best known examples of this genre is Ah! My Goddess. Starting with the 1988 manga (published in English originally as Oh! My Goddess) it was adapted into a popular OAV series and later a theatrically released movie. The series was brought back to the small screen in 2005, when it was adapted into a TV series. This is the first release from the second season (also known as ‘Flights of Fancy’) and comprises the first eight episodes.
In this particular series the lucky guy in question is a college student by the name of Keiichi. One day when attempting to order a pizza, he accidentally dials The ‘Goddess Helpline’ and summons the beautiful goddess Belldandy. She offers to grant him a wish. He wishes for her to stay by her side forever, and so the scene is set. Naturally the pair fall in love, but life is never that simple and the Goddess is later joined by her older and younger sisters (as well as a whole heap of trouble). The second series picks up the story when the couple have been together for nearly a year. Having defeated The Lord Of Terror their lives have settled back to normal; or as normal as it gets when you live with three Goddesses. The start of this series follows the couple as they try to get to grips with living together, fight off unwanted suitors and try to avoid giving away Belldandy’s divine nature. As well as the domestic and romantic comedy there’s room too for more exciting supernatural goings-on. One episode sees them having to battle a demon unwittingly summoned by an amateur exorcist, while the later episodes deal with the arrival of a fourth goddess.
The episodes on these discs follow on from the first season, but can be enjoyed by a newcomer without much trouble. There are a few references to past events but for the most part if you know the basic set-up you’ll be just fine, and you’ll get to know the characters pretty quickly.
The manga is known for its beautiful artwork, and it’s transferred very well to animation here. The animation is slick, and the character designs very attractive. The music is also well done and fits with the atmosphere.
In contrast to other examples in the shonen love comedy genre, AMG is very tame and lacking in fanservice; it doesn’t rely on panty shots, hot springs and accidental boob-grabs in the way that other shows do. Despite having been together a year, Keiichi and Belldandy’s relationship never goes beyond a spot of handholding (or maybe a peck on the cheek). While thing get just a tad racier when Goddess number four shows up, it never goes as far as other similar shows, and is usually played for laughs.
The whole franchise is notable for how just plain nice everybody is. Keiichi is a solid and dependable sort who it’s easy to root for. The character of Belldandy, with her ability to talk to animals and her cheery demeanour, is essentially the anime equivalent of a Disney princess. Sometimes her character is criticised as being overly subservient, but I think this is reading too much into it. She is obviously an idealised portrayal of what some might see as ‘the perfect woman’, but with her divine powers she’s often called upon to bail her mortal other half out of trouble, so in some ways she could be said to be the one who wears the trousers in that relationship! Similarly the characters who surround them are generally a likeable bunch whom it’s a pleasure spending time with. Essentially, depending on your tolerance for such things, you’ll either consider this charming and loveable or sappy and sickeningly sweet. Personally I found it to be highly enjoyable but if you balk at a series where one of the key events (spoiler warning) is a missing sweater, then it’s probably not for you.
This is another excellent quality disc from Manga UK, and at 8 episodes is good value for money. The dub and subtitle tracks were originally produced by the now-defunct ADV (it was strange to see their logo on a disc released in 2010!) and are of a good quality whatever your preference. For those wondering, a sign sub track is included with the dub. Both discs also feature commentary tracks by some of the (English) voice actors which may be of interest to dub fans, as well as clean opening and closing sequences and production artwork.
In summary: The anime equivalent of a warm bath or a nice mug of hot chocolate. This will appeal to anime fans with a sweet tooth but won’t ruin your appetite.