OH! MY GODDESS (1993-94)

 

Format: 4 28-minute OVA episodes and an extended 5th episode on 2 DVDs

 

Rating: PG-13 (BN, AC)

 

Type: Romantic comedy-drama

 

American Production: AnimeEigo

 

Japanese Production: Kodansha Ltd/AIC/Pony Canyon

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A-

Story:

Writing:

C+

Character Design:

A-

Animation:

C

Artistic Merits:

C

English Dub:

B

Musical Score:

C+

Opener:

C

Closer:

C

 

 

Humor Content:

B+

Action Content:

n/a

Drama Content:

B

 

 

DVD Presentation:

C

DVD Extras:

B

 

 

OVERALL:

B-

 

Synopsis

      Keichi is a short but otherwise fairly normal young man with all the typical problems for a first-year college student: he’s put-upon by his dorm-mates, low on money, and lacking a girlfriend. While attempting to order take-out food one night he instead comes into contact with the Goddess Hotline. Moments later Belldandy, a genuine goddess, appears through a mirror and declares that Keichi meets all the qualifications necessary (he’s needy and has a good heart) to be granted a wish. Keichi, though quite taken with the beautiful Belldandy, suspects that it’s just a trick, so he makes a bold wish - that Belldandy will become his girlfriend forever. To his surprise, his wish is granted, and suddenly he finds a goddess at his side - something he is not really prepared to handle. And just as he’s settling in to domestic relations with Belldandy, first his sister, and then Belldandy’s sisters Skuld and Urd (also goddesses), show up and start living with them.

 

The Long View

      Based on a long-running manga, Oh! My Goddess is a delightful OVA series that is a longtime fan favorite. And it’s not hard to see why; all the elements are there. How many young men wouldn’t want to be in Keichi’s position themselves, with someone as beautiful, pure, kind, gentle and all-around wonderful as Belldandy as a girlfriend, one who wants nothing more than to make him happy, won’t leave as long as he wants her, and has the oft-handy powers of a goddess to boot? (Her one flaw? Despite a seeming ability to read minds, she isn’t the brightest or most perceptive of girls.) And how many young men haven’t felt as awkward around girls at one point or another as Keichi does with Belldandy? He’s always thinking about making moves, but summoning up the courage to make them, or making them properly, is an entirely different story. The interactions with Belldandy’s sisters – the older sexpot Urd is frustrated that Keichi is being so cautious with Belldandy, while the kid mechanical genius Skuld is annoyed with Keichi for taking her favorite sister away from her - give the series some real zest. Megumi also contributes her fair share of liveliness and sardonic wit, as do Keichi’s fellow members of the Nekomi Tech Motor Club (although to lesser extents).

      Enough can’t be said about the appeal of Belldandy herself. She is both cute and charmingly beautiful at the same time, the outfits she appears in are fantastic, her attitude is infectious, and she is emotional in a way that tugs at the heart strings. The series is written just right, and the part of Belldandy is acted just well enough, to keep her from seeming like she’s just fawning on Keichi; one really gets the impression that she is a girl genuinely in love. It is also reasonably clear that Keichi is in love with her, although this side of the relationship isn’t as obvious or well-developed as in some other anime romantic comedy-dramas that I’ve seen.

      The nature of the goddesses and the heavenly system they serve is one of the more intriguing aspects of both the series and the manga it is based upon. Although it borrows heavily from Norse mythology and perhaps a bit from Japanese mythology, the modern twists put upon the system make it an arrangement unique unto itself. Gods and goddesses live in Heaven, from which some are assigned to interact directly with various worlds and grant wishes to deserving candidates based upon individual merit (which seems to basically be a measure of a person’s inherent goodness), while others remain behind to administer the system from above. Everything is regulated by a celestial computer system and powered by the Universal Force, and the power transfer which allows the goddesses to work their magic is channeled and regulated via computer-like properties; in essence, spells cast by gods and goddesses are really just magical programs in execution. But the granting of a wish to a mortal is also a binding contract, one that, with the backing of the Universal Force, cannot be circumvented unless the requesting party wishes it to be so. As a result, seemingly coincidental events which help prevent a contract from being broken are wont to pop up – which, of course, frequently happens when it looks like Keichi and Belldandy might be separated by circumstances. Unfortunately, just like any computer system, this one can be affected by bugs, with the former taking actual physical form.

     The goddesses themselves have licenses depending on their powers and responsibility. Belldandy, for instance, is a Goddess First Class: Unlimited, which means she has no restrictions on the use of her powers and can channel the most potent of energies, although this does not necessarily mean that she is any more personally powerful than someone with a Limited or Second-Class license. Each goddess has a particular area of focus and job assignment: Belldandy, whose focus is in the present, is an emissary and wish-granter; Urd, whose focus is in the past, is a system administrator; and Skuld, whose focus is in the future, is a technical specialist. Each goddess also has also has various traits peculiar to her, such as the way she can teleport between locations and recharge her personal powers. Belldandy does the former by passing through mirrors and the latter by sleeping (this is why she mysteriously passes out in the first episode), while Urd does the former via TV screens and the latter via alcohol consumption. Skuld does the former via water and the latter via eating ice cream. The exact nature of the goddesses is another interesting aspect: when in the mortal realm, their physical forms are manifestations constructed by using their personal energies to bond atoms together into a physical form. This makes it easy for them to change their clothing and even size and conveys a number of other advantages as well.

      Do note that many of the details in the previous two paragraphs are either not explained at all or not clear from the anime alone but are fully explained in the manga. Oh! My Goddess, moreso than most anime series, is best appreciated if it is watched as a companion piece to the manga. While the stories of the five episodes are taken more or less directly from the original manga, they are mere snippets of a much longer ongoing series and so play out a bit differently than what they do in the manga. Some characters – most notably the goddess Peorth, the human woman Chihiro, and the demon Maya – that are prominent in the manga do not appear at all in the series (although, interestingly, they and other characters from the manga that never appear in the series are present in the opener’s montages). The angelic forms of the goddesses also do not appear in the series.

      Despite the supernatural elements, the stories in Oh! My Goddess are more about relationships and social interactions than anything else; this is purely character-driven anime. As a result, fans of more action-oriented anime may find the writing style and plot development a little too sedate for their tastes, although personally I find the humorous elements to be sufficient to balance out the occasional sappiness and melodrama. Things do get more serious in the latter part of the series – as is often the cases with romantic comedy-dramas – but this is still relatively light-hearted fare. The writing uses many scenes (tripping and falling into each other, having to tend to each other during illnesses, the woman being a masterful cook, the guy almost killing himself working part-time jobs to quickly save up for a special gift, etc.) that become stock elements of many later series of the same genre, or perhaps they were already stock elements at the time the series was made. . . I don’t know enough about older anime in this genre to know if OMG was a trend-setter in these scenes or not. The series joined Tenchi Muyo! in helping to establish the now-common “harem” structure of anime romantic comedy-dramas, where a single young male character is surrounded by many appealing female characters that live with him in circumstances that make the whole group feel like a family. (This is probably not a coincidence, though, since it was made at the same time as the original Tenchi Muyo! OAV and has enough stylistic similarities to suggest that it was made by the same company.)

      Production values for OMG are not exceptional. It uses a lighter, muted color scheme that may not appeal to everyone, and the artwork beyond the character design is fairly basic. The series excels in the character design, however, with all the female characters (and Belldandy in particular) serving as fashion plates for a wide variety of outfits. The English vocal performances are quite good, especially Megumi, and making Ootake sound like a surfer dude is an interesting choice. The opener is unremarkable beyond lyrics thatare so sweet that they may make more macho viewers gag. The closer, whose artwork changes with each episode, are also unremarkable.

      The rating for Oh! My Goddess is difficult to pin down in MPAA terms. Although there is no truly objectionable content to it, the series does get a bit racy at points. I have decided to go with a PG-13 rating, although this should be considered a mild PG-13.

      Finally, about the name: astute viewers may note that the English subtitle on each episode is “Ah! My Goddess” instead. That is the most literal translation of the original Japanese title, but the creator himself indicated that he preferred to instead have it translated as “Oh! My Goddess” when the play on words that it created in English was pointed out to him.

      Oh! My Goddess is a nice little series that many viewers will find delightful. It does show its age in comparison to newer fare, but it’s still worth a look. Fans of the manga will not be disappointed.

 

DVD Extras

      The English dub for Oh! My Goddess comes with an option for full, limited, or no subtitles, which is a bit unusual. The “limited” option pops up an explanatory note on terminology a handful of times throughout the five episodes, which can be helpful for a novice anime fan but is unnecessary for any true otaku. Also unusual is the lack of a “skip to chapter” option, which is an annoying omission for a DVD presentation that is otherwise pretty good.

      The first DVD contains liner notes that include song lyrics (both in English and in romanized Japanese) for the opener and closer songs and translation and pronunciation notes. The Extras on the DVDs themselves include:

·  Slide Show – Includes still shots from all five episodes mixed with some extra water color and poster artwork featuring series characters

·  Dub Your Own OMG – Shows the episodes with only music and sound effects, suitable for fan dubbing. A very unusual option!

·  Silent Movie Mode – Shows the episodes with subtitles, music, and sound effects, but no dialogue – also suitable for fan dubbing. Again, quite an unusual option.

·  In the Studio - Audio commentary for all episodes available with or without subtitles, featuring three of the principle voice actors.

·  OMG Songs – Available on the 2nd DVD only, this is just a collection of clean openers and closers for the series.

  

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Keiichi Morisato

Scott Simpson

Belldandy

Juliet Cesario

Urd

Lanelle Markgraf

Skuld

Pamela Weidner

Megumi Morisato

Amanda Spivey

Tamiya

Mark Matney

Ootake

Sean P. O’Connell

Sayoko

Belinda Bizic

Aoshima (ep 5 only)

Scott Bailey

 

 

 

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