Ah! My Goddess: The Field of Goddess
While I was wandering through London's only oriental shopping mall, I stumbled upon a hidden gem in the Japanese bookstore -- a book devoted to the production of the 2000 theatrical feature of Ah! My Goddess. Twenty minutes later and over fifty dollars poorer, I had this beautiful masterpiece in my prized possession.
"But why buy a book with Japanese text that only die-hard otaku or natives can read?" Well, think of The Field of Goddess as a bible for the movie, covering every aspect of design, production and publicity. While understanding the myriad of interviews does take more knowledge of Japanese that what most people possess, that does matter for the die-hard fan.
I would never normally spend fifty dollars on a book, even if I could read it, but the quality of the contents and the breathtaking beauty of the cover won me over in seconds. Unfortunately, the image posted above simply does not do justice to the book. The outlines of Belldandy and Holy Bell are raised to the touch, and the goddess and her angel appear to shimmer in the light. The colors themselves are vivid and rich, but the image itself is marred slightly by the presence of Japanese and English text. The title itself is large, and the English titles seem a little out of place, but ideally, this cover should be made into a large poster to adorn the walls of all Ah! My Goddess fans.
Upon opening the book, the reader is swamped by nine pages of paintings and anime-style images. These include a mournful pastel piece focusing on Morgan le Fey, and a beautiful color pencil drawing of a very realistic and human-looking Belldandy. World of Elegance and Holy Bell also get a look in, and there is even a personal message to fans from the director Hiroaki Goda.
Next we have the usual collection of short character biographies, and a six page movie synopsis using text and some of the best screenshots from the film. Then we move on to the important stuff; vast collections of color storyboards covering the entire film, and a chapter devoted to character design and the color palette. There is also an amazing collection of backgrounds and renders, juxtaposed with interviews and sidebars containing sections of the script and black and white drawings. The CGI sequence has its own chapter and it is broken down, frame by frame, along with commentaries from the designers.
But the most interesting bit has to be the sections dealing with sound and music. We have interviews with all of the seiyuu, including a nice group photograph of the voices behind the three goddesses and Keiichi. It's nice to be able to put faces to the names; although Keiichi's seiyuu, Masami Kikuchi looks like he is in his early forties, he does look like he can be the voice to a student. It seems like every member of the cast gets their own chance to reminisce about working on the film, and then we move onto the music. This not only includes scans of the sheet music used for the score, but also a feature on recording with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and the words to one of my favourite tracks in the soundtrack, "Cantilena Angel."
Finally, we have all of the publicity material, such as shots of the OAV DVD, interviews with the director, and with the author of the original manga, Kosuke Fujishima. As a special treat, there is a short color comic strip in the style of Skuld's imagination from the OAVs, featuring the youngest goddess' attempt to get the theatrical feature made.
My advice to anyone who comes across this gem of a book is to buy it, even if you'll never learn a word of Japanese in your life. The creators of this book have put their hearts and souls into The Field of Goddess and I sincerely hope that someone will eventually translate and publish an English version.