Ah! My Goddess Vol. 1: Always and Forever
Adam Arnold, the esteemed editor of Animefringe, recently called me an Ah! My Goddess fangirl, and I'm coming now to the conclusion that his statement was dead accurate. I'm also beginning to wonder if all things connected to this acclaimed Japanese series are beautiful by nature.
Opening the limited edition premium box took me a grand total of five minutes, half of which was spent gazing lovingly at the amazing artwork. The box itself is not your run-of-the-mill slipcase Š la Geneon, but a proper two-piece box. The larger section is decorated with images of a winged Belldandy in her signature blue goddess outfit, while Urd and Skuld decorate the side panels in images taken directly from posters which originally appeared in the Japanese magazine Animedia.
The back panel uses a picture of Belldandy in a white dress. The image is rather muted, but this is for a good reason. The box is held together by a plastic overlay that contains the new English logo, covered in feathers, and the back panel contains a blurb for the series, which looks perfect when superimposed over this alternative illustration of Belldandy.
The DVD cover itself uses the same illustration as the original Japanese DVD release -- a picture of Belldandy flying downwards, with Skuld and Urd standing back-to-back behind her -- and it comes in a white Amaray case. The left side of back cover uses a montage of images from the episodes contained on the disc, while the right side contains a blurb with the standard contents and staff information. Unfortunately, there was no insert containing chapter information for the DVD, which would have been a nice bonus.
The disc itself is decorated with another image of everyone's favorite deity, taken from promotional artwork featured in the Japanese magazine Animage, showing Belldandy curled up and surrounded by her wings. Enough about the pleasing aesthetics of the container, however; itís time to go for the good stuff.
Taking the series back to its roots, we are introduced to a struggling student named Keiichi Morisato, who lives in a male-only dorm, where his sempai from the Motor Club wake him at the crack of dawn every morning for exercises. An engineering student at the Nekomi Institute of Technology, Keiichi has a passion for motorcycles, yet his bike seems to break down on a daily basis. Left to guard the dorm one Saturday night, he accidentally dials the Goddess Hotline, causing Belldandy to appear and to offer him a single wish.
Needless to say, Keiichi wishes for a goddess like Belldandy to stay with him forever, and the next few episodes follow the pair as they attempt to find a home, and it begins the Queen Sayako arc.
The nice thing about the TV series over the OVA is that there's so much more detail in the plot, from Belldandy's attempt at counting sheep to Keiichi getting hit on the head by the priest of the shrine where the pair live later on. We're also introduced to my other favorite character in Ah! My Goddess: Holy Bell.
The disc contains the first five episodes in both English and the original Japanese dub. While the English language dub is excellent, I'm sad to say that the original voice actors from the movie and OVAs did not reprise their roles. Media Blasters also chose not to use any Japanese honorifics -- so Belldandy now refers to Keiichi as 'Mr. Keiichi' in the English dub and subtitles -- and any mention of money has been converted to dollars rather than the original yen. Additionally, the Japanese language track is much quieter than the English track, so you'll need to crank up the volume.
There are some nice extras on the disc, including a lengthy interview with Belldandy's ethereal voice actress, the eternally seventeen-year-old Kikuko Inoue, and singer Yoko Ishida, who wrote and sang the opening and first ending song for the series. We also get a clean opening, but my favorite feature is the voice actor outtakes.
This is a short piece that recycles sections from the anime to create a very humorous conversation between Sayako, Belldandy and Keiichi over a montage of events where Belldandy tries to explain to her rival that she's not a magical girl but a goddess.
The limited edition premium box has an extra special free gift tucked away -- an official Japanese cell phone strap, featuring Belldandy! It's basically a small medal that you can fix to your phone.
Mixing amazing CGI with crisp animation, this is a DVD that all Ah! My Goddess fans should buy, even if only for the original Japanese dub. I would have easily given this disc a perfect score if it weren't for the less than admirable English dub.