Kosuke Fujishima]’s fantastical romantic comedy first arrived as a video series, titled Oh! My Goddess. Fujishima’s intricate artwork was beautiful and the sweet love story was initially a breath of fresh air amidst an anime scene overcrowded with cyberpunk ultra-violence and tentacle porn. The set-up is sitcom simple: lovelorn student Keiichi phones for takeout and accidentally dials the Goddess Helpline. Heavenly deity Belldandy materializes in Keiichi’s bedroom and offers him one wish. Keiichi wishes Belldandy was his girlfriend and voila, she moves in, swiftly followed by her sisters: sexy, older Urd and kid sis Skuld.
Much like the similar, sci-fi themed Tenchi Muyo (1992-onwards), a staid story centred around domestic hi-jinks and a romance that never progresses beyond furtive looks and tedious misunderstandings, eventually wore out its welcome. The vapid leads were memorably dismissed by anime experts Helen McCarthy and Jonathan Clements as: “the wettest pair of lovers since Noah, a wimp and a doormat.” However, Japanese teenagers remain charmed by its innocence. OMG: The Movie (2000) finally arrived amidst much hype and delays, and now five years later director [Hiroaki Goda and Belldandy’s voice actress Kikuko Inoue (mainstays since the video series fourteen years ago) return for a television series, with the ‘Oh!’ now changed to an ‘Ah!’
The reworked Ah! My Goddess is a little less saccharine rom-com, a little more sci-fi/fantasy adventure. In the opening episode of this sixth and final DVD volume, Urd has been possessed by supervillain-of-the-moment, the Lord of Terror and has kidnapped the hapless Keiichi. Belldandy and gadget crazy Skuld receive a holy flute from ‘the Almighty’ able to summon the Midgard Serpent, but the battle takes a nasty turn as Lord of Terror hops from one body into another, turning friend against friend. Belldandy even faces off against the valkyrie Lind, to prevent her executing a possessed Keiichi.
A strange, yet appealing mishmash of Norse mythology (although the theme music is Irish, go figure), science fiction, and Christian theology, this remains more exciting than its Nineties incarnation, since there is an actual plot as opposed to characters sitting around gabbing. Keiichi and Belldandy show a little more backbone than before, but remain fundamentally the same drippy duo Clements and McCarthy pegged years ago. By contrast, sassy Urd is as vivacious as ever and perky, pint-sized Skuld and her nutty inventions are very cool. The story starts promisingly, but a succession of false climaxes and literal deus ex machinas sap the tension. However, the animation is beautiful, with lustrous colours and inventive designs. Several gags work well, including Skuld trapping a techno-villain inside a floppy disc and Urd interrupting the convoluted plot (“Excuse me… I don’t have any idea what’s going on”).
The latter two episodes, lightweight romantic confections centred around Urd and Skuld, recall the anime’s Nineties incarnation. A shortfall in the goddess’ energy supply transforms Urd into a child. Caught guzzling sake in the park, she befriends a bespectacled little boy who falls for her charms. Meanwhile, Skuld grows into a voluptuous hottie - leading to some predictably puerile breast gags, but also some genuine laughs and tender moments. Whilst Urd is visibly touched by her schoolyard romance, Skuld indulges her fantasies of being grownup. She learns how to walk in high heels, gets picked up by a sharp-suited lothario (“Is that a pick up line? I just read about those in a book!”), discovers the difference between love and lust, and falls for Keiichi after they’re asked to model for a wedding photo shoot. The stories veer between cloying and endearingly sweet. One should remember that for Japanese teens, under constant pressure to ace those all-important exams, escapist anime/manga romances like these are much cherished.