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[color=#000000]Hmm... I've been going through Word files on my hard drive, and it seems that, at the end of 2001, I wrote this strange orphaned review of [i]Ah! My Goddess: The Movie[/i] for no site in particular. Well, I don't update this Journal nearly enough, so it's quick n' easy content.[/color]
[size=3][font=Times New Roman][color=#000000]Four years after the initial announcement in autumn 1997 that this film was in preproduction, the [url="http://omg.tfenet.com/"]Ah! My Goddess[/url] (Japanese title: Aa Megami-sama!) film, released theatrically in Japan in July 2000, has finally hit video and comic book store shelves on the North American side of the Pacific Ocean. Ah! My Goddess is based on the manga by Kosuke Fujishima (You?re Under Arrest), the English translation of which is a mainstay towards the top of Diamond Distributor?s Top 10 English-translated manga list published monthly in Animerica. (It?s also called ?Oh My Goddess!? by Dark Horse Comics/Studio Proteus, who handle the manga, and by AnimEigo, which released the 5 episode OVA series. ?Ah! My Goddess? is Kodansha?s official English title in Japan, but after Dark Horse and AnimEigo pointed out the possible play on ?Oh My God? to Kosuke Fujishima, he let it be known that ?Oh My Goddess!? is his preferred choice of title. I believe the reason that Pioneer left the title as ?Ah! My Goddess? for their release of the movie had a lot to do with the fact that if they had changed the title to ?Oh My Goddess?, they would probably have to have done a text overlay over the title screen, and text overlays offend many an anime purist, though I can?t see why they couldn?t have just written ?Oh My Goddess!? in removable DVD subtitles below the Japanese title to appease those of us fanboys in the ?It should be called ?Oh My Goddess!?? camp, but I?ve already digressed way too much.) Anyhow, for those of you unfamiliar with the manga, basically it?s about an engineering student at Nekomi Technical Institute named Keiichi Morisato who one day, whilst dialing for take-out, somehow gets connected to Belldandy, a Goddess at the Relief Goddess office whose jobs it is to help people in need by granting them one wish. Thinking it?s all a prank arranged by his sempai (superiors) in the Nekomi Motor Club, he wishes that Belldandy could be able to stay with him forever, a wish that she is happy to grant. But Keiichi?s dorm has a ?No Girls? rule, so he has to search for a new place to stay and eventually moves into a temple. Before too long, Belldandy?s sisters Urd and Skuld come down to Earth to live with their sister. (The three sisters are based, very loosely, on the Norns of Nordic mythology; Urd represents the past, Verthandi (which got transmuted into ?Belldandy? for reasons far too complicated for me to go into here) the present, and Skuld, the future.) OMG/AMG is a sweet romantic comedy with a heavy emphasis on the emotional frailties of friendship and love. Unlike other ?magical girlfriend? type comedies, such as Tenchi Muyo, there is no ambiguity as to the fact that Keiichi loves Belldandy, and she loves him back. Kosuke Fujishima is also a motor fetishist, so, as with You?re Under Arrest, he finds ways to insert all types of cars and motorbikes into the plot. I could go on and on, as OMG/AMG is pretty much my favourite manga series, but I have to get to the movie itself sooner or later.[/color][/font][/size]
[size=3][font=Times New Roman][color=#000000]At the beginning of this film, fairy releases a god named Celestin from his prison on the moon. He comes down to Earth to meet up with Belldandy, whom he tutored when she was young. He finds her with Keiichi, outside a party for the Nekomi Tech?s Motor Club. Belldandy is overjoyed to see Celestin again, though she doesn?t know why he disappeared. Celestin is aware that she wouldn?t be able to remember what happened to them, and then he mentions that he has come to take her away. Urd appears and does not share Belldandy?s enthusiasm over Celestin?s sudden reappearance, and tries to attack him with electricity, but Belldandy protects him. Celestin kisses Belldandy, and she falls unconscious. Celestin complements Keiichi on the care that he?s given to Belldandy on Earth, and then mentions that he wants ?to give Belldandy one more chance to choose her path? and disappears. Meanwhile, in Heaven, a computer virus has entered the Yggdrasil?s mainframe system. Peorth, the goddess who is now sort of the system administrator for the Yggdrasil network (in place of Skuld, who left Heaven to live with Belldandy and Urd on Earth), determines that the virus was transmitted to Heaven through Belldandy, and figures out that Celestin?s behind all this, though she doesn?t know why he would do such a thing as information regarding the reason for Celestin?s incarceration on the moon is so top secret that she can?t even speak his name (hmm? shades of Voldemort?). Back on Earth, when Belldandy awakens, she appears to have lost all her memories and thinks that this is the first time that she?s encountered Keiichi and, once again, offers him one wish, though she can?t quite figure out what Urd and Skuld are doing with him on Earth. Will Keiichi and the others be able to help Belldandy regain her memory and rid herself of the virus, or will Peorth be forced to use a more drastic solution with the very high probability of a tragic side effect? Why did the Almighty imprison Celestin on the moon in the first place, and how was Belldandy involved? Why is Morgan, a strange foreign girl who has joined the Motor Club, attempting to get so close to Keiichi? What is Celestin?s ultimate plan? And will Keiichi and Belldandy?s love be enough to overcome all?[/color][/font][/size]
[size=3][font=Times New Roman][color=#000000]The character designs are remarkably close to the manga. Most of the characters are completely faithful to the original manga designs, except for the fact that they?re in colour. Some of you might think Keiichi looks a bit different than he does in the manga (and the OVA series), with a shorter hairdo in back and around the sides, but, as those of you who have read recent volumes of the Japanese manga (or, for that matter, the French version from ?Pika Edition?, which is several volumes ahead of what has been published in English by Dark Horse/Studio Proteus) will know that his character design in the movie is consistent with the way he looked in the stories published in [i]Afternoon[/i] in 1999, while this movie was being animated. I?m quite amazed how manga-perfect Holy Bell, Belldandy?s angel, is rendered; her intricate hair, fully feathered wings and the very complicated cloth wrap that she has below her waist instead of legs are much closer to her character design in the manga than I thought possible, and she?s animated fluidly. You can tell that they spent an awful lot of time drawing her. The character designs are also quite similar to, but not identical to, the designs used in the OVA series; one scene where it is possible to do a direct one-on-one comparison between the OVA designs and the movie is the scene wherein Belldandy?s mind is reset to the original time she met Keiichi. At first glance, I thought her design and costume was exactly the same, but, upon closer examination, I noticed several subtle differences: here eyebrows are narrower, her hair scarf has a different pattern on the cloth, there are fewer ?chimes? in her necklace, her lips are darker, her nose is smaller, and the goddess mark between her eyes is larger.[/color][/font][/size]
[font=Times New Roman][size=3][color=#000000]There are a couple of scenes in the film using 3D computer graphics, particularly during one racing sequence. At first, I found the graphics of the road to be pretty low resolution cheese, but, upon further reflection, the graphics shouldn?t look too realistic, as graphics like that would look too out-of-place in a 2D ?traditional? animated production. [/color][/size][/font]
[font=Times New Roman][size=3][color=#000000]Some might think that the translators might not be too familiar with the manga. During the Motor Club?s presentation, when Sora Hasegawa (the diminutive girl with the glasses) announces the upcoming race in Shizuoka, the subtitles list the name of the sponsor as ?World Wind?, when, as fans of the manga know, the name of Chihiro?s motor racing parts supply store is WHIRLWIND, even in the original Japanese version of the manga. Whichever dub actress voices Sora?s voice in English also pronounces it ?World Wind?. But, this may not be the translator?s fault; Ikue Ootani, who provides Sora?s voice in Japanese, sounds like she?s saying ?World Wind? too. It could be that AIC?s master Japanese script that they provided Pioneer with to do the translation also contained the error. [/color][/size][/font]
[font=Times New Roman][size=3][color=#000000]I?ve read some other reviews of this movie that recommend it even for people who haven?t read the manga, but I?m not so sure AMG/OMG newbies would be able to understand everything that is going on in the film. The film appears to have been written with the assumption that the audience has at least a passing familiarity with the manga. Even just having seen the 5 OVA episodes isn?t quite enough; there are several characters, most notably the ?fourth goddess? Peorth, and Chihiro Fujimi, former leader of the Nekomi Tech Motor Club and a champion motorcyclist, whom hadn?t yet appeared in the manga at the time the OVA episodes were produced, yet whom aren?t really properly introduced in the film. The character descriptions in the insert give a very rudimentary introduction as to how Belldandy and the other goddesses came to be living with Keiichi in the temple, but certain other key details vital to understanding the film aren?t explained either in the insert or within the film itself. Conversely, the brief character descriptions for Celestin and Morgan are included in the insert, which is a bit unnecessary, considering that these characters were created for the movie, so there?s no history to know. (Also, Morgan?s description gives away a bit too much, in my opinion.) [/color][/size][/font]
[size=3][font=Times New Roman][color=#000000]A better use of the space might have been a brief primer on the Yggdrasil system, since it would probably be the most confusing aspect of the film for people unfamiliar with the manga, yet there?s no real explanation as to how the Yggdrasil works in the film. In the universe of AMG/OMG, the Yggdrasil, the legendary tree of life of Norse mythology, is a type of computer system, which keeps the world in balance. Skuld used to be responsible for debugging (often, literally) the system, but since she left for Earth, Peorth seems to have taken over most of her duties. In the very first chapter of the manga, Belldandy describes her role in the overall Yggdrasil system using the analogy of a TV antenna, transmitting messages (wishes) to the central system (though, Fujishima illustrated this point with a TV aerial, which only receives signals, it doesn?t transmit them); for the purposes of this film, a better analogy would be a modem, as it is through Belldandy that the Yggdrasil system becomes infected. That?s, in a nutshell, what you need to know about the Yggdrasil system. I found the Yggdrasil portions of the film to be so confusing (and I?m a big fan of the manga, as I established earlier) that I didn?t understand what was happening half the time until after viewing the film twice in its entirety, and watching certain scenes several ties over. [/color][/font][/size]
[font=Times New Roman][size=3][color=#000000]Another question I would have is whether or not newbies would care about Keiichi?s and Belldandy?s love for one another, and Keiichi?s desire to see Belldandy?s memory returned. It?s very poignant for those of us already well-versed with the manga, but I?m not so sure if a novice who has no emotions invested in the characters would care that much. However, as I pointed out in my introduction, Oh My Goddess! is about the most popular manga not related to anything shown on North American children?s TV, so I?d wager that most of the potential domestic audience for this film would be existing fans of the manga.[/color][/size][/font]
[font=Times New Roman][size=3][color=#000000]On its own merits, this film is a major improvement over the OVA series,which was beautifully animated, but flawed in that the characters weren?t nearly as developed as in the manga. (Helen McCarthy, in her [i]Anime Movie Guide[/i], calls Belldandy a ?doormat? because her character was so poorly developed in the OVA series.) Belldandy?s personality is much more fully realized in the movie; you briefly see her jealous side.[/color][/size][/font]
[size=3][font=Times New Roman][color=#000000]Practically every seiyuu (voice actor/actress) from the OVA series returns for the movie, even after the nearly seven-year break in production: Kikuko Inoue (Kasumi from [i]Ranma ½,[/i] Electra in [i]Nadia[/i]) as Belldandy, Masami Kikuchi (Tenchi from [i]Tenchi Muyo[/i], Yuusaku in [i]Kimagure Orange Road[/i]) as Keiichi, Aya Hisakawa (Ami/Mercury from [i]Sailor Moon[/i], Kero from [i]Cardcaptor Sakura[/i], Iria) as Skuld, and Yumi Touma (Yui from [i]Fushigi Yuugi[/i]) as Urd. Of the returning supporting characters, the only voice change is that Ootaki, the tough-looking blonde biker dude, is now voiced by veteran voice actor Issei Futamata (Shinshi in [i]Patlabor[/i], Chibi in [i]Urusei Yatsura[/i]). Among the new voices, Kikuko Inoue?s fellow bandmate from ([i]Ranma ½[/i] seiyuu band) Doco ½, Sakuma Rei (the voice of Shampoo in [i]Ranma ½[/i]; she was also Nina Purpleton in [i]Gundam 0083[/i]) plays Peorth, Yuka Imai (Wakaba from [i]Utena[/i]) plays Chihiro, Ayako Kawasumi (Akari from [i]To Heart[/i]) plays Morgan, and Hiroshi Yanaka (whom I?ve never heard of before, nor is he listed in Hitoshi Doi?s seiyuu database) is Celestin. The dub is above average, as I?d expect from Pioneer, though nothing too spectacular. My only major gripe with the dub is that I think Peorth sounds a little too mature compared to the way I imagined her sounding. I think they?re going for sort of a riff on K.T. Voght?s Washuu, though Pioneer didn?t use any of their [i]Tenchi[/i] cast, which was in itself a tad of a letdown ?casue I was really hoping that Matt ?Kermit? Miller would do Keiichi?s voice in English, so that Keiichi would sound exactly like Tenchi in two different languages! AnimEigo did an extraordinary dub with the OVA series, so it could be my expectations were too high.[/color][/font][/size]
[font=Times New Roman][color=#000000]There?s not an awful lot in the way of extras on the DVDs. There?s the typical extras that are pretty much ?par for the course? for Pioneer anime disks: character sheet galleries and promotional trailers. The one unusual bonus feature on the disk is an entire 8-minute short of [i]the Adventures of Mini-Goddess [/i](?in the Handy ?Petite? Size?), based on the little four-panel comic strips the Fujishima created to fill up empty space in the Japanese Oh My Goddess! manga collections. These are fun little gag strips that don?t really have anything to do with the manga proper, and most certainly should not be taken as Oh My Goddess! canon. In Adventures of Mini-Goddess, Urd, in her shrunken form (think Mini-Me), is the main character, though Skuld also appears in shrunken form too (even though I don?t recall Skuld having any shrinking ability in the regular series). Within the walls of Tariki-Honanji temple also lives Gan-chan, your typical talking cartoon rat. Belldandy only makes the occasional cameo appearance (though she does appear in the episode on this disk), and here her voice isn?t Kikuko Inoue (it?s performed by someone named Akemi Okamura). Many of the plots (including this one) involve Urd trying to make Gan-chan happy, though her alleged good intentions have a tendency to leave him feeling miserable. Some of the episodes spoof everything from the Right Stuff (the movie about the space race, not the anime distributor) to Berserk (the bloody hack-and-slash anime, not the classic speech-enabled arcade game). Of course, the presence of this one episode as an ?extra? on the movie DVD is primarily to plug Pioneer?s upcoming release of the series on 4 DVDs in 2002.[/color][/font]
Well, Fantasia is over for the year, and I saw one last film Sunday night... and it really is bizarre beyond words.
[url="http://www.tamala2010.com/"][i][color=#de7008]Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space[/color][/i][/url] an anime, mostly in black-and-white, with animal characters drawn in a very [url="http://www.tezuka.co.jp/"][color=#de7008]Tezuka[/color][/url]-esque style and mostly simplistic backgrounds, though there are a few elaborately-detailed computer animated sequences showing the Cat Earth version of Tokyo from some weird sort of pedestrian bridge...
Tamala is a "punk cat" on Cat Earth, living in Gonnosukezaka in Meguro-ku in Tokyo, but Cat Tokyo, on an Earth wherein one corporation, Catty & Co., controls 98% of the economy, though KFC appears to be around too, since there are several shots of a giant Colonel Sanders (last seen in [url="http://www.kentuckyfriedcosplay.com/ColSanders/ColonelAnime4.jpg"][i][color=#de7008]Project A-Ko[/color][/i][/url]) walking stiffly, towering above the tallest buildings. One day, she takes off for Orion, but her "mother" doesn't want her to travel there, so a ghost pirate ship appears (presumably an illusion, created [url="http://www.spscriptorium.com/Season3/E312script.htm"][color=#de7008]by using some candles, a mirror, and two squirrels[/color][/url]), fires a meteor at her ship, and she crash lands on Planet Q. She hitches a ride with a Porsche-driving cat called Michelangelo (whom she can't stop calling "Moimoi" even though he hates it) who takes her back to the city in which he lives, called Hate, which is crime-ridden and patrolled by a rogue cop dog called Kentauros, a sadistic weirdo who keeps a mouse called Penelope in a cage (the [url="http://www.tamala2010.com/"][color=#de7008]official [i]Tamala 2010[/i] website[/color][/url] says that, although she looks innocent, she's actually a mean mouse). There's also this giant statue of a Beret-wearing "Prince of Happiness", with eyes made from sapphires, which a swallow is always trying to steal, making the statue wince. (Something about the statue looks oddly familiar, like it's a reference to a French cartoon or book, but I can't quite place it.) And, umm... Tamala and Michelangelo go to the museum to look at exhibits of extinct species (including, for some reason, [url="http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/patc/twins/"][color=#de7008]the identical twins from the famous Diane Arbus photo[/color][/url], who appear several times in this movie), bowling, and kicking kids that are being too cute. One day, Tamala and Michelangelo go on a picnic, followed by Kentauros, who attacks them... Michelangelo escapes, but Tamala gets decapitated and seems to be dead.
Then the movie gets impossibly weird... too weird for me to remember everything that happens upon just one viewing, in fact. There's something about a robot cat that is transmitted into kids' dreams, Kentauros gets defeated somehow, and, for some reason, the "Prince of Happiness" statue comes down... and a zombie cat who may be Professor Nominos, a university professor who had been studying Tamala and Catty & Co., shows up at Michelangelo's house, and explains everything.
I had been prepared to give [i]Tamala 2010[/i] just 2½ stars out of 5, because most of Zombie Nominos's explanations for what was going on had little to do with anything we'd seen in the movie, and movies shouldn't really end with characters giving the background of what is happening in the world. Like, for example, we learn that the Catty & Co. corporation is actually a front for an ancient religion called Minerva which figured out back in the Cat Middle Ages that they could gain great power by controlling all communications. And Tamala had actually been born on Orion nearly a century and a half prior (Tamala mentions some memories about a mysterious fire), and she had been used by Catty & Co. since 1869 to help popularize their products, and, by extension, Minerva. And Tamala undergoes a constant cycle of death and rebirth, keeping her eternally 1 year old. (She's back alive by the end of the movie.) Most of these would be incredible plot twists, except, since Minerva wasn't really mentioned prior to Nominos's 10 minute speech at the end of the film, it's more like a plot device that just shows up out of the blue. HOWEVER, the site mentions that this is only the first film in a trilogy, so I guess it's acceptable for them not to give this expository information until the end of the film, since it's setting up the next two films. The next one shall be set on Orion.
So, I think I can give it ***½/*****... visually, it's certainly one of the more interesting things I've seen in a long time, though sometimes it's so weird that it's just pretentious. However, it made a tiny bit more sense after I read the character descriptions on the official site (which has some English articles). Let's just say that it was interesting enough that I would definitely pay once to see the sequel should they show it at FantAsia next year. (Unfortunately, this film has yet to be licensed by a North American anime distributor...)
Excerpted from this [url=http://kiyone.blogspot.com/2006_08_27_kiyone_archive.html#115657218839476383]blog entry[/url], and it's also in my new [url=http://stevebrandon.livejournal.com/]LiveJournal[/url].
The movie I saw was [url="http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/littlemisssunshine/"][b][i][color=#0000ff]Little Miss Sunshine[/color][/i][/b][/url], one of those barely-independent "indie" comedies distributed by Fox Searchlight (which also distributed such "mainstream indie" comedies as [i]Sideways[/i] and [i]Napoleon Dynamite[/i]). I don't think anything starring Steve Carell ([i]The Office[/i] (U.S.), [i]The Forty-Year Old Virgin[/i]) and Greg Kinnear ([i]As Good as it Gets[/i], [i]The Matador[/i], and currently also co-starring in Disney's [i]Invincible[/i]) can truly be called "indie" anymore with a straight face. It's basically like a studio comedy about a dysfunctional New Mexico family going on a road trip (with one strong parallel to [i]National Lampoon's Vacation[/i]) to California to enter their girl in a beauty pageant, but with a couple of more mature elements thrown into the mix, like how Steve Carell's character is recovering from a suicide attempt due to him being on the losing end of a gay love triangle, where the winner of the love triangle is a rival academic supermind who is getting all of the fame and glory that Carell's character feels he deserves, as well as a couple of hardcore porn magazines, two straight and one gay, used as a plot device, and some frank encouragement by a grandfather to his teenage grandson to have sex with jailbait while he's still young enough to not get thrown in jail for it. Some people may find the climax at the "Little Miss Sunshine" beauty pageant, which I think was trying to make a point about the pervasive but subtle sexualization of young girls that is a strong undertone at these kinds of events by making it a little more obvious to the (mostly) shocked pageant audience, quite shocking and creepy, especially in light of the videos of young JonBenet Ramsey as a sultry cowgirl that we've seen replayed on the news channels in light of the [url="http://crimeblog.us/?p=69"][color=#0000ff]notoriety-seeking lying attention whore John Mark Karr[/color][/url]'s false confessions, but, aside from that, this is a light movie that is fun and funny, but nothing too substantial. I mainly saw it because I've seen it compared to [i]The Royal Tenenbaums[/i], one of my all-time favourite movies, and, while it is not nearly on the level of greatness as Wes Anderson's first three films ([i]Bottle Rocket[/i], [i]Rushmore[/i], and [i]The Royal Tenenbaums[/i]), I did enjoy it more than the previous two movies I saw because of comparisons to [i]The Royal Tenenbaums[/i], the mind-muddling [i]I Heart Huckabees[/i], and the great-acting-but-only-felt-like-two-thirds-of-a-movie [i]The Squid and the Whale[/i].
[url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichigo_Mashimaro"][b][i]Ichigo Mashimaro[/i][/b][/url], which will be called (rather logically, since it's a literal translation of the title) [i]Strawberry Marshmallow[/i] when Geneon releases this 13-episode series in North America starting in June, a slice-of-life comedy about a 16-year old girl (who sometimes claims that she's a 20-year old woman) named Nobue Itoh who either has to deal with or take care of her younger sister, the cheerful 12-year old Chika Itoh, and Chika's friends, trouble-prone Miu Matsuoka, timid Matsuri Sakuragi (who has a ferret), and the British-born Ana Coppola. (There's a suspicious lack of onscreen parents, so Nobue seems to be a kind of daytime guardian.)
Most of the episodes seem to be just stories about the girls going about their usual afterschool activities in the cutest of ways. Sometimes they get into cute mischief, but there's a total absence of any serious conflict. When it comes to this sort of anime, there's often a very fine line between "cute" and "creepy", but this one stays firmly on the cute and innocent [i]moé[/i] side of the line, the opposite of the exploitative [i]lolicom[/i]. Even a non-graphic scene in a [i]sento[/i] bathhouse falls far short of being prurient in any way (other than maybe one fart joke). It's a show you watch for the nostalgic and charming atmosphere and nothing more.
There's also some unintentional comedy in here for English-speakers: Ana is a girl from Cornwall (the southwestern English shire county, not that pissant eastern Ontario city) who moved to Japan some 5 years before and somehow forgot how to speak English, and she sometimes encounters foreigners who speak to her in English, and, although their first language is supposedly English, they barely talk better than that "American woman" on one of the Hawaiian episodes of [i]Urusei Yatsura[/i] who said "Oh gureito! Ai jasuto rabu Jyapanizu boizu!" ("Oh great! I just love Japanese boys!"; I also mentioned that character in my [url="http://kiyone.blogspot.com/2003_07_20_kiyone_archive.html#105918822024035372"][color=#de7008][i]Sakura Wars[/i] review in 2003[/color][/url].)
[url="http://youtube.com/watch?v=ew4c1-5U9jo"][color=#de7008]Here's the first episode, at YouTube.com.[/color][/url]