Once upon a time there was a poor college student, a decent young man, but awkward and unlucky. One evening a beautiful goddess appeared before him and offered to grant him a single wish. He could have anything he wished for, no matter how outrageous, but he must choose carefully because he would not be given a second chance.
Impulsively and incautiously, he wished that she would stay with him…
Original TitleAa Megami-sama
GenresFantasy, Comedy, Romance
Contents26 Episodes on 6 DVDs
LanguagesEnglish, Japanese with subtitles
Based onA manga by Kosuke Fujishima
Region 1 PublisherAnimeWorks
…And thus begins one of the most popular manga series of all time, one that has been running continuously since 1989. There have been a number of anime adaptations over the years; this television series is the latest.
This is a charming comedy with likable main characters and clever, whimsical fantasy elements. How much you like it may depend on what you are comparing it to. If you think of it as “the Japanese version of Bewitched” you will probably like it very much; it is at least an order of magnitude better than the American television series to which it is sometimes compared.
This is not written for children but probably won’t harm them. Parents of younger children may still have reason for concern. It contains mild sexual humor and sexual situations (but no nudity) and cartoon violence. The most problematic issue is repeated depictions of excessive alcohol consumption by secondary characters .
Premise and Characters
One thing some people criticize about the manga is that it doesn’t have much of a plot; it’s a slice of life, a sequence of events in the lives of a goddess and her human companion. The television writers rearranged the order of events to give the first season a recognizable story arc with a dramatic climax. The DVDs somewhat spoil the effect by adding two minor unbroadcast episodes after the climax.
The first DVD has two amusing extras: a promotional appearance by seiyuu Kikuko Inoue (Belldandy) and an omake in which the voice actors explain the various forms of magic used in the series. The latter gives a hint of how much the people involved in the production love this story.
Ah! My Goddess, Season 2
(Aa Megami Sama, Sorezore no Tsubasa or Ah! My Goddess! All the Wings) The second season of the TV series has been licensed by ADV Media, but is not yet available in North America.
Ah! My Goddess The Motion Picture
The movie, released in 2000, is probably more faithful to the manga than any of the other anime adaptations. However it is set very late in the story, later than the manga’s current position, and may even be thought of as providing a logical end to it. I like the movie, but it assumes a certain amount of familiarity with the characters, so it would probably be wise to watch at least the first season of the TV series first.
The Adventures of Mini-Goddess
A 1998 television series drawn in a chibi style, and much lighter and sillier than the other adaptations. This is based on the humorous 4-panel comic strips that accompany the manga, rather than on the manga itself. The conceit is that when Keiichi is not around the goddesses make themselves small and amuse themselves by enacting parodies of popular culture, including their adventures in the manga.
Oh My Goddess (OVA)
For many Western fans this 5-episode OVA, released in 1993, was their first introduction to the characters, and many are still fond of it. In my opinion it is of only historical interest. Of all the adaptations this is the least faithful to the manga; the artwork is not very good; and fans have struggled for years trying to make sense of the ending, refusing to admit that it doesn’t make any.
It is most notable for having boosted the careers of two seiyuu, Kikuko Inoue (Belldandy) and Aya Hisakawa (Skuld) who went on to rise to the very top of their profession. For quite a while it seemed that just about any noteworthy anime must feature at least one of them.
(Published in America by Dark Horse under the title Oh My Goddess!.) Normally I wouldn’t even mention the manga in an anime review. I’m not much of a manga fan. Anime is at least potentially a richer medium, and manga tends a product of low budgets and tight deadlines. When I have compared an anime to the original manga I have almost always preferred the anime.
In spite of this I am forced to admit that in this case the manga is superior. Kosuke Fujishima is a talented artist and a subtle writer. The artwork in the television series is perfectly adequate, but it is a pale shadow of his original drawings (though I prefer it to the dark and gritty style used in the earliest manga stories.) Subtle points from the original stories are sometimes left out of the anime entirely; others are delivered with all the subtlety of a grizzly bear pursuing a marmot. This doesn’t make the anime bad, it’s just that the manga seems to operate at a higher level.
Anime News Network listing.
Oh My Goddess! Manga Gallery (fan wiki.)
The Goddess Project (fan forum.)
 Not to mention a main character who can get drunk on cola.
 The series draws heavily, though whimsically, on Norse mythology. For those trying to keep track, it is worth noting that “Verdandi”, the name the Norse Norn of the Present, would be written in katakana as BERUDANDI, which in turn could be easily romanized as “Belldandy”. Especially by an author who is interested in making puns about bells.
 The manga makes it clear that her naivety is largely a matter of deliberate choice. Trust ranks very high in her value system, and as a goddess she has little to fear from trusting the wrong person.
 It appears that Heaven is run like a motor vehicle department. At least the licensing system for goddesses, with its levels, categories and limits, is based on the Japanese system of driver’s licenses.
 The “spells” used by the goddesses are actually programs running on Yggdrasil.
 It’s sort of an economic competition. Apparently there is a limited amount of happiness to go around, and the more happiness humans have, the less there will be for demons.
For whatever it’s worth, the movie isn’t actually canon. It’s an entirely new story that doesn’t appear in the manga at all. (Even so, it’s outstanding.)
It’s true that the story of the movie doesn’t come from the manga, but Kosuke Fujishima seems to have worked closely with the movie writers, as evidenced by the fact that it includes story elements that were first introduced in the manga while the movie was in production (e.g. the strange racing bikes), and elements that were introduced later (a full-sized Noble Scarlet.)
Probably for this reason there are no obvious discrepancies between the movie and the manga, which can’t be said of the other anime adaptations. That’s why I said that it is more “faithful” to the manga.
I think this entry begs to be called something other than a review. It seems more like an expanded encyclopedia entry than a review. Which is great: too many people just dump their stream of consciousness into “reviews”.
I don’t know of any official rules for what an “anime review” should include. What I am aiming for is to include the sort of information that I myself would find useful if I were unfamiliar with the series and trying to decide whether to watch it. Watching a series is a substantial investment in time, so I would like to know enough to form an opinion of whether I would like it, but I don’t want to read something like a Wikipedia entry which would give away the whole story.
So I put in screen-caps to show what it looks like, and character descriptions because they are useful in following the story, and enough of the premise to give the flavor of the story, and anything else that I find particularly noteworthy. But I try hard to avoid “spoilers”, including not just the ending, but any special surprises or revelations that the writers might have in store for us.
(Whether I always succeed is debatable. My review of Shakugan no Shana in particular was criticized for including spoilers, but it is also the most heavily read page on this blog by a substantial margin, so I’m not sure just what I should conclude from that.)
Of course the category of “anything else that I find particularly noteworthy” can include quite a lot. I’m not likely take the trouble to do this unless I find the series interesting, so there’s always the risk of overwhelming the reader with trivia. But I’m not a professional reviewer; you read me at your own risk.
I am somewhat spoiler-proof, so I do not always can see what the problem may be. I didn’t see much in your Shana entry. In any case, I didn’t mean to touch on that. I meant the relative absense of editorial opinion in your reviews, e.g. I don’t see your Lucky Star entry ever using “Sucky Star” or “Indiffirent Star” as a title (real titles, BTW). While may come naturally to you, it’s not the norm among bloggers.
My favourite is probably the Chobits article. It’s quite on point with the intro. Shana, did’t have such, so it was dry. Encyclopedic, sure.