Review: Ah! My Goddess! Season 1

 I was excited to revisit Ah! My Goddess!. It was one of the first shows I watched after jumping back into anime after a burnout period and because of that it had always held a special place in my heart. Even before watching the TV series, I was a big fan of the original OVA and the film, so at the time I was guaranteed to love the series. However, the last time I watched this show was six years ago and it is rare that something matches up with fond memories. Keiichi Morisato is a student at Nekomi Institute of Technology who has always had bad luck. After selflessly helping a little girl find her wallet, he accidentally dials the Goddess Relief Office and is granted a wish. Without thinking he wishes that the Goddess stays by his side forever.

I want to approach this as fair as I possibly could, because I’ve seen this show before in several varieties and knew what to expect from the jump and yet this time watching it, I couldn’t help but feel creeped out by those first few episodes. In essence, Keiichi wishes that Belldandy stays with him against her will. That is the core concept of the show. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t take advantage of her, it doesn’t matter that she learns to genuinely like him. This time it just stuck with me as odd. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen this formula so many times in the last five years that the vail has been lifted. I wrote in my preview of Ano Natsu de Matteru that a show around a girl coming from supernatural place and living with a guy has been done so many times that its lost all meaning. 

Ah! My Goddess! takes that up a level as having the supernatural girl being tied to the main character by an unbreakable magical force. In the first few seconds after the wish is granted she rushes over, calls her boss to ask if the wish had been granted in a panicked voice. Only after that brief moment does she then switch over to being cheerfully sweet at the whole situation. That brief moment of panic is enough to ruin the whimsical nature of the scene and give it a creepy vibe.

The relationship of the characters does grow over the next few episodes. Belldandy honestly likes Keiichi and actively wants to get to know him. Keiichi, on the other hand, just seems happy to be with a girl. Of course, Belldandy is a beautiful and kind goddess. What guy wouldn’t instantly fall in love with her? It is the idea that Keiichi just wants a girlfriend and doesn’t care who it is part that I don’t like, and while I could see Belldandy make an effort to get to know Keiichi and slowly learn to love him over the course of the series, I never got that feeling from Keiichi. The show assumes the audience will just accept the fact that he falls in love with Belldandy because… Belldandy is a beautiful girl who appeared in front of him magically!

The initial conflicts of the series surround two rich, popular kids at Nekomi Tech. Sayoko Mishima is so popular that she believes herself to be the Queen of the school and Toshiyuki Aoshima is a playboy who becomes frustrated when Belldandy shows no interest in him. The plots that involve them feel petty, as the theme of those stories is that being rich and popular doesn’t always get you everything you want. But that plot is recycled in various ways in all the episodes that those character appear as the main antagonists. Once the more intense, magic driven narratives begin those early episodes feel like they don’t even matter. They exist to set a tone, and the two characters become annoying quickly. They might be there to make people who identify with Keiichi feel superior to their “social betters” but watching this now that I’m out of school and far away from the social politics of school life those characters and their episodes are just boring.

That becomes the ultimate problem with the entire series. I never feel like there is anything on the line. I know that Belldandy and Keiichi aren’t going to be broken up by some rich, preppy kid in the eighth episode of the series, so why should I care about this story? Unfortunately, that is what happens throughout the whole show even with the more mythical or magic based plots. All of them can be boiled down to a threat against Keiichi and Belldandy being together and each time the audience knows that it won’t end with the two of them torn apart. When the show moves away from those kind of stories it does get better. The episodes where Belldandy becomes sick and Keiichi is forced to take care of her is sweet, and when Keiichi and Belldandy help build the confidence of one of the members of the motor club for an upcoming race the character becomes surprisingly endearing. Unfortunately, those moments are sprinkled in between stories where Keiichi and Belldandy might be torn apart! Oh no! 

When the climax began, this cycle had just worn on me. Even with a powerful evil being released and Urd turning on the main cast, I just didn’t feel like anything bad was going to happen to these characters and thus I didn’t really care about the story. The climax of the show features three separate epic battles, each time having the fate of the Earth on the line, and I felt bored by the entire exchange.

The best part about the series comes from the interactions of the three Goddesses. Belldandy, Urd, and Skuld are fun characters and their vastly different personalities allow for many interesting clashes. When the show focuses on the Goddesses and not on the Belldandy-Keiichi relationship or any kind of conflict it is far more enjoyable. In that way It works as a relaxing slice of life show. Unfortunately, most of the interactions of the Goddesses come around the Belldandy-Keiichi relationship, which harms it a little, but those bouts of dialogue are a welcome break from the insufferable love story.

I’m a little sad to say how much Ah! My Goddess! bored me. Again, I go back to my preview of Ano Natsu de Matteru and I must say this kind of wish fulfillment romantic comedy just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. What bothered me most is how that even during some pretty serious, epic moments the characters never really feel like they are in danger. Without real consequences, conflict doesn’t really have any meaning. I did like the characters and how they interacted, but it was always framed by the go-no-where romance between Belldandy and Keiichi. As for the creepy factor… it was there through a lot of the show but it ended on a high note, with Haven in chaos Keiichi’s wish had been lost. So Keiichi and Belldandy are free to begin a relationship without any magical interference. The characters had grown together to a point where I accepted that they could mutually agree to start a relationship. Now maybe they’ll actually kiss at some point.

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