Oh My Goddess! The Movie
This movie is one I had been waiting a long time to see, which is not quite fair because it didn't take that long to make it out here. But I like the series, owning both the manga and the earlier OAV, so I had great interest (and some hope) for something good here.
This particular experience was made possible through the Melbourne Animation Festival (MAniFest) and in particular studio Antipodes, and Australian fan sub group. I am deeply indebted to these groups for allowing me the experience of seeing this film.
Keiichi Morisato is a nice guy, which is not always an advantage. A bit too short, a bit too plain, too interested in cars and possessed of a shy but romantic heart. Which is part of the reason why he's the one left behind to answer the phone while the people in his dorm (and the auto-club) go out. However with a wrong number magic enters his life in a rather dramatic and immediate way.
The beautiful woman who comes through his mirror identifies herself as Belldandy, a field worker for the Goddess help line. She's there to grant "people like him" one wish they can use to change their life, with no limits on what can be requested. Once Keiichi recovers from the shock he realises that not only is she a supernatural force, and beautiful, but that she also has a truly innocent and supremely good natured heart. Which leads him to whimsically wish that he had "A girl like her" to be with him always. He never really expected his wish to be granted. He certainly didn't expect that life with a goddess could be rather more, complex, than you might expect.
As an example of this complexity Keiichi also inherits Belldandy's sisters. Older sister Urd is powerful, capricious and manipulative as much a dangerous and powerful force when she's on your side as when opposed. Younger sister Skuld is a goddess growing into her power, entranced with technology, and not altogether pleased at Keiichi becoming the focus of her beloved sisters attention. And then there's many other celestial forces, some allies, some enemies and some others with complex plots and designs of their own. This version of reality, with a foundation based on Norse reality, is far more complex than you might believe.
And, in this case, it happens that one of the most important figures from Belldandy's past re-appears. A powerful, and knowledgeable teacher who was largely responsible for Belldandy's training. She has fond memories of their past, but it seems her memories may not be as complete as she thinks. Meanwhile his feelings have led to a rather exotic and intense chain of actions. Naturally enough Belldandy and Keiichi will be caught up, tested, and changed by the events portrayed throughout this movie.
It's very good. If you get the opportunity there's no reason not to go and see this anime. Personally, I want to own it as soon as possible.
The Unnecessary Extended Review
Look, I'm not kidding, it's a fine film. This is really the most useful thing a review can say. And the thought that I might drop an inadvertent spoiler means it's more likely the review will impair than enhance the experience. Still, I guess it would seem lazy if I didn't say a bit more.
The first thing to mention is how easily this could have stunk. The first OAV, which I adore, is detested by many as a piece of insipid soft romance. Most agree it is very pretty animation, but the lack of character and depth on display made Belldandy seem a bit weak and the romance perhaps even a bit cheap. Those who read the manga have a more full view of the character and story, and are more tolerant, but many people were somewhat unhappy with the OAV. To keep all the groups happy, those who want romance, those who want an impressive film, those who love the characters and those who have never met them before is quite a challenge. And the expectations, and standards, were quite high. This movie achieves this balance with flair.
To start with it has a wonderful sense of energy, humor and character. The romance between Keiichi and Belldandy has become a reality and they are now a part of shared life. Meeting the motor-club, and the characters in it (even Hasegawa gets a part) and seeing how comfortable the couple are with themselves, and with others, is great stuff. They, and the other goddesses, have a rich sense of personality, depth and potential.
If the movie continued on in this vein I would be happy. But it has a story, a plot, and a sizable one at that. It brings many forces to play, gives an atmosphere of danger and mystery while it crystallizes, and is important enough to command attention. But, wonderfully, it's more about belief, faith and life than simplistic concepts of good, bad, friend and enemy. It also, skillfully, continues to affect and be affected by the characters. The character work does not stop, if anything it intensifies, as plot and character meet and mingle.
And this isn't a quiet domestic movie to match the first. The instigator is deadly serious about what he aims to achieve and the scale of the plot is immense. The characters are forced to act, and interact, as the truth becomes clear. There is even, dare I say it, some great action in this movie. And the goddesses aren't watching, they're truly deep in the middle. Yet even here the personality of the characters continues to be strongly expressed. And even amidst the most spectacular action the way in which the characters perceive, act and think is important. The conclusion, while perhaps subtle, is satisfying and makes perfect sense.
I'll admit there is a potential downside. We discover more about the character of Belldandy. One of the elements being that she has, even by heaven's standards, a pure heart. She's also not perfect, which will delight those terrified by the impossibly virtuous Belldandy of the OAV. On the other hand it does mean that her perception, and solution, to situations expresses her philosophy. If the inner cynic within you cannot cope with some, slightly mushy, lines about life and love then you might find some parts a bit much. Fortunately my soppy romantic side was holding the mallet and knocked my inner cynic into orbit at the first grimace. It's done with taste, and style, and is needed but I had to mention it.
However, for those of you who detest romance in any form, then you can take solace in the design and production. The production on this movie is very high quality, made for cinema, and boy does it show. The characters look attractive, the world looks complex, and it all moves very well. The voices are great, dialog is lively and the music is excellent. This is both high quality and very skilled production.
Even better the design work is spectacular. The whole Oh My Goddess world is based on Norse mythology. The tree of life turns out to be an immense magical computer, reality is defined by the program it runs and goddesses are as much operators at a higher level of reality as anything else. Urd, Belldandy and Skuld are actually the three norn's of past, present and future. Not only is Norse mythology pretty damn cool to start with but this interpretation of it is sheer genius in motion. It's clever, cool, and fun to watch. And with computer animation, and top notch design, it looks fantastic. It's also entertaining, the Norse concept of god doesn't include omnipotence, omnipresence and infallibility. Even the gods themselves face threats and have to do some pretty swift footwork to keep things together. Mytho-tech has never been as cool, attractive or exciting as this.
In summary. It's very good. If you get the opportunity there's no reason not to go and see this anime. Personally, I want to own it as soon as possible.