Adventures of Mini-Goddess (Volume 2: The Belldandy Files) Review
And so, after several years' hiatus, I return to the ultra-cute, ultra-chibi universe of the Adventures of Mini-Goddess as MVM moves to distribute these old Pioneer releases in the UK. For those who want the complete history of how this series came to be, please have a look at my write-up of the R1 volume 1... or for even more details about the original show of which this is a spin-off, Oh My Goddess!.
But for those just wanting the quick premise, the idea is straightforward. Imagine three bona fide goddesses (Belldandy, Urd, and Skuld – yes, a reference to Norse mythology) come down to Japan to assist one mortal, a college student named Keiichi Morisato. They take up residence at an abandoned temple and while Keiichi's away at university each day they find amusement in 'miniaturising' themselves and playing games with a rat named Gan-chan (who, naturally, talks and has the same sorts of life problems as anyone else). See? Told you it was simple.
Obviously this is animé intended for a younger-than-average audience, so don't expect complex plots or deep themes; the idea here is just to have good, clean fun and so the show employs lots of slapstick humour and the sorts of jokes that particularly appeal to children. If the evidence on this volume is any indication, day-to-day life at the Tariki Hongan Temple primarily consists of Urd coming up with new and inventive ways to torment Gan-chan (OK, she's thinks she's helping him, but anyone who's seen the original OVAs knows that if Urd's helping, you'd better run for cover!) and Belldandy and Skuld occasionally coming to the poor rat's rescue.
As before, the super-brief episode length (approximately 8 minutes each) is an ideal vehicle for this sort of series, as these one-off sketches are only about meaty enough to reasonably sustain a short presentation like this. So it's nice that each story doesn't hang around long enough to overstay its welcome… just long enough to deliver the laughs.
13: 'Urd's Babysitting Journal'
Who would be mad enough to let Urd babysit their cousins' kids? Well, Gan-chan, for one…
14: 'The Proposal Scheme'
Our intrepid goddesses try to help Gan-chan out in his love-life. Things go terribly, terribly wrong…
15: 'Welcome, Newlyweds!'
Did Gan-chan actually end up marrying Urd or is this all a very bad dream?
16: 'Phone Me, Darling!'
When Gan-chan has a housecleaning accident, the goddesses have slightly different takes on how to solve the problem.
17: 'SOS in the Big Snowfield: Part One'
18: 'SOS in the Big Snowfield: Part Two'
This very inventive two-parter is certainly the jewel in the crown of this particular DVD, as Skuld's mechanical know-how causes the air-conditioning unit to go into overdrive, soon forcing our four heroes to embark upon an arctic expedition for survival.
19: 'Kitchen Fighters'
The kitchen is transformed into a massive boxing ring as all the rats in the temple line up for a shot at the championship title.
20: 'Gan-chan's Magnificent Days'
What's a 'normal day' in the life of a rat? Well, Gan-chan's happy to tell the goddesses what it's like when the three of them aren't around.
21: 'Ah! My Buddha'
When Urd uses a special ointment to bring the temple's Buddha statue to life, she gets a little more than she had bargained for!
22: 'The Story of Gan-chan: Love Me to the Bone'
More romantic schtick involving Gan-chan and his girlfriend Kaoru. Not very inspired.
23: 'Let's Form a Band: Side A'
24: 'Let's Form a Band: Side B'
Another hysterical two-parter, this time focusing on the whim of the goddesses to form a rock band. Alas for poor Gan-chan, who's desperate to be the drummer…
While it's been a little while since this show was produced (back in 1998), the picture quality is nevertheless quite solid with no major defects in evidence. Be aware that this well predates the sorts of TV animé series that were given a plush widescreen presentation, so all we have here is your basic non-anamorphic 4:3 encode. Expect an extremely broad palette with bright, cheerful colours that aren't even trying for realism… your basic cartoon feel, which works great for a show like this.
Similarly, there's nothing wrong with the audio on this DVD, although it's a very standard mix, with Dolby stereo tracks in the original Japanese and for the subsequent English dub. As I mentioned in my review of the R1 volume 1, the dub on this isn't bad at all. (In fact, I actually prefer the dub VA's performance of Gan-chan's over-the-top antics to the original Japanese actor's. Unfortunately, any 'throwaway' voice acting – like the three kids in the first episode, or Gan-chan's girlfriend Kaoru – is all pretty dreadful.) There's a good balance between sound effects, incidental music, and the foreground dialogue, so no problems there.
On this disc, neither the menus or the special features are anything to sing about. As I compare what I'm seeing here to what I mentioned in my review of the R1 release of Adventures of Mini-Goddess (Volume 1: The Gan-Chan Files) from several years ago, it's very clear that no new content has been added by Pioneer/Geneon in the intervening period. This is clearly just a straight re-printing of the same discs that came out in the USA during 2002. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does tend to make the DVD look a bit dated compared to current releases which are more feature-rich.
Specifically, the disc menus here are all 'old-style' static, silent pages, and the extras consist of character notes (regarding Gan-chan this time and clocking in at a 'whopping' 39 words), a Gan-chan gallery (8 different poses, all presented in a remarkably tiny frame), and the quite welcome non-credit ending (with its catchy theme tune and text-free animation). There are also two trailers, one for Sailor Moon and the other for Love Hina.
This series continues to be just as charming as I had remembered it being from a few years ago. The format still works very well, although at times the story formula appears to be getting a little stale. (For instance, I could do with fewer episodes about Gan-chan's love life.) However, this is more than made up for by the pair of 2-parters on this disc, both of which are lots of fun to watch. I'll keep you posted as the last two volumes come out.