Publishing on a monthly basis from the late 1980s up until last year with a little over 300 chapters to its name, you'd think that this is a manga that goes well beyond the scope of countless other romances, right? Well... you'd be sorely mistaken. In reality, Ah! My Goddess is the ultimate game of will they/won't they. Its concept leads to a foregone conclusion that takes much too long to get to and by the time that the foregone conclusion rears its head, one question still remains unanswered: why did it take so long to get from point A to point B? With that said, it's not like I hate Ah! My Goddess. No, quite the opposite in fact. I love the entire series and Belldandy will always be best girl. However, I'm not so quick to recommend the manga over something like say... the 2005 TV series done by AIC.
My biggest problem with Ah! My Goddess is the fact that it takes WAY too long for any substantial developments to occur when it comes down to Keiichi and Belldandy's relationship. From the very beginning, we already know that Keiichi and Belldandy will end up with one another. I mean, the guy wishes for an all-powerful goddess to stay by his side forever. What other possibilities could happen other than the two of them ending up as lovers? Living in a dysfunctional relationship? Yeah, if Belldandy was the abusive one and that'll never happen... unless she was secretly Shion from Higurashi in disguise.
From Chapter 1 up to Chapter ~280, Keiichi and Belldandy's entire relationship was a constant dance of will they/won't they. Now, Ah! My Goddess is primarily a comedy manga and this is where the bulk of the comedy is supposed to come from (key word: supposed to). Basically, Belldandy is a literal goddess, a friend to all creatures and things, and so on and so forth. Keiichi on the other hand is your standard nice guy that gets screwed over by everyone else and one day, he finds himself living with a literal goddess that he has the hots for and he can't bring himself to confess his feelings. Whenever he tries, Belldandy inevitably makes things worse because she doesn't know the first thing about love or romance. For example: he tries to confess, he stutters a lot, and Belldandy thinks he's sick so what does she do? She rushes him into bed and starts forcing cold remedies down his throat until he gets "better." Belldandy is a lot of things, and she's most definitely an unintentional sociopath. Pretty funny stuff, right? Not really...
As much as I love my sociopathic romantic comedies, there's a limit to how much I can find funny before it just gets tedious. The funny thing is that Ah! My Goddess was always a seinen manga, so one would think that it would be a logical course of action for the author to actually try and go beyond the realm of a will they/won't they relationship. Unfortunately, that's not the case whatsoever. If you really want a romance that goes beyond the conventional will they/won't they dynamic, you might as well read KareKano or *gulp* Itazura na Kiss (it may be shit, but it DOES go beyond the norm). Then again, who's to say that the constant will they/won't they is an inherently bad thing?
One of the main reasons why I love Ah! My Goddess so much in the first place is because of the fact that it's this really sweet and endearing read in the first place. In recent years where all sorts of grimdark stuff that try too hard at being edgy ends up getting popular, I feel like Ah! My Goddess serves an important niche as one of the few lighthearted mangas that you can turn to when you're sick of all the dark and edgy content being shoved in your face. Even if the romance isn't that great, I can count on Ah! My Goddess to at least make me smile whenever something sweet goes down between Keiichi and Belldandy.
On that note, the characters ain't half bad either. Aside from Belldandy and Keiichi, we have plenty of other characters that show up and make things more interesting like Urd, Mara, and Keiichi's sister (I'm too lazy to look up her name, please forgive me). I would include Skuld in the list too, but she's an irritating and possessive cockblocker and so I don't really care much about her. Over the course of 308 chapters, I can safely say that the characters were handled much better than the actual romance. Everyone has their own motivations, quirks, and so on and so forth. At the same time, the constant repetition that went on in the manga prevents any substantial character development to come forward when it actually matters. I mean, it DOES happen but at a much slower pace than I'd like for it to.
On another note though, the artwork is actually quite lovely. This manga was publishing for well over 20 years, and it's quite obvious that the artwork changes significantly over time, but another reason why I like reading Ah! My Goddess in the first place was just to see these changes make themselves more evident over time. I mean, mangas like Berserk that have also been publishing for well over 20 years also go through some form of art evolution but most of the time, the changes are actually pretty limited and just involves the mangaka finding their own style and then sticking with it for years. Ah! My Goddess is one of the few mangas where the author actually experimented with his style multiple times throughout the entire work.
Would I say that I enjoyed reading Ah! My Goddess? Well, yeah. Even when it was getting tedious, I really did like reading it but at the same time, it lost momentum way too quickly for my liking and whilst the ending DOES make up for it, to some degree, that doesn't really change the fact that the conclusion it DOES reach by the end of it all could've easily been achieved in around half the time it took to actually get there. Even though I really do like Ah! My Goddess, I don't think I'd be recommending it to anyone anytime soon. If you really want Ah! My Goddess, watch the 2005 TV series instead. It cuts out a lot of the crap that was in the manga so that Keiichi and Belldandy's relationship could develop much quicker and it was always meant to be a self-contained story, so it could go much further than the manga ever did. Plus, it has two seasons! Can't go wrong with that, now can you? Anyway, that's all for now. Feedback's always welcome and with that, I'm out. Peace :)