Friday, November 22, 2013

Anime Review No. 69-Momo The God Girl of Death

"It's the end but the moment has been prepared for."
Momo the God Girl of Death: Shinigami no Ballad
2006 OVA, 6 episodes
Studio-Group TAC, Director-Tomomi Mochizuki, Writer-Reiko Yoshida


Hello, I am the Eclectic Dude.....and I rock the plaid. But in all seriousness, this entry is touching on a subject that is heady, that being death. Its a subject that over the centuries has been dealt in various ways and methods, from the Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, to the Divine Comedy of Dante, to Picasso's Guernica, to Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch, to images from the past century of death and destruction (pick one there's aplenty).

Thus, anime certainly is not exempt from dwelling on the topic of death. Though it is mostly focused on character deaths, which can range from emotionally impactful (a certain death scene in Madoka) to dull and vacuous (I'm looking at you SAO!). Yet, there aren't that many shows in the anime genre that deal with death in any particular and constructive way. However, Momo the God Girl of Death is one of those series.

Momo the Girl God of Death is basically a short anthology series involving the titular Momo and her lively cat-bat assistant Daniel as they help people out with death, either by avoiding death or dealing with the wishes/regrets of people in relation to their lost loved ones. But, she does it with a gentle and kind heart, seeming more like an angel then a grim reaper (scythe notwithstanding).

So, what about this makes it special? Well, it being a loose anthology, you can easily just watch the episodes in any real order, as there is not much continuity. As such, this feels like a patchwork of vignettes stitched together with really the only connection being Momo and Daniel. Only episodes 3 and 6 are really any good standout in those terms. Episode 3 deals with a young man Kantaro going out on a treasure hunt based off a map left by game-loving grandfather, involving his female classmate Tomato (no seriously that's her name) to come with. What he finds there is not quite the kind of treasure one would expect. Episode 6 deals with Momo and Daniel consoling a recently dead spirit of schoolgirl Sakura. Watching Momo pointing out to Sakura how her family and friends are while at times moving forward with their lives, still take time to remember her. Of course, the twist at the end is quite a surprise at least to me. The messages presented here are not that different from the obvious ones brought out in other works on death. All told, they are rather simplistic in terms of story and characters, but is it attached to stunning visuals, right?

Well, unfortunately, the presentation is rather bland and dull. Then again, the show on the whole is mellow and calm for the most part, so it fits. The animation is done by the now defunct Group TAC, which went out of business in 2010 and as such it looks utterly generic. Heck, even the music is generic, light music with scarcely a memorable tune in it at all.  It is at least barely competent, but it doesn't stand too much, even from 2006. Which leads into my next question: Why did this get released?

The answer is Maiden Japan, a label linked with Switchblade Pictures, which in turn falls under the umbrella of Section 23 Films. Maiden Japan was founded by former ADV co-founder Matt Greenfield back in 2010 and their express purpose seems to be releasing really niche anime titles. I mean seriously, look at their catalog (Maiden Japan Catalog). I haven't heard of any of these, though Papillon Rose looks particularly interesting....anyway.

So yeah, and not only does this release come over here, but also with an English dub track. Niche titles, at least in this day and age, often don’t get a dub or if they do, it tends to be a re-release done several years later (Punie-chan as an example). So, what about the English dub?

Well, the English dub for this show is the second title Maiden Japan has released with a dub, the another being Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 this past spring. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a rather patchy and uneven Sentai Filmworks dub (mix of veteran ADV actors and newer talent that they got). Whether or not that has to do with the 2 ADR Directors working on it (Joey Goubeaud/Jason Grundy), large but multitasking cast, or some questionable issues in pronunciation or vocal performances ("shinigomi in lieu of shinigami"/use of reaper in text) is a point for debate certainly. Personally, I just think any problem with the dub is in relation to the rather lackluster source material. When it works, it is very mellow and slow, much like the show itself. There are some highlights to be fair: Jessica Boone as Momo and Nancy Novotny as Daniel deliver great performances overall. In fact, the overall quality improves a bit over the course of the 6 episodes, but not by much. Episode 3 has in my humble opinion the best performances of the dub: Brittney Karbowski, Chris Patton and John Swasey putting in some great performances, at least in comparison to the rest of the dub.

So, why did I choose to review this series? Well, I had have my brushes with death in the past, one in particular from 5 years ago. I ended up in hospital for a weekend after having a week of excessive lethargy and other things. Well, it turned out I had developed diabetes, type I to be precise (so yes, my pancreas is on strike). My blood sugar was so high at that point that the nurse told me any higher, and I would be dead from coma. I was like ‘wow, that’s scary’. In fact, I would dare say that was my ultimate turning point in my life, whereupon I no longer took stuff for granted and strive to live life to the fullest, which of course is one of the primary messages of Momo the God Girl of Death. In the end, it’s a reassuring comfort when I watch it. Not too great, but not too bad: it is just there, decent and competent show that touches on the heady subject of death.

Info on Releases:
Released by Maiden Japan in June 2013
3 novels published by Seven Seas Entertainment back in 2008
So, what’s next for me? Well, the last review for this year is over another release by Maiden Japan, luckily its much more memorable and what I’m sure will be a treat for old school anime fans:

Trailer for Next Time's Review
Thanks to wiifermadness for uploading this.

Later, good readers….

1 comment:

OverlordG said...

This show slipped my mind when I picked it up and I never got to watch it. I guess it's because "Shigofumi: Letters of the Departed" gave me a glimpse of how people handle death.