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OVA Belldandy
Source: OVA
Layers: 1
No sketches available
Cel Number: 3
Standard size

No Background

Added 5/5/2008
Updated 1/30/2023
OVA Episode 4: Evergreen Holy Night. In the opening moments, Keiichi dreams of presenting Belldandy with an engagement ring. Here she is looking at him, gently smiling as he holds out his hand with the ring. (In the final footage, a top layer on the left would show his arm stretched out toward her.) Then, as she realizes what he's done, her eyes open wider and she opens her mouth in happy surprise.

This peaceful portrait is a rare prize that I didn’t think I’d ever find: soft pastel colors, beautiful highlighting in her hair, liquid blue eyes and goddess marks. It appeared without much fanfare on Anicyo, and while I got some competition in going for it, the final price was still a bargain. The trace lines have gone soft, especially around the neckline, as you’d expect for a cel of this age, but it is still in fine shape otherwise.

Note: there are issues with the authenticity of this item. While the consensus of experts is that it is not a fake or fancel but a genuine product of the AIC studio that produced the AMG OVA, it likely is not the cel that went under the camera to make this scene. So I have relisted it as a "reproduction cel."

Want all the niggly details? Gird your loins and descend into the “Fussy Notes” at the bottom of this page.


This image comes from one of the most memorable moments for me, both for the bittersweet dream sequence and also for the music. One night, back in 1999, my daughter was using my computer to research a paper for a high school history paper on Napoleon. Suddenly, she came rushing into my office. "What's this piece of music?!?" she asked, leading me back to the laptop, which was looping through a short, poignant melody.

I had no idea, but I assumed that, since it was on a page devoted to the love between the French general/emperor and his Josephine, that it was some minor French early Romantic piece from that general period. But she loved it, and so she figured some way (kids are good at this) to download it as a MIDI file and saved it on my laptop as "Mystery Tune."

Later, one of my wife's students shared with her some software that could display MIDIs as sheet music. One nice feature is that it could call up any title that had been saved with the tune. So one day, out of curiosity, I tried it out on "Mystery Tune." The first page came up with the heading "Piano Sonata: Illusion." I did a websearch for this title, and to my great surprise turned it up in the AMG OST 2 track listing.

Next stop: eBay, where I found a copy of the CD going for sale. A couple weeks later, and I had it in my car, ready to take home and confirm the link. I still remember the astonished look on my daughter's face when that tune started to play.

The rest of the music was nice ... haunting in fact ... and I began to look into the series it came from. After all, my daughter had dated a kid for a while who was a DBZ fancier, and was at the moment all agog over Gundam Wing. Neither much appealed to me ... but this seemed ... well ... different ... and worth looking into.

And so began a long and unfailingly interesting journey into the anime world for this 50something dinosaur who'd begun to think there were no more surprises left in the world.

And now, inevitably, we descend into...

Caution! Fussy Notes

One oddity with this cel, though, is that the upper right corner doesn't seem to have a sequence number, but simply reads “3.”

Gabe, curator of Gabe's Ruin, one of the most extensive AMG collections online, was intrigued enough by this oddity that he passed on a scan of the cel and its "sequence number" to some of his contacts at AIC. The only thing they could agree on was that the cel was a genuine AIC product, but none of them believed it was the actual production cel that had gone under the camera.

Two thought the number might indicate that this is a repro cel, the third in a small run done for enthusiasts. If so, it's odd that the image is relatively modest and lacks the layer with Keiichi's hand holding the ring. Most repro cels I've seen FA show Belldandy up front and centered, and in full winged "goddess" regalia, as she appears toward the end of this scene when she says farewell to her mortal lover.

Two other AIC contacts had different theories. One suggested it might be the third in a series of color tests of Belldandy's outfit; another suggested that it could have been a hanken design for a trading card (#3 in the set). I do know that the OST 2 CD originally came with a limited-series set of cards, one per track, and so it's possible that one devoted to the composition playing at this moment, "Piano sonata: Illusion," might feature this moment. (But if so, why no Keiichi layer?)

A query on Anime-Beta brought a range of responses, most notably from JWR, curator of Ryan’s Gallery. JWR commented, "I would expect that the leaving the letter off may have been a mistake at the studio for they tend to work fast (a few are hard to read). In the OVA cels I have there seems not to be a standard marking, for while my sketches have it in the far right corner, the markings on the cels are all over the place on the top. Most appear just right of center as well, as it appears to have been a different person marking the cels than the sketches."

JWR also identified the exact place where the cel appeared. A close frame-by-frame inspection of this scene shows that my cel exactly matches the first one in this cut, pose, composition, and trace lines. That would make it the A1, if it had been normally numbered. (The third cel in the cut, or the A3, shows Belldandy beginning her look of surprise and is quite different from mine in many ways.)

The online gallery marzCelection (no longer visible, alas) had a very similar cel. And later on, an identical cel appeared for sale on Yahoo Japan, with “A8” boldly marked in the upper right corner. However, as noted above, this can’t be right, as the eighth image to appear in this sequence is even more distinctively different from the “A1” cel above.

Possibly an owner added the number to try to pass it off as an authentic production cel. Mine does not have this misrepresentation, but the presence of two apparently identical images suggests that my cel is not one that went under the camera but a repro cel of some sort.

A likely solution has been proposed by the collector Graymouser, who learned that when artists applied for work at the animation studio AIC, one of the tests they were given was to paint a sample cel. Certain sequences from AMG were used repeatedly for this test, and so high-quality, authentic-looking cels from these scenes have appeared on the market.

As two other cels exist that are seemingly identical to this one, it's possible that this is one of the images used in this application test. In this case the “3” would be the number of the artist being considered for the job. Or possibly the artist had to paint three (or more) different cels.

Presently I am leaning toward Graymouser's theory. But I would have to physically examine another identical cel of this sort to verify it.

Well . . . who really cares! It's a lovely image from a lovely scene, and I love her!

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Curator: 60something-sensei
Gallery Created: 8/3/2002
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