By Kosuke Fujishima. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Dark Horse.
At last we seem to have finished with the dojikko maids and the fluffy pointless cuteness, and are ready to get deep into another heaven vs. hell arc. As has always been the case, Fujishima’s manga excels whenever it’s not actually focused on the romantic comedy it’s supposed to be, either by showing everyone’s love of motorbike racing, or by giving the series’ cosmology a fresh new twist. This is definitely the latter, and leads to a very strong volume.
(I note the cover image above is not quite the one I have on my cover – Dark Horse must have redone it at the last minute. It’s the same image, just less of a close-up.)
When we left off, Hild had been overthrown from her position in Hell by her treacherous underlings, and is now (in chibi form as she prefers) trying to get help from Belldandy and company. Hild is, honestly, one of the best characters in this book, and anytime she’s in the story the quality shoots up. Her scenes with Urd in particular are fraught with that sort of love-hate dichotomy you get when the mother you love is also a demon and trying to get you to turn evil. But by far the best part is how Hild requests Belldandy’s help, getting down on one knee and humbly bowing. As Hild notes, not only does pride NOT come before everything she’s lost, but she has enough pride that she can humbly bow to Bell a hundred times and not have it affect her in the least.
As if that weren’t enough, we then get the discussion of entering the demon realm to fight Hagal, and why Keiichi, against all possible logic, needs to be there. As I noted, K1 and Bell’s best moments tend to be when the series is only obliquely focusing on their love, and that’s what we get here. Keiichi understands his goddess better than anyone, and therefore known that if it’s a true crisis, she’d end up going all out… even if it meant her death. His presence on the trip will mean she has to hold back to protect him and therefore is far less dangerous. As we’ve seen throughout the series, Urd or Skuld on a rampage is as nothing compared to Belldandy when her limiters are off, and it’s to her credit that she immediately gets this, and agrees to let Keiichi come with them.
As always with this series, there’s also some terrific laughs. Lind’s ability to break things, and subsequent inability to reconstruct them, is used to great comic effect throughout the volume, and she also makes a good boke when teamed up with Peorth. (Given Lind’s general stone-faced seriousness, she’s even more amusing than most bokes.) Anytime Mara appears guarantees laughs, of course, and I was highly amused with her explanation of how she got the crap beaten out of her – no, she didn’t lose a fight, she’s just an idiot. I was less amused with the presence of Aoshima, and Hasegawa’s crush on him – yes, it was another demon wish gone bad, but really, I don’t need tit jokes in Oh My Goddess, and Aoshima is a loathsome jerk, so even seeing him knocked out doesn’t quite help.
And so we’re ready to travel to hell – yes, believe it or not, that whole volume was setup. This is a large arc that we’re moving into – it’s still underway in Japan a good 2 years after these chapters appeared – and Fujishima is not about to sacrifice his leisurely pace just because it’s a battle. However, that means we also get lots of great character moments, and shows that Fujishima really knows his characters better than anyone. Everyone was absolutely dead on this volume (even Hasegawa, I will admit, who probably would fall for an ass like Aoshima). Volumes like these are why I’ve been reading OMG for 17 years now. Let’s hope it stays on a high for Volume 40.