By Kosuke Fujishima. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Dark Horse.
Since my last review of Oh My Goddess back in December, the manga has finally ended in Japan after 26 years, and will be 48 volumes total. For those who were reading this entire arc and noting it felt like a grand finale, congratulations, you are correct. There’s still some stuff to do before we get to what will no doubt be a final chapter with a wedding, not least of which is that Keiichi and Belldandy have to be reminded of something really obvious: she is a goddess and he is mortal. In fact, this is something that has happened to lovers in the past, as we see in the first have of this volume.
The flashback is painful, as you’d expect, but is also suffused with the selfless love we’ve come to expect from Keiichi and Belldandy, to the point where once the bard dies, the goddess is determined to see what he sang about even if it means her life. Unfortunately, due to the nature of contractual promises, she can’t even get peace in death. They’re being shown this to remind them that love is not worth all this pain that you’ll see in the end, but Oh My Goddess has spent 46 volumes so far showing us that yes, it absolutely is, so this argument doesn’t really hold up.
After last volume’s rewrite of its continuity, where we see that Keiichi was being repressed by heavenly forces to stop him getting it on with Belldandy, we get even more discussion of the original wish that began everything back in Volume 1. The wish: “I want a goddess like you to be with me always” – was said without being serious, but here we see a devastated Keiichi realizing what the burden of such a wish was on Belldandy, and cursing his past self for not being serious enough. Meanwhile, Belldandy confesses to Keiichi that, far from being surprised to see him when she descended to grant his wish, she’d actually been watching him from heaven for some time, and had fallen in love with him before they’d even met.
Fans of the anime won’t be surprised at this, as it also did a ‘we were destined to be together long before that wish’ plotline. It is nice, though, that Fujishima actually goes back to draw Belldandy somewhat like he did at the beginning – a larger marking on her head and her hair darker – to show us how she’s changed since then. (Keiichi, notably, does NOT get seen as his Vol. 1 self, which is fine, as that was more ‘the artist still needs work’.) And so finally Keiichi and Belldandy have pretty much taken every test of their love that can be thrown at them. We’ve even met her mother. And, as it turns out, her father – Gate turns out to be Tyr, Belldandy’s father and the ruler of Heaven.
Needless to say, he decides on one more test for Keiichi to be worthy of his daughter’s love, and even cheerfully frames it as ‘because a dad has to be a jerk to his daughter’s boyfriend’. Any reader of Oh My Goddess will be unsurprised at what happens next – the final battle involves a motorcycle race over an incredibly dangerous path, with K1 even driving a recreation of his regular bike. He also has to do it by himself, without Belldandy in the sidecar. Can he manage it? We’ll find out in March.