Oh My Goddess!, Vol. 45

By Kosuke Fujishima. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Dark Horse.

Sometimes there’s just too much to say for a Bookshelf Brief, and that’s certainly the case with this volume of Oh My Goddess. Since my last full review 2 years ago, we’ve been going through hell like a video game, with various mini-bosses being taken down. In the midst of this, Keiichi and Belldandy had to break their contract in order to get past one obstacle. Once they reconnect it, Keiichi notices that his feelings for Belldandy, while just as strong, seem more… arousing than normal. And there’s a reason for that, one that set fandom alight when this chapter first came out about a year and a half ago.


Like most everyone who has now read this series for 45 volumes – indeed, hardcore fans may have read the series THREE TIMES by now, in 32-page floppies, then the flipped volumes, then the unflipped volumes – and I had always assumed that the total lack of sexual desire between Keiichi and Belldandy was a function of Japanese fandom and the “we must keep our idols pure and virginal” mentality, as well as a strong dose of “if they actually do get it on, the manga will end, and this is a GIANT CASH COW, so nothing can happen.” Now Fujishima is saying this has all been deliberate on the part of heaven, who have locked up Keiichi’s libido magically so that he and Belldandy won’t procreate – because of the past past experiences with demigods.

That wasn’t the thing that made fandom upset. It was that Belldandy and Urd were aware of this all the time, and said nothing. It’s worth noting that for those who remember the very early days of the series, this retcon is very awkward. Keiichi spent most of the first volume or so trying to get into Belldandy’s pants, and this vanished around the same time that his eyebrows stopped being huge and 80s-shaped. What’s more, Urd’s constant attempts at aphrodisiacs and love potions now make a whole lot of no sense. That said, for a manga that is looking forward and not backward, it’s a fascinating twist, and Belldandy clearly feels horrible and self-doubting about it.

There’s not really much to worry about, as K1 is pretty much the perfect boyfriend, so even when Bell and Skuld’s mother suggests they may have lost the trust between them (oh yeah, she showed up as well, forgot to mention that) he’s quick to smile and show that if anything, he loves her even more. Keiichi and Belldandy can be sickeningly sweet even when they aren’t stressing about whether they truly deserve each other, and I have to assume that if you’re still reading the series you’ve just resolved yourself to that happening. It can be adorable in the right mood.

I note Hild’s plotline is resolved here, which was meant to be the main goal of this arc. Instead, it’s turned into a combination of Dante’s Inferno and Orpheus, with Keiichi and Belldandy having everything that they know and trust about their relationship torn apart and destroyed so that (presumably) it can be rebuilt even stronger and with more sweet smiles. Plus hey, Keiichi can now see her and get aroused, which is a big step forward for the wrong type of fan. :) We end up with a cliffhanger that looks as f it may involve past lives, and I suspect won’t work out nearly as well as K1 and Bell have. But we’ll have to wait a long time for that, as the volume likely won’t arrive till August 2014.

(By the way, there is an excellent tribute to the late Toren Smith by Carl Horn at the end of this volume, well worth reading even if you’d dropped the series long ago. This is one of the series that everyone things of when they think of Toren, so it was lovely to see.)

Oh My Goddess!, Vol. 39

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.

Brief Reviews On Sundry Manga

I have a pile of backlog here, but can’t quite work up the energy to post a full review for them. Hence these brief thoughts.

My Girlfriend’s a Geek 3: We basically have more of the same here, which is very much what I expected. Taiga deals with his girlfriend’s fetishes as best he can, while getting increasingly exasperated. Introduced here is Yuiko’s cosplaying friend Akari, who turns out to be Kouji’s younger sister. But honestly plot is sort of irrelevant to this series. I did enjoy seeing a brief snippet of Yuiko’s thoughts when she was dealing with the sleazy guy at her office – it shows that she actually does view Taiga as a genuine boyfriend, even if the depth of her feelings for him is still in question. That’s more than I usually get out of Otomen. A bonus at the end of the manga gives us a fake chapter of Sepatte Takuro, Yuiko’s BL obsession, and they even bring in another mangaka to draw it – Hiromi Namiki, who writes the ice hockey manga 88 for Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine. Unfortunately, the chapter itself is quite dull, being far TOO close a parody of shonen sports manga, to the point where the joke is lost.

Oh My Goddess! 38: We finish off the Chrono arc here, and thank God for that, as it’s one of the weakest in the series to date. Chrono’s fear of cats is incredibly lame, the dojikko maid thing continues to be done to death, and everyone’s praise of her at the end thus seems overdone. On the bright side, once she’s gone we start a new arc that will prove to be more dramatic, as Urd’s mother Hild gets overthrown in Hell by a sneaky trickster, and is now in a chibi body and relatively powerless. What’s worse, now the new demons in charge are arriving on Earth and granting wishes – but as ever, they twist them and make people suffer. I was amused at seeing Chihiro and Megumi actually SEE Hild appear before their eyes, and the building subsequently destroyed – but when the building is magically reconstructed later, they just edit their memories to fit the facts. All in all, not a great volume, but I’m hoping for better things now that Hell has new ownership.

Fairy Tail 13: As ever with Fairy Tail, I enjoy the volume when I’m reading it, but have difficulty retaining any memory of it five minutes after the fact. Erza’s backstory arc gets a bit of an epilogue here, and we see that we probably have not seen the last of Ultear – or Jellal, for that matter. There then follows some goofy comedy as they head back to a now-rebuilt Fairy Tail and welcome Juvia (unsurprisingly) and Gajeel (somewhat more surprisingly) in as members. This mid-section is particularly noted by the cameo appearances by Jason Thompson and Dallas Middaugh, whom Mashima had met when he was a guest at SDCC 2008 and decided to write into the series. Jason in particular makes a great dorky reporter. This is counterbalanced with Lucy’s attempts to use her charms for various purposes – and failing miserably. However, we then head into the next arc, where Laxus returns to town, just as big a jerk and twice as pissed. He and his colleagues decide to have a ‘festival’ where the Fairy Tail members have to fight each other in an elimination bout – and the female members are all turned to stone and used as hostages to make them do it. A sadly predictable plotline, but certainly effective. Fairy Tailo remains good, solid shonen, but I just can’t get into it more than I need to.

Natsume’s Book of Friends 7: Been a while since I reviewed this one. I enjoy the series a great deal, but rarely have much to say about it. This volume is notable for having a plot arc that lasts a good 2/3 of the volume, and features what may prove to be a new ongoing ‘villain’. Someone is attacking yokai in order to get their blood for some unknown purpose – and the attack is human! The main thrust of the plot, however, as with a number of previous chapters, is getting Natsume to be more proactive and choosing to do good, rather than drifting along trying to avoid being hurt. This volume is very much yokai focused – Tanuma and Taki don’t even show up – but that helps, as the whole thing ends up being almost like an action movie. There are a few flaws to the volume – the revelation of the human attacking the yokai turns out to be very anticlimactic, and the unrelated short story at the end is clearly a case of needing to pad out the book, as it’s not that hot. Still, the main story itself is an excellent relaxed shoujo horror, and I look forward to seeing Natsume’s further development.