Oh My Goddess! Volume 37

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

Oh dear. Even for a recent volume of Oh My Goddess, a series never known for its deep and meaningful plotting, this seems like a very inconsequential volume. On the bright side, we once more have one plot carrying us through the whole volume (and into the following one, as we get a cliffhanger here). On the down side, despite the supposed ‘threat to the world’, the danger quotient just doesn’t seem that high here. So what we’re left with is a lot of running around the town, and introducing the new girl.

The new girl is named Chrono, and she is yet another goddess from heaven. However, unlike recent kickass goddesses like Peorth or Lind, Chrono is… a dojikko. What’s more, thanks to Peorth deciding to be a tease, she’s wearing a maid outfit, which is apparently the ‘traditional costume’ to wear when descending to Earth. This leads to a few jokes with Urd trying to get Chrono to say “Welcome home, Master” to Keiichi, but mostly appears to be there so that Fujishima can draw adorable clumsy maids. I think I liked it better when he spent the whole manga fetishizing motorcycles instead.

The main plot is that Chrono was supposed to be bringing a new program update to Belldandy. Except she smashed into a transformer, and dropped it. And it ended up flying all over the town in several pieces. The program is designed to keep the world ‘in tune’ essentially, and with its destruction all songs will vanish from the world… which would lead to the end of the world. So now Bell and the others but travel around looking for various aspects of the spell and capturing them, allowing Chrono, who has a beautiful singing voice, to take then into herself and recreate the update. The trouble is, as time goes by, Chrono’s voice gets more out of tune because of the busted update…

One reason people might enjoy reading this is seeing the cameos from various minor OMG characters who pop up here. Aside from Megumi and Chiharu, the rest of the large supporting cast OMG had at the start vanished once Keiichi graduated from college. So it’s nice to see that Tamiya and Otaki are as insane as ever, even when possessed to make music with their pneumatic drills. And seeing Sayoko raiding an alleyway’s garbage so that she can bang on a can – well, that’s likely the highlight of the volume.

Honestly, though, this volume didn’t grab me. It also continues the tradition of being very short, something that can’t really be complained about as the Japanese volumes are also this short. But there’s only 147 pages of manga here, and in those pages, very little actually happens. Oh My Goddess fanatics are going to buy this anyway, but casual fans might want to wait for the next time Urd’s demonic mother Hild shows up, as the story always seems to rev up once she arrives. Till then… well, have a dojikko maid goddess.

Oh My Goddess! Volume 36

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

This is the first volume of OMG in a while where the book takes up one entire story, though they are helped by the volumes here (and in Japan) being about 50 pages shorter than earlier volumes. This one is just 6 chapters long.

The plot itself carries over from the last chapter of 35, featuring a drunken Megumi showing up at the temple wondering why guys keep dumping her. Naturally, we find it’s because she’s far too awesome for them. Any casual OMG fan could have told you that, Megs. In any case, she’s wasted and heartbroken, and both Urd and Skuld decide to SOLVE ALL HER PROBLEMS by erasing/modifying her memories. And of course, everything goes wrong, and now everyone there has lost ALL their memories.

The main thrust of this volume, of course, is seeing how even with their memories eradicated, Keiichi and Belldandy are still head over heels in love with each other. They seem to realize it right away as well, even if they’re initially too shy to say anything. Meanwhile, Megumi can see it as well (she’s really one of the smartest in the entire cast, despite not knowing about the whole ‘goddess’ thing), despite Keiichi being stuck in a sentai suit, Keiichi’s collection of porn, and the annoying cat demon thing trying to convince everyone that he and Belldandy are engaged while Keiichi and Megumi are married.

First of all, I’ve ranted about it before and I’ll rant about it again. Why does Keiichi need porn? He has Belldandy! Yes, I realize that Urd and Skuld are there to be annoying and stop any nookie, and yes, it’s true that Keiichi is a reader surrogate and therefore cannot have sex with any of them lest he ruin the innocent purity that Japanese otaku prize (so they can dream of taking it themselves). But dammit, it’s been 36 volumes, Keiichi is clearly in his mid-20s by now, and he and Bell have been ‘together’ for about 5-6 years now. They pledge their love to each other AGAIN here. It’s getting ridiculous. I don’t care if you have to move to Evening and cross over with Kosaku Shima, it’s time to get more intimate.

Secondly, there’s a vague tinge of incest through the entire volume. It starts with Keiichi realizing his little sister has grown up (he wasn’t even aware she was dating), which the predictable shot of him ogling her breasts (and then feeling guilty). Then Velsper tries his ‘you’re both married to each other’ thing, which luckily Megumi sees through fairly quickly. Finally we have the epilogue, where Megumi’s seen with another guy and letting him know that he just can’t hold a candle to her brother. (Interestingly, this line is far more suggestive than the scanlation that was out ages ago, which notes that she’s looking more for what K1 has with Bell, rather than looking for a guy like K1. I have to assume that Dark Horse’s is more accurate, but don’t have the Japanese to find out.) It does remind me that Keiichi and Megumi are a brother/sister pair who get along surprisingly well in the manga canon. Though hopefully not that well.

In any case, this is a nice sensible, meat-and-potatoes volume of Oh My Goddess. It’s not devoted to mecha fetishes as much as prior volumes, but makes up for it with some nice heartwarming scenes with our favorite couple, and lots of Megumi. Recommended to those who would be reading it anyway.

Oh My Goddess! Volume 15

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

It’s interesting to go back and read these early volumes of Oh My Goddess, if only to see what hasn’t changed. The cast has graduated, and as a result has shrunk, but by this volume everyone was essentially in place, and Belldandy and Keiichi were firmly entrenched in their loving yet utterly chaste relationship. Likewise, Dark Horse has unflipped the art and put the TPB in the correct chapter order, but the translation is, I believe, still the same one from their old version. Not that there was much that needed to be changed – Studio Proteus are excellent.

The first part of this volume finished off the Queen Sayoko arc. I found this most interesting for Sayoko herself, who tries hard to be the villain of the whole thing but just isn’t nasty enough. This has been the case through the series, as she and her cousin Aoshima try to break up Bell and K1. She tries to do it through honest (mostly) means of seduction, though, wanting to lord it over Belldandy that she’s better rather than for any desire for Keiichi (though she does get why he’s a chick magnet). Aoshima, by contrast, tries to date rape Belldandy. Not in the same league. So in this volume, with Mara giving Sayoko powers over reality, Sayoko finds that ‘victory is boring’. After having Belldandy bow before her, clean the floors, tell stupid jokes… what more is there to do? She could tell her to break up with Keiichi, but she’s not going to use force or compulsion. I admire that in a villain. Of course, this is her final stand – she’s one of the cast who disappear once everyone graduates.

The second part of the volume features Keiichi’s sister Megumi, a favorite of mine for some time, and her race with the so-called “Queen of Nekomi Tech”, a female motorcycle rider who enjoys trouncing students who are late, or nearly late, for class. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a manga about motorcycles that happens to have some goddesses as supporting players, so these chapters are lovingly detailed bike porn. “You got *Showa* titanium shocks on the front and a *quantum* gas cart for the rear mono! *Brembo* magnesium racing brakes! Hey, is that swing arm magnesium too?” This chapter also gives us a change to see K1 and Bell riding as a motorcycle with sidecar team, and we see that this is basically what they replace sex with. They are so perfectly in sync that it’s mind-numbing, and get a beautiful double-page spread. In the end, the Queen surrenders and gives Megumi her title… which is ironic, as in OMG 35, the newest release over here, Megumi is finding that title leading to nothing but heartbreak.

The remainder of the volume deals with Skuld and her angel angst (she’s still pretty bratty here), as well as Urd’s own discomfort with her half-demon self (which will pretty much be a major plot point in many volumes to come). The final part has the dumbest premise (Belldandy, who can drink gallons of sake and not notice, gets drunk on Coca-Cola and goes around using her powers on everyone), but has the typical sweet romantic ending, where a creepy guy asking her to sleep with him, and she comes out of the drunk coma enough to note that she can’t as she’s in love with Keiichi. I go on a lot about how frustrating this couple is, and why they haven’t progressed. The frustration wouldn’t be there without these scenes that show what a fantastic love exists between the two of them, though. They’re both fairly idealized, but you just love seeing them in love.

Oh My Goddess has long been a success here, and recent sales figures courtesy Matt Blind at Rocket Bomber show that its sales are consistent and decent, even after 35 volumes and a complete reprint of 1-20 with unflipped art. That’s impressive, and reminds you that the series can still be worth it for fans, despite the frustrations.