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Belldandy (Manga) cropped - v1 p7

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I recently ordered the 1st 10 volumes of Oh My Goddess! so that I could read a good chunk of the ongoing arc without interruption.   One of the strengths of Goddess is that the passage of time matters: the characters develop and change over time[1].

Another thing I’m looking forward to is the evolution of Fujishima’s art over time.  I’m not sure yet whether I’ll like the evolution, but I’m hoping that I will.

Dark Horse has released a number of versions of the Goddess manga; the version I’m reviewing is in the original right-to-left layout with some coloured pages[2], plus substantial translators notes at the end. 

Oh My Goddess is one of the earliest, and most enduring, examples of the Magical Girlfriend genre.  It endures because of the characters, especially the sweet relationship that slowly[3] grows between Keiichi and Belldandy.  This is ably supported by the richness of the quirky supporting characters who are a loon squad to rival the maintenance crew in Patlabor.[4]

The first chapter, The Number You Have Dialled Is Incorrect, sees the lead character Keiichi Morisato abandoned in a men only dorm when a phone call connects to the Goddess Technical Help Line.  The scene where Belldandy emerges from the mirror is still glorious after all these years.  The expression on Keiichi’s face is just priceless.

His disbelief, and his assumption that the whole thing is a prank by his seniors,  leads him to wish for a goddess like Belldandy[5] to stay with him forever.  As it turns out it isn’t a prank and to further complicate matters there is an ultimate force in play that will enforce the wish.

As Keiichi soon discovers when his sempais return early, discover Belldandy[6], and promptly evict him.

Much of the first volume then deals with finding a new place to live, enrolling Belldandy in college as a “foreign exchange student”, and her impact on the college dynamics.  Particularly amusing is the campus queen Sayoko Mishima[7] who sees Belldandy’s sudden popularity as a threat and decides to counter it by stealing Keiichi away from Belldandy.  

Did I mention that ultimate force working to keep Belldandy and Keiichi together? Hilarity and mayhem[8] ensue until Sayoko gives up.[9]

However it is Single Lens Psychic Camera that is the standout chapter in the first volume.  This deals with the incipient romance between the apparent extrovert Hikozaemon Otaki and the apparently shy Satoko.  Naturally it is a lot more complicated than that, and Belldandy and Keiichi need to intervene to smooth the course of True Love. 

Especially considering Otaki’s ideas for suitable “meet the parents” clothing.  One of the things I like about this chapter is that although Belldandy and Keiichi provide the occasional nudge, ultimately it is Otaki’s quick thinking, and Satoko’s own steel will that produce the right outcome.

Looking at the volume as a whole there are some awkward moments, but no more than is ever expected of a pilot episode.  Overall it is a strong introduction to the series that left me wanting to actually read the translator’s notes[10], and then write the review[11].

Right now I’m looking forward to volume 2, which I brought with me. 

What a shame. J

 


[1] One possible weakness is that Keiichi and Belldandy never really get it together, but that will be a topic for a review of a later volume.

[2] The glossy paper for the coloured pages seen in some Japanese editions is not present.  Then again that would be a substantial jump in production values that can be justified for few, if any, translated manga.

[3] Sometimes it is too slow – see first footnote.

[4] Scary thought: Given that most are enrolled at Nekomi Institute of Technology, many of them could become the Patlabor maintenance squad in a crossover universe…

[5] I do wonder if Fujishima has ever exploited that wording to sub in another goddess occasionally.  After all the problem with wishes usually comes when loopholes in the wording are exploited…

[6] In the traditional semi compromising position due to Keiichi having tripped on something. (Only semi because they’re both fully dressed)

[7] And, yes, Sayoko is similar in many ways to the later Cordelia Chase in BtVS.

[8] Trashing the BMW 535i was a bit nasty though (although Belldandy did try and limit the damage done by the ultimate force).

[9] For now…

[10] I do recommend reading the translator’s notes.  Although flipping back and forth to look at the referenced panel does get a little annoying.

[11] I recently discovered that pasting from Word to WordPress preserves the footnotes so I can also write the review on the plane.