Volume 13 of Oh My Goddess! is one of my favourite volumes to date, if only for the 1st two chapters focussing on Skuld’s development as a goddess.  Given that I haven’t been that fond of Skuld in the past this only reinforces how good these chapters are, especially as the remaining chapters are also strong additions to the story.

Chapter 73 Mean Sister features, as the title suggests, some tough love on Belldandy’s part towards Skuld.  It begins with Skuld being impressed (although reluctant to admit it) by the joy Belldandy takes in riding a bicycle.

Only, as Urd cheerfully points out, Skuld doesn’t actually know how to ride a bicycle.  Urd, naturally, adds fuel to the fire with a humiliating challenge to ride a tricycle around town if Skuld can’t manage a bike.

Skuld’s initial attempts reject assistance from Keiichi and Belldandy in favour of using technology to solve her problems.  This only stops when Keiichi points out that adding a gyroscopic stabiliser and a motor would mean that it wouldn’t be a bicycle anymore, and Belldandy waxes rhapsodic about the beauty of cycling.

Ultimately learning to balance on a bicycle means doing it yourself.  Belldandy knows this, Skuld doesn’t.

As a result Skuld feels betrayed by her “mean sister” when Belldandy a) keeps letting go of the bike, and b) not interfering when Skuld asks to be saved.  It turns out there’s more to it: Skuld won’t be able to properly use her goddess powers if she always depends on her technology or on someone else.

What appears to be betrayal is actually deeply caring, and reminds me of the similarly themed Keiichi centred chapter in Volume 10 [1].  Hurt by Belldandy’s apparent betrayal Skuld runs off and, well, sulks.

Enter Sentaro, a kid about Skuld’s apparent age who is doing stunts on a BMX or similar bike.  Naturally Sentaro has a fall in front of Skuld but doesn’t seem to care about the scratches on the bike or on him.  For Sentaro the crashes are part of the fun, especially learning the skills to avoid the crashes as he pushes the bike to the limits.

Skuld doesn’t understand this, but Sentaro offers to teach her.  The next couple of pages are really sweet as Skuld finally learns how to ride for herself, and in the doing understands what Belldandy was really up to.

Heading back to Belldandy is another challenge for Skuld as she discovers the problems of not having gears on bikes [2].

Mean Sister is possibly the most spectacularly misnamed chapter of Oh My Goddess, but it just adds to the appeal for me. This chapter is also one of the best Skuld chapters I’ve seen yet with a sympathetic presentation of a difficult lesson.

For all that Sentaro is a fairly generic character, he is well crafted and Skuld’s reactions to his innocent enjoyment of the thrill of stunt cycling work well here.

Chapter 74 Crazy Little Thing Called Love starts with Belldandy trying to teach Skuld how to release and control her powers.  This is another excellent chapter, and one that builds directly on Mean Sister

The instruction on levitating a nut isn’t going well until Sentaro pops up and demonstrates a new trick and expresses how he loves doing this sort of thing.  This, and the feelings that Skuld isn’t quite ready to admit to herself, trigger her success in levitating the nut.

As Belldandy says later love for others is the source of a goddess’ power.  The rest of the chapter is, in an odd sort of way, a training montage of Skuld practicing levitating anything and anyone interspersed with her growing friendship with Sentaro.  Many of these panels have no dialogue and are beautifully done, especially the one frame of a pensive Belldandy.

I think that Belldandy is worried about what happens when a first love ends, about the loss of innocence and childhood that follows as a result.

There is a running gag through Mean Sister and Crazy Little Thing Called Love about Skuld being more worried about Sentaro’s bike than Sentaro.  Towards the end of the chapter this is very threadbare and culminates in Skuld wishing for Sentaro to have a really beautiful bike to ride.

Alas Sentaro is less than grateful: he liked the scratches, the signs of use, and the memories they represented. Skuld doesn’t realise this until Keiichi explains it, and even then needs some gentle advice from Belldandy before being able to apologise.

Chasing after Sentaro Skuld arrives just in time to save him from a very bad crash.  This time Skuld’s anger and care are directed openly at Sentaro rather than the bike before apologising for her earlier mistake.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love is another sweet tale of childhood turning to adolescence, beautifully done, as well as a lovely treatment of Skuld.  Sentaro’s admission that only one of the scratches mattering but refusing to tell Skuld which one is a nice touch to round it out, as is Urd, Belldandy, and Keiichi spying on them at the end.

Despite an initial plot hole Chapter 75 The Campus Queen Doesn’t Trust Goddesses?! is an entertaining romp centring on Sayoko.  It starts with Belldandy appearing through a street mirror in broad daylight, on campus, right in front of Sayoko.  Given that Belldandy is usually a lot more careful about her use of mirror travel this is a little hard to accept but I went with it, and the resulting chain of disasters.

Sayoko accuses Belldandy of being a witch, and refuses to believe her when Belldandy claims to be a goddess.  It is at this point that an oddly cute tentacled thing [3] is drawn towards Sayoko, which worries Belldandy somewhat.

Then Urd flies past Sayoko on a broom, and Sayoko disbelieves that as well. When Urd catches up with Belldandy and Keiichi it turns out that she ordered an Angel’s Egg but got an Anki Egg instead. 

It seems that an Anki is bad news: a demon that devours someones ability to trust and believe, and possibly fatally.  Team Goddess will need to convince Sayoko to trust and believe Belldandy if they want to save her.

This is what the rest of the chapter is devoted to in ever escalating displays of power, including Holy Bell and Belldandy’s own wings, to convince Sayoko that Belldandy is trustworthy.  The double page image of a flying Belldandy catching a falling Sayoko is one that I’d love to see as a print in colour [4].

Of course it ends with Sayoko trusting Belldandy, but believing that she’s a witch!

Chapter 76 First Director of the Motor Club introduces a character, Chihiro Fujimi, that I’ve heard appears in the TV series, and does so well enough that I may take another look at it [5].  The chapter starts with Tamiya and Otaki in hiding wondering why “she” has returned before switching to a scene of the as-yet unnamed Chihiro examining the old clubhouse.

Chihiro bursts into the new clubhouse demanding to find out from Tamiya and Otaki who gave them permission to move the clubhouse.  Tamiya and Otaki are nowhere to be seen, but Keiichi and the club are building an itsy-bitsy teeny-tiny motorbike that Chihiro initially mistakes for an RC bike.

Of course it is an experiment to see if a bike like this can actually be ridden by a person, and they’re doing it for fun.  Her laughter at this angers Keiichi and he ends up impressing Chihiro.

Naturally this results in a challenge to a race on itsy-bitsy teeny-tiny motorbikes around the campus as an unspecified test.  The meeting between Chihiro, Tamiya, and Otaki is highly amusing: it was nice to see the “big men” of the motor club so completely humbled given all that they’ve put Keiichi through.

The race itself is a fun read, and demonstrates nicely that while age and treachery will triumph over youth and enthusiasm [6], youth still has its advantages. The test was for whether Chihiro could still do things just for fun, and as a result Chihiro quits her job with a racing team to build the bikes she wants to build.

Chapter 77 Let’s Go Feminine features more of Chihiro’s back-story, as well as her troubled relationships with her juniors Tamiya and Otaki.  The back-story is wrapped up in a present day treasure hunt on campus and has a really sweet ending.  The sight of Chihiro wearing both engraved rings [7] as “trophies of war” worked for me, and finished the establishment of Chihiro as a fascinating character that I want to see more of.

In Volume 13  The Campus Queen Doesn’t Trust Goddesses?! is the weakest of the 5 chapters but is still enjoyable in its own right.  Overall this is a very strong volume with a lot of good character work set off by Fujishima’s beautiful artwork. Unfortunately there are no colour pages but I can live with that.

[1] Chapter 59 Remember the Sad Times

[2] Although her reaction is more focussed on adding an engine (some things never change).

[3] I’m starting to believe that Fujishima is so good at drawing beauty that he lacks the ability to draw horrific…

[4] Yes, Yes, I’m a sucker for Fujishima’s artwork OK, especially when it is this pretty.

[5] I bounced off the fansubs for some reason, I may pick up the local release and try again.

[6] Chihiro was carrying a spare engine with her.

[7] One from Tamiya, one from Otaki. It’s complicated…