Once Volume 15 of Oh My Goddess! gets past the Queen Sayoko storyline it has some really good chapters in it.  To be honest the end of the Queen Sayoko story isn’t that bad either but I’m still not that fond of Mara.

Picking up where the Eigen Plot of Chapter 82 left off, Chapter 83 Go After Sayoko sees Keiichi fleeing from the bad cross dressing Belldandy cosplayers [1]. Keiichi runs into Shiho Sakakibara [2] who has apparently taken Sora Hasegawa prisoner for some reason.  The way Keiichi gets Shiho and the cosplayers to take each other out is both amusing, and shows that Keiichi can think fast when he needs to.

Meanwhile Skuld and Urd have dealt with their problems, and are attempting to catch up, albeit with limited success.  However it does highlight a common issue with Eigen Plots in that, normally, you don’t see the other characters again until after the final resolution.

It isn’t exactly clear when this happened but Sora is wearing one of Skuld’s ribbons and guides Keiichi through the castle, and even manages to keep him from triggering all of the traps. Mara apparently needs Belldandy involved at the finish and takes the necessary steps to get Belldandy back in the game.

Chapter 84 At Sayoko’s Side begins with Keiichi having to race a staircase that is disappearing behind him whilst carrying Hasegawa.  He manages it only for Sora to remove her ribbon and attack him.  Sora’s perpetual lack of confidence, and the “acceptance” she would have felt under Sayoko’s control may justify this scene.  It is well drawn, and Keiichi’s legs collapsing from exhaustion is also justified, but I do have lingering reservations about it.

Skuld and Urd are lost in the Castle but are finding themselves to be more powerful.  Skuld is initially overjoyed, but Urd then discovers the power amplifier responsible.  Then again, it is a machine so Skuld may see some potential there. 

Belldandy arrives in the throne room to discover that Keiichi is now wearing a dog suit, and doing tricks.  Sayoko has his ribbon, and Keiichi is rejecting Belldandy under the influence. 

Belldandy doesn’t accept that sort of empty joy, gives her own ribbon to Keiichi, and ends up doing tricks for a rapidly bored Sayoko.  This is a nice call back to Chapter 82 where Belldandy and Keiichi accurately read Sayoko’s character: Sayoko wants a real win over Belldandy, and is ultimately too proud to cheat.

This feels like cheating. Sayoko attempts to send everyone home when Mara intervenes.

Chapter 85 Back Where You Belong begins with Megumi arriving for classes, seeing the castle, and promptly going home. Similarly most of the Nekomi residents are pretending nothing is happening, which is an amusing voluntary example of Sunnydale Syndrome.  Inside the castle Mara is reminding Sayoko of the terms of the agreement, and also casually preventing Keiichi from giving the ribbon back to Belldandy. Mara wants Sayoko to order Belldandy to “go home”.

Urd and Skuld are attempting to destroy the power amplifier. The key word here is “attempting”, apparently Mara put a shield on the thing.

Sayoko refuses to obey Mara: she wants a defeated Belldandy on hand to gloat over. Mara then uses her powers to force Sayoko to say it anyway. Keiichi again demonstrates some fast thinking and manages to get a ribbon on Sayoko, which basically breaks the entire mind force issue.  Alas it is too late and Belldandy has already disappeared through a pocket mirror.  This does destroy the power amplifier, and restore the campus to its original form.  Cue Skuld and Urd walking off whistling.

A gleeful Mara departs believing that she has defeated Belldandy by sending her back to Heaven.  Of course when a grieving Keiichi arrives home Belldandy is there to meet him: Belldandy now thinks of the temple and Keiichi as home.  Awww. 

This is a nice ending to the Queen Sayoko storyline [3], but overall I think it should have been edited down a chapter, maybe two.

Chapter 86 Megumi vs. the Queen is part one of another racing storyline, with a bit of a moral at the end.  Megumi has managed to get entry into an exclusive aerodynamics course at a satellite campus.  The road to this campus is a 4 miles of long winding road that becomes an impromptu race track whenever the aerodynamics classes are held.  There is a woman referred to as the Queen who waits for the 30 students to pass and then starts racing them [4]

The chapter starts with Megumi running late and being the Queen’s first target. Much to the Queen’s surprise [5], Megumi manages to outride her.  Next week Megumi arrives early only to be challenged by the Queen anyway.  This ride is a lot closer but Megumi wins again.

Chapter 87 The Secret of Speed starts with a strangely empty aerodynamics class – it turns out that because the Queen didn’t wait for number 30 the other riders think that the class is already full. In the parking lot the Queen is examining Megumi’s KSR and cannot believe that it is a stock 80cc version.  The resulting conversation about the Queen’s fully pimped out bike is as amusing as it is obviously Fujishima geeking out about a bike he saw somewhere.

The Queen meanwhile is refusing to believe that Megumi’s bike is as stock as it appears.  Finally Megumi challenges her to meet again tomorrow and promises to tell the Queen why she won’t win afterwards. 

In the temple Megumi is doing some maintenance on her trusty KSR.  Whilst Belldandy is impressed with the care Megumi is taking with her bike, Keiichi is immediately suspicious: tinkering in his workshop means that Megumi wants something.  The chapter ends with a yelled “WHAT” seen from outside the temple.

I think that chapter 88 Two Hearts Beat As One partially inspired the sidecar racing scenes in the Oh My Goddess! movie.  When Megumi meets the Queen the next morning she has Keiichi, Belldandy, and their sidecar bike in tow. Megumi starts the race and promises to catch up later. 

As the race goes on the Queen simply cannot believe how well Keiichi and Belldandy are working together, and describes it as dancing.  After losing control, and being rescued by Holy Bell [6], the Queen gives up half way having realised Megumi’s “secret”: she can’t win if Megumi and her bike are giving it their all, and she isn’t.

It also helps to properly maintain your bike, as Megumi cheerfully points out at least three things that need attention. “Take care of your bike, and it will take care of you”.  Overall these three chapters form a shorter, tighter, story than the Queen Sayoko plotline, and are a lot stronger as a result [7].

Despite the appeal of the racing storyline I think it is Chapter 89 Another Me that is the prize in this volume.  Skuld is pining for angels in general, and Noble Scarlet in particular.  She is about to swallow the egg again when Urd interrupts.  The resulting argument looks like many other fights between Skuld and Urd [8], but there are some subtle dodges away from the main topic by Urd. This is when the penny finally drops for Skuld as she wonders why Urd had Noble Scarlet’s egg if Urd already has an angel.

A subdued Urd [9] is talking to Belldandy about what it was like to get Holy Bell.  Belldandy observes that it was a wonderful moment to have someone understanding her so perfectly, like a mirror reflecting Belldandy’s soul.  For Urd this was not wonderful, but terrifying.

In her room Urd calls out to her angel and, as Urd expects, nothing happens.  Unfortunately Skuld is skulking nearby, works out that Urd doesn’t have an angel, and plots revenge.  Belldandy is reading the runes to tell Urd’s fortune, and the early results are not reassuring to Urd, and neither is Belldandy’s comment about Urd missing her angel.

Keiichi returns home to watch some TV to find that a whole bunch of electrical devices have been hollowed out.  Skuld has used the parts to build a power amplifier that will allow her to control an angel.  Keiichi wants no part of this impending disaster and turns to leave [10], but steps on the power switch [11].

Alas the control circuit hasn’t been hooked up, the device can’t be switched off, and Skuld’s water elemental powers are starting to race out of control. I think that this is the first time that the goddesses have been specifically linked to the elements: Skuld is water, Belldandy is air, and Urd is fire [12].

Belldandy’s air powers, even with Holy Bell, cannot break through the column of water surrounding Keiichi and Skuld.  It will need Urd’s fire powers and Urd’s angel. Belldandy has respected Urd’s reluctance to call her angel in the past, but it needs to happen now.  However Urd doesn’t believe that she can call her angel.

The flashback to the one and only time when Urd did call her angel is well handled.  A much younger Urd was still dreaming of pure white wings, still trying to deny her demonic half. The sight of a black wing traumatised her causing her to scream “I never want to see you again”.  As with Noble Scarlet in chapter 79, Urd’s angel obeyed and Urd has never been able to call her again.

Belldandy holds out the rest of the runes which spoke of the “rebirth of a friend”.  An angel must obey her goddess, but obeys the soul more than the words [13].  Urd summons the true depth of her desires to meet her angel again and successfully calls World of Elegance [14] forth to rescue Skuld and Keiichi.

Sniff. I love this chapter for the wonderful character work and the way it builds on previous continuity.  For me this is easily one of the top ten chapters in the series so far.

Chapter 90 Never Let Go proves that goddesses should come with warning labels as to what will, or won’t, get them drunk.  The setting is the opening party for Chihiro’s custom shop Whirlwind with the usual gang of idiots on hand.  Karaoke and far too much booze ensue as Chihiro tries to make the “too perfect” Belldandy “lose it”.  Alcohol however isn’t having any effect on Belldandy, when Keiichi makes the mistake of handing her a can of cola.

That does have the effect that Chihiro was trying for, and results in a happily drunk Belldandy racing over town using her powers to give joy to all around her. Alas, karma must be balanced so Keiichi spends the issue experiencing misfortunes as he tries to keep up with Belldandy.  This is quite a funny sequence which ends with a random sleaze trying to get fresh with Belldandy.  Even drunk however, this is the one happiness that Belldandy cannot grant as it would make Keiichi unhappy.

Keiichi meanwhile is counting incidents of happiness and misfortune and coming up one short, and manages to move Belldandy away from the conveniently placed fountain before it drenches the would be pick up artist.

The chapter, and the volume ends, with Keiichi mentioning that letting go of Belldandy’s hand would be the greatest unhappiness he could imagine.  Cue one last use of Belldandy’s powers as she falls asleep with exhaustion.  Urd thinks this will wear off by morning, Skuld is still unimpressed.

Never Let Go is mostly light hearted fun, with a hint of advancing continuity.  It remains to be seen how well separating Keiichi and Belldandy’s hands will be managed in Volume 16.

Overall this is a fun volume with some nice character work, and some tight stories.  The overlong [15] Queen Sayoko story plays well to the established characters, the racing story also works well, and Another Me is just a wonderful piece of writing supported by glorious Fujishima artwork. 

[1] This scene does make me wonder if Fujishima has had to face, or judge, bad cosplay competitions.  If so I imagine that writing these chapters might have been therapy.

[2] If you recall I was fairly critical of Shiho’s introduction in Volume 9.

[3] Even if it means that Mara will be back as soon as she learns to pay more attention to grammar and the proper parsing of sentences.

[4] Arguably it is a bit unrealistic for all 30 students to be on motorbikes, but that’s the setup.

[5] Especially as Megumi’s bike is towards the low end.

[6] Not that the Queen realises this.

[7] No, I’m not getting over the bloat in the Queen Sayoko story anytime soon. Well, maybe by Volume 16.

[8] Certainly that’s what Keiichi thinks as he’s walking by outside.

[9] I know that “subdued Urd” sounds like an oxymoron to rival “Microsoft Works” but go with me here.

[10] Keiichi is not stupid and understands that persuading Skuld of anything is a lost cause.

[11] Sometimes you don’t always get what you want.

[12] Given the rose motif I suspect that Peorth is earth based.

[13] In retrospect this neatly justifies Noble Scarlet’s 2nd intervention with Sentaro: deep down it was what Skuld really wanted to happen, which is kind of sweet.

[14] I really like the name World of Elegance. I also think that the one black and one white wing is one of Fujishima’s better character designs (which says a lot). You’ll have to wait for Volume 16 to see her on this blog though.

[15] Nope, still not over it.