Sigel, aka the Welcome Robot

Oh My Goddess! Volume 19 is the last volume I have to hand.  I’ve been told Volume 21 is a bit hard to come by so it may be some time before Slow Glass Books can send me the next batch [1].  Volume 19 is a lot of fun, with the highlight being Belldandy naming the Welcome Robot [2].

Chapter 113 Welcome Back concludes the race between Keiichi, Belldandy and the Ghost Bike of Inokuradai Pass.  This sequence is just beautifully handled, even if it does stretch the suspension of disbelief at times.  The synchronised smirks on Keiichi’s and Belldandy’s faces are the final touch that makes you believe that they are working together perfectly [3] and enjoying themselves.

On reaching the satellite campus the ghost bike turns around, leads them to a particular corner, and rides off.  Calling Holy Bell Belldandy recovers a battered, but once loved, bike from below. The bike turns out to belong to Chihiro who welcomes her old friend back.

Chapter 114 Meet Dr. Moreau is the start of a nice storyline that ends with the Welcome Robot being properly named.  It begins with a depressed Keiichi delivering a box of stuff to Dr. Koichi Morizomi, otherwise known on campus by the nickname Dr. Moreau.

Dr. Moreau is a fairly typical mad scientist who, in this case, is focussing on solving the walking problem for bipedal robots [4].  He ropes Keiichi and Belldandy into helping test his latest creation, which doesn’t totally [5] destroy his laboratory.  Although Keiichi finds Dr. Moreau difficult to deal with at best, Belldandy admires his dedication to solving a difficult problem.

The chapter ends with Dr. Moreau discovering something wrong with the parts Keiichi delivered.  This is a nicely done set up and introduction chapter that shows how single minded Dr. Moreau can be.

Chapter 115 Mankind’s Dream Shattered begins with Dr. Moreau arriving at Whirlwind to complain about receiving “C” clips instead of “E” clips [6].  To get rid of him Chihiro sends the good doctor to the temple.

At the temple Banpei is chasing the Welcome Robot around the room as Belldandy comments on how fond they are each other.  This is greeted with general disbelief.

Naturally Dr. Moreau arrives as Banpei and the Welcome Robot take the chase (fight?) outside.  The effect on someone obsessed with walking robots, and beyond that to realistic androids, is predictable. The Welcome Robot also reacts to the presence of a guest with her original programming, at least until Dr. Moreau lifts her skirt. Cue the rocket punch.

Whilst Skuld is fixing Banpei, the unconscious professor is laid out in one of the temple rooms.  The Welcome Robot is denouncing him as a pervert [7].  On awakening, and incurring Urd’s wrath, the doctor makes it clear that disassembling and studying the Welcome Robot is what he’s after.

Belldandy refuses to let Dr. Moreau have the Welcome Robot, or Banpei, and it is clear from how she refuses that Belldandy already believes both to be alive.

The chapter ends with a depressed Dr. Moreau leaving after meeting Skuld and finding that “mankind’s dream” is in the hands of a child who won’t share.  I can understand the doctor’s reaction to some extent, but only to an extent.

Chapter 116 The Trap of Dr. Moreau begins with Dr. Moreau trashing his laboratory, and his creations to date, declaring them to be “trash” and “failures”.  Dr. Moreau believes that the Welcome Robot should belong to all mankind, and that it is his right to disassemble her.

At the temple the Welcome Robot and Banpei are playing combat tag whilst Dr Moreau hides in the bushes.  He observes the Welcome Robot switch Banpei off but is caught by Belldandy.

Skuld is distracted by an advertisement for cheap parts and rides off on Banpei. Dr Moreau then sends the Welcome Robot a ransom note for her “boyfriend” Banpei [8]. Despite angrily denying it, and insisting that she’s only doing it because Skuld might be in danger, the Welcome Robot walks straight into Dr. Moreau’s trap.

Faced with no alternative [9] the Welcome Robot yells for Banpei to help her.

Chapter 117 Person or Machine? recaps the Welcome Robot’s call for help as an irritated Skuld returns to the temple [10]. Banpei’s reaction to hearing the Welcome Robot’s call for help has to be seen to be believed but seems to be based on Maxims 6 and 34.

Keiichi is working on a motorbike at Whirlwind as Belldandy looks on. The conversation turns to whether Banpei and the Welcome Robot are alive, and if so what is the difference between the robots and the motorbike.  For Belldandy it is a matter of being able to do things of your own will, and to be willing to fight for the right to life. The conversation is interrupted by a customer wanting a flat tyre fixed, and then by Banpei flying by.  Keiichi and Belldandy set off in pursuit towards the campus.

The Welcome Robot is stalling for time but runs into Dr. Moreau’s belief that she isn’t alive.

This chapter flows remarkably well; it is mostly sustained by the pacing and the artwork [11].  This is just as well as otherwise the reader might wonder how the Welcome Robot could be so easily suckered by Dr Moreau.  However I’ll give this a pass on the grounds that neither the Welcome Robot nor her creator is all that experienced, and wisdom is something that comes with time. That we don’t see Skuld at all after this point in the story is harder to explain; apparently Skuld just stayed at the temple and waited.

Chapter 118 The Sign of Life starts with Dr Moreau beginning to dismantle the Welcome Robot from the feet up [12]. The Welcome Robot’s faith in Banpei’s imminent arrival is nice to see and builds nicely on Almost My Hero [13].

Banpei’s arrival is nearly undone by Dr Moreau using his prior intelligence to switch him off.  However in the confusion the Welcome Robot manages to set off some of the smoke bombs Banpei brought with him, reattach her hands, and together they turn the tables on Dr Moreau.  This could very nearly have been a (robotic) “Damsel in Distress” story, but Fujishima neatly inverts it into a partnership.

The cherry on top is the belated attempt by Dr. Moreau to invoke the three laws of Robotics as an unimpressed Welcome Robot oh so sweetly [14] informs him that she’s never heard of them…

The doctor hasn’t actually been hurt when Belldandy and Keiichi arrive, and it is left to Belldandy to remind the doctor that there are no shortcuts to dreams.  That he has to solve the problem without stealing.

The chapter ends with Belldandy asking the Welcome Robot if she will accept a name from Belldandy.  Although uncertain I think it is clear that the Welcome Robot accepts the name of Sigel, the rune for the sign of life. This is a nice touch to wrap up this storyline.

This story is perhaps a touch long, but forgiveably so as it fits within a single volume. It flows well enough and finally establishes Sigel as a permanent feature of the temple.  I do like the references to previous continuity throughout, as well as the robots working together to fight for their right to life.  Overall this is one of the better multi chapter stories so far.

Chapter 119 Let’s Elect the New Director is the start of another multichapter story, but one that I’ll have to wait to see the ending of.  This story is another piece of developing continuity in that whilst Keiichi is working at Whirlwind he is still the director of the Motor Club [15].

He is reminded of this when Sora appears at Whirlwind to get him to approve the finance report to be submitted to the student affairs office. Keiichi promptly appoints Sora as the director only to meet with resistance from the other members, and Sora.  However after several random selection methods all point to Sora, Belldandy describes Sora’s appointment as being the “will of the universe”.

Sora is still reluctant when Chihiro intervenes: according to the club regulations [16] Sora can only refuse if she wins a race against the Director.  There is a lovely moment here when Sora grows a spine and takes up the challenge.  Chihiro intervenes further to put Belldandy on Sora’s team, which meets with the full approval of Belldandy.

I really like this touch, especially as a reminder that racing is something that is best done for fun.  Were it not for this opportunity Belldandy might not have had a chance to race against Keiichi for fun, and her enthusiasm is entirely justified.

Chapter 120 Race Rules continues Chihiro’s highly amusing meddling [17] to choose go-karts as a vehicle that even Sora should be able to handle.  It is also nice to see that both Keiichi and Belldandy are looking forward to racing against each other.

Returning to Whirlwind reveals some hidden depths to Sora: she knows every short cut through the campus, when they open or close, and whether they are, ah, gender limited. Keiichi is impressed, and thinks that this curiosity will serve Sora well as director.

Chihiro is still meddling and organises for Sora to have extra practice time whilst stranding Keiichi at work. Sora’s practice does not go well, and this dents what little confidence she has.

The chapter, and the volume, end with a racing suited Belldandy saying that she’s ready to ride with Sora now.  This isn’t a cliff hanger as such, but it is frustrating to know that it will be some time before I see the next volume.

I’m hopeful that the remaining chapters of this story will develop Sora’s character, and make her legitimately the director of the Motor Club.

I found this volume to be a lot of fun, with Sigel fighting for her freedom and name being the highlight.  As always it was good to see so much of this volume build on events from previous volumes.

And, in a shameless and probably pointless personal plug, if you’ve enjoyed this post:

People's Choice Award

[1] Yes that was a plug.  I’ve been dealing with Slow Glass Books for over 20 years, and thoroughly recommend them.

[2] I do wonder though if Skuld should have done this, or if this was a subtle comment on Skuld not being mature enough to see the need.

[3] Which only raises the question of why hasn’t the relationship moved beyond hand holding yet?

[4] I’m not sure of the delay between serialisation and publication in the tankobon versions, but the latter predated ASIMO by over a year.  At a guess I would say this chapter was written at least two years prior to ASIMO.

[5] Note the qualifier.

[6] In Chihiro’s defence, Dr. Moreau’s writing makes most MD’s prescriptions masterpieces of calligraphy…

[7] She does have a point.

[8] There is truth in madness: although Dr. Moreau doesn’t accept that the Welcome Robot is alive, he nevertheless understands her feelings better than she does.

[9] Dr. Moreau dodged her rocket punches, then cut the strings.  There is one good gag when the Welcome Robot proves that she doesn’t have to say “Rocket Punch” first, she just likes to. 🙂

[10] The ad was from last month.

[11] Even the slow section in the middle with Belldandy and Keiichi chatting flows naturally with the chapter.

[12] This makes sense given his earlier focus on walking.

[13] Chapter 104 in Volume 17.

[14] There’s a  little heart in the voice balloon. Admittedly it doesn’t really go with the smirk.

[15] Tamiya and Otaki “volunteered” Keiichi to be the Director in Chapter 56 It’s Lonely At the Top in Volume 9.

[16] Which, as the founding Director, Chihiro wrote.

[17] Chihiro’s meddling includes making retrospective amendments to the club regulations as the Director Emeritus. To be honest they sound less like rules, and more like guidelines.