Volume 23 Cover: Belldandy and Holy Bell

Volume 23 of Oh My Goddess! completely changes the pace from Volume 22, but does so in a highly entertaining manner.  The focus is on Keiichi’s parents who are… interesting.

The cover art of Belldandy and Holy Bell is just so pretty! 🙂  I hope the photo turns out well enough for people to appreciate it.

Chapter 142 Bell and Keiichi and the Terrible Guest begins with the running gag of Megumi bearing bad tidings to Whirlwind before being distracted by one of Belldandy’s desserts [1].

As a result Keima arrives before Keiichi can do anything and is immediately revealed as a fascinating character.  In just a few pages it is revealed that Keima can’t handle women (Megumi and Takano excepted), that he believes titles like “Mother” and “Father” are job descriptions that denigrate the individual, and that he is an incredible mechanic and rider.  The latter isn’t really a surprise given the skills displayed by both Keiichi and Megumi in previous chapters [2].

For what is essentially an introduction and set up, Bell and Keiichi and the Terrible Guest is quite a lot of fun, and does succeed in establishing Keima as an interesting if flawed person.

Chapter 143 Dad on the Run continues in the same vein until two of the elements introduced in the previous chapter are triggered.  The first is when Keima’s machine work so impresses Chihiro that she’s slaps him on the back: trigger Keima in mad panic and flight.

The chase scene is well done, and emphasises that Keima is the source of Keiichi’s skills.  Belldandy spots the similarities immediately and thinks that Keima’s riding is beautiful to behold.  The artwork doesn’t quite match Belldandy’s reaction, but it is close.

The second piece of triggering is Megumi and Keiichi resorting to desperate measures to stop Keima since they can’t catch him.  With a little magical help from Belldandy to make sure that Keima hears it, Keiichi calls out the forbidden “Father”.  This works like a charm to bring Keima back, but also earns Keiichi a dope slap.

Chapter 144 Garden of the Goddesses and the next chapter shows what happens when you mix an unsuspecting Keima with Sigel, Banpei, hundreds of mini Banpeis [3], Urd, Skuld, and Peorth.

In short: mayhem and hilarity ensues, emphasis on the mayhem.

It starts with Keima arriving at the temple to meet a suspicious Sigel who hasn’t forgiven, or forgotten, being disabled by a magnetic storm when Hild arrived in Chapter 135 She’s A Devil Woman [4].   That starts the mayhem rolling, only Keima is more than capable of taking care of himself against Sigel. The chapter ends with a very angry Banpei appearing surrounded by hundreds of minis.

Chapter 145 Dad in Hell gets straight into the fun and games, with the minis escalating to an indiscriminate attack mode once Keima succeeds in deactivating Banpei.  The tipping point is Peorth and Urd threatening to teleport out to reactivate Banpei.

Unfortunately Skuld can’t teleport without water, panics, and hugs an already nervous Keima.

At this point there is a discretion cut to Keiichi, Belldandy, and Megumi arriving home to survey the damage.  This is nicely done, and the resulting noodle incident is probably better than any rendition of the mayhem could have been.

The chapter ends with Keiichi explaining Keima’s problems and asking the other goddesses to give him some space.  Alas it looks like a competition to cure Keima may be on the cards.

Chapter 146 Moment of Decision begins with a lovely dream sequence: Keima hears Belldandy singing in a pastoral scene.  There are wings and feathers etc before Keima wakes in the temple to hear Belldandy singing for real. This naturally leads into a discussion between Keima and Belldandy about Belldandy’s relationship with Keiichi.

I’m not going to spoil the content of this discussion, suffice it to say that it is sweet and entirely consistent with what has gone before.

Leaving some sight gags with the other goddesses out, the next major part of this chapter is the arrival of Takano during this conversation.  There is an interesting symmetry here: Keima deals with Belldandy, and Takano deals with Keiichi.  Takano is rather less willing to take Keiichi’s word for it however, and challenges him to race Keima.

There is one comment I want to make about Fujishima’s artwork here: he doesn’t know how to draw older women.  He isn’t the only artist with this problem, the whole Hot Shounen Mom trope is made of this failing in anime and manga.

However it really stands out in these chapters because of the contrast between Keima and Takano.  Keima looks old enough to be Keiichi and Megumi’s father, Takano doesn’t look old enough to be their mother.

That said I do like this chapter, it works well and gives a few insights into the depths of Belldandy’s and Keima’s characters.

Chapter 147 Mother’s Battle, Father’s Battle sets up the race and a sidebet between Belldandy and Takano.

I have, on occasion, been known to complain about infodumps.  The adaptation of Keiichi’s bike for the race is a near perfect example of how things should be done.  Keima, Megumi, and Keiichi simply work smoothly together to remove the sidecar, adjust the suspension, etc, etc.  The way this is done says more about the closeness of the family than almost anything I could have imagined.  It is simply a beautiful piece of character work on Fujishima’s part.  There are also some really funny bits in here, so these few pages have to be some of the best in the series.

The sidebet between Takano and Belldandy is about Belldandy telling Takano the truth about who the goddesses really are or Takano telling Belldandy how she and Keima first met.  Once this is settled Keiichi and Keima set off for the Inokuradai Pass for the race.

The chapter ends with Takano messing with the TV, which triggers the competitive aspects of the other goddesses.  Takano promptly challenges Urd, Skuld, and Peorth to mah-jong.

There is apparently [5] a social class joke here in that mah-jong is (or was) seen as a lower class/masculine game that respectable mothers wouldn’t teach their daughters.  This ties into the Keiichi’s family being based in Hokkaido, and also into the “rural” accent that shows up in Takano’s voice balloons in the Dark Horse translation.  I presume that there was some source material to inspire this. The goddesses are, by definition, upper class and thus have to be taught how to play by Takano

This also distracts the other goddesses to prevent them from meddling in the race [6], and also gives Belldandy time to send a mini-avatar to accompany Keiichi.

This is a fun chapter overall, and further delves into the characters making up Keiichi’s family.

Chapter 148 Let’s Dance is the first part of the race.  Buried in the scenes of the bikes racing through the Inokuradai Pass is a lot of really nice character work.

First up is Keima realising just how much Keiichi has improved and deciding to go all out in this race. Keiichi has never beaten Keima, but Keima has also been holding back until Keiichi can match him.

Second is the conversation between Keiichi and the mini-Belldandy sitting on his shoulder about his faith in her, in his own abilities, and his knowledge of the Inokuradai Pass (which Keima has never ridden before, and the race is also taking place at night).

Third and last is Belldandy’s admiration of both Keima and Keiichi’s beautiful riding: to Belldandy it is as if they are dancing, and it is lovely.

Alas that’s where the volume ends.

Overall this is quite a fun volume, and I’m looking forward to Volume 24.

[1] In Megumi’s defence I’d be easily distracted by one of Belldandy’s desserts too.

[2] See any of the previous Motor Club arcs for Keiichi’s skills, and Chapter 86 Megumi vs. The Queen in Volume 15 for Megumi’s skills.

[3] And where did the mini-Banpeis come from? I don’t recall seeing them before.

[4] See Volume 21 in the related posts below. Although I do wonder if this is a retrospective continuity justification.

[5] According to the liner notes at any rate

[6] However much she may not want to admit it in other areas, Skuld is as unashamedly on Keiichi’s side here.  Peorth and Urd are no less one-eyed on this topic.