A Look @: Oh My Goddess!, Volume 45


Checking in with Bell and K1

As long as Kosuke Fujishima's most celebrated manga has been running, it wasn't actually around during Benjamin Franklin's time. We can discern this because if it had been, his famous quotation would have stated that the only certainties in life were "death, taxes and Oh My Goddess!" That's how inevitable each new volume feels.

The series has been slogging along for something like 25 years, and though there have been some plot twists here and there, the fundamentals seem set in stone: Keichi and Belldandy love each other, but Bell's two meddling sisters make trouble for them. Keichi and Belldandy love each other, but their relationship will never advance beyond the hand-holding, kindergarten level for some reason; presumably because Fujishima is a pretty classy fellow and has no interest in sullying his premiere series with dirty Goddess/human sex. Keichi and Belldandy love each other, but the plot will never really progress, and so on and so forth.

Or at least, that's what we thought. The last few volumes of OMG! have turned what we thought we knew about this series on its head, and I'm honestly not sure how I feel about it yet.

Belldandy doing her thing

Oh My Goddess! 45

Published by: Dark Horse

Release Date: November 20, 2013

MSRP: $12.99

In what may come as a surprise to readers who haven't touched the series in a while, the last several volumes of OMG! have focused on an almost shonen-style tournament arc, with the Goddesses and Keichi fighting their way through Hell to try to restore its rightful ruler, Hild. Like most arcs of this nature though, it wore out its welcome a while ago and I was looking forward to the story moving on. Well, my wish was sort of granted when the story switched gears to focus on Belldandy and Keichi's "contract:" his original wish for her to stay with him, allllll the way back in Volume 1. It turns out there are a few critical details about the contract that Keichi has not been privy to, and honest-to-a-fault Belldandy has been keeping this information from him.

I won't spoil it by going into exactly what we learn about the contract, but needless to say, after 25 years of thinking we knew how Bell and Kei's contract worked, this is a little hard to digest. To me, it feels like a pretty massive retcon, which is especially shocking in a series that hasn't really had a notable plot twist within the last decade or so. In addition to the new information about the contract, a character who has a very close relationship with Belldandy and Skuld has just been introduced, and I have a really difficult time believing that she never would have been mentioned once in all these years. It feels like Fujishima is getting sloppy with his continuity.

So, retcon bad, lazy continuity bad, right? The thing is, I'm not sure. With a series as old and seemingly set-in-its ways as OMG!, can Fujishima really be faulted for taking some risks during the series' twilight years? After all, I may not entirely approve of the direction of the series, but I'm still writing about OMG!-- something I haven't felt compelled to do in a really long time. And even if the new character that puzzles me really should have come up before, doesn't the fact that we're getting a new character who can interact with the rest of the cast in new and interesting ways cancel that out?

Goddess FIGHT

I guess what I'm wondering is, with a series as long as OMG!, is there a right way to handle it? After all, the most common criticism that the series faces is that it's stale and boring, so mixing things up seems like a wise move. However, after all these years, the people who have stuck with OMG! are those who tend to enjoy the samey-ness of it on a certain level; like a slice-of-life story that just happens to feature Goddesses. Do readers who've been satisfied with years of Bell and Kei just hanging out at the temple really want a tournament arc, or a twist on the entire premise of the series? Or does it just come down to Fujishima keeping it interesting for himself to draw, and it doesn't really matter what the fans want?

This isn't about convincing you to pick up OMG! or not; after all, people who've already bought 44 volumes of this series are probably on board for this one no matter what, and people who haven't been reading it all along certainly aren't going to start with this volume. But the recent changes in this series do make me wonder about the challenges unique to a long-running manga: how much does it need to change to avoid the criticism of being stale, and at what point does that become change for the sake of change? Also, is the idea of something being a "retcon" even valid when a series has been going on this long? It's not like we really expected Fujishima to have everything about this series meticulously planned out way back when he started it in 1988, right?

Yeah, um, I don't have answers to these questions. If you need me, I'll be sitting in a corner, praying to Belldandy for guidance.


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Oh My Goddess! reviewed by Karen Mead


Karen Mead
Karen MeadContributor   gamer profile

Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more + disclosures



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