Reviewby Carlo Santos, May 13th 2009
Oh My Goddess! (2nd Ed)
Keiichi Morisato got way more than he bargained for when he summoned the goddess Belldandy into his life—nowadays he spends most of his time dealing with Bell, her sisters, their enemies, and all sorts of other magical phenomena. Most recently, a botched spell by the demon Mara has split Urd into her goddess and demon halves, and now Keiichi and the ladies must re-combine her before Urd's bad side goes completely haywire! (Hmm, but what to do with the leftovers after they put her back together?) Then Keiichi's life becomes even more blessed when the goddess Peorth comes to Earth to fulfill his heart's deepest desire. But what if Keiichi can't think of what he wants? As it turns out, Peorth's nonstop attempts to please Keiichi is not so much a blessing as it is a curse...
It's almost a surefire sign of diminishing creative returns: all of a sudden, a major new character shows up in hopes of rejuvenating a flagging series. Not that Oh My Goddess! was in any danger of dying at the 11-volume mark—clearly, it's shown much greater staying power than one could have ever imagined back then—but after Keiichi Morisato's first five years (in real-world time) of fending off supernatural crises, while also maintaining a relationship with a divine being, maybe it was time for something fresh. Well, things couldn't get much fresher than having a brand new goddess show up—but whether she's actually a boon to the franchise seems debatable. Is Peorth a genuine source of new material for the series, or is she just unnecessary character clutter?
Before answering that question, let's look at this volume's first few chapters to see just how things have gone downhill. The thing is, there's no dramatic drop in quality that one can really point to—it's just that Kosuke Fujishima seems to have gone on autopilot mode for the last few story arcs. This one hits all the formulaic checkpoints: Mara is the villain behind it (isn't she always?), the incident has placed one of the goddesses in mortal peril (this time it's Urd, whose part-demon nature is once again cause for concern), and of course it can only be solved through a high-flying, spell-blasting catfight. Oh, and Skuld helps out with another one of her wacky machines. While none of this is outwardly bad, it's just hard to get excited about something that's become overly familiar for the series. Even a post-wrapup chapter starring Banpei-kun feels like an inconsequential one-shot, despite some charming comedy moments.
So here comes Peorth, waltzing in with her sex-kitten swagger, hoping to pleasure Keiichi by any means possible. In one way, it does help to shift the dynamics of the story: finally Urd and Skuld have someone to gang up on rather than fighting amongst each other, and now Keiichi has a new personal annoyance to deal with instead of getting too comfortable with his current living arrangement. Yet Peorth's machinations lead down the same paths this series has trodden before: a bath incident, a bedroom incident, a contest to see which goddess is the most helpful ... the only difference is that now it's Peorth trying to get Keiichi in bed with her instead of, say, Urd trying to get Keiichi in bed with Belldandy. Speaking of which, Belldandy goes MIA yet again, showing up only to provide Keiichi with schmaltzy words of comfort or as eye candy for him to drool over. (She also helps cast some essential spells during the double-Urd crisis). Ultimately, as a romantic comedy, these chapters are about as romantic as doing physics homework.
Despite the lackluster story content, the visuals are still pleasing enough; Fujishima's clean penwork is equally at home with epic spellcasting battles as it is with goddess-induced sitcom slapstick. The artistic highlight of this volume is clearly the Urd-versus-Urd showdown, with its breathlessly paced magical combat and aerial dogfighting maneuvers—and the trick up Skuld's sleeve is perhaps the most visually striking of all. The opening chapters of Peorth story arc, by comparison, aren't nearly as impressive: there's the prologue scene featuring fantastical imagery of Peorth's celestial home, but things quickly slide into the mundane when she starts mincing around performing acts of domestic magic. (It's almost identical to the chores Belldandy does for Keiichi, except ... less successful.) Through it all, however, the character designs remain consistently attractive and the straightforward layouts always make the reading experience a breeze.
A smart, punchy translation also enhances the reading experience: no Goddess volume would be complete without snappy one-liners (mostly between Skuld and Urd, although Keiichi occasionally gets in the game too) to help add some levity to the proceedings. The translators also get a bit creative by converting Peorth's polite, old-fashioned speech patterns into various lapses of French—which is either really cute or really annoying depending on one's viewpoint, but at the very least sets her apart from the other characters. A sprinkling of bonus content also finds its way into this volume, from the color illustrations in the front to the fanart and letters section in the back (and once again Carl Horn provides more fascinating cultural nuggets than any glossary ever could).
If the arrival of Peorth is supposed to signal a dramatic change in the Goddess franchise, well ... the signal is clearly a weak one. In these early chapters, all that Peorth's done so far is repeat the same old supernatural romantic-comedy antics that we're used to. Good intentions gone horribly wrong, botched attempts at activating Keiichi's libido, and Urd and Skuld getting into fights—this is basically everything that's come before, except with an extra character thrown in. And the other story arc that occupies this volume—the finale of a battle for Urd's dual identity—is similarly uninspired. Sure, Kosuke Fujishima can draw pretty, and he can always wring a certain level of humor and action out of any scenario, but when he's so obviously on autopilot like this, it's just disappointing.
Overall : C
Story : D+
Art : B
+ Attractive female characters and a flashy magical battle provide the requisite eye candy.
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