by Carlo Santos,

Oh My Goddess!

GN 25

Oh My Goddess! GN 25
For Keiichi Morisato, sharing a house with four live-in goddesses has been anything but divine. His latest dilemma comes in the form of an invisible monster—an "Eater of Angels" that's been consuming the magic-boosting angels within each goddess! Only Skuld remains safe, because her angel isn't fully formed yet. Meanwhile, the Valkyrie Lind has been sent to Earth to battle the problem, but she's got a crisis of her own to deal with. Demons Mara and Hild think they've finally got the goddesses beat, but axe-wielding Lind still has a secret up her sleeve...

In its almost two decades of existence, Oh My Goddess! has been many things to many people. Which one is your favorite? The sweet romantic comedy between a college guy and the girlfriend he literally wished for? Gearhead fantasies come to life with wacky car and motorbike races? Legends of might and magic as heaven, Earth and the underworld collide in epic battle? If you picked the last one, you're in luck, because this volume is heavy on the goddess-demon fighting action. It's over too quickly, but it's incredible fun watching it go by, and Kosuke Fujishima's florid style does not disappoint when it comes to breaking out the serious sorcery. The real highlight, though, is getting to see some highly unlikely characters wielding that sorcery.

This installment begins mid-story-arc, with Urd already knocked out of commission, and the remaining goddesses on the lookout for the Angel Eater. There's a unique level of tension at this stage in the story, probably the closest that the series ever comes to horror—there's something lurking about the house, and nobody wants to run into it, whatever it is. It's a real page-turner, especially with some genuine shocks in store for those who think Belldandy is immune to all story events. Just when you thought her only role anymore was to smile and say everything's okay, well ... things quickly become not okay. And then they go from not okay to seriously bad, with a shocking revelation from Lind that kicks the story into full action mode.

Now here's where Fujishima's ingenuity shows up: although Keiichi's world has been subjected to demonic attack before, this time the most powerful goddesses have all been rendered powerless, leaving the fight to the underdogs. And what an underdog team it is—the Valkyrie who just showed up last volume, the goddess whose angel hasn't manifested yet, and ... the human. Wow, that's encouraging. Everyone loves a good underdog story, though, and the resulting battle is a beauty to behold, making the next several chapters go by in a flash. Unfortunately, that flash also reveals where this story arc falls short: very few character-building moments, no plot depth, and an emphasis on loud, my-power-can-beat-your-power fight scenes. The plethora of characters makes it even more confusing: five goddesses (some unconscious), two demons, a monster, angels corresponding to each of the goddesses, AND Keiichi with temporary powers. It's a beautiful battle. But it's also a mess.

Perhaps that could be phrased better: the artwork is not a mess, but the staging of the battle is. Fujishima is so committed to creating pretty magical-fantasy pinup pictures that it's hard to see where the characters are in relation to each other, and where they're headed next. (Ultimately, outstretched hands and magical beams solve EVERYTHING.) The true fundamentals, however, are never in question; sharp, precise linework and a strong sense of design dominate on every page. Rectangular panels and two-page spreads are all it takes to create a convincing battle scene, each motion flowing smoothly from one to the next. And those magical-fantasy pinup pictures are admittedly some of the strongest points in the art: sweeps and curlicues of magical energy that are unique to the style of the series. If there are any faults, it's that backgrounds aren't used enough—hence the staging problems—and the character designs for the angels are so look-a-like that Fujishima has apparently run out of girls to draw.

As expected from Dark Horse, this volume has the kind of print and paper quality that is worthy of the series' artwork (although not quite as high-end and costly as the old $15-$18 volumes). The translation is also a first-rate effort, with turns of phrase that really bring out the characters' personalities—it's very easy to imagine, say, Skuld's voice ("Youuuuuuuu idiot!") with its own intonation, quite different from her anime incarnation. One possible cause for complaint, however, comes from the sound effects, which leave no trace of their Japanese origins and are replaced with English effects instead. The resulting alteration still blends decently into the art, though, so it's not a glaring issue unless you're purposely trying to catch it all the time. The back of the book features some fan letters and editor commentary—mostly to say that there aren't any cultural notes this time because it's all just action—and a cute little surprise from the Kodansha main offices.

This volume of Oh My Goddess! is a slight one, over and done in twenty minutes, but it's still an incredible ride along the way. What it lacks in reading time and character depth, it makes up for with visual impressiveness and heart-pounding action. The best part, perhaps, is that you don't get to see the Same Old Overpowered Goddesses stepping into battle—instead it's a showcase for Keiichi and Skuld to prove their own mettle. Lind has some fancy tricks in store too, although it's still too early to see if her role as an eminently equipped Battle Goddess will expand into anything more. All in all, this story arc brings plenty of fear, fun, and excitement—and one hell of a cliffhanger that will leave plenty of readers salivating for Volume 26.

Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : C-
Art : A

+ Beautifully drawn battle scenes and an intense, exciting story pace.
Emphasis on action leaves little time for depth and development.

Story & Art: Kosuke Fujishima

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Oh My Goddess! (manga)

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Oh My Goddess! (GN 25)

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