By Kosuke Fujishima. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Dark Horse.
It's interesting to go back and read these early volumes of Oh My Goddess, if only to see what hasn't changed. The cast has graduated, and as a result has shrunk, but by this volume everyone was essentially in place, and Belldandy and Keiichi were firmly entrenched in their loving yet utterly chaste relationship. Likewise, Dark Horse has unflipped the art and put the TPB in the correct chapter order, but the translation is, I believe, still the same one from their old version. Not that there was much that needed to be changed - Studio Proteus are excellent.
The first part of this volume finished off the Queen Sayoko arc. I found this most interesting for Sayoko herself, who tries hard to be the villain of the whole thing but just isn't nasty enough. This has been the case through the series, as she and her cousin Aoshima try to break up Bell and K1. She tries to do it through honest (mostly) means of seduction, though, wanting to lord it over Belldandy that she's better rather than for any desire for Keiichi (though she does get why he's a chick magnet). Aoshima, by contrast, tries to date rape Belldandy. Not in the same league. So in this volume, with Mara giving Sayoko powers over reality, Sayoko finds that 'victory is boring'. After having Belldandy bow before her, clean the floors, tell stupid jokes... what more is there to do? She could tell her to break up with Keiichi, but she's not going to use force or compulsion. I admire that in a villain. Of course, this is her final stand - she's one of the cast who disappear once everyone graduates.
The second part of the volume features Keiichi's sister Megumi, a favorite of mine for some time, and her race with the so-called "Queen of Nekomi Tech", a female motorcycle rider who enjoys trouncing students who are late, or nearly late, for class. As I've mentioned before, this is a manga about motorcycles that happens to have some goddesses as supporting players, so these chapters are lovingly detailed bike porn. "You got *Showa* titanium shocks on the front and a *quantum* gas cart for the rear mono! *Brembo* magnesium racing brakes! Hey, is that swing arm magnesium too?" This chapter also gives us a change to see K1 and Bell riding as a motorcycle with sidecar team, and we see that this is basically what they replace sex with. They are so perfectly in sync that it's mind-numbing, and get a beautiful double-page spread. In the end, the Queen surrenders and gives Megumi her title... which is ironic, as in OMG 35, the newest release over here, Megumi is finding that title leading to nothing but heartbreak.
The remainder of the volume deals with Skuld and her angel angst (she's still pretty bratty here), as well as Urd's own discomfort with her half-demon self (which will pretty much be a major plot point in many volumes to come). The final part has the dumbest premise (Belldandy, who can drink gallons of sake and not notice, gets drunk on Coca-Cola and goes around using her powers on everyone), but has the typical sweet romantic ending, where a creepy guy asking her to sleep with him, and she comes out of the drunk coma enough to note that she can't as she's in love with Keiichi. I go on a lot about how frustrating this couple is, and why they haven't progressed. The frustration wouldn't be there without these scenes that show what a fantastic love exists between the two of them, though. They're both fairly idealized, but you just love seeing them in love.
Oh My Goddess has long been a success here, and recent sales figures courtesy Matt Blind at Rocket Bomber show that its sales are consistent and decent, even after 35 volumes and a complete reprint of 1-20 with unflipped art. That's impressive, and reminds you that the series can still be worth it for fans, despite the frustrations.