Sunday, September 8, 2013

MISC. MANGA, *Ah, My Goddess

I've read my fair share of manga over the last few decades, but this was the one that really got me started into not only being an otaku, but a lover of finely-crafted Japanese comics! Kosuke Fujishima created this as a slight spinoff of his You're Under Arrest manga about female police officers where the characters were briefly praying to a goddess. With this in mind, Fujishima took the already cliche premise of a normal guy with a magical girlfriend, but managed to make it one of the most endearing and charming titles in anime and manga.

The manga starts out with college freshmen Keichi stuck at his dorm having to answer phone messages for his gruff upper classmen in the motor club. After unsuccessfully being able to order take out, he accidently contacts the Goddess Helpline. Answering his call is the lovely goddess Belldandy, sent from Heaven to grant him one wish. Keichi jokingly wishes for a goddess like her to be with him forever, and a grand lightshow signifies that his wish is approved. Belldandy is now "bonded" to Keichi, and any attempts to separate them are repelled by the Ultimate Force which twists fate around to keep them together.

Bell and Kei then luckily move to a spacious abandoned temple outside of town after getting kicked out of the dorm. They are later visited by Belldandy's older half-sister Urd, who after using her powers to force some romance between them gets banished to Earth for a time, and ends up moving in with them. Belldandy's younger sister Skuld later moves in alsoi to add to the hysterics. Aside from them, Bell and Kei's relationship is constantly being interrupted by rivals at school, other pesky goddesses, and forces from Hell itself, including Urd's mother Hild who's in charge of all devils. One of the most reoccurring villains is the demon Mara who is an old school rival of Urd's, and is constantly trying to ruin the goddesses' time on Earth.

The manga has been running constantly since 1988 with nearly fifty volumes in print. This has spawned off a 5-episode OVA series in the 90s, a full-length anime movie in 2000, and an anime series involving the Mini-Goddess back-up feature from the manga that ran on an anthology show. A brand new anime series ran in 2005 that retold the origin story but in greater detail than the original OVA, and lasted for two seasons. There have recently also been several OAD shorts offered with volumes of the manga in Japan, but so far nothing in English. The manga was released out in America at first under the title "Oh My Goddess" to make it seem more appealing to western readers, but was later renamed to the original, and also included some of the chapters that were left out of the first printing. There are currently several omnibus editions available through Dark Horse Comics which makes for a great starting point, so give one of them a look.

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