Oh My Goddess: First End

1st August 2009 – 3.22 pm

Oh My Goddess: First End is the first novel based on the Oh! My Goddess! Japanese manga creations of Kosuke Fujishima. The novel is written by Yumi Tohma, the actress who voices the character of Urd in the animated series and who has enjoyed an affinity with the characters and series for many years. As the title vaguely suggests, the plot of First End sees the potential end of the enduring relationship between Belldandy and Keiichi, a dramatic accident pulling the couple, and their families, apart. Being almighty goddesses, the trio of sisters try to resolve the situation and ensure it doesn't occur again, working to achieve continued happiness and harmony for everyone involved as well as the interconnected worlds of Earth and Yggdrasil.

The plot of the book could be viewed as fashionable, as it features what amounts to a 'reboot' of the series. Whether this is intentionally riding the wave of current trends or merely a mechanism to create a separate continuity for further stories is ultimately immaterial. That the author feels a need to erase the history of the series, either to start anew with little canon to be burdened with or purely for dramatic purposes, seems to point to a lack of originality, which is unfortunate considering the intimate knowledge the author otherwise clearly shows.

Although easy to read, the writing style is overly simplistic. Many are the moments where 'just then' or 'suddenly' events occur, when less urgent descriptions would have sufficed, and more descriptive text would have been a blessing instead of the myriad times a character is given dialogue such as '...' or, on one occasion, '~~~~~~!!!' Reading the book comes across more as reading a transcription of a comic book or animated series rather than a novel, which suffers from offering too shallow an insight in to the characters and situation. However, the style manages to capture the spirit of the comic series effectively with no danger of being too dry or complicated, offering the reader plenty of opportunities to create associations between the text and mentally visualised comic panels.

There is also a preponderance to use adjectives, perhaps in an effort to compensate for the lack of background detail, but unfortunately only a handful of nouns are modified by the same adjectives. If you don't know that Belldandy has 'chestnut hair' or 'lavender eyes' at the start of the book you certainly will by the end to the point of being fed up of the reminders, which is a pity if only because a change of hair colour is of minor significance only after her normal colour has been repeated too often. There is also a curious idea that Skuld bursts in to tears at the drop of a hat, where I hold the impression that she is a more resilient character normally, but maybe that is a discrepancy between the comic and the animation series.

But an Oh! My Goddess! novel was never going to be high art or deeply thought provoking. The comic has always been a sentimental and wistful romantic comedy, brimming with positivity and kindness, and it is this heartfelt passion and good-natured devotion to man, machine and nature that has made the comic my favourite for many years. I have faithfully collected the Dark Horse Comics series from the first issue, enchanted by the goddesses and their life-affirming spirit ever since. I even wrote, and got published, a letter to the editor one month. Hence the novel being an irresistable read despite suspecting it not to be particularly challenging.

As already mentioned, the author clearly has an affinity with all of the characters and writes about them and their situations with an obvious love for what happens to everyone involved. The writing style may be quite superficial and the story less than challenging but for a fan like myself it is still a wonderful pleasure to follow Keiichi and the goddesses through their lives, their good times and troubles, and to feel their excitement and dedication to each other. The world always feels a better, more hopeful place when I am reading about Belldandy and her sisters.

Even with an obvious bias towards wanting and managing to like this novel, despite its deficiencies, I can't help but be disappointed with the ending. The plot that drives the reboot of Keiichi's world and the events that occur subsequently lead to interesting challenges to all involved, but ultimately there is no resolution. The author may believe the ending to be open or ambiguous but effectively no change is affected, she appears to be written in to a corner. Worst of all, there is ultimately no character progression, arguably only regression.

However, even with its lack of substance as a novel proper and disappointing ending there is plenty to be enjoyed in First End for an Oh! My Goddess! fan. Plenty of characters make an appearance and are presented with the warmth and affection only someone intimately familiar with each of them could produce. The minor stories are quite touching, being both suitably romantic and occasionally comedic, with an overall strand holding the individual episodes together well. Although the writing style reads more like a textual comic it easily retains the spirit of the series and enables a fluid transition from comic to novel.

Whilst Oh My Goddess: First End would not appeal to most people, for all its flaws I would still recommend it to fans, and I will probably buy further novels in the series. It may not have quite the appeal of the comic books, but the spirit and verve of the characters and world they live in is too irresistable for a romantic like myself. I relish being continually drawn in to the lives of the goddesses, if only to look for personal inspiration, and the book succeeds in instilling a similar sensation.

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