DRAWN & QUARTERED
COURTESY MEDIA BLASTERS' ANIME WORKS
"Oh My Goddess" is an enduring manga and anime classic.
Classic ‘Oh My Goddess’ manga evolves
Figuring out the origins of a universe can sometimes be a tricky proposition, particularly when the universe is created by Kosuke Fujishima.
No, Fujishima is not a god (except, perhaps, to a few anime and manga fans out there who particularly love his work), but his creation does involve goddesses who complicate a college student's life. The complexity stems from how there are three different U.S. versions of the first manga volume of his story, as well as three different anime versions.
Even the series' translated name has been the subject of many debates. The original Japanese is "Aa! Megami-sama," which means the title technically should be translated as "Ah! My Goddess." That's the name under which Media Blasters' Anime Works imprint is releasing the 2005 anime series.
Yet a case also could be made for the translations of manga publisher Dark Horse and AnimEigo, publisher of the 1993 straight-to-video anime series: "Oh My Goddess," playing off "Oh my God!"
Whichever way one translates it -- here, I refer to it as "OMG" -- this series is one of the enduring classics of anime and manga.
At the core of this story is Keiichi Morisato, a student at the Nekomi Institute of Technology and a lifelong loser with the ladies. One night, after receiving a call for one of his dorm mates, he intends to forward the message but instead misdials the Goddess Help Line. The operator on the other end, the goddess Belldandy, responds to his call and shows up in his dorm room.
Belldandy has the power to grant one wish of anyone who calls upon her. A skeptical Keiichi jokingly wishes she would stay by his side forever.
Bingo! Instant girlfriend.
The transition from being a lifelong loser to a guy who suddenly is the mate of the hottest woman on the planet -- and an obedient goddess, to boot -- doesn't come without a few bumps along the way. Belldandy's naiveté and Keiichi's inability to show his affection for her without makes for many comedic moments.
While the story's basic frame has remained unchanged over the years, the way it has been told has evolved.
Dark Horse Comics first released "OMG" in a monthly comic book format in 1994 and continued to do so until 2004, releasing 112 issues in that format. The art was "flopped" -- that is, flipped to read in the English style of left-to-right instead of the Japanese right-to-left.
The now standard graphic novel format began with the collection "1-555-Goddess" in 1996. But this collection skipped 12 chapters from the original Japanese release, jumping straight from Belldandy's arrival to the introduction of the sultry sexpot goddess Urd, and another two chapters after that.
The missing stories fleshed out the awkward relationship between Belldandy and Keiichi and added more depth to secondary characters who appear throughout the series, making their original omission somewhat puzzling. Fortunately for American readers, Dark Horse later restored the missing chapters over a series of three graphic novels released in 2002.
Early last year, Dark Horse announced that it would be switching publishing formats again. "Sora Unchained," the last of the old-format graphic novels, was given the volume number "19/20," and the next volume, numbered 21 to properly align with the Japanese releases, switched to the new industry standard of smaller pages and art reading in the Japanese right-to-left style.
Perhaps most significantly, a third volume 1 was released, now containing material from the first two second-edition volumes and in the same format as volume 21. The company will alternate between re-releasing the first 20 volumes in the new format and publishing new material.
The advantages that the new editions have are a handful of newly colorized pages, a translation tweaked for accuracy and detailed translation notes at the end of each volume.
Over on the anime front, "OMG" has seen three different adaptations. The 1993 version, a five-episode OAV (original animation video) series, introduces the goddesses Belldandy, Urd and Skuld, then ends quickly with Belldandy's notice recalling her to heaven.
A 26-episode TV series, aired in Japan in 2005, more closely follows the manga's meandering pace and even fleshes out the story in some parts.
And then there's "Adventures of the Mini-Goddess," a spinoff that shrunk Belldandy, Urd and Skuld down to the "handy petite size," or smaller, cuter versions of how they usually look. This collection of 48 five-minute episodes introduces the rat Gan-chan, plays up the "small beings in a big world" aspect and sends them on adventures that otherwise couldn't be done in the context of the original story.