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Oh My Goddess! Novel: First End Review

Novel: Oh My Goddess! First End

Based on: Oh My Goddess! franchise

Creative Talent: Written by Yumi Tohma. Illustrations by Kosuke Fujishima and Hidenori Matsubara

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics, 2007

Read it if you like: ONLY Oh My Goddess (Else you’ll have a hard time appreciating it)

So incredibly pretty!

It’s a typical day for a mortal man living with his divine girlfriend and her crazy sisters until it all goes horribly wrong. Based on the pre-existing cannon of events and characters in the Oh My Goddess! universe, First End is the first novel in the franchise, equipped with a brand new storyline. The plot (as much as I can say without revealing spoilers) involves our favourite mortal in a freak accident that spawns off a disaster of epic proportions. It is discovered that his proximity to the Goddesses has intrinsically linked him to Heaven, and his demise also brings about the demise of the Gods (think Ragnarök, but without the subsequent rebirth). To reverse it, the Goddesses attempt a daring move—resetting Heaven’s supercomputer, Yggdrasil, to a system restore point. Time reverses, and the meeting between First Class Goddess and mortal Keiichi Morisato begins anew.

But sometimes, just like with computers, a system restore doesn’t erase all your sins…

Yes, that's my hand.

Call me desperate but I’ve been trying to get the novel for two years. That’s how much I like Oh My Goddess. It was one of the first series that inspired some of my earlier…and badly-written fanfiction. Created by Kosuke Fujishima in 1988 (also the creator of You’re Under Arrest), it’s expanded into an entire universe of manga, anime, songs and a ton of merchandising. The drawing style is highly-stylised, reminiscent of Art Nouveau, which seeks to mimic the elegance in the natural flow of elements. Particular attention is paid to the drawing of hair, clothes, geometrical structures and even miniscule parts of machinery that we readers usually wouldn’t pay too much attention to.

Note how complicated and carefully drawn the hair is?

Judging the book by the cover, the cover art promises quintessential Fujishima. Unlike previous adaptations, First End only has illustrated contributions from Fujishima-Sensei, but also contains an afterword from him. The six-chapter novel is written by Yumi Tohma, who voiced the character of the mischievous Goddess Urd throughout all animated adaptations. That alone gave me some faith that the novel would be an interesting read, although I was cautioned that it was her first writing experience. I began reading…

…and that’s when my enthusiasm came to a screeching halt.

The plot is intriguing. It goes bang into a life-altering situation which requires immediate divine intervention, and then cleverly brings the readers back to the start of the entire Oh My Goddess manga. Long-time fans are brought right back to familiar ground, with enough deviations from the original story to keep things fresh. Based on the characters and the events described, and also the published date, the novel appears to be set between Volumes 31 to 33. Two-thirds of the book is devoted to an altered retelling of the manga series before it comes to a plot twist that spins the entire books and the Oh My Goddess! universe on its axis.

Some of the Oh So Pretty! illustrations in the novel

The writing, however, is far from intriguing. In terms of descriptions, writing style and story flow, it’s woefully subpar. It’s akin to amateur fanfiction (no offense to fanfiction writers, I’ve read some amazing, publishable stories before). I did consult a friend who reads both Japanese and English light novels, to understand if it’s a matter of poor translation or pre-existing issues with the writing. I judge it to how I cringe when listening to anime dubbed over other languages.

From the novel lent to me (Blood+), I observed that the writing style and use of adjectives were equally simplistic. From my understanding, it’s easier to stick to the basic translation than exercise much creativity, for fear of bastardising the original text.

Translation aside, it doesn’t detract from the larger issue that Tohma-san isn’t a seasoned writer. The plot has potential; it stays true to the developed characters and environment. One issue that stand out is the heavy focus on conversation. It certainly gets an A+ in clichés. There is such a thing as over-describing eye and hair colour, of “hair dancing lightly in the wind” and written sound effects. We can admire these intricacies when they’re drawn out in manga, but when written out, it becomes horribly tedious.

The flow of the story is inconsistent as well. It goes from drawn-out mundane to breakneck choppy in a matter of sentences. You’re never quite sure whether to roll your eyes or wince. Having read the manga, it’s plain to see that Tohma-san draw her inspiration from Fujishima-Sensei’s storytelling style. She tries hard to marry the technical and mythical aspects that Fujishima-Sensei pioneered in Oh My Goddess. However, she also seems to forget that the idiom “a picture paints a thousand words” and a novel requires those thousand more words to make sense. A beautifully drawn geometrical shape requires only one panel to awe; a novel needs several sentences, if not paragraphs.

A manga can describe and contain so many scenes and actions at once.

Either way, fans of Oh My Goddess will definitely appreciate this new addition to the franchise. It’s a bold attempt at creating a new storyline, and I do applaud Tohma-san for trying. If you read it a little closer, you’ll also notice that it’s actually an ode to Urd, and how she typically works in the background but lets her sisters take the limelight. Sadly, the writing doesn’t do the plot much justice, which already has a bang-up kicker of a plot twist—the idea of establishing a system restore point to revert history is already, by itself, an intriguing take on time travel. With the way it is, the novel could have easily have been a transcript of a manga chapter. In fact, the next best thing would be to hope for a complete illustrated adaption of the novel, which would surely be enjoyed by old fans and new readers alike.

Oh My Goddess manga credit to: Goddess Miyaku Team

Written by Edmund

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