I’m faintly surprised that a franchise as enduring (and endearing) as Oh My Goddess! has never until now received the light-novel treatment, but here we are (well, copyright 2006). What’s most interesting about this spinoff is the pedigree: author Yumi Tohma is none other than the Japanese-language voice actress for the character Urd in the original series. That made me tempted to write this off as a quasi-vanity project, but it’s well-written and suffused with enough love and respect for the series to make me rethink that viewpoint.
The opening chapter gives us the status-quo setting anyone familiar with the show will know instantly: engineering student Keiichi Morisato has three goddesses living with him, denizens of a heaven where God is a sysop and the universe is His computer. Goddess Belldandy is not only bound to him by a contractual wish he made, but the two of them are genuinely in love, which leads to no end of fun and games amongst the rest of the cast. Then (warning! spoilers!) Keiichi is killed in a traffic accident, which causes the balance of things to be thrown off so badly that Belldandy must do a “system restore” — in other words, bring herself and the other goddesses back in time to the moment she and Keiichi first met, and relive their relationship from that point forward.
My first guess involved this being a coy way to replay much of the action of the first couple of volumes of the series from a different POV, or something along those lines. There is an obligatory amount of replay of those first moments — the granting of the wish; Keiichi and Belldandy booted from the men-only dorm; the two (later four) taking up residence in the old temple, etc. But then the plot begins to break away from simply recapitulating all the stuff we’ve already seen, and Belldandy is forced to make yet another leap of faith for the sake of her beloved.
Those of you who think it comes off as a very well-written AU fanfic are not far from the mark: it does have that flavor. It also hews closely enough to the original’s feeling — especially its unshakable conviction in the basic goodness of people — to be an enjoyable bonus for the fans of the series who are its most likely audience. Enjoyable, if hardly essential for the uninitiated.