The World God Only Knows Complete Season 1 (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 273 minutes approx.
Hell has a problem. A number of evil spirits known as Loose Souls have escaped and made their way to the human world, where they hide inside the holes of the hearts of disillusioned young girls. A ditzy young spirit hunter demon named Elsie has been tasked with capturing these souls but needs some divine assistance. Since the man upstairs obviously won’t be of much help, it befalls upon a different “God” to aid Elsie in her mission.
Step forward Keima Katsuragi, an insular but vastly intelligent schoolboy who eats, sleeps and breathes bishōjo games – dating simulation games. His enviable skill and superior achievements may have earned him the nickname “The God Of Conquests” across the internet, but he has no interest in real life girls at all. Keima receives a mysterious e-mail challenge which he arrogantly accepts, but instead of a new game, he finds he has accepted a contract from Elsie! Backing out on the deal is not an option as the pair are bound by collars which will kill them both if their fail to round up the Loose Souls. With great reluctance Keima sets about using the knowledge and experiences from his games to win the hearts of the girls at his school and free the evil spirits hiding within.
There are some concepts that just shouldn’t work. It might be the all too familiar character outlines, a clichéd plots or the inclusion of a genre, movement, reference point, fad or fetish which is likely to exclude or deter a sizeable portion of the potential audience. Presented with a game playing nerd, a clumsy supernatural heroine and an assortment of production line tropes brought together in the name of forming a romantic connection, there is a huge chance those in possession of Y chromosomes have already run for the hills.
Well, this may surprise you but The World God Only Knows is actually pretty good.
It shouldn’t be but it is. Proof that the sum is greater than its parts, this show takes all those clichés you’ve grown tired of and puts them to good use, keeping its tongue very much in its cheek for the entire ride. Based on the manga from Tamiki Wakaki, there is that ominous feeling that otaku are in for another satirical bashing whilst at the same time this nerdy obsession making Keima an invaluable resource for Elsie, the obligatory cute but clumsy magical girl, in her mission, eventually making a successful team. Wakaki has clearly studied bishōjo games as Keima’s almost encyclopaedic knowledge of them is exceptionally detailed and convincing to this ignoramus reviewer. Two of the filler episodes feature Keima’s devotion to his hobby, both containing observations and information of such intricate depths. However, having declared no interest in real life or 2D girls Keima should be on a hiding to nothing but somehow, his reading of the personalities of the girls he must make fall in love with him is perceptive and with a few tweaks, applying his gaming experiences plays off.
There are just four challenges in this twelve episode set, with the rest of the material being stand alone fillers. First up is Ayumi Takahara, a promising young athlete who suffers from a crisis of confidence prior to an important race; next is Mio Aoyama, a young rich girl who has been abandoned by her father with no money but she continues to create the impression of wealth; Teen idol Kanon Nakagawa is up next, and inexplicably pop music’s hottest new property is also Keima’s classmate. Taking Keima’s ignoring of her personally, Kanon begins to fade away from his life – literally. Finally Keima faces taciturn Shiori Shiomiya, a painfully shy school librarian and book lover who finds it difficult to speak out even in times of crisis.
Having essentially lifted the plot lines from many a bishōjo game as well as a myriad of romance anime, what is there that makes this show so enjoyable? In large it is the intelligence and humanity which is applied to the handling of each of these hackneyed arcs, avoiding the obvious pitfall of false sentimentality and subverting the happy ending by having each girl’s memory wiped once the Loose Soul has left her. And of course, there is the humour. Zany, esoteric, offbeat, irreverent, lampooning, silly, satirical – just a few applicable adjectives one can use for the many humorous antics and asides on display here. With so much going on, the jokes come thick and fast, ranging from acute observations to typically overt over reactions (check out Keima’s mother when Elsie shows up claiming to be her husband’s illegitimate daughter) to silly slapstick. The most abiding factor of the show is the interaction between nominal odd couple Keima and Elsie who make for an enjoyable and quite endearing duo.
With revered titles such as Samurai Champloo and Ergo Proxy to their name, Manglobe deliver a colourful and vibrant show, handling both the humour and the dramatic aspects with equal care and attention. The reproduction of the various games Keima plays are faithful as are the renderings of the many games consoles he plays them on. Aside from the next episode” preview screens and Keima’s mother in the shower, this is a surprisingly fan service light show for one which exploits every female fancy in anime, and quite refreshing this is too.
The World God Only Knows is one of the more pleasant surprises of the year, belying both the tawdry and soppy potential of its central premise to deliver an entertaining and neatly subversive romp. With the chill of the autumn nights now upon us this may be the show to bring a little warmth into your life.
English Language 2.0
Japanese Language 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Ratings – ***
Man In Black