The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

The World God Only Knows

Title: The World God Only Knows aka Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: Manglobe
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 25 Sep 2010 – 22 Dec 2010

Synopsis: In real life Katsuragi Keima is a belligerent student who plays games all day in class and is derided by his classmates. In the online community he is the Capturing God, a man who can capture any girl’s heart… in a game. Rejecting the inferior 3D girl, Keima devotes himself to his 2D heroines and provides advice to all mortals who struggle to capture dating sim girls. So when he is challenged to capture a certain girl, he accepts, only to be confronted by a devil who needs him to capture a 3D girl, or have his head cut off.

The Highlights
Characters: Purposeful caricatures that sometimes leave something to be desired.
Pacing: Arcs are painfully rushed or boringly long; few survive intact.
Ending: Does not exist, thanks to season 2.
Soundtrack: Bombastic and colorful.
Episode 4: Amusing for its surreal nature.

When an anime references the tropes it’s been built on nowadays, nobody bats an eye. The genre of meta comedy is overflowing with attempts at witty commentary and knowing application of ideas seen all too often. With this in mind, the approach The World God Only Knows takes can be considered the logical conclusion of this, as there is something deliciously meta about an anime protagonist chasing girls with only his knowledge of dating sims. It’s a potential breeding ground for parody, deconstruction, or subversion, letting the show play with the already solidified expectations of the intended audience. Unfortunately, its execution greatly hinders this aim, making it fall short of its mark.

The most problematic aspect of The World God Only Knows is that it’s beleaguered from the beginning by its protagonist. Keima is introduced as an intelligent individual who is nevertheless severely misguided on his view of reality. His character is the perfect archetype for the show, but his depiction sometimes conflicts with his expected personality. Blushing stammers and uncertainty in his attitude create a jarring contrast with the over the top reactions during most other parts of show, resulting in a weak impression on the audience when they should be expecting an unwavering idealist. This uncertain portrayal also creeps into the heroine of each arc, which at times struggles with maintaining the girl in an archetypical state. It strives to exact a balance between not being boring and restricting development to maintain linearity, but it often fails, giving the characters too little or too much investment from the audience than is helpful.

The characters are hardly helped by the pacing, which allocates different times to each heroine’s story. The first two arcs run far too short, clocking in at one episode and one and a half respectively. This impedes the buildup of expectation the show wants by resolving the conflict too quickly, robbing one of any significant exploration of the character. In an ironic twist, the next arc paces itself too slowly, which tires the audience with a foregone conclusion and extraneous details. The show does slightly redeem itself by finding the correct pacing in the final arc and playing out the logical conclusion in a well timed manner, but then brings the entire season’s pacing into question when the episode count leaves a filler episode at the end. Just as annoying is the lack of closure in that episode, which clearly points to the coming of season two.

This is not to say that these failings severely cripple the show; it merely stunts the potential to be good. The characters still present themselves in a charming manner true to their archetypes, and the show succeeds in at least driving the meta expectations in the right direction. Likewise, certain aspects beyond the main plot and characters supplement the show greatly, even if they’re only tangentially related. The soundtrack stands out throughout each episode, adding a colorful layer to many a scene. A couple of filler episodes also exceed their plot centric brethren. Most entertaining of these, and perhaps most surreal, is episode four, which takes an absurd idea to even greater lengths than I thought possible. The rest of the show may have something to learn from the execution of that one episode.

To an extent, The World God Only Knows fails in its ability to capitalize on the qualities of animation. In a medium where character qualities are vocally expressed and the tape simply keeps rolling, there is no buffer for incongruence in character or uncertainty in length and pacing. The show may have presented itself as a playful meta series, but its shortcomings means it comes out merely a little charming, and nothing more.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Elineas

Top of page