The World God Only Knows S1 & S2
Dating sim master Keima Katsuragi wants nothing more than to immerse himself in the 2D world, chasing digital girlfriends. But when the so-called "Capturing God" answers a mysterious email from an unknown sender, Keima finds himself chasing down real-life ladies in an attempt to help the peppy demon Elsie de Lute Irma capture "lost souls" escaped from the depths of hell. Now, lest the explosive collar around his neck detonate, Keima must convince various girls to fall in love with him in order to scare out the souls hiding in their hearts.
My goodness, I love that OP...
I might be odd but I've always found romantic shows to be a little bittersweet. Don't get me wrong, I love a moving, sweet romance as much as the next... err... man but it's a sad thing for me that the inevitable other love interest(s) often gets left looking on, lovelorn and lost. "Why can't everyone get the romance they deserve?" I declare naively. Am I wrong to want everyone to get there happy ending? Is there a way? Enter Lovelock Holmes, curer of heartache, the solver of the mysteries of the female heart, or as this show calls him: Keima Katsuragi.
I say that jokingly but it isn't far off - the basic idea is the same. Eccentric galge genius Keima lives to romance the pants off 2D girls to the point that he does little else with his time. Friends? Pah! Real girls? Not a chance. That is until he unwittingly takes up the challenge to turn his years of carefully honed dating sim knowledge to practical use. Sounds stupid, right, but Keima lives in a world where most girls are perceptive twists on traditional dating sim (and by extension, anime) stereotypes that work perfectly into both his mind and skill set.
The funny thing is that this show works. Keima makes a great lead in many ways, his anti-social personality and nonsense opinions make him irritating but he is in no way passive and frequently comes across as driven and sincere, which makes him oddly compelling. Elsie makes a great 'Watson' too: adorably cute and occasionally effective. She provides mostly funny comic relief (fire engines make me smile now) and generally lights up show whenever she is around.
The set-up of the show is equally effective. The various girls that he is required to romance (due to the lost souls that possess them) each get an arc of multiple episodes (meaning they don't feel rushed) and the way they play into anime romance cliches is interesting and entertaining. These arcs only get better as the show progresses and the level of complexity rises. That said these arcs only work because in the majority of cases the girls also pull their narrative weight. The show uses its runtime to effectively characterise each girl and give them a semblance of history and depth. Never did I get the sense that Keima was seducing a plank of wood but always actual, proper characters.
The show looks and sounds good too. Its art is soft and pleasing to the eye and the character designs are universally pretty, unique and colourful. Its animation seems slightly hamstrung by a less than tremendous budget but it does better than most, especially in the opening sequence. The music too, is top quality. The OPs for both seasons are by ELISA and I think they are two of the best OPs I've ever heard, especially the OP for the first season. The actual score for the series is cute and pleasant too, adding a cute and bubbly atmosphere to the show's sweet content.
Despite all that though, my criticisms for The World God Only Knows are harsh ones. First of all, the 'filler' episodes (i.e. the ones not strictly linked to a romance arc) remain best described as hit and miss. Some of them (more particularly in the second season) can be funny and one episode nearly brought me to tears of laughter but mostly I felt myself pining for them to end, get back to the main plot of the show and stop going on about how great the '2D World' is. Even at their best they just, on the whole, do not add anything to the show.
The actual romance arcs have some problems too. Firstly, some of the girls are more interesting than others and if you really like a girl then too bad because the next one is going to turn up in a few episodes time and replace your favourite. That's a flaw in the concept, it's not much that the show could do about it, but the second thing is what really holds this show back. The World God Only Knows isn't very romantic. It really is more like watching a detective show than a romance. Sure, it's interesting and quite often funny but it too rarely delivers the emotional hook that would make the show great and it's not funny enough to make up for that.
That all said, the show is good and it has only been getting better. The first season had less interesting arcs and some boring filler that seriously held it back but the second season upped its game in both departments - delivering in both inconsequential laughs and much more complex and interesting story arcs. If they make more of this, it may well become great at some point but it's not quite there yet. However, it is heading in the right direction.
In reality, it is three and a half stars: three stars for S1 and four for S2. In any case, this is a show I could recommend for anyone looking for something soft, funny and just generally enjoyable to watch without taxing the brain or the senses. Take away a star if you find Keima's anti-social nonsense grating or hate seeing otaku culture idolised so fervently. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: Slapstick violence but this is mostly fine for just about anybody. A teenage audience would probably like it the most.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source.
Review Status: Full (24/24)
The World God Only Knows S1 & S2 © 2010 Tamiki Wakaki / Shogakukan, Kaminomi project, TV
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