No matter how much I look at it, I can’t unsee Keima as Austin Powers
What They Say:
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
There were no notable errors in video or audio quality throughout the series in either language, whilst the subtitles are clear and easy to read. They also provided both English and Japanese subtitles for the various insert songs in some of the episodes, which is a nice addition.
The menu design for The World God Only Knows (which I shall henceforth be abbreviating to TWGOK) is relatively simplistic, with static images and a short loop of the opening theme playing over the top. The first disc includes options to play all the episodes, episode selection and setup, whilst the second disc holds the series’ extras as well. The main title screen is very, er… pink, and features a key visual of Keima, Elcie and the four girls which the arcs in the series focus on, whilst the episode and extras selection screens feature images of Keima and Elcie. Setup is a little different with an image of Kanon, but her character fits with the idea of a setup screen, something which may or may not have been intentional. Unlike the main menu screen, the sub-menus are all silent. Unlike most episode selection screens that feature relevant images for each choice, TWGOK’s just has episode titles. Setup has only two options, for English or Japanese 2.0, whilst the extras menu contains links for textless openings, endings and music videos. It would be nice to have access to individual sections for the endings and music videos as each option contains multiple clips, but it is not present here, forcing you to skip through the rest of the video if you’re trying to watch a certain clip. Not a major issue, but something which would have made navigation easier.
TWGOK features the barebones textless opening and ending extras that most releases have, plus music videos for the insert songs performed during Kanon’s character arc. The opening theme is God Only Knows by ELISA (under the collective of Oratorio the World God Only Knows), whilst all three ending themes are included, those being Koi no Shirushi as the default theme (although the song is sung by the arc specific character’s voice actress for each respective arc, and my ears aren’t good enough to work out which version is in this video) and Tatta Ichi Do no Kisei and Suuseki Kairo no Yume Tabibito as episode specific themes. The music videos feature multiple songs by in-series idol character Kanon Nakagawa set to clips from the show, covering All 4 You, Love Kanon, Happy Crescent and Love Call. Whilst it’s a nice idea, the execution isn’t that good and generally consists of various segments from the Kanon character arc thrown together with the music over the top. This would be OK if that’s what they actually did, though, but instead they also leave in various discussions between Keima and Elcie during the supposed music videos. They’re less music videos and more just ‘all the parts that have Kanon singing whether she’s the focus or not from the show, in one 12 minute clip’, making it a bit redundant.
The World God Only Knows (TWGOK) is an interesting little idea for a series. Keima Katsuragi is the world’s most successful man in existence at winning a girl’s heart, with thousands already falling to his charms… but only in dating sims. In real life he has no friends, has never spoken with a girl and is generally seen as a social outcast, but his ability to complete and conquer the girls of videogames is unparalleled. This misunderstanding leads to the setup of the series, where a demon called Elcie de Lute Irma has just been promoted to the status of ‘Loose Soul Collector’, a job which involves going to the human world and capturing spirits which have escaped into human hosts. As the most common location for these spirits to hide is within the emptiness of young girls’ hearts, the only way to get them out again is to fill in that hole with love. Keima’s reputation as the ‘god of conquering’ gets him targeted for the best possible aide for getting girls to fall in love with him, making a life-or-death contract form between him and Elcie until enough loose souls are captured. Once Elcie finds out that he actually has no idea how to fall in love with REAL girls, she finds herself in a predicament. Eventually she convinces him to go along with the plan, as much as he doesn’t really want to. Somehow this ends up with her also convincing his mother that she’s the illegitimate lovechild of her husband and as such, Keima’s sister, allowing her to not only live in the same house but also transfer into his class at school.
The series, aside from the initial setup and a couple of standalone episodes, follows an arc structure similar to those seen in harem shows, wherein Keima is tasked with winning a specific girl’s affection. Of course, he uses the tactics, techniques and knowledge he’s learnt in countless dating sims to do this and, somehow, manages to succeed in the end. As such, each of the girls fits into a general character archetype you might expect to see in a dating sim; the sporty track team member, the rich-bitch tsundere complete with twintails, an idol with deep set emotional issues and a shy librarian who just wants to be left alone with her books. As basic archetypes it allows for the series to get right into the process of winning their hearts as the basic traits are already set in stone, something which could be considered a flaw if it wasn’t obviously intentional. Whilst the setup and ideas are crazy and may initially seem a little hollow, the series backs it up with the banter between Keima and Elcie and some light-hearted comedy elements and, thankfully, the humour hits the mark more often than it misses allowing for an entertaining series.
The first couple of arcs are very short, with Ayumi getting only a single episode and Mio only getting two, not really allowing for much development (although I have heard that the girls make future appearances beyond this series) whilst Kanon and Shiori get a little extra time, allowing for more fleshed out story arcs. Kanon’s arc seems like it could’ve been around half an episode shorter if it wasn’t for the countless musical numbers used liberally throughout (I think Happy Crescent is performed around five times throughout her arc?) but it otherwise has a much better structure to the previous two arcs. The Shiori arc is probably the best structured of the lot, developing why she is how she is from her point of view with some rather crazy visual metaphors. Not only does the final arc give some interesting insights into the focal character, but it also contains some of the best dialogue in the entire series coming from both Shiori and Elcie. There’s also a visual metaphor which references Black Jack, which is worth giving credit for. The final climax for the Shiori arc is also by far the most impressive sequence in the series and easily blows the other arc endings away in terms of sheer satisfaction and emotional feedback. Following this is another standalone episode focussing around Keima which has a rather impressive climax and is a good high point to finish on. Keima feels he hasn’t had enough time to game since Elcie arrives, so he essentially ‘powers up’ and plays multiple games at once, simply because he can. It’s completely ridiculous, but it’s rather fun to watch and allows the series to revel in its love of crazy visual metaphors.
As for Keima himself, he doesn’t really develop that much throughout the series. He gets more confident in his ability to handle the situations that come up as the episodes go by, plus the standalone episodes add a little bit more to his personality other than ‘that guy who likes dating sims and always plays them’, but he could still do with a bit of extra work. Elcie is a little better, starting out as a clumsy demon who doesn’t really understand how the human world works; she starts to understand things better as the story progresses, whilst she shows signs of developing feelings for Keima over the duration, hinting at a future romantic interest. Whilst she mentions her sister a few times throughout, she never actually shows up aside from one cameo appearance. From what I know of the second season she does eventually make an appearance, but it would’ve been nice to see her at least once throughout this initial series as there’s obviously a story worth telling there.
As for the aesthetic side of the series, it’s nothing special. The character designs are relatively simple and the backgrounds relatively average for an anime, although the series doesn’t really require much more than is on display. Whilst it doesn’t stand out as being pretty to look out, it also doesn’t stand out as being bad in any way, which is good. It achieves what it needs to achieve. The girls are cute too which, considering the story and themes of the show, is a pretty important aspect to have. Audio wise, it’s also nothing special. The background music is just… there. I never really noticed it and, as a personal fan of soundtracks, that generally means that it isn’t particularly worth noting. Sound effects are relatively basic, although the little floaty sound that plays whenever Elcie flies around is cute, and the ‘Loose Soul Alarm’ sound is great, too. (Uwawawawa~). Kanon’s story arc also has its own insert themes, the songs she performs as an idol. As with the background music and the idea of all the girls being archetypes, the songs themselves are also generic J-pop idol fare: bouncy, happy, singing about love and generally… well, poppy. The somewhat satirical nature of the show makes me think that this may well have been done on purpose, though. As for the opening theme though, it’s actually one of the coolest things about the show. The show edit actually only uses around a minute and a half of the full song, which is over eight minutes and even then, it changes tempo and style at least a couple of times throughout. The aesthetics of the opening video fit the theme really well too with a very technological feel to it all, whilst the choreography is interesting and flows in time with the music. The other thing that makes it stand out is the fact that it’s entirely in English, although it does suffer from the Engrish problem in a few places. Still, it stands out amongst the usual style of anime theme songs as something unique and that alone is an achievement. The main ending theme is less imaginative and memorable than the opening, whilst one of the standalone endings is specifically designed to be generic as a link to the episode it’s used in. The third and final ending theme is used in the last episode and is sung terribly (intentionally) by Keima’s voice actor to humorous effect.
Overall, I think I stand by my opening line for this section. TWGOK is an interesting little idea for a series. It doesn’t always succeed in what it aims to do, but it does try and I can respect it for that. If it had played it straight and tried to take itself seriously then it likely would’ve been a failure, but it knows that. It decided to take a different angle, a little satirical and not afraid to poke fun at itself or the things which it is takes inspiration from. The decision to take that approach allows it to work, it gives it the freedom to mess about, to break the fourth wall and do all manner of silly things, many which are entertaining enough to give the series a shot. Whilst some of the jokes in TWGOK may fall short if you aren’t ‘in the know’, it does have plenty of general humour and charm which allow a larger audience to enjoy it regardless. It certainly could be improved, but I really do wonder sometimes whether some of the flaws it has actually make it a better work overall. Recommended for those who like tongue-in-cheek comedy and a slight touch of romance, such as fans of Kannagi or OreImo (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!)
The World God Only Knows is a fun little escapade with a good sense of humour and the knowledge of when to take itself seriously and when to just mess about, throwing in a spattering of references to other anime and visual novels for those who will get them, but not relying on them and alienating a general audience. It has its flaws for sure; the character development is often lacking, some of the humour falls flat and the aesthetics of the series are generally middling, but when it does things right, it does them well. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but many people who may dismiss it after reading the synopsis would probably find it a nice surprise if they give it a chance.
Japanese 2.0, English 2.0, English subtitles, Textless openings and endings, Music videos.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 8th 2012
Running Time: 325 (Series) 24 (Extras)
23” Samsung HDTV, Creative speakers and Sub, Laptop with HDMI connection.