What They Say:
Keima Katsuragi’s skill at winning women’s hearts is so legendary that he’s called The God Of Conquests, but that’s only in dating video games, not the real world. Suddenly, Keima’s life takes a turn for the weird when he answers what he thinks is an online gaming challenge. Instead, he ends up with a demon contract, and now he has to help perky demon hunter Elsie track down a bunch of demons that have escaped from hell! The reason: the demons have hidden themselves within the hearts of a group of random girls, and the only way to get them out is if Keima can make the girls fall in love with him. Also, just to make sure that Keima is properly incentivized, his failure will result in the loss of something important: his head! Hopefully, the tricks Keima’s mastered with virtual girls will work just as well with live ones. Otherwise, things are going to get really messy in the spectacular ultimate collection of THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS!
Audio shines in both Japanese DTS HD Master 2.0 and English DTS HD Master 2.0 at 48kHz and variable bit rate that averages over 2 Mbps. The original recording shines through with excellent Japanese voice acting that shines in the original mix. Music and sound effects also add integral parts to a well thought out soundtrack. I reviewed the show in Japanese audio, but I did check the English audio throughout, and it comes through clear and crisp with good separation.
Mastered in AVC with a variable bit rate that usually appears in the 20-25 Mbps range, but spikes take it over 30. The color palate provides much of the series charm, and balanced colors with focused details enrich environmental shots of students walking outside or the cavernous hollow of an empty library. Good mastering makes the colors pop without any line distractions. Tones and lines hold up well through varied scenes, conversations, action sequences, and when the scene switches different art styles.
Seven discs fit within a double thick Blu-ray case. Six discs fit on either side of three hinged leaves and the final disc fits on a hub on the inside rear cover. Each disc is printed with original art of the girls from the series.
Original art, some used in the packaging, makes up the background of each menu screen. Selection is quick on a small vertical column of episodes, languages, and, when available, special features.
The heart of the extras is music videos featuring scenes with Kanon that extend over 13 minutes. Also included are clean openings and closings for each season, and Sentai Filmworks trailers.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Only a few anime succeed beyond the confines of their genres, but The World God Only Knows creates a universe that feels enriched by the continued story through three seasons and 4 OVAs.
Some viewers who have never seen the series might automatically think this will be an episodic, otaku anime. We have seen too many “hero enters a gaming universe” series to not want to judge this as merely otaku bait. This series is not typical. With great direction, insertions of scenes that change tone and pace, and really consistent voice acting, The World God Only Knows develops into something much better than the sum of its parts.
First time viewers of the series will most likely think this will be a typical shōnen series. Our basic premise is gamer Keima Katsuragi accidentally makes a contract with Hell to capture escaped souls. He does this by analyzing the girls and his relationship with them using the tropes of dating sims. He is partnered with a cute demon whose airhead tendencies never seem to affect her job. The characters are where this series begins to separate itself from the deluge of gamer anime series.
Katsuragi does not fit the bill of “hero” nor does he come across as an antihero. He begins the series a sociopath. He appears never to have empathy or sympathy for others. He plays games in class, even when teachers call him out or publicly demean him. He seems not to notice that his peers avoid him as the “dweeb.” He consistently tells his demon partner, Elsie, he exists in the gaming world, not the real world with all of its faults.
His role in the roundup of escaped souls is to fill the heart of the girls who the souls have possessed, forcing them out of their bodies. While he comes across as sexist, he approaches each girl with the stories he knows from the games. When a girl does not fit the profile of a game conquest, he curses reality and continues to try to understand what makes each girl tick. Once she falls in love and the soul leaves, she forgets all about her relationship with Katsuragi and he forgets about her.
Another aspect that makes the show interesting is that each girl has issues that Katsuragi has to help each girl overcome. For example, one girl tries to live up to her dead father’s expectations even though she has no financial ability to so do. Another girl shuts herself in a library because she has extreme anxiety issues trying to talk to people. In reality, Katsuragi doesn’t fill their hearts by making them fall in love. He does so by helping them learn to believe in themselves.
Other things kept to a minimum are fanservice, otaku level knowledge of dating sims, and degrading circumstances for the girls Katsuragi has to “conquer.”
The series pacing demonstrates a profoundly talented direction. Shōnen series often fit the same pattern: two episodes set it up then every episode either develops the character to overcome a challenge or the series focuses on the challenge. Even good series often feel monotonous near the end, and those that cover more than one season often falter before they reach the climax. This show avoids the burn out by changing the pace and tone within each episode. In the first seasons, Katsuragi, while explaining a game concept to Elsie, will begin speaking with a condescending tone. When this occurs, the art style changes and the scene becomes something absurd. While in no way degrading the characters, it helps the series feel more organic with time devoted to more than following the characters or trying to make the story more dramatic than it really is. As the stories progress, side narratives help develop the characters and add another level of interest to the show.
By the time season 2 ends, the series really does feel like it could continue as it has from the beginning. Still, when watching the OVAs, a viewer can realize how developed the universe has become. The OVAs help set up the third season, and for a change, the season operates on a defined story arc, so unlike the earlier episodes, each new one progresses the story.
In season 3, Katsuragi realizes that within some of his conquests, a goddess resides. This information becomes important because the one inside the idol Kanon, has been injured and needs the other goddesses released in order to help her survive. Quickly, the story progresses and Katsuragi’s role changes. He must release the goddesses, or the levels of reality will fall to the ancient evil in old Hell. Even though the series has a different directorial technique, it still manages to build tension without becoming overburdened by the story.
For the third season to have meaning, Katsuragi must devote his actions to another person. His sociopathic tendencies break away, and the new lack of emotional boundaries create indecision and even an inner struggle. While really hard to explain why this matters, Katsuragi’s birth into reality makes the entire series seem richer and more meaningful.
This collection offers three rewatchable seasons of a better than average anime along with four OVAs. All 40 episodes add value and meaning to what this reviewer considers the best of the genre. Instead of settling for the stereotypical shōnen anime, these seasons demonstrate the emotional development of a character that could easily be disposable. Meta ideas about gender and relationships really make this a cut above the standard gamer otaku anime, but fans who only care about a good comedic and dramatic shōnen experience should not be disappointed as these seasons never pander to the lowest expectations among its viewers. Because the worldbuilding integrity doesn’t falter through three seasons and because I have rewatched two of the seasons and feel rewarded for the second viewing, I have to place this series in my personal top 10 shōnen anime.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Trailers, Music Videos, Clean Opening Animations, Clean Closing Animations
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Running Time: 1000 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Samsung KU6300 50” 4K UHD TV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.