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.
Notice: The review covers all three seasons. They don’t deserve separate entries. Animated by Manglobe, a studio that made lots of entertaining but eventually passable titles, with the exception of Ergo Proxy, the only great anime they ever made. An average viewer looking at the majority of early comments and reviews for this show, would be made to think it is a masterpiece or something. I myself couldn’t believe how many tens of thousands were worshiping it and anticipating it to be the best anime of 2010. While the first season was still airing there was this ridiculous hype going around, making it look like THE MOST AWESOME ANIME EVER MADE AND EVER WILL BE. I of course was not that dumb to fall for such silly tricks since this is clearly a fan catering show, which in effect makes it not great by default. And here is a list of all the things it did wrong just to prove you that. 1) The premise The protagonist is good at seducing women. 2D galge women that is; he has zero experience or interest in real women. So one day this spirit chick appears and demands from him to gather lost souls from girls he manages to kiss. He of course uses the methods he learned from the games … which surprisingly work most of the times, even if he occasionally improvises. The premise is very interesting; an anti-social is expected to deal with real women and not fictional ones. It is very intriguing to see how someone who has spent his life in a fantasy land, suddenly has to deal with actual problems … Too bad the anime is as unrealistic as the games.Unfortunately, this is not a cathartic show like Welcome to the NHK. It doesn’t offer a realistic vision of how a man needs to face reality. Why? Because in effect it is a harem/galge parody! It makes fun of clichés and thus it is not serious. At the same time it is not trying much to show the negative side of hentai games; so it feels like it’s just an anecdote for the fans. No sir, galge games are very entertaining, even when they don’t teach you anything practical about women. But otherwise work most of the times! 2) The presentation So why is that a bad thing you may ask? Why can’t it be funny for being simply a parody? Well, let’s start by saying it’s not funny to the most part. It is equally shallow and passable as most harem or ecchi shows out there, full of tired jokes around stereotypical characters. Every girl is a walking collection of clichés and they are trying to make fun of them in the most obvious way imaginable. Plus, the very way they tell the jokes is not interesting, since more than half of the show lacks background music to make the humor bolder. Not even the production values are that good to help you get into the mood. The character designs may look perky and lively, yet the actual animation is crummy, full of stills and jerky motions, simple coloring and lots of deformity. Not even the punch lines work wel,l as many times the characters talk in a plastic way. Their tone of voice is just too out there which definitely doesn’t sound like how real people talk in the real world. And it doesn’t even sound natural; they feel like they are just reading from a script. 3) The cast Ok, so the premise is stupid and the presentation sucks but perhaps the characters make up for it. Something like being lively, developed and different than the norm which will make them memorable. Nope, they ain’t, they are all stock material, commonplace in all harems and ecchis. Although I understand why they can fool the average viewer to believe they are not. The protagonist is not a typical indecisive lead but a determined male, willing to do what it takes to win the heart and the lips of any girl. He is also awesome enough to be called THE GOD OF CONQUEST. Other than that he is just an eccentric caricature and not a developed individual. He is clearly handsome and can have any girl he wants, yet he never did so and wasted his youth on fake ones. That is pure fan catering, since people who are playing these games a lot are actually very ugly, or anti-social, or very disappointed with real women. You are just supposed to root for a handsome guy to seduce girls? Try doing that with pimples and a huge belly! Yes, it’s supposed to be a joke, but it’s hard to empathise with something so obviously fictional. What is even worse is why and how he does anything he does in the story. He constantly tries to win the affection of girls NOT because he really cares about them. He just wants to manipulate their emotions, to seduce them and exploit them, just so his spirit chick can extract their soul when he kisses them. Ain’t that purely satanic? Manipulating emotions so you can steal souls? How is that funny in any way? They keep saying this is some sort of a cure but it is amongst the lamest excuses they can use in any galge. They might as well have said that girls have issues, and having their mental barriers collapsing for you if you talk to them enough times, spreading their legs as reward for miraculously curing their anxiety. The excuse that he will die if he doesn’t keep seducing more girls is doing nothing but adding more fuel to the lameness. Oh, so you are FORCED to have a wonderful time living your own harem? How tragic, keep manipulating girls, or you will die for being honest and modest. Even the girls he targets are not interesting. Despite the attempt to make a joke out of galge stereotypes, they all pretty much act the same way as in any game or harem. They are simplistic, with colorful hair, high-pitched voice, simple personality, and nothing to make them any more real that those fictional ones in the game. Not only that, it also presents them as equally easy to fall for you as is in the games. Even worse, when the lead actually manages to seduce and kiss them, then they GET AMNESIA and FORGET EVERYTHING! Ain’t that the pettiest thing ever? You exploit women, have sex with them, and then you get away free since they don’t even remember it. Hentai in the making. How can you possibly like these sorts of characters? They are awfully chauvinistic in nature and the show itself is shallow enough to use amnesia as means to negate character development and reset everything, like they don’t matter at all. THIS IS NOT FUNNY AT ALL! I keep hearing the amnesia routine is used purely for excusing each girl being thrown out of the story instead of stalking the lead afterwards and steadily increasing his harem. That is a piss poor excuse to negate their importance as characters to begin with. How about they remain friends? How about they aid him in some way? They are simply erased from the story, like they never existed, just like their memories. Thank you very much; I don’t care about them this way.Even the protagonist who retains his memory doesn’t change at all. In fact, despite the numerous interactions and kisses and out of screen sex, he is still playing galge like a maniac. Heck, the last episode of every season is purely about him playing fifty games at the same time to cover for all the hours he wasted on trying to “help” real girls. Yeah, 3D is so boring. IT’S NOT FUNNY!And by the way, the amnesia fuss in negated in the third season, thus the girls gain back their memories and our noble protagonist needs to face the consequences of his actions. That is why the third season is amazing and an actual deconstruction of the stereotypes. But you still need to suffer through two seasons of cringe before getting there, and by then the chances of giving up or not caring anymore are very high. 4) The story The anime is just a harem/galge parody and the story either does not exist or doesn’t matter. Besides the interesting premise, the show is completely unrealistic and far-fetched, with the plot being practically stand-alone arcs where the hero tries to seduce a different girl or deals with some galge related topic. There is no arcing plot in the first two seasons, other than a line of jokes around stereotypes. So again, the third season makes things a hundred times more interesting since the girls regain their memories and that leads to actual character development. 5) The value This anime made the mistake of coming out at a time where far many more fan catering shows were in the market. If it was alone, then it would definitely feel more interesting and even original. Yet when pitted against Oreimo’s far better production values and bolder otaku culture, it just feels like it doesn’t have a chance; a thing reflected in its sales. It also has very little replay value since there isn’t anything cool enough in it to deserve a second watch. And it sure as hell doesn’t have enough fan service to keep the majority awake even if they are bored with all the rest. 6) The enjoyment Mediocre to good production values, aimless story to the most part, obnoxious and undeveloped stereotypical characters, not that good next to other fan catering shows. The show ends up being the most disappointing anticipated series for many years. Not for me of course; I am smart enough to know fan catering never means something great. Good anime have a voice of their own and don’t rub clichés at your crotch as a cheap effort to sell. Although there are several good jokes around galge scattered throughout the series, it is hardly enough to deem the anime great. It has a very messy storyboard and cheap animation at many occasions, thus the jokes don’t come out as funny as they could have. Heck, not even the very title of the anime was done right. The World God Only Knows??? When will you Japs learn your English? The third season is worth it but having to suffer two seasons of cringe to get there, does not. And as always, don’t blindly trust the majority. Despite the raving fandom, the series is a disaster sales-wise and even the ratings dropped vertically after the anime was completed. It is both a bad adaptation of the manga as well as completely boring compared with what came out around the same time. And I am not saying the show is bad because the majority is not interested (many great anime have poor sales). I am not saying it is great because many fans love it (beats me why Gintama is even in the top 50). I am just pointing out that this is clearly an overrated series and one should NOT start watching it with the assumption it is awesome. Because it ain’t. Overall, an average time killer at best.And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 5/10 General Artwork 1/2 (generic) Character Figures 1/2 (generic) Backgrounds 1/2 (basic) Animation 1/2 (basic) Visual Effects 1/2 (basic) SOUND SECTION: 5/10 Voice Acting 2/5 (dull) Music Themes 3/5 (typical) STORY SECTION: 4/10 Premise 2/2 (interesting) Pacing 0/2 (mostly episodic) Complexity 1/2 (not much) Plausibility 0/2 (none) Conclusion 1/2 (rewarding but too long to get there) CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10 Presence 2/2 (cool / cute) Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded) Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there) Development 1/2 (rendered useless, but exists somewhat in the third season) Catharsis 1/2 (rendered useless, but exists somewhat in the third season) VALUE SECTION: 3/10 Historical Value 0/3 (none) Rewatchability 1/3 (maybe just for the galge jokes) Memorability 2/4 (a bit uncommon on first glance but overall nothing much) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10 Art 0/1 (looks lazy) Sound 0/2 (sounds meh) Story 1/3 (good premise but light presentation) Characters 0/4 (stereotypes) VERDICT: 4/10
The World God Only Knows looks to be a promising series. This opening season was a great introduction and I'm really looking forward to season 2 coming up in the Spring. The series takes the format of a collection of mini-stories, each one involving Keima (the main character) wooing a female character in order to rid her of her inner demons (literally, loose souls is the term that is used). After which, the female character's memory of Keima is erased. As such, the way I'd like to approach this review is to focus on each mini-story as its own entity. "Capture" 1 - Ayumi Takahara This first capture might only be one ep and it's mostly just an introduction to what becomes the norm for plot progression in the series. But, the story's kinda cute and even though this capture obviously lacks the depth of the later captures, it's able to plant the seed of intrigue to keep you watching. "Capture" 2 - Mio Aoyama The second capture is two eps and considering that Mio is a rich prick, you might be surprised that this capture manages to get quite emotional. You've gotta feel at least some pity for the girl. Trying to uphold an image she can no longer sustain, living in the past because that's all she knows, etc. And the greater significance of this capture is that you begin to get the sense that Keima really does have some mutual feelings as much as he may try to deny it. "Capture" 3 - Kanon Nakagawa The Idol. This capture for me (and I'm sure for most of you who have watched this series) was the hook. Ironically, there's a Nazi parody in the 1st ep of this mini-story that I found to be in such poor taste I nearly stopped watching this anime. I'm not a Jew, but I'm sorry that's one line you just don't cross. I'm not trying to be self-righteous here; this was a minor blemish on a great series. Moving along, this capture is the longest (I think, it might be a tie) at 4 eps. Kanon-chan is so paranoid about not being a true Idol that she literally disappears into obscurity when the paranoia kicks in. This capture is also difficult on Keima's end because he hates Idols. But, in less than probable circumstances, Keima and Kanon-chan start to go out. And in the end when Kanon-chan is facing the greatest challenge to her self-doubt, Keima's there to save the day. And when Kanon-chan sings "Love Call," I found it to be one of the most touching moments in anime. On that note, Kanon-chan's character album is now available and overall is good for the pop Idol genre. If I had to choose one character that I wanted to come back in a significant way in this series, it would certainly be Kanon-chan. At this point, you're certain that Keima left some of his heart out on the line. "Capture" 4 - Shiori Shiomiya From the Idol to the Bookworm. It's a stark transition, and it takes a little while to adjust, but once you do, you realize how unique this final capture is. This capture is also 3-4 eps. The majority of the first 2 eps of this mini-story has almost no verbal dialog. But Keima is able to frustrate Shiori so much that she is finally able to find her voice. The conclusion to this capture is a bit abstract which is an interesting change of pace. I'm not quite sure where I stand in terms of good or bad. But certainly, Shiori came to be compelling character after all. Some final notes, the OP is really unique and I quite liked it. The full version is like 8 min which is certainly rare. There's also the matter of Keima's shinigami partner whom I haven't mentioned, Elsie. She's a cute, awkward little character, but doesn't yet have her coming of age in season 1. So that's surely something to expect in season 2. Lastly, I'm not gonna pick on the ending too much this time around, but it was appaulingly bad. It was more like a really crappy OVA than a last ep of the season. But all in all, I'd give season 1 of The World God Only Knows an 8 out of 10 both for content and promise.
It's funny how trends, tastes, and even perceptions can change over time. Less than a decade ago being called a geek, nerd or otaku was considered an insult, and while those terms have maintained their derogatory status to a degree (especially in Japan), the steady march of technology has dictated the rise of the "Beta Male", and nowhere is this more apparent than in the entertainment industries. In 2001 the PC and Dreamcast game Comic Party was adapted and released as an anime, and with it came the birth of a totally new genre - the otaku comedy. Since that time there have been numerous manga and anime that have utilised the theme in some manner, from the romanticised look at otaku life that is Genshiken, to the insane classical stylings of Nodame Cantabile's heroine, Noda Megumi. These days the number of titles that have some involvement with the genre is on the rise, and while some take a decidedly rose-tinted view of the subject, there are others (NHK ni Youkoso!, Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu (no, seriously), ChäoS;HEAd, etc), that allow glimpses into the darker side of otaku life. There are also those that approach the subject of otaku in an imaginative, yet decidedly tongue-in-cheek manner. Kami Nomi Zo Shiru Sekai (The World God Only Knows, or KamiNomi), tells the story of Katsuragi Keima, the "king" of bishoujo games (galge), and dating sims, who is better known throughout the internet as the "Capturing God". He is content to live his life in the virtual world because "reality is just a crappy game" where the girls are impossible to deal with. All of that changes when he answers a mysterious e-mail addressed to the God of Conquest (another one of his monikers), and subsequently meets the demon girl Elucia de Lut Ima (Elci). The plot attempts to meld several different themes into one continuous narrative, and in order to do this it utilises a number of devices that can sometimes get in the way. Like Amagami SS, the storyline follows the "short arc for each girl" format, complete with the "reset" at the end. This is accompanied by some fairly typical "soul possession" concepts, basic yet still humourous slapstick, and a rather interesting take on dating sims in general. Unfortunately it doesn't completely work. The problem is that while KamiNomi is essentially a straight forward otaku comedy, the inclusion of so many disparate themes eventually causes a degree of conflict within the framework of the story. The major issue is the idea that one can use dating sim methodology to form a real world relationship, and while it is possible to learn the basics, this can never replace actual experience. In addition to this is the fact that the viewer is supposed to believe that a notorious game addict like Keima can suddenly turn on the charm when dealing with real girls, many of whom he initially can't stand to be around, and this in itself raises the question of suspicion on the part of the girls. There is an attempt to rectify these issues, but this relies on the tried and tested method of memory manipulation rather than an explanation of how a social recluse is easily able to communicate with others. That said, the series utilises some well placed visual gags to divert the viewers attention away from any plot holes or conflicts, and the story is interesting and humourous enough to make it accessible to a much broader audience than one might initially expect. When it comes to looks, KamiNomi is pretty much back to basics in virtually every department, with one area of notable exception (we'll get to that in a moment). That said, while the degree of genericism in the visuals is high, there's also something slightly more subtle at work as well. The character designs are taken directly from the manga by Wakaki Tamiki, and what's interesting about this is that while the mangaka made a conscious effort to allow the comedy to flourish, he also tried to show what each character is, rather than simply trying to define them as individuals. Confused? I'll explain then. The plot is partly derived from that of the common or garden dating sim or galge, and as regular players of these games will know, characters of a specific type will share certain visual features. Wakaki has attempted to incorporate some of these into the design of the girls that Keima goes after, and this in turn defines their personalities as they have been created to fit a specific mould. In addition to this, because the player is usually faceless in these games, Wakaki chose to parody a few of the better known "genius" characters from anime for his "God of Conquest", in particular Lelouch vi Brittania and Yagami Light. So don't be fooled by the simplistic looks. The area that really stands out is the effects, in particular the variety, timing and imagination that has gone into making them. While the rest of the anime may look colourful yet average, KamiNomi is surprising for the quality of a number of its visual set pieces, but it's the audio choreography that changes those scenes from simply being pretty into something worth watching. In anime, as in life, timing is everything, and in this respect Manglobe have a very good pedigree. But then what else would one expect from the studio that brought us Michiko to Hatchin, Samurai Champloo and Ergo Proxy (unfortunately they're also responsible for the abysmal Sacred Blacksmith, but we won't go there). While this is very clearly a comedy series the studio has made the effort to deliver a quality show, and because there's little that can be done about the design of the visuals, a lot of effort has gone into making this anime sound great. The opening sequence is indicative of this ethos at work, and features some clever imagery that is well timed to match the changes in the theme song (God Only Knows, performed by Elisa). The ending sequence is a bit more complicated as there are actually four tracks and sequences on offer. The main ED, Koi no Shirushi, is a fairly average J-Pop track, but for the majority of episodes the female leads take turns singing it (while the rest perform backing vocals). As for the remaining tracks, Tatta Ichi Do no Kisei by Sakurai Tomo (episode four), along with the visuals, is meant to be a play on the average ending sequences of dating sims and galge. On the other hand Happy Crescent by Toyama Nao is supposed to be a "live" idol performance, so it's a shame it's such a generic song. To be honest, the best of the EDs, is the final one, Shuuseki Kairo no Yume Tabibito, which is sung in a completely amateurish and off key style by the lead man himself, Shimono Hiro (with support from the female seiyuu who apparently are collectively known as Oratorio The World God Only Knows), and is very much in keeping with the slightly delusional and slapstick comedy of the series. Unfortunately there's one big flaw in KamiNomi, and that's the lack of character development. Normally this shouldn't really be an issue for what is effectively an otaku comedy/parody, but because of the inclusion of certain plot themes, aspects like characterisation and growth become more prominent. Basically, the more complicated a story is, the better the characters have to be. While there is some development due to the soul possession aspect of the story, it never really impacts on the overall narrative due to the "reset" at the end of each girl's arc. This has the effect of nullifying what has gone before, and even though Keima and Elci aren't subject to it as a rule, there is very little given over to their growth over the course of the series. The real strength of the characters comes from the comedy side of the show, and in this respect the seiyuu are pretty good. Shimono Hiro (Keima), and Itou Kanae (Elci), are great as the proverbial "Odd Couple", and while there are some great skits from the other leading ladies, their timing and delivery, especially with each other, is sometimes a joy to behold. Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai is a strangely mixed bag that works on certain levels, but ultimately it would have been better off trying to weave fewer themes into the plot. Individually the concepts behind the series are imaginative and somewhat inventive, but the complications caused by trying to blend several ideas together sometimes creates a quagmire in the storyline, and inserting a joke to brush over it is nothing more than papering over the cracks. That said, the series is enjoyable enough to warrant at least one watch, and viewers should also keep in mind that this twelve episode anime is nothing more than a prelude of things to come, especially as the manga has already gone beyond the 100 chapter mark. While the incomplete nature of the story may put people off, the fact that a sequel is on the horizon may signify that all hope is not yet lost. Then again, they may simply "cop out" by ending the series before the real storyline begins. We'll have to wait and see.
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