Volume: Season One DVD Set
Distributor: Sentai Filmworks
Genre(s): romantic comedy, harem
Age Rating: TV 14 (dialogue)
Runtime: 300minutes total
Release Date: 01/24/2012
The World God Only Knows is a light-hearted, anime comedy featuring good-natured demons, a smart-but-dating-sim-obsessed gamer, and evil spirits. Chuckles and pop-culture references are abound as Keima, the aforementioned bishoujo game fanatic, must depart from the virtual world to take on a reality heavily laden with the supernatural.
In the online community, Keima is known as the "God of Conquests"/ "The Conquering God" (depending on lip flaps) for his prowess with the heroines of bishoujo games. In Keima's mind, he is a deity amongst mere mortals. In the real world, he is seen as little more than a highly intelligent loser. He has few friends and has never approached a living girl in friendship, much less love.
Like many aspects of The World God Only Knows, the story is cute and light on depth. The various romances last between one and three episodes, are light-hearted, and usually follow a formula. Elsie and Keima find a loose soul, Keima diagnoses what bishoujo archetype the target is (the unassertive sports star, the rich-turned-poor girl, etc.), and he romances them accordingly.
There is something innocently sweet about the anime's near-sexless depiction of romance. Whereas Demon King Daimao, Tenchi Muyo, or High School of the Dead use sex to sell love, The World God Only Knows builds the relationship between the protagonist and his current paramour into something believable, if short.
Instead of flashing cleavage, track-runner Ayumi has to deal with the competing emotions of disdain and growing admiration for Keima's consistent and laughably excessive support.
Another aspect that helps differentiate The World God Only Knows from its brethren is its reverence for pop-culture. Sprinkled throughout the show are references to pop-idols both American and Japanese, videos games from all generations (Excite Bike to Metroid to Pokemon), and so much more. The last episode, while a let-down in terms of season finales, was a love letter to all things pop-culture.
Despite this, the anime has its faults. The series' light-natured story and characters leave viewers wanting more. Does constantly having girls fall in love with him (and, vice-versa) only to forget everything as the romance comes into full-swing take a toll on Keima? Such a Sisyphusian task would drain even the strongest of wills, right? Viewers will never know, as Keima only acknowledges that he is forced into the position, but shows little sign of it having an ill-effect on him. Adding a little depth would have given the show a stronger appeal as Keima could be seen not only struggling with the task at hand, but his own mounting personal misgivings as he falls in love with more girls who won't remember him.
The formulaic nature of the show presents an issue as well. Despite each girl presenting their own problem and requiring a seemingly unique solution, the story doesn't seem to be going anywhere in the first season. Elsie simply collects the souls that Keima scares up, but there's no tangible sense of progress being made. More communication between Elsie and her associates in Hell could alleviate this, or perhaps having some new kind of challenge arrive. The second season hints at this being the case, but Season One was a series of wash, rinse, repeat episodes leading to a forgettable finale.
As a product, The World God Only Knows is a decent anime. Its simple nature, humor, and deep love of the video game world make it enjoyable but the same simple plotting works against it in later episodes in terms of story and character development. As it is, the show is definitely recommendable, if shallow.