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DVD Review

DVD cover

The World God Only Knows
The Complete Series One


Starring (voice): Hiro Shimono and Kanae Ito
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 08 October 2012

Keima is a dating sim champion. Cute girls are rendered powerless by his irresistible game playing techniques. Too bad things aren't that way in the real world. That is, until his tempting game playing causes a real live - and very bubbly-cute - demon hunter named Elsie to materialize! Now Elsie wants Keima to help her free hot girls from sneaky demons who secretly possess them. Rack up the love points with the devilishly fun anime The World God Only Knows...

The World God Only Knows (TWGOK) is a series in the long tradition of anime that present their intended audience of socially isolated pop-culture obsessives with a protagonist who reflects and amplifies their self-image, in this case as an outsider whose status, while not exactly self-chosen, is maintained and cultivated with pride and dignity. Keima Katsuragi, the legendary-among-gamers 'capturing god' famed for his ability to conquer the digital heart of any dating-sim girl, finds himself forced to engage with the flesh-and-blood females he scorns as imperfect and inferior when his contract with the endearing demon-hunter Elsie turns out to have mutual decapitation as its penalty for failure.

Putting his thousands of hours of simulated romantic know-how into action, Keima woos and conquers (quite chastely) a quartet of cuties over these first twelve episodes, his total lack of - or desire for - real-life experience seemingly no barrier to success; with the lost souls illicitly occupying their empty hearts pushed out by love, the girls lose all memory of events and return to their normal lives with only an odd sense of fulfilment.

While this gamer-friendly scenario of button-pushing pick-up artistry might seem morally questionable at best, it's in the flattery of its audience that TWGOK is arguably more perturbing. Keima loudly proclaims his disdain for real girls generally and in particular, treating each conquest as a mere academic exercise as he expounds on the archetypes of dating sims - rich girl, pop idol, book-lover - as they relate to the task at hand. This stylized disinterest in women, that sadly crosses over into outright misogyny among some fans of anime, manga and gaming, lends TWGOK a sour note amid the sugary sweetness on display. The girls themselves generally display little spark or life of their own, needing as they do Keima's intervention to find the self-confidence and direction in life they're searching for - they're all but indistinguishable from the two-dimensional cuties Keima moons over. A sharper series might have had its protagonist forced by the reality of ordinary heartbreak and pain to confront his self-imposed prejudices and come to terms with everyday life, but challenging its audience seems not to be on TWGOK's agenda.

In case the above seems unnecessarily harsh, it's worth saying that TWGOK is a very enjoyable series on its own terms. The animation is serviceable, but the music is frequently gorgeous, the main title theme being a perfect nugget of J-pop; the voice performances are good too, and the incidental comedy between the winsome Elsie and her exasperated 'divine big brother' is often very funny. Based as it is on an ongoing manga and with a second series of the anime confirmed even before the final episode's conclusion, TWGOK's main point of dramatic tension - will Keima, after all, find himself falling in love with a girl? - is cleverly deferred. The final episode of this set, too, comes close to self-critique with Keima, lost in the depths of a gaming marathon, seemingly questioning his decision to spend his precious youth cut off from the real world.

As a comedy anime that shines perhaps a stronger light on its audience's foibles and obsessions than it might have intended, TWGOK is a fun and interesting series. Here's hoping the second season takes its premise into more challenging territory.


Richard Hunt

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