Sep 5, 2012

Anime Review: The World God Only Knows

Collage of the main cast plus the title logoAs a medium, anime sits nestled between two potentially very powerful qualities. As half art, in the traditional sense, it can choose to venture into the highly symbolic, expressive, and deeply meaningful. As half cartoon, it can exploit visual short-hands and exaggerations to great economy. Anime, as a class of media, has many sub-genres, but even taken as a whole most animes tend to follow a lot of the same "rules" (tropes, really). When used correctly, one can get a lot of enjoyment as they set us up for expectations and either meet them or not.

TWGOK exists among the best of them, not because of anything profound it has to say or anything truly game changing. Instead, it chooses to meet every single one of your expectations about anime, never really straying from the tried-and-true, but it does so with such simple expertise. It is the Bruce Springsteen of anime. When so many other series fail in this area or that, this is a refreshing bit of pure joy that leaves you completely satisfied.

The plot unfolds quite naturally. Our hero likes playing dating sims. Since this is anime, where everything is larger than life, naturally he considers himself the god among dating sim gamers. His arrogance, naturally, leads to him carelessly accepting a challenge. This challenge ends up being a contract with the god of the underworld to retrieve escaped souls (of course). And, naturally, these souls choose to hide and make themselves difficult to retrieve, thus setting us up for a monster-of-the-week. Annnnd, naturally, they choose to hide exclusively in the empty areas of young girls' hearts, who are all about his age and attending his school. Naturally, the only way to get them out for capture is to fill that emptiness with something else (love, duh), thus forcing him to face a literal real life dating sim challenge each time. Did I mention he must do this with the aid of a klutzy-but-means-well demon-girl side-kick? Who moves in with him claiming to be an illegitimate daughter of his father's, much to his mother's chagrin? I know I mentioned this was an anime...

It's all so predictable to even a casual anime watcher, and yet the delivery is so organic and well done that you don't care, heck you even like it. As I said, it meets all of your expectations about anime expertly. Some might complain and want something more experimental, bold, or different. This is not the show for their adventurous appetites.

The animation is stunningly good for a TV series, fluid and sweet to the eyes. The music is competent, the opening theme is fun to watch all on its own (I never once skipped it, even when marathoning episodes back-to-back), and the voice acting is pitch perfect, every character has precisely the voice you expect, all acted superbly.

So where does it fall down? Is this truly the perfection of anime? Has it no flaws? Of course it does.

Probably the number one issue is its predictability. I argue that it is done so well you won't care, but nevertheless it does not try anything new. You will likely never be surprised, no twists and turns, no heavy drama or character stories, no real poignant epiphanies about life and what it means to be human, and for every challenge posed to our hero you already know he will prevail and will easily anticipate how.

But, again, I think there is something to be said for a show that, while not courageous, does what it does so well.

As of this writing, you can watch both seasons of TWGOK for free on Crunchyroll.

This is a slightly revised version of a review I wrote back in April here.

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