Review for The World God Only Knows: Complete Series 2
The World God Only Knows was a surprising highlight of last year’s anime schedule. From the blurb it seemed like the typical anime show made for modern niche audiences in Japan, with a stereotypical geek type male, entering into a contract with a pretty, but ditzy demon, to romance loads of cute girls, getting them to fall for him. All so that the demonic loose souls that have taken up residence in their empty hearts are driven out, and can be captured, his only qualifications being a proficiency at playing dating simulations. You could see such a show going in quite prurient and predictable directions, complete with fan service and saucy antics. But the actual show turned out to be pretty good indeed, possessing likeable characters, a whole lot of heart, and sympathetic stories. What’s more, for me it had just enough of an old school touch to remind me of the shows that got me into anime in the first place, shows like Ah My Goddess and Chobits. It’s clear that Japanese audiences know a good thing when they see one too, as recently a third season of The World God Only Knows was announced for broadcast later this year. But before we even consider that, we have to partake of the second season, being released in the UK now by Manga Entertainment.
The demons of hell are overworked, and the situation is only getting worse. Loose souls are escaping from the infernal realm, heading to Earth, and possessing young girls that have emptiness in their hearts. It’s getting so bad now that Chief Dokuro is recruiting the cleaning staff into his Loose Souls Squad, and that means the cute demon Elsie and her trusty broom. She has to go to Earth, find the God of Conquest and enlist his aid in liberating the loose souls from the stricken girls. The God of Conquest is that male who can woo any young female, make them all giddy and weak at the knees, and more importantly fill that empty space in their hearts which harbours the loose souls.
Keima Katsuragi is the God of Conquest... on girl games. This geek has a passion for the 2D realm, and spends his waking moments playing dating simulations on his handheld console. He can crack any game, date any digital female, just don’t ask him to interact with the real world. Of course Elsie seals the pact with him before she learns any of this, which means that they both now have collars that will explode if they fail to find and capture the loose souls. Keima will have to apply his dating sim skills to the real world, he’ll have to woo and charm real life human females. If that isn’t bad enough, Elsie’s taking over his life. First she’s enrolled in his class at school, and then she moves into his house!
Twelve episodes of the second series of The World God Only Knows are presented across two discs by Manga Entertainment.
01. Flower in Bloom
02. Problem Solved by the Fist
03. The Section Chief Cometh
04. The Section Chief Regains Her Pride
05. It’s Always Raining When We Get There
06. 10% Chance of Rain
07. Singing in the Rain
08. Her First Errand
08.5. Tea For Three
09. Class 2-B Miss Nagase
10. School Wars
11. There’s Always a Sun in Your Heart
12. Summer Wars
Just like the first season, this second season of The World God Only Knows comes to the UK from Sentai Filmworks in the US, via Madman Entertainment in Australia to Manga Entertainment. That means that we get a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer in native PAL format. The image is clear, sharp and colourful throughout, minus any of the old standards conversion issues, and generally a smooth and unproblematic transfer that takes full advantage of the 576 line resolution. You might notice some aliasing on the finer detail indicative of the limits of the DVD format. There is a Blu-ray option, but you’ll have to import from the US, and be able to spin Region A discs. There is no English friendly Region B option at this time.
The animation itself is very pleasant, and I found that it takes a page from relatively old school anime when it comes to its world and character designs. The artwork is simplified, doing the basic amount to tell the story, the animation is full of bright, primary colours, and that characters are apt to lapse into SD form to emphasise a punchline. But the quality of the animation itself is of modern standards, looking very appealing when in motion, and not scrimping on the frame count.
You have the option of DD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with optional translated subtitles or a songs and signs track. The issues I had with the first series, which I attributed to pitch correction weren’t as evident this time around. As always I went with and was very happy with the original language track. I gave the English dub a try and found it to be rather mediocre, not really standing out from other comedy anime dubs. There were fewer character songs for which to switch to Japanese in this series, even though idol Kanon does make an odd appearance, so that wasn’t as much of an issue. The subtitles are clear, free or error and are accurately timed.
Both discs get static menus and jacket pictures when the discs aren’t spinning. While they left them out on the first series, in the second, Madman have retained the translated English credit reel from Sentai Filmworks that plays after each episode, which is an improvement.
The extras are on disc 2, and amount to one textless opening and four textless closings, the Japanese TV spots and the Japanese release spots. All in all that amounts to just over 11 minutes of extra material.
I have to give the second season of The World God Only Knows a resounding ditto, a whole-hearted ‘more of the same’. In this case it’s a very good thing, as the first season of this show was a very surprising and welcome delight. What could have been a very prurient premise of a gaming freak forced to use his ability at conquering dating simulations in the real world with real girls, turned out to be something quite heart-warming and charming, with likeable characters and a sensitive approach to storytelling. It didn’t hurt too much either that the set-up of a demon sent to Earth to catch loose souls, enlisting the aid of an unlikely teen male, was so reminiscent of the light comedies of ten or so years ago, that all my nostalgia buttons were pushed. Take a look at my review for the first season to see what I thought.
This second season takes what is best about the first, and build on it, and the result is even better. This second season cuts down on the home-life antics of Keima and Elsie, the random episodes that appeared in between the various conquests in season 1, and instead devotes itself mainly to introducing the girls, building their characters, and telling their stories. There are really only three conquests in this series, four if you count Elsie’s fellow Loose Souls Crew member, but given two or three episodes in which to tell their particular tales, there’s a lot more character development to appreciate.
The first two episodes give Keima his first challenge for the series, when Elsie detects a loose soul in Kasuga, the aloof queen in school. She’s heir to a karate dojo, and her personality fits her background, taking no nonsense, and disdainful of weakness. The problem is that there’s a part of her that wants to be girly, and like cute and cuddly things. A classic tsundere character like that fits neatly into Keima’s gal’ game stereotypes, even if it involved taking some punishment to get closer to her. But that’s the last stereotypical girl that he gets to help in this series.
Next up is Elsie’s co-worker Haqua, who shows up looking for a loose soul that escaped her clutches earlier. That particular loose soul has been gaining in strength and ability since then, and recapturing it becomes a priority. It becomes an issue of ideals versus reality, as Haqua was the ideal trainee, and instantly promoted into an important position once she graduated. Elsie on the other hand was the slow one in demon school, and was always looking up to Haqua. But in the real world, with the aid of Keima, Elsie has been catching loose souls, while Haqua hasn’t been able to translate her academic success into reality. There’s a friendly rivalry that quickly disintegrates into despair for Haqua, and this time Keima has to use his insights into digital girls to help her overcome her doubts.
The main characters are the ones you play for in dating simulations, not the background characters. At least that’s how Keima sees the next victim of a loose soul. Chihiro is his happy-go-lucky classmate, one who constantly ridicules and belittles his game-playing obsession. She has no traits that he can identify with games, she thinks he’s a dweeb, hasn’t the slightest attraction to him, and worse of all, she’s actually got a crush on another guy. That isn’t the sort of girl that you go after in a dating sim. And when Keima tries, he’s rebuffed so strongly that he retreats into full social recluse mode.
Just when Keima thinks it couldn’t get any worse, the next loose soul winds up taking residence in a teacher. No one goes after teachers in dating sims; they’re just too much work for too little reward. Besides Jun Nagase is a student teacher that’s only at the school for two weeks. That isn’t enough time to conventionally play the game. Keima has a chance if he plays the dark route, set up a degree of antagonism and avoidance that can be turned to romance at the last minute, accomplishing in a shorter stretch of time what would normally take much longer. The problem is that Jun has made Keima her personal project. She sees his gaming addiction as a problem that has to be solved and overcome, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help him, including being his best friend, and personal tutor. She’s not following the rules of the game either.
The best thing about The World God Only Knows is how it develops its characters. Despite the premise of the show, they are shown as real people with real issues, whether it’s a problem with self-confidence, or a need to accept an aspect of oneself. In helping them, Keima learns more about the real world, and in a way gets to re-engage with reality. In this second season there are even moments when he begins to question whether or not reality might just be more rewarding that the virtual world of computer games. That doesn’t stick for long of course, but it is gradual and subtle development in his character as well.
While there is a greater emphasis on the loose souls in this series, there are a couple of episodes that break from the routine. Episode 8 has two short stories. In the first, Elsie learns more about the world of gal games, when Keima asks her to buy a limited edition for him. Then Haqua returns, looking for his help in writing a report on the previous events for her superiors. The final episode has much in common with the final episode of season 1, in that it’s about Keima and his gal game addiction. Here he finally stoops to playing what he considers one of the worst games ever made, and finds that it’s actually a hidden gem. While the final episode of season 1 was pretty dark and nihilistic for the show, Summer Wars here actually holds onto the tone of the show a lot better, maintains the comedy and lightness, and is a very positive and likeable episode to end on. In that respect Season 2 works out a lot better than the first.
The World God Only Knows is a light, entertaining and frothy comedy that is the sort of show that you look forward to watching, and are always disappointed to see end. Its story has got heart, warmth and is told in a charming and engaging way. There are also plenty of comedic touches and references to amuse. The show kicks off with a great 8-bit intro, and I noted a great call-back to a gag from the first series, as well as a Peanuts reference and a Girl Who Leapt Through Time reference that made me laugh out loud. It’s the kind of show that won’t get on too many best of lists, but it’s also the kind of show that you’ll pick first when you’re stumped for something to watch. The news quite recently that a third season is in production isn’t just the icing on the cake, it’s a whole new cake.