The World God Only Knows

God of Conquest? God of Objectification, more likely.

Rating: 1.5

I've watched the whole first season of this series hoping for some redeeming feature, but I couldn't find any. Oh, the animation is not bad at all, the songs are average-j-pop-cute, there's some humour, there's even visual references to old anime (although there's no real reason for them, they just happen). So why do I dislike this much? Let's start from the story.

KATSURAGI Keima is a master of dating simulation games: he's constantly playing and winning (and also keeping up his grades at school, without apparently ever studying or even paying attention in class). This has led to his title of "God of Conquest". In the meantime, in Hell, there's a problem with "loose souls": they've escaped from Hell, they have occupied the hearts of some young girls, and the only way to bring them back is to make the girls fall in love, thus pushing the loose souls out of their hearts. The "God of Conquest" is obviously the person best suited to the job! (Thus proving that even Hell has a rather poor intelligence network). The demon Elsie (conventional klutzy girl) is dispatched to the human world (i.e. Japan) to assist him. Keima is not thrilled at the idea, partly because he has already signed the contract without realising, and failure to deliver will mean both he and Elsie will lose their heads; mostly, though, because he much prefers the girls in the games to the real ones. Under duress, he accepts his task and tries to woo the "possessed" girls using his vast knowledge of dating sims.

Which would be a valid (although not exactly original) starting point for a reflection on the shortcomings of multiple-choice simulations designed to fulfil the romantic wishes of customers when used as a guide to real-world relationships. But that is precisely the opposite of what this show says: Keima's techniques, which are clearly shallow and manipulative, work perfectly every time! And the girls are conventional stereotypes, as well: the sports-loving one, the rich snotty one with a secret, the insecure idol, the pathologically introverted librarian. They all match common in-game archetypes, and their behaviours follow simple patterns that were well established in games and manga decades ago (and probably long before that, in theatre).

Elsie is essentially a comic relief character, who very rarely does something right, and gets regularly berated for what she does and for her ignorance of the ways of the human world. She has no agency, and the one time she tries to do something on her own, she produces monsters.

Even Keima's mother, Mari, is a bad character: when Elsie shows up in their household, presenting herself as Keima's illegitimate half-sister, Mari gets understandably upset and angrily calls her husband to demand explanations. Keima explains this behaviour, not as a perfectly normal reaction to the upending of everything she knew, but "oh, she's scary, she was in a biker gang when she was young". And after that initial show of rage, she never mentions her husband again, and happily accepts Elsie in her house.

So what do we learn from this series? That girls are simple and easily seduced, that ignorance and lack of practise is the same as stupidity, that only violent women get really angry, that ruining a family only warrants a minute of screen time and has no serious consequences.

«But no,» I hear you say, «it's all done ironically, they obviously mean the exact opposite of what you think!» Well, that's essentially the "redeeming feature" that I was looking for. And I honestly couldn't see it. Sure, there's a few times where Keima's expression seems to imply that he's actually having feelings for the various girls (total screen time of the feelings: maybe one minute over the entire season), but that does not stop him from lying his way into their hearts, and from spending the entire last episode expressing his love for games and his dream of leaving this world for what is, essentially, a harem full of multiple-choice girls. And from some descriptions I've read of the second season, things are not going to get better.

So, if you like a harem fantasy with no consequences, and you like your female characters really bi-dimensional, you'll probably enjoy this series. Me, I'm off to find something nicer to wash off the bad aftertaste.

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DatesCreated: 2012-12-16 15:29:08 Last modification: 2023-02-10 12:45:24