Season One. I have several problems with this anime. It centres around a high school boy named Keima who spends all his spare time playing dating sim games. He is very good at them. His abilities are hilariously (not) misunderstood by the demon world, which sends a spirit hunter girl called Elsie to team up with Keima, in order to release “loose souls” that are hiding inside the hearts of girls and feeding off their negative feelings. Keima can release them by making the girls fall in love with him. The problem is that he might be good at dating sims, but real life girls are another matter altogether.
Sounds fun, yes? Well it should be, but as I said I have problems with it. The biggest one is that Keima is an insufferable dweeb. These kinds of anime live or die on the likeability of the main character. If he’s fun then the anime springs into life straight away. Too many anime have main characters who are characterless, but plenty of those end up being solidly watchable due to comedy or other factors. But if I actively hate the main character then I’m going to have a hard job enjoying a series.
There is obviously a place for exploring socially awkward characters in anime. I will watch those kinds of series and will root for the characters and hope to see them come out of their shells and find happiness, often with the help of new friends, or simply come to terms with who they are. What I can’t stand is characters who are deliberately socially awkward, simply because they are uncaring, selfish, emotionally stunted loners-by-choice. Keima doesn’t want to change and he doesn’t care that he’s a miserable recluse. He just wants to be left alone to play his games. To which I say, fine, leave him alone, but don’t build an anime around a character like that, dragging him into scenarios with emotionally fragile girls all the time, to become their reluctant saviour. It’s all pretty unpleasant stuff.
That’s a shame, because it could have been great with a different main character, somebody who actually appreciated the chance to get close to a cute girl, and who actually wanted to help her out for the sake of doing the right thing, instead of being railroaded into doing something with his life by a demon girl.
The other big problem I have with this is the girls he helps out, because dammit I didn’t like most of them either. One of them is a rich girl who has lost everything, and still wants to behave like a rich girl. The writers just about make it work and I did end up caring about her in the end, but first had to put up with her being an irritating, entitled brat. Worse than that is an idol who falls apart when one person doesn’t give her his full attention when she performs. She needs everyone to love her. What should have been an interesting story about a big star suffering a crisis of confidence is constantly marred by the nagging thought that she should just get over herself and stop being so self-absorbed. Much better is the girl who is so socially awkward that she can hardly speak to anyone, and hides away in a library. Her plight was the one I really cared about, but then again my wife couldn’t stand her, so there wasn’t one episode of this that wasn’t annoying one of us!
Big problem #3: the writer’s reset button. As soon as Keima wins a girl’s heart and they kiss, the loose souls fly out in a very Ghostbusters manner, and each girl conveniently loses all her memories. On to the next girl. Series that keep hitting the reset button can work, e.g. Photo Kano, but that generally had a reset every episode. The World God Only Knows instead goes for story arcs of about three episodes. In theory that should be a better approach, but in reality what it does is build up the viewer’s interest in the story just long enough for us to care, and then starts over. There is also rarely enough story to stretch to three episodes. At least with Photo Kano if you didn’t like a girl then a different one would be the focus of the next episode, but here if a girl irritates you then you’re stuck with her for three weeks while the story crawls along at a snail’s pace and Keima gets on your nerves being all smug and uninterested. In the end it’s hard to care much about anything that happens in the series.
And you know what bugs me the most? This got a second season… and a third. I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys this, but there are so many absolutely magnificent anime that get left hanging and never get picked up for a second run, that it just beggars belief that low-quality stuff like this gets picked up for two more seasons. I just don’t get it. Maybe things improve. Let me know in the comments section if you’ve stuck with this, but I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to find out for myself. 12 episodes were plenty enough. The World God Only Knows? He can keep it. RP