Monday, November 8, 2010

Fall 2010 - The World God Only Knows

While the recent progression from concept to anime has been dominated by stories powered by light novels, there are still a good number of them that have first originated as pick-your-poison visual novel games. Its typical genre being the bishôjo game (also known as a "galge"), the underlying goal for the Japanese visual novel is to capture a particular character, either romantically or sexually. The Fall 2010 season alone has three particular adaptions to anime—a dating-sim (Fortune Arterial), an otome game (Hakuôki), and a boys'-love game (Togainu no Chi).

For many fans, however, it's not enough to merely finish the game with one character's adoring love—the game isn't over for them until every character and their corresponding ending scenes are collected. In addition, the dating-sim otaku has often been viewed stereotypically as a socially-inept person, dependent on two-dimensional characters to build up confidence. Those stories about someone marrying an anime character? Total fact.

That sort of relationship with virtual reality is what brings us The World God Only Knows (Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai, shortened to KamiNomi), the latest Shônen Sunday manga to hit television and the Crunchyroll website. Keima Katsuragi, the otaku refusing to wake to reality in this story, is a professional at galge, dubbed Otoshi-gami ("The Capturing God") on the Internet for having "captured" the hearts of ten thousand female characters. He's hardly godlike in school, but as long as he has his trusty PFP hand-held, he's not one to care much for the girls there.

When one particular on-line challenge comes to him, Keima sees nothing particularly special about it, only to find that he's actually signed a unique contract with Elsie, an oddly cute demon from Hell. Elsie's job is not linked to any of those typical nasty demonic acts—instead, she has to locate spirits that have lodged themselves in the hearts of females and bring them back to Hell. Keima's interest is only with the simplicity of 2D girls, but he's still forced to get those girls to fall in love with him, as failing to do so will cost him and Elsie their heads.

KamiNomi has united a rather powerful team of directors and writers for production, with script writing from Hideyuki Kurata (R.O.D., Excel Saga), character designs by Akio Watanabe (The Soul Taker, Bakemonogatari), and direction from Shigehito Takayanagi (Galaxy Angel). The animation and pacing are both crispy done, and the story is quite open towards parodying itself, unafraid to call itself a dating-sim as Keima's past proficiency at games plays a major role in getting female characters to bend.

Ironically, it's probably Keima's confidence in galge that makes KamiNomi unlike dating-sims. There is no first-person perspective at the situations, and while the purpose of capturing souls is an excuse normally seen in sims, Keima's not some neutral nameless character without a personality. Hiro Shimono gives a pretty solid performance to make Keima both assertive and comical when interacting with Elsie's clueless nature.

The World God Only Knows is a dating-sim turned harem anime, despite each conquest conveniently forgetting Keima's confessions to them. For the meantime, it means that the show is more a Pokemon for galge otaku than Love Hina, the goal not to collect but to save each subject. KamiNomi does this with tongue-in-cheek parody of the genre, so it's hard to guess if true-blue galge otaku will react positively or be offended. Either way, KamiNomi deserves a save point, since it would be worth it to continue watching it.

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