Based on two episodes
Summary: Keima Katsuragi is addicted to dating sims, known online as “The Capturing God” able to capture the heart of any 2D girl. Mistaking his ability for actual success with woman a demon named Elsee appears and recruits him to help capture evil spirits hiding in the hearts of young girls. After accidently signing the agreement Keima is forced to try and win the hearts of real girls or both he and Elsee will lose their heads.
Review: The World God Only Knows sounds like it is going to be an otaku pandering show filled with exploitation. But Keima Katsuragi character prevents it from ever going down that direction. It is one of the rare times that we see an Otaku portrayed not as a drooling loser, but as a fully rounded character who hides in 2D games because his social skills are lacking. That fact enables the audience to immediately sympathize with Keima.
At its heart The World God Only Knows is another meta-anime. The show is commenting on its own medium, poking fun at the tropes found in Dating Sims and romance anime. All of Keima’s interactions with women up to that point have been with fantasies within Video Game worlds so Keima, now forced to win the hearts of real girls, only has the tools he’s developed in Dating Sim to work on. This leads to much of the show’s humor, for example, Keima needs to win the heart of a track team member but declares he cannot because she isn’t wearing bloomers and her hair isn’t tired up, which is the image commonly shown in Anime and video games. There is also a lot of slapstick with a few sight gags that made me physically laugh out loud, which is rare even in comedies I enjoy.
The formula of the show leads to a cast of well-developed characters. Each girl Keima needs to “capture” has to be won by learning information about them. Kemia gathers his information as the character slowly unravels and only at that point is he able to “capture” their hearts. The individual stories of each of the girls aren’t the most original but the ways we learn and interact with the characters allow the audience to get close to them and sympathize with them.
The girls Keima has to capture are played as realistic as anime will allow while he is approaching each situation as if it were a game. There is a potential that the stereotypes of a game applied “realistically” will lead to a ton of misogyny but it doesn’t come through strongly due to how sincere Keima is playing it. Then after he gets to know the girl and they fall in love with him, they lose their memories. Keima has to live with the knowledge that they did love him but now will barely look at him. The tragic part is that he has to do this continuously until his contract is up. I have a feeling that towards the end Keima isn’t going to be able to let one of the girls go and we’ll have a main conflict arise from it.
Verdict: The World God Only Knows excels because of how it plays with general tropes of Anime and Dating Sims. Unlike lesser shows it knows how silly these tropes are and plays up that fact to the benefit of the characters and the humor. Keima becomes an endearing character due to how honest his “otakuness” is played and having to constantly fall in love and then back away from the girls he needs to “capture.”