The World God Only Knows and the Art of Love

by eternal on April 25, 2010

Love is War, as they say. Fighting on the battlefield of love requires not only the guts and courage of a shounen hero, but also the level-headed tactical prowess of a military commander. Keima Katsuragi is one such warrior who, having distanced himself from the frailty of human emotion, fights with his life on the line against impossible odds. Armed only with his wit and intellect, he stands proudly as a one-man army against thousands of escaped spirits from Hell who hide within human hosts and absorb their energy. His dramatic tale of love and loss is one that has won the hearts of countless fans, including my own. It comes as no surprise that he will one day become the protagonist of his own anime series.

…In other words, The World God Only Knows is a solid manga. If you’ve read the summary, you already know that the series’ defining point is its cultural awareness. Yes, TWGOK is meta, and it requires the reader to have some experience and interest in galge and its surrounding subculture. Meta is hit-and-miss with a lot of anime fans – the topic has come up several times before with shows like Lucky Star and Seitokai no Ichizon, always resulting in strong opinions on both sides. I had my say about the latter, but I think we’ve all settled on our view of meta by now, and I don’t think Keima’s battle of wits will change those opinions.

Having said that, I don’t particularly think that The World God Only Knows is about meta. Certainly, it demands that you care about the subculture, but its real strength is its action. In true shounen fashion, its “battles” are some of the biggest highlights of the series, and since it has no plot to worry about, its characters can fight without wasting time to search for excuses.

Yes, that’s right: my favourite aspect of a manga about a 2D-con galgamer who uses his tactics learned from dating sims to win girls’ hearts in real life is not its satirical content, but its wit-driven battles.

Let’s play spot-the-archetype!

Let me put it this way: The World God Only Knows is like a Death Note parody. It’s a battle of wits that takes itself 100% seriously 99% of the time, pausing for comic relief only as frequently as any other shounen would. You would think that someone would break down laughing when Keima explains his analysis of a girl’s character traits, identifies her archetype, and plans a method to reach her ending; you would expect his strategies to fail miserably, for him to end up stuttering and miscalculating and running home in shame to play his galge.

You would think that would happen, but it doesn’t, because Keima Katsuragi is not a harem lead, he’s a shounen lead.

Like any shounen lead, he boasts ridiculous abilities – he can play six visual novels at once, he can swim while playing his PSP. He has an infinite supply of money to support weekly gaming store raids and he manages to score perfectly on his tests without ever paying attention in class. To top it all off, he’s a Penny Arcade-level internet star who has influenced the industry with his legacy of being the Capturing God.

Likewise, Keima demonstrates his implausible abilities in real combat without anyone stopping to question his skill. Having distanced himself from reality to the point that 3D girls have virtually no effect on him, he can pull off lines and strategies that even trained bishounen would struggle with. He can multitask – one day he’s the cool, mysterious senpai, and the next day he’s the persistent admirer. He can even be the damsel in distress (I kid you not – I won’t spoil it, but he succeeds in accomplishing something that every bishoujo fan secretly wants to accomplish).

Keima’s ability to cook up battle plans is thoroughly exciting, and his tactics are logically consistent with what eroge fans already know from the real world. His words of wisdom are amusing to say the least, but they ring true. His reasoning is just like ours – he’s like a real human placed inside of a game world, infused with the perfect amount of clever planning and flawless acting to allow him to become the greatest harem lead of all time. He dominates the battlefield like an imbalanced character in a fighting game. And yet, he isn’t perfect – he has to stay on his toes to win, and his plans have to change to adapt to all sorts of unexpected circumstances. Really, this picture sums it up perfectly. Forget the meta, forget the references – I’m not joking about wanting to see how Keima will capture the inevitable sickly Key heroine and the Nagato-esque silent type.


It’s incorrect to say that I like The World God Only Knows for its plot because the little plot that’s there is only used to propel the characters forward. However, just like a good battle manga, the duels that Keima holds against each of the girls are exhilarating. You smirk at the familiarity of his plans, realizing that his analysis is hilariously accurate, but you wind up gaping in awe as he pulls off the dramatic finishing move and releases the spirit with a kiss. It’s impossible to not be at the edge of your seat when he adjusts his glasses, claiming that he can already see the ending. The premise is novel enough to catch your attention, but you don’t realize how good the series is until you find yourself anxiously clicking through the pages to see if Keima triggered enough events to reach the conclusion.

The World God Only Knows isn’t being serialized in the kind of mags that bishoujo manga usually turn up in – it’s actually in Weely Shounen Sunday, an old-school mainstream publication that can boast involvement with Osamu Tezuka. I think this says something about the heart of the series’ appeal. It’s a battle-of-wits shounen for bishoujo fans, something that can balance perfectly between amusing meta and duels that are epic in every sense of the word. It might be more than a little targeted, but you’ll have to search hard to find another series that utilizes its cultural awareness in such a jaw-droppingly exhilarating way.


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

mefloraine April 25, 2010 at 11:39 pm

I can’t disagree with anything in this post. \o/

I find it amusing that someone else has brought up that Code Geass x TWGOK image. the day my friend recommended me this manga there were only about four chapters out, and the first thing he said was that I had to read it as though Lelouch and Keima were one in the same.

Best plan ever.


Ryan A April 26, 2010 at 12:18 am

I’m not sure where I started or stopped on this one, XD


mt-i April 26, 2010 at 12:48 am

This captures the intended appeal of Kaminomi very well… and explains why I’ve been finding the manga rather boring. I sneaked up between the shounen shelves at the bookshop the other day (for the first time in years), and picked it up thinking I’d try some weekly shounen fare made palatable to moefan tastes, but the weekly shounen part is hard to cope with. Also picked up the first few volumes of the Hayate manga, but I’m not sure it was a smart move either. >>Back to pure bishoujo moe monthlies.


ETERNAL April 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I’ve actually been wondering if this manga is more likely to work on shounen fans who aren’t into moe or moe fans who aren’t into shounen. One of my IRL shounen fan friends thought it was a decent series, but he didn’t have the kind of reaction that most people do. I guess it requires that you enjoy both, to some extent.


Scamp April 26, 2010 at 9:17 am

You’ve won me over completely. Give me epic tactical manouverings and I’ll lap it up no matter what. Sounds very much like the Gintama Nabe-leon episode


meganeshounen April 26, 2010 at 9:30 am

>>He can even be the damsel in distress (I kid you not – I won’t spoil it, but he succeeds in accomplishing something that every bishoujo fan secretly wants to accomplish).

To coin a phrase from a certain infamous imageboard: “He became the little girl.”

Still wanting Tieria Erde or Lelouch to voice Keima though.


ETERNAL April 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Yep, that’s what I was hinting at. Greatest arc ever!


Glo May 2, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I can……already see the ending!!

Well, I’m hooked.


crazydave May 2, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Finally someone talks about TWOGOK. Its been out forever and was surprised no one else had picked it up. I love this manga and have been following it almost for a while now. And yes Yui’s arc was one of if not the best arcs ever.


Mccurry May 11, 2010 at 12:47 am

Thank you so much for this post, had never heard of this manga before this, and now I’m so glad I have! Makes me remember the routes I’ve played… *reminisces*


Krozam May 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm

I am frequently amazed by Keima’s psychological intelligence. I’ve played some of the unfortunately few eroge that are translated, and I must say that being able to apply experience gained from playing those the way Keima does is quite a feat. Of course, being such a great actor doesn’t hurt either, but it’s the psychological intelligence – and occasionally wisdom as well – that is his strongest weapon. It’s also what makes the series so interesting for me. Before I started reading TWGOK, I’d never have expected to like a character who seduces girls one after another for his job. XD


ETERNAL May 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm

At first I thought the main draw of the series would be the comedy (or at least the girls), but frankly, Keima makes it what it is. Some parts of it were seriously reminding me of Death Note, and that’s when the ideas for this posted started to come to me.


Essie August 14, 2014 at 7:43 pm

All things coedesirnd, this is a first class post


tom June 29, 2010 at 11:09 am

A solid review, agree with everything. I like how you compared it to a battlefield lol. Keima is definitely a strategist, if not a knight (pardon the pun off his name) to save people.


DK July 1, 2010 at 6:49 am

i totally agree I have been like keima’s disciple I have been capturing girls ever since I was inspired by him that looks is not the only weapon you have to win a girls heart and guess what I have already captured 3 girls…a smart one, the quiet type one, the serious one I have already capture that girls by following keima’s instructions… LONG LIVE CAPTURING GOD!!!!


DK July 1, 2010 at 6:50 am

but no kissing stuff…^^


JERALD July 12, 2010 at 6:41 am



anonymous August 2, 2012 at 3:19 am

These may seem trivial, but as a hardcore galge and TWGOK fan, you said some incorrect things. Firstly, he doesn’t proudly battle runaway spirits — he’s forced to. Secondly, you make it seems like he cares about the real while in fact, he doesn’t give a damn about the real.


eternal September 8, 2012 at 3:14 am

By proudly I was probably thinking bravely–which is still partly incorrect, but the idea is that he treats it like war or like a game. He indeed doesn’t care about 3D but I think I was trying to contrast the premise with the normal assumption that love can’t be simplified to a game.


Kathleen October 16, 2014 at 12:24 pm

An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do think that you
need to write more about this topic, it may not be a taboo matter but typically people don’t discuss such subjects.
To the next! Kind regards!!


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