Posted from my Facebook November 22, 2011.
Judging by the title of this anime alone, I was thinking that it would have a faith-based premise to it right off the bat. Then again, I have to remember that this series and comic is coming out of Japan; therefore my expectations of the use of “God” is probably not in the same context as that of an American audience. This series had little to do with religion, but it does have quite an abstract meaning to one’s perception of reality. For that, then, this series makes reference to a God not on grounds of religion, but rather of philosophy. After all, that which we cannot perceive as anything “real” is certainly the world God only knows.
The World God Only Knows is an animated series directed by Shigehito Takayanagi, inspired by the manga written by Tamiki Wakaki (originally given the title, in romanji, Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai). The series had two successful seasons in Japan: one in Fall 2010 and another in Spring 2011.
The story takes place in the present day, focusing on an unlikely protagonist: Keima Katsuragi, a high school student who’s obsessed with playing dating simulations on his hand-held game console. He finds that wrapping his mind in the world of video games best fits his personality, regardless that he excels in his academic work while not paying any attention in class. One day, he meets up with a demon from Hell named Elucia (or Elsie) which asks Keima to help her with a mission. Upon his reluctant agreement, Keima and Elsie are then bound in a demonic contract by becoming “buddies,” capturing lost souls among (real) girls by getting the female host to fall in love with our game-obsessed protagonist! To seal the agreement, Keima and Elsie also have bands permanently around their necks until the contract is completed (for an undetermined time) which is set to go off by cutting their heads off in the case that the binding contract is broken (thankfully, that hasn’t happened…yet).
For the rest of the series, Keima comes across over seven young women whom he has to woo in order to release the loose souls bound to them. Keima uses his knowledge of dating sim flow charts and premises to help him successfully woo the girls and Elsie then captures the loose soul thereafter.
Still however, our protagonist is quite an impassionate person in reality. His one weakness is that he doesn’t like real girls. He is only interested in the women he meets in dating sims. This is where we find a disconnect between our anti-hero and how normal people would perceive him. The fact that Keima Katsuragi has this utter dislike for reality, particularly around relationships with other people, makes him almost god-like; or should I say, for the majority of my audience, inhuman. What this means for us is that the reality we have is quite tangible and is therefore quite painful, especially for our protagonist. Ultimately, the one thing he strives for is to find idealism in his reality; which is impossible to find in a metaphysical standpoint, no matter how close one gets to it. Hence, the show refers to the world God only knows, which is our metaphysical state.
Since ideal states cannot be found in our reality, our protagonist turns to a virtual reality found in the games that he plays. Video games, which are mainly a form of entertainment for people, also depicts an alternative to the real things people must deal with on a daily basis. Video games have a set of rules, boundaries, and laws which cannot be violated within the system, unless the user chooses to do so. A user-controlled environment has little complexities that can off-set our anti-hero because the workings of the environment are relatively simple compared to the real world. For some, perhaps this simplicity is what one might consider most ideal: a world where you, the user, is completely in control of your paths. Such is how a dating simulation works.
To explain a typical dating sim, or more commonly known as a “visual novel,” the user controls his destiny by choosing certain events which will lead him to a particular path in the game. Such choices in a game environment give the user god-like powers in this virtual world because all the other characters will act accordingly from his will. After all, the programs written in a typical dating sim have no built-in intelligence and are therefore forced into submitting to certain reactions depending on the user’s path. Reality, unfortunately, is not this simple because we cannot control the paths set by another player in the real world. This instance in a real-life situation would be like playing the same dating sim with a two-player mode, where players somehow had to woo each other in order to create an ideal path. Therefore, the user does not have full control in a real-world situation because his paths do not trigger events made by another person’s own decisions. This is the bane of reality for those who seek the most ideal state in their lives, where one has full control of their destiny.
It is ironic that our protagonist, Keima Katsuragi has wooed so many real girls in this series, and yet the one girl he loves most is a horribly drawn figure from a dating sim he finds in the bargain bin at a game shop. I suppose it goes to show that beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder, but I digress. While taking his time to go through this particular video game, Keima begins to question what is most ideal to him in a world of video games; seeing that he had built himself a reputation of being the “God of Conquest” in dating sims. At this point in the series (which is pretty much the climax of season 2) he comes to the conclusion that the most ideal world is far too complex to put into a realistic setting. After all, it is reality that he detests the most; and therefore anything found to be tangible can never be his ideal. Perhaps this is how we as people should also view ideal states in our lives. Reality sucks. If all ideal states are realized, then that ideal state also sucks. I will attempt to put this in a logical format:
All realities are bad things.
All ideal states are reality.
Therefore, All ideal states are also bad things.
This argument appears to be valid. However, ideal states cannot be realistic because metaphysically (or truthfully) they do not exist and are therefore not real. This argument is therefore not sound and should not be taken as a truth. What we can take away from this, however, is that if our ideals are based on reality, then our ideals are bad things. Keima Katsuragi realizes this about his ideals the most, so he finds that his most ideal video game, his most ideal girlfriend, his ideal world, cannot be described in terms of reality.
No real things are good things. No real things depict ideal states. Therefore all ideal states are good things? This argument is actually invalid (and if you don’t believe me, try making a Venn diagram for it yourself!) The truth is, ideal things cannot be depicted by things that the human mind can comprehend, not even with scientific tools like logic trees or Venn diagrams. Katsuragi, the God of Conquest, understands best what he does not want from his reality, but he cannot fully grasp the concept of his ideals because ideal states cannot be grasped by real means. Still however, this does not mean that his ideals are nonexistent. While no real things are good things and no ideal states are real things, it follows that some ideal states are in fact good things (again, make a Venn diagram; it’s actually valid). Human beings may not always have good ideal states, but that does not mean that such ideal states do not exist. It is the goal of all individuals to then find these ideal states and use it as a means to improve themselves and our society at large. Such a goal is impossible; but then again, that’s why ideal states are in the realm of goals, and not objectives. In the end, our ideal states can only be found in the world God only knows.