Manga Mondays: The World God Only Knows
Posted November 9, 2009on:
This week marks the start of some new weekly features here on AnimeReel, and to kick things off we have Manga Mondays, where I dip into my overly large manga collection – or those of a friend, sharing is caring – and review a random manga, new or old. This week’s manga is a recent favorite, Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai, or “The World God Only Knows.” It runs in Shonen Sunday magazine (former home of InuYasha), and is a critical look at romance with a cynical eye and a good heart, and it gives you a lot of insight on how and why the various character archetypes work in Japanese romances.
It’s also so amazingly popular right now that it’s only a matter of time and material before it gets an anime adaptation, though its subject matter probably prevents it from making it big in the English-language manga market.
The star of Kaminomi is Katsuragi Keima, a young man who is known as ota-megane (“four-eyed otaku,” roughly) among his classmates for his annoying habit of playing bishoujo games on his PSP during class and his declaration that he only has eyes for 2D girls. But on the ‘net, he has a different name, given to him by a legion of gamers: otoshigami, the “Capturing God”.
Because of his nearly supernatural skill at navigating through the labyrinths of digital romances, he is coerced into a contract with a minor demon who just so happens to need his skills: Elsie. According to her, there are runaway souls from the underworld who are taking up residence in the broken hearts of young girls, and the best way to extract and capture them is to get them fall in love.
Contrary to his anti-social tendencies and professed hatred for the third dimension, Keima turns out to be amazing at finding the right approach to the various girls who have these wayward spirits darkening their hearts. His experience with the romance genre and his understanding of every character archetype gives him incredible insight into each new character, and he uses that to guide the story toward a path that ends with the girl happy and the spirit captured – usually within a couple of funny and sweet chapters. Conveniently, after the ghost is exorcised from the girl after the end of the romantic vignette, she loses her memories, so he’s free to move on to the next project (I’m loath to call them “conquests” since he has no personal interest in the girls, other than a vested interest in keeping them happy).
Keima is one of the most popular characters in manga right now for his ability to cut through the tropes of modern romance and turn them to his advantage. For all of his cynicism about the endless parade of Japanese character archetypes, he’s an easily likeable character on top of being the fantasy of every lonely gamer. He treats the girls with respect even as he breaks down what makes them tick, and when he’s not being pulled away from his beloved games, he’s insightful and intelligent, setting him apart from the Shonen Jump style of unthinkingly cheerful heroes.
I recently picked up volume 6 of the manga, and it’s still finding ways to reinvent itself, so even when you get the formula of “New girl appears -> Keima studies her character traits -> Keima scripts out their romance -> Girl comes away happier” again and again, it’s fresh and fun each time.
This series is hugely popular among the Akihabara crowd – check out the picture on the left to see how well it sells every time a new volume comes out – but is probably too niche for American audiences. On the plus side, it’s highly likely that there will be an anime adaptation of this manga in the near future, so you don’t have to miss out on this series if you can’t read Japanese.
Thanks for reading the first Manga Monday, and make sure to let me know what you think of this as a regular feature in the comments! Feel free to suggest some manga for me to look at, too – I read voraciously, so if I haven’t read it yet, I’ll pick it up and give it a try.