The Most Excellent Depiction of Chihiro in “The World God Only Knows”

“Average characters” are a dime a dozen in anime and manga. Whether they’re a girl who’s good at sports and bad at math, or a boy who sleeps in class and never attends clubs, whether they’re main characters or supporting ones, the archetype of the “average person” is often taken as practically a blank slate or a convenient neutral point, which makes it all the more impressive when an anime or manga does an excellent job of portraying the average without making it feel boring or rote. Gundam AGE is one such series which pulls this off successfully, and another is The World God Only Knows, particularly with the character of Kosaka Chihiro.

A girl with no particular hobbies or skills who prefers to get advice from magazines and gossip about her latest crush, Chihiro comes across as a character many anime fans looking for larger-than-life personalities might be disappointed by, the sort of girl people associate with “boring reality” whom they might want to avoid in their entertainment. This is made clear even by the main character Keima, himself a fan of the extreme contrasts in personality quirks common to dating sims, who considers himself an enemy of the “real,” and who describes Chihiro as the equivalent of the random character you see in the background while having a conversation with one of the main girls in a game.

What is particularly compelling about Chihiro, however, is how her averageness is utilized in the story to give her more depth as a character. Chihiro, especially as the story continues, knows full well how more often than not her “passions” are anything but, and it is this self-awareness combined with a newly found sense of general confidence which allows her to explore her own identity more thoroughly.

At the conclusion of her original arc which centered around her aloofness and a desire to feel “special,” Chihiro takes up guitar on a whim. Over the course of the series she forms a band with some of the other girls while also improving her skills, though the band does not become her identity. She is not “Chihiro the Guitarist” the way other girls such as Nakagawa Kanon and Shiomiya Shiroi are “the Idol” and “the Bookworm,” respectively, but unlike those characters the guitar didn’t have to be a guitar. It could have been pottery or gymnastics or any other activity, though perhaps her instrument of choice and the decision to take up music in the first place also stand out as decisions typical for an average girl. The important thing is that starting up a band becomes a way for Chihiro to learn more about herself, and to prove to herself that she can actually stick to something and see it through to the end.

The idea of creating a band from the ground up and working at it might suggest the classic theme of “hard work breeds success,” but I don’t think that’s the case for Chihiro here. Just as she is not the Guitarist, she is also not the Rock Lee. It is less about how effort can overcome a lack of natural talent, and more about how the act of making an effort at all can create positive changes in a person such as Chihiro. There is success, but it is success on her own terms, and as Chihiro says herself, “I suck at singing as well, but in my life, I’m always the vocalist!” Chihiro is not only a character, but also an on-going process, and that makes her fascinating.

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8 thoughts on “The Most Excellent Depiction of Chihiro in “The World God Only Knows”

  1. Nice write up though I never though of her as the “average character”. I always felt like she was more like Ritsu from K-on. Starting the band, making confessions to all those guys; to me she was the high energy spunky girl with the drive but no direction.

    I’m rooting for her to capture the “Capturing God” though. Originally, I was an Aymui fan but Chihiro won me over with her confession.

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    • I’m in a similar boat to you, though I still think I like Ayumi more. That said, I feel like the way the story’s gone so far, Chihiro is definitely going to win.

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  2. I take it her character is a critique of the “larger-than-life” personalities we see overwhelmingly in the media. However I don’t think they are principally used for escapism (which is already a bad idea in my opinion) but rather because they are well established templates every manga reader can recognize. Those characters tend to be one-dimensional, they are, as you say, defined by their hobby, and nothing else. But the readers can easily identify and class them without too much effort. And that’s all that matters, right?

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  3. When reading this article I very clearly remembered that scene (or was it multiple scenes) where Chihiro is just lying on her bed and just absent mindedly flipping through the channels while the rain outside just poured. This scene I think really stuck with me because I found it to be representative of her normailty. A fair bit of time was dedicated to show just how bored and lonely Chihiro really was. I particularly emphasized with her due to having experienced such feelings myself although I think that being bored and lonely is a fairly universal experience. When her arc ended with her memories of Keima being erased like all the others it was actually really depressing. Clearly I’m a sucker for a good rainy scene.

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  4. As a massive, unrepentant fan of Chihiro (among the many enjoyable characters of the series), I feel you’ve really managed to nail why I like her. Chihiro isn’t defined by her actions or primary hobby/vocation- while this goes towards most of the series characters at least a little, Chihiro is free to like things and even obsess over them while remaining herself. She isn’t an avatar of her likes, like Sumire (Ramen) or Nanaka (Shogi), but instead is her own personality with orbiting passions and fancies. Hell, she goes back and forth on many things both while she is the main focus of the story and while she is in the background.
    I could point out exact examples but this may cut too close to recent events that may still be considered spoilery.

    Plus, as teaNrice says, those rainy scenes were great. Sometimes, anime characters should just flop sideways on the floor at home and text people while ignoring the TV in the background. It makes them more real than any over-written speech.

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