April 12, 2019 marks the five-year anniversary of a momentous occasion: the day of the final and most important love confession in the manga The World God Only Knows. There’s a lot that’s special about this particular ending, not least of which was the internet’s powerful reaction to it, best encapsulated in the image below, which collects before and after reactions toward the reveal. For those who want to avoid spoilers about this series, or those who would feel offended by typical 4chan speech, it would be best to turn back now. For those who want to stay, I hope you like hearing me wax nostalgic about what makes this conclusion so great.
The basic premise of The World God Only Knows is that Keima, an expert in dating sims, is accidentally assumed by the heavens to be a real Casanova, and ends up having to use his virtual love experience to win girls over and free them from dark spirits. It’s a harem series in a certain sense, with lots of potential partners. Through many ups and downs, the series closes out with Keima expressing his feelings for the character Chihiro. As shown in the image, there was a great deal of incredulity among some hardcore at the time.
I’ve always found that shock and disbelief both fascinating and puzzling because, in my view, Chihiro is the perfect partner for Keima. This isn’t just because I think Chihiro is excellent in general, or because I predicted the canon pairing years prior. Rather, it’s about how well she complements and completes Keima as a foil, a motivation, and an equal.
Keima’s character is that of a game-obsessed otaku who believes in the inherent superiority of dating sim girls. Even most of the female characters in the manga, although technically “flesh and blood” humans in the world of the story, are often quite similar to idealized visual-novel heroines. Keima, in turn, uses these similarities to lay out a strategy for wooing them. The one big exception—the person he can never predict and thus can’t plan for—is Chihiro. In a world of girls who resemble fictional archetypes, Chihiro defies the trend. She pulls Keima out of his comfort zone, prevents him from retreating, and challenges him to be a better person just by being herself. How appropriate that the boy obsessed with 2D would end up with the most “3D” girl of all.
Anyone who paid careful attention to The World God Only Knows probably saw this coming. There’s so much to their interpersonal dynamic that screams “this is the one true pairing,” not least of which is how the manga reveals that Chihiro was into him long before he gained his “conquest” powers. And yet, as shown above in that helpful image, a good number of readers were blindsided by what should have been clear as day. The reason this happened, I believe, is that these fans did not understand or did not agree with Keima’s growth as a character from arrogant gaming recluse to hero with empathy. They never wanted Keima to truly pick 3D over 2D, and the girls favored by those fans tend to be the most akin to “dating sim heroines.”
It’s been five years since a nerd looked into himself and realized what mattered most, and five years since The World God Only Knows joined the likes of Evangelion in telling otaku to explore beyond their boundaries. It’s why I still remember the manga to this day.