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.
Name: “Goidou, Yui” (五位堂結)
Alias: Katsuragi, Keima (桂木桂馬)
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: The World God Only Knows
Goidou Yui is the daughter of a wealthy family, a talented musician, and the vessel for the goddess Mars. Having to deal with overprotective parents and possessing a timid personality, Goidou winds up switching personalities with male classmate and game addict Katsuragi Keima when the soul of a demon enters her body. The real Goidou is not actually a fujoshi in any way, nor is Keima; rather, it is the combined entity of Keima’s soul inside of Yui’s body that is something of a fujoshi.
After their minds return to their original bodies, Goidou takes on a more “masculine” personality, dressing in men’s clothes and even going so far as to try to romance Keima as if he were a dainty maiden. She also takes up the drums and joins her classmate Chisato’s band, the 2-B Pencils. Katsuragi returns to his old self, no longer interested in otome games.
Though not wholly a “fujoshi” mindset, the combined entity of Katsuragi Keima’s mind in Goidou Yui’s body brought Keima’s endless devotion to male-oriented dating sims to female-oriented ones, BL or otherwise.
“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.
With the premise of a dating sim-addicted nerd tasked to woo real women in order to exorcise loose demon souls from them by using his wealth of game-derived “knowledge,” The World God Only Knows is the kind of anime that can very easily go wrong. Initially, I approached the series with some wariness, but after having finished the first season I found myself immediately eagerly continuing with the second one. Overall, I ended up being reasonably impressed by The World God Only Knows and it hinges on one reason in particular.
Given the concept of the series, it inevitably leads to a good number of female characters being introduced in order for the hero Keima to work his moves. In the case of The World God Only Knows, it also results in each girl having a particular problem that must be resolved in order Keima to win their heart, and the danger I felt was that it could potentially lead to the kind of series where a girl appears, Keima romances her and breaks the curse, and then her story is simply done, as if this romancing is the most important period of her life. Thankfully however, The World God Only Knows avoids that pitfall with grace and dignity.
Certainly Keima does make the girls fall for him, but rather than end up feeling like a girl’s story is reaching its conclusion, it’s more like their story is only just beginning. Keima acts as a turning point in their lives, where they resolve some long-standing (or perhaps recent) issue and come out the better for it, their mental and emotional states refreshed. The entire world is open to them. Also, they forget about falling in love with Keima so he doesn’t end up having half a dozen girls chasing him at all times.
Though perhaps The World God Only Knows could be called a visual novel-themed anime, it ends up behaving more like a healing anime. Showing the opportunities that can be available with some renewed perspective on life and the willingness to confront inner demons (no pun intended), The World God Only Knows maybe therapeutic to not only its cast of characters but perhaps to the viewers as well.
If you want to try it out, the entire thing is on Crunchyroll, and if you want more, keep in mind that it’s based on a manga.