The World God Only Knows Season 1 DVD Anime Review

The World God Only Knows Season 1 DVD Anime Review When Hell contacts a self professed “God” to collect some wayward souls, neither side gets what they expect.

What They Say:
Keima is a dating sim champion. Cute girls are rendered powerless by his irresistible game playing techniques. Too bad things aren’t that way in the real world… that is, until his tempting game playing causes a real live – and very bubbly – cute demon hunter named Elsie to materialize! Now Elsie wants Keima to help her free hot girls from sneaky demons who secretly possess them.

The Review:
Audio:
The release of this television series contains two language options, English and Japanese, though both tracks are limited to only a stereo mix, likely due to the materials only being available to Sentai in that manner. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was selected and it is a solid representation of stereo tracks as splits the dialogue and other sounds nicely in such a way as to give a decent illusion of depth. The track also works well to provide directionality and it covers the low sounding effects, the more quiet ones as well as the higher pitched ones in a way that provides a nice balance. On top of this the dialogue is presented clearly and there were no dropouts or distortions noticed during playback.

Video:
Originally premiering on Japanese television during the 2010 season the series is presented here in its original 1.78:1 ratio with an anamorphic widescreen encode. The series itself is one that likes to make use of quite a bit of the color spectrum including some rather bright colors but also making use of some more subtle ones with some of the clothing choices. For the most part colors come across well and the blacks are solid and vibrant as well. The DVD release has a few encode issues though, most noticeably a rather distracting level of noise that has the ability to really make its presence known and be disruptive on occasion. In addition to this, though not nearly as distracting, is the presence of haloing, aliasing, dot crawl, banding, bleeding, artifacting, moiré, and some minor ghosting. It certainly doesn’t reach anywhere near “unwatchable” scale but it is prevalent enough that I would suggest going for the Blu Ray upgrade to those whose setups will accommodate the format.

Packaging:
The release comes packaged in an eco DVD case that includes a middle flipper page to hold one disc while the other is held on the back side of the case. The front cover features Keima sitting in a rather powerful pose on a throne made of televisions and gaming equipment as a portable game system glows and floats over his right hand. The television screens themselves display images of the four girls he will encounter in his voyage, though some of the images might make one think the series is aimed slightly more at a scandalous audience than the series really is.

The spine features a smiling image of Elsie at the top (which is recycled in the first discs main menu) with the title being present just under her feet. The back cover features a larger image of Elsie in her demon world garb on the left and a semi-surprised looking Keima in his school uniform on the right. In between them and above them is the series copy while below them are eight stills from the series as well as the DVD credits and technical specs.

The series is presented on two discs with the first disc using an image of Ayumi Takaharain her school track outfit (modified) crossing a finish line while the second disc features an image of Kanon Nakagawa in her idol outfit standing against a field of flowers. Of note the disc hub for the second disc was a bit tight, which caused a bit of pressure to have to be exerted to get it out which left a faint mark on the back cover due to the eco case. This is an annoying enough downside to with these cases normally, but given the plastic used for the flipper component it seems it would have been more “environmentally friendly” to just use the standard DVD case with hubs on either side than use an eco case and then a flipper. This leaves the package with a sense that it contains all of the fun of weakening a case and possible damaging the art work with none of the environmental upside, which is not really a win in my book.

Menu:
The menus for the discs are similar in the respect that they are static affairs in terms of the images present on them. Disc one uses an image of Elsie on the left while the episodes that are present are listed on the right in a stacked fashion as a short bit from the opening plays as background music. As a game joke the episodes are referred to as “Flags” which is a term from the type of game that the main character plays. The sub screens use an image of Ayumi for the Language one and Kanon for the second as a portion of the close plays for both. Disc two’s main image is of Shiori with books hovering around her while the image of Keima from the front cover is present in the Language screen and Elsie is on the Special Features screen. Disc two also uses the same audio tracks in the same places as disc one and both menus use a small skull icon that changes color to indicate the currently highlighted option which changes color when selected. The icon is quick to respond to selection changes and the implementation of selection choices is made with minimal delay.

Extras:
The first extras on this release are the (somewhat standard) clean open and closes for the series. Sentai then went a bit further and created “music videos” by taking out the songs sung by one of the girls in the series and putting them together in one location, though they are just removed from the show so they contain all the standard dialoged and images and they are present in one lump piece that one can skip through to find a particular track but the tracks not listed individually. Also of note, though it is not listed as such, Sentai includes a brief opening short that introduces the series and was present on a Japanese disc released specially with the one of the volumes of the original manga series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hell has a problem- There are a large number of Loose Souls running rampant in the human world and it is severely taxing their ability to gather them up. Things are so bad in fact that the Loose Soul Squad’s chief Dokuro is forced to bring in Elucia de Rux Ima (or Elsie for short), a long time (almost 300 years) member of the cleaning staff to take part in the latest mission. On top of this he also is forced to reach outside the confines of Hell to enlist the aid of someone known across the net as “The God of Conquest” so that the Loose Souls can be collected.

Unfortunately for Dokuro, Elsie and “the God of Conquest,” Hell’s research department is as poorly staffed as their Loose Souls Squad division, which they will all discover that when a giant mistake has them recruiting what may be the one of the last beings on Earth they need to complete their tasks. To collect the Souls, Hell needs someone to woo the human girls that the spirits hide in and cause the spirits to leave their bodies. While this might not be an issue for Casanova, it turns out the God of Conquest they recruited has a preference for his girls to be 2 dimensional.

Thanks to this misunderstanding by both parties the young man known as the “God of Conquest,” Keima Katsuragi, is suddenly forced to set his impressive (and more than a little obsessive) dating game world aside or risk losing his head when he responds to an e-mail which Hell had sent. Elsie also fears the outcome as their fates are now linked she convinces him that he has no choice but to fulfill the contract he unwittingly signed given he tried to balk at it when he discovered he’d be dealing with the real world (or as real as the supernatural world gets anyway).

Begrudgingly Keima sets out on this new task that has been put upon him despite his distaste for reality and its inhabitants as he tries to fulfill his contract and be allowed to return to the solace of his videogames. Things aren’t going to be helped either when the targets of his conquests act and dress in ways contrary to his years of (virtual) experience and he is forced to move even farther out of his comfort zone, but is there a chance that despite his reluctance he may actually be able to pull this off?

With Keima and Elsie now joined at the hip Keima will have to rely on all his gaming lessons to succeed in a world of flesh and blood girls where there are no multiple save points and no ability to hit reset. And what will happen if he may find he risks more than just his head on the outcome as it may turn out changing from girl to girl in real life isn’t nearly as easy as it is when one just has to start up a new software title? With everything to lose Keima will have to power through these dilemmas and he may just have to deal with reality, which he has been attempting to avoid for many, many years.

I came into the World God Only Knows having heard nothing about the title, which turned out to be quite a positive thing for me. If I had seen the premise I probably would have formed some expectations that would have left me feeling somewhat cynical of the concept because as a player of visual novels myself I could come up with some standard patterns that would be less than flattering of the girls at best and possible downright objectifying them at worst. Thankfully The World God Only Knows (TWGOK) makes a conscious decision to avoid many of these pitfalls and treat the girls in the series with some respect (though the fact that the girls still follow some game patterns is still a bit of a sore spot).

The other advantage TWGOK has is that it plays things with a decidedly light and humorous tone and takes neither itself or the materials it is parodying too seriously but it also doesn’t treat them with undue disrespect either. The episodes in season 1 follow Keima as he attempts to deal with four “real” girls but it also takes time to lampoon other cultural staples as well but it does so with the same care so that the series never comes off as vicious or mean spirited which is a tremendous selling point as it makes even some parts that might otherwise be a bit touchy enjoyable and pleasant to watch.

In Summary:
With the premise of the dating simulation obsessed main character having to woo a number of young ladies’ hearts to free them from the possession they are under the series is one that could be walking a thin line between treating its material with respect while poking some good natured fun and falling into the abyss of being mean spirited. Thankfully the writers recognized this and there is a sweetness to the work that a more cynical take would have lacked which allows the viewer to connect with the main character better. An additional bit that can go either way is when the series decides to wander a bit away from its central premise and do some random parodying of the culture at large as some of the episodes work better than others but overall the final product is one that eschews a more cynical approach and aims to be an upbeat comedic take which helps carry the work forward.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Music Videos

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C-
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 24th, 2012
MSRP: $59.99
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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