21 Jan 2013
At the end of our review of the first season of The World God Only Knows I wrote the following: “Fingers crossed Manga Entertainment releases the second season” - well, here it is! This has to be the first time that crossing my fingers has actually yielded results - I’m as shocked as you are. Anyway, now this second series is here, how does it shape up compared to its predecessor?
For those who have contracted a convenient case of amnesia, a quick refresher on the premise of TWGOK (which I will again call it to save typing). Keima Katsuragi, massive dating sim game nerd is accosted by adorably dense demon (you know, from Hell) named Elsie who shows up hoping to use his abilities to charm real world girls. Why? In order to drive out detrimental spirits (called Loose Souls) that inhabit the damaged hearts of humans. At the risk of losing his head to a magical exploding head collar, Keima must now apply his knowledge of dating sims to the real world and drive out Loose Souls from various girls with the power of love.
While this is admittedly a cheat, I have to say that the vast majority of what I wrote in my review of the first series of this show holds true for this new one. The staff behind the adaptation made more of the same without messing with the existing formula - highlights, lowlights and all other lights besides are back in force. The admittedly still-outlandish premise is still in full effect so it you were turned off of the show because of it before, know that although it has had time to develop it is much the same here. Also along for the ride are all the great character designs, pleasant animation and soundtrack as well as the humour and well-measured pace to the various small storylines. It’s all back in full force without any sign of slippage, which is great to see.
Much like the first series, your enjoyment of the show greatly hinges upon how much you empathise with the various heroines that Keima has to chase after. For me, the second season starts of in a horribly weak fashion with the rather dull trials of martial artist Kusonoki, which thankfully are done and dusted in just two episodes. These episodes feel a chore because as soon as you are told the primary conflict the resolution is entirely obvious but the show still has to go through some rote predictable motions to get there.
However, from here onwards the season is nothing but great character arcs, including my favourite out of the entire franchise - Chihiro Kosaka. This character arc is my favourite by a mile as not only is the character massively likable but it also throws the by now established pattern of the series out and makes for a much more interesting watch overall as Keima struggles to overcome his greatest challenge yet- someone who is perfectly normal.
The series also retains a few stand-alone episodes where it gets to break free of the overarching influence of a character and instead devote itself to comedy. These are a delight to watch as the show pokes innocent fun at both its own main character and his obsessions with good-hearted humour and a bucket of gags. The king of these episodes is the finale of the season, which I won’t say another thing about for fear of diluting it.
This set, much like the first season, comes with an English dub which is both better and worse than in the previous set. First, the good news: the general quality of the voice acting is much higher and much more even - gone is the uneven effort from Chris Patton as Keima, who now seems to be much more comfortable in the role and does it well. Elsie’s voice actress Luci Christian is still amazing, as is her in-show demon sister Haqua played by Jessica Boone. But, here comes the bad news! All of the background or side characters have awful direction and lines to read - every single one lands as flat as a lead pancake and really detracts from the generally good script, a few clunky and literal lines excepted. My main issue, and this just mystifies me, is that some of the returning characters from season one have had their voice actresses changed - none of the changes being for the better, especially in the case of track and field star Ayumi. I can understand there may be damn good reasons as to why this had to be done, but it is still a glaring mark on the production and really detracts from all the improvements otherwise made. If you don’t want to go down the dub path, the subtitles are all present and correct and I could detect no issues.
Again, this feels like a very lazy cop-out to use, but if you liked the first season of The World God Only Knows you’ll love this second helping. If you were on the fence, this season has more to offer, finds its feet and begins to put more interesting spins on both the premise and the methods Keima must employ in order to succeed beyond simply slapping a different heroine into the existing plot structure. If you didn’t enjoy the first season then, well, there won’t really be much here to convert you over.
Still, I really enjoyed this second helping of the show as it reminded me of all the reasons I like the franchise - the great characters, the humour, and just how pleasantly watchable it is when it hits. A third season of TWGOK has been confirmed but has not yet aired at the time of writing, but I suppose it’s not too early for me to cross my fingers again that we see more of the franchise here in the UK.