Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 04

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Mikorin reveals himself as far more comfortable around fictional girls than real ones, as evidenced by his love of dating sims. When he tries to get Nozaki into them as well, a hilarious send-up of the genre ensues. As an accomplished shoujo artist, Nozaki enters the game as the protagonist fom his own manga, who isn’t the slightest bit interested in any of the girls in the game. He also serves as skeptic to Mikorin’s true believer, picking the sim apart as he plays.

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Nozaki sees ulterior motives in the characters that don’t belong in the game’s genre, but on one point manages to convert Mikorin with the sentiment that the game’s protagonist’s best friend Tomoda is way too selfless, sacrificing his own youth to support them. Suddenly motivated to pull an all-nighter drawing a manga in which Tomoda is the protagonist, the most suitable person to pair him with turns out to be the protagonist from the game, making it a BL manga and thoroughly confusing Chiyo when she arrives in the morning.

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After subverting the dating sim by pointing out the sidekick best friend is the most compeling character in it, GSNK moves on to a new story in its second half, in which Mikorin must prepare for what is, despite his playboy persona at school, his first mixer ever. He solicits advice from Nozaki and Chiyo, who turn out to be ill-suited to the task, as both of them would prove insufferable at a mixer. Nozaki, posing as a girl, gives conversation-killing answers to Mikorin’s questions, while Chiyo is only interested in meeting someone who matches Nozaki’s description exactly.

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Nozaki also insists on “going to the toilet” with Chiyo to talk “in private”, but when Mikorin insists on joining them, they’re all just in Nozaki’s bathroom for no reason, which is great! Ultimately, Mikorin sends Kashima (who thankfully escapes physical abuse this week) to the mixer in his place. The Prince ends up conquering all four of the other girls, leaving the three guys in the dust. Not that having Mikorin there would have resulted in a dramatically different outcome, but Kashima sure seemed more into it.

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Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai – 01 (Revisited)

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Antisocial high school student and self-styled dating sim “God of Conquest” Katsuragi Keima unknowingly signs a contract with a demon from hell, Elucia “Elsie” de Lute Ima, to assist her in the retrieval of loose souls, which embed themselves within the hearts of troubled girls. To release the souls (and for Elsie and Keima to keep their heads) he must take their place in the girls’ hearts, i.e., make the girls fall in love with him. Their first target is his classmate and track team hopeful Takahara Ayumi, who looks down on Keima, calling him a “dweeb.”

Keima commences a campaign of intensive cheering for Ayumi, who initially thinks he’s mocking her. When her senpai accuses her of getting cocky after a fluke performance, Ayumi trips on a hurdle intentionally to take her out of the meet, so she won’t cause them trouble. Keima encourages her and confesses his love, and when he starts to fall down the stairs, Ayumi catches him and they embrace in a kiss, releasing the loose soul, which Elsie captures. Afterwards, Ayumi wins a medal at the meet, but has no memory of the “conquest.” Elsie enrolls in Keima’s class posing as his sister.

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With only one week until the completion of its third season, we thought we’d look back on the episode that started it all. We first watched and reviewed this episode way back on 8 October 2010, and gave it a 3 out of 4 on our old rating system, but aside from that date and rating, we decided not to read what we wrote back then until writing about our impressions this time around. From the perspective of those now very familiar with the franchise, you’d think we’d find highly introductory (by necessity, as it’s the first) nature of this episode would make it a bit of a bore to watch. Not so. On the contrary: we enjoyed it more the second time.

We were always impressed by the guile and confidence with which this series got out of the gate, which parallels Keima’s confidence in throwing himself into his very first mission, despite having never even held a real girl’s hand. We forgot that Ayumi was first conquered in just this one episode – a breeze compared to Keima’s present struggles in the Goddesses Arc. We also forgot that Elsie was prepared to give up and die with Keima after learning his experience was limited to dating sims, but Keima said ‘screw that’ and stepped up, not just to save his own head, but Elsie’s too. And the rest is history.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen – 06

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Keima starts to court Shiomiya Shiori, who remembers him saving her. He starts by approaching her dressed as a girl, hopeful a unique love interest will help inspire her to write. When she gets writer’s block, he vows to stay with her and won’t let her leave the library until her novel is done. He tells her to “stop thinking and start writing” a story about herself, something only she can write. The story she comes up with ends with a confession to him, and when he responds by kissing her, it releases the goddess Minerva.

Going back to the first season, we think Shiori was our favorite of all of Keima’s conquests. She’s extremely moe, and while her “whole library girl stuck in her mind” is a well-trodden character path, and like all the other various romances Keima engages in, is meant as a half-winking satire of such stories. But perhaps more than all the others, we find her more than just a funny send-up to her trope, but a legitimately good romance on its own terms, leaving aside the fact Keima is at least partially acting the part of the smitten guy. In fact, this story got us wondering for the first time – and perhaps later than many – how emotionally invested Keima actually is in these girls, now that he’s aware they all remember his initial conquests.

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His countless hours of practice with hundreds if not thousands of virtual mates may have reinforced his latent polygamy when it comes to romantic relationships, so we wouldn’t be surprised if at least part of him truly loves all of these girls, including Shiori, and all in different ways. This may have started out as one big cluster-fuck of a hassle, but Keima has not once complained about the reversal of the tragedy of these ladies forgetting all about him after falling for him. On the contrary, he seems to be enjoying every minute of it, to the point where you wonder if he could ever go back to dating sims after playing the real game.

Anyway, back to Shiori: what works so well about her for us is her near-constant inner monologue, which shows us sides of her she’d never bring out (except maybe through her writing). We love how she assures herself she’s open-minded enough to accept a guy like Keima, even though he cross-dresses and he’s seen him “embracing another man” (really Yui). We love how she defaults to writing about galactic wars when she gets struck. We love how she’s afraid to order ramen. And Keima is masterful at steering her towards simply writing about herself as a safe means telling him about herself. Our only gripe is that this episode was possibly Shiori’s only time in the spotlight this season…but they say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen – 03

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On the third day of his search for the remaining goddesses, Keima attempts “leaving school” scenarios with his five former conquests, with the aim of raising their affection for him by five points apiece. Circumstances such as bad weather and their unpredictable actions make it more difficult for him. Still, with Haqua, he is able to raise affection in all five, but he still has much work to do. Meanwhile, Elcie and Haqua’s co-worker Nora arrives, with a new confidential mission for Elcie to commence searching for the goddesses.

A lot has been placed on Keima’s plate; the one used to dealing with one conquest at a time is now facing a real-life equivalent of five dating sim conquests (not counting Kanon or Tenri) all existing in the same game by some kind of glitch, only a life is on the line, and potentially much more than that, as this episode implies. Still, despite his increased workload and exit from his comfort zone, so far you couldn’t ask for a more capable individual to get the job done (i.e. locate the goddesses) than Keima. He’s so well-versed in both fake and real romance (and multi-tasking) that he’s able to juggle five very different girls this week.

Fortune both smiles and frowns upon Keima at different times this week, and there are many close calls that could undermine everything. Keima couldn’t walk Tsukiyo home because she takes the bus; it was hard to get Ayumi and Chihiro separated because of an unexpected third wheel; and Yui (truly a wild card) seems more interested in conquering Keima than letting him conquer her. And speaking of wild cards, Keima and Haqua must now deal with Nora. But most impressive was how Keima handled Shiori: Haqua lured her away so her could read her story, which proved that she remembered his conquest of her. This led to an enormously entertaining collaborative writing exercise.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

The World God Only Knows II 12 (Fin)

I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece, and I was expecting just an isolated, mostly irrelevant slice-of-life episode that drove home Keima’s ideals once more (like last season’s finale), and I shouldn’t have expected the series to resolve itself in just one episode, but I was still pretty disappointed with this final week. Last season’s finale was more unhinged. This one was kind of recycling ideas, and the presentation of his ideal dating sim was a major let-down. It just felt kinda lame, and the horribly-drawn character just seemed like an excuse to…horribly draw something.

There’s a semi-serious mention of the show “continuing” for yet another season, which explains the filler-like nature of this episode. After all, Keima and Elcie still have collars that bind them together until a certain number of souls are caught. Now, considering the number 50,000 has been tossed around, perhaps their contract will never be fulfilled, and Keima is simply doomed for life to make girls fall in love with him and then lose them.

And that’s the flaw of this season: for all the girls whose lives he’s changed by releasing them from loose souls, Keima remains stubbornly static. He just goes through the motions. He hasn’t changed one bit. This season resolved nothing. At the end of every arc, he seems to dump whatever emotional investment. I can’t help but wish he’d develop a little more beyond discovering new schemes for conquering. But he doesn’t care about reality, and so none of the relationships he forms ever have any lasting emotional effect on him.

It’s a shame, and if another season is just going to continue the by-now tired formula, it’s going to be very hard to watch.
Ah, screw it. It’s just good, dumb, light entertainment. I’m actually glad that something deeper and more serious isn’t being attempted; I can go elsewhere for that…and I will. Whether I watch next season totally depends on how much is airing that’s better than this. Rating: 2.5

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Since there are only three official “conquests” shown in the opening sequence, I knew this second season would go one of two routes: longer arcs, or buffer episodes. I watch this series to see Keima scheme and conquer women’s hearts using his knowledge of dating sims. So any time an episode fails to deliver that, I fear I’ll be disappointed.

Mind you, this could have been worse; Elcie is actually quite a bit more tolerable browsing through a game store than she is cooking or baking, which was the low point of last season. And Haqua is similarly tolerable with her not-so-modest modesty and strained excuse to show back up (shouldn’t she have given a report weeks ago?) So tolerable, but just. Mostly, it just made me wish there were more than three girls to conquer this season. Rating: 2.5

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This week Keima regains his composure, as he discovers that it isn’t necessarily Chihiro’s heart he must conquer. But the fact that his words and actions continue to “trigger events” convinces him she isn’t just a background character. So instead of trying to make her fall for him – he will coach her on how to conquer the heart of her crush, some random kid she just happened to zero in on. This means intricate diagrams, stacks of research, and intricate schemes to interact with said crush.

Chihiro is initially dismissive of Keima’s credentials, but we know the facts: Keima has successfully won the hearts of no less than five real girls, one of them a freakin’ famous teen idol – by applying the same methods as he uses in the gaming world. On the other hand, Chihiro, like Haqua, is just talk – having never scored a single boy’s heart. While Keima can’t give her details (as all his conquests have lost their memories), he quickly demonstrates to her that listening to him yields quick and favorable results: her crush now knows she exists and even talks to her.

Also interesting in this episode is the presence of Ayumi, Keima’s first conquest, who is friends with Chihiro and wants them to make up. Ayumi pairs them the two for after-school cleaning duty that leads to them making up and forming an alliance. Keima muses if a perhaps some of Ayumi’s memories of loving him resurfaced. Elcie surmises that because Keima filled the emptiness of her heart (and removed the loose soul), it stands to reason she’d be a different, more chipper Ayumi. Similarly, there’s a lot of evidence (see pic above) suggesting Chihiro may end up falling for Keima after all (ejecting her loose soul in the process), which would be a nice twist. Rating: 3.5