By the time we got to the end of Season One of The World God Only Knows I was more than looking forward to a second season. As well finding a quite novel way to team up of a cute Demon and a game-playing geek to capture Loose Souls and make it work really well, the anime's sense of humour and way it made some keen observations about life, love and reality, was actually quite clever and exceptionally funny. There were however some concerns about the ability of the series to find a way of keeping its relatively original but slightly formulaic approach to demon-hunting consistently interesting. Fortunately, Season Two manages not only to be just as clever and laugh out loud funny as the previous season, but it also manages to continually keep the ideas fresh and unpredictable.
The formula The World God Only Knows has to work with would indeed seem to be quite limiting. Elsie is a demon from Hell, tasked with clearing up demon souls who are loose in the world and taking up residence in young girls - quite a few of them at Maijima Academy - who have some degree of emptiness in their hearts. In order to release the demons for Elsie to capture, their hearts have to be filled with love, and to help her achieve this aim, the novice demon-hunter has been teamed up with a human, none other than the "God of Conquest" himself, 17 year-old Keima Kasuragi. Kasuragi's extensive experience in affairs of the heart - with no less than 10,000 conquests to his name - is however only virtual, played out on dating sim games on the PFP console that never (and I mean never) leaves his hands. The 'Divine One' (as he is referred to by Elsie) may have little connection or interest in the real world, but his methods and gamer's persistence nonetheless prove to be most effective when applied to real girls.
We got that much - and a little bit more - from the last season, but where was the second season of The World God Only Knows going to take us without continually repeating the formula, or indeed taking it too far away from its initial premise? Well, how about exploring it in a little more depth, since there were some questions left unanswered at the end of the first season? Such as, where do these loose souls come from? Why do they only enter the hearts of young women? How would Keima and Elsie cope if the demons targeted a young man? Some of these questions are answered in S2 and some of them aren't (there's a third season promised), but the series nonetheless maintains a high standard of inventiveness in the fewer conquests achieved this season - the impressive tally of about eight demons across two seasons however isn't going to make much a dent when we discover here that there are around 60,000 still on the loose - while at the same time it also extends the development of what one would normally consider rather one-dimensional characters.
On the first point, The World God Only Knows - Season Two, while explaining the origin of the loose demons, does in the process explain why the brief glimpse of Hell seen at the start of Season One, Episode One looked like a rather more modern and high-tech vision of the Underworld than it is traditional depicted. Apparently, such barbarism as the devouring of souls by Demons is frowned upon in the modern workplace. Even Hell is seems is not immune from modernisation and health and safety legislation and I imagine there's a no smoking ban in operation in the workplace, which would be a nice bit of irony. The old school guard who are resistant to change and clearly not buying into employee care programmes, have managed to break the seals that held them and escaped into the real world. Wouldn't like to be in Chief Dokuro's shoes (the amusing Chief of the Demon Loose Souls Team who is still underused) when he has to hand in the latest stats report to management, considering the results of Elsie and Keima. And they're actually better than most, it seems!
On the second point - and what remains most engaging about the series - is the nature and development of the terrific characters themselves. In terms of the objects of Keima's conquests, there's a slight variation on the types of character types he has to deal with (no, no men - expect copious nosebleeds if that were to happen) which requires some refinement of his techniques, but there's nothing particularly revelatory there. Yes, the series continues to make witty, laugh-out-loud funny and sometime even quite thoughtful observations about life and games and where reality intersects (determining who is a game player and who is a background character), and it remains capable of matching the storyline and its themes with clever visual effects, pop-out exaggerated comedy and even the occasional moment of unexpected lyricism, but it managed to do that in the first series too. And no, although Elsie does become a little more emotionally involved in the situations Keima has to deal with, she still remains rather immature for a 300-year old demon and is too easily distracted by shiny fire-engines. No, the hero of the series and growing in divine stature in Season Two is indeed Keima Kasuragi.
Now, I know it's only an anime series, and relating to a cartoon figure who is known as the "Dweeb" sounds just as inadvisable as Kasuragi refusing to acknowledge the real world and preferring to immerse himself in the world of gaming, but I think Elsie and indeed the creators of The World God Only Knows are really onto something here when they refer to Kasuragi as the 'Divine One'. There is indeed something omniscient and god-like about Keima Kasuragi's whole perspective on the world that seems to be more in touch with the complicated reality of the technological world we live in today. (The terrific Eden of the East also considers such ideas a little more seriously and is well worth checking out in a forthcoming complete collection from Manga Entertainment). Intelligent, logical, purposeful and persistent, sure of himself and blessed with impeccable judgement that isn't distracted by pesky human weaknesses of emotion or sentimentality, Kasuragi's gaming sensibility seems to be ideal to equip him with the necessary tools to deal with the important questions and ways of our modern technological age. All praise to the Dweeb!
Or then again, maybe not. But the characterisation of Kasuragi - and indeed the young characters with emptiness in their lives - is indeed well-defined, extremely clever and relatable to in a way that is completely up-to-date with genuine issues facing young people in the real world today. I don't know if gaming is the answer, or indeed if The World God Only Knows has all the answers (you could do a lot worse than worship at the altar of the Divine One though), but the chances are you'll come away from the second season of this wonderful series hugely entertained and perhaps even a little bit wiser than you were before. Chances are you'll be keenly looking forward to Season Three as well.
The Second Season of The World God Only Knows is released on DVD only by Manga Entertainment, and contains all 12 episodes of the second series across a two-disc set, with six episodes on each disc. The discs are both dual-layer DVD9, in PAL format and encoded for Region 2.
As with the previous series, the second set also looks excellent on DVD, meeting the high standards you would expect from a relatively recent series on a Manga Entertainment release. Colouration is bold and well-defined, the image fluid and stable. I didn't detect any issues with artefacts or even colour banding this time, but I must admit I was too caught up in the series to look out for them. Although both the original Japanese track and the English dub are Dolby Digital 2.0 only, both audio tracks are also well up to scratch, with good dynamic range. I preferred the Japanese track, but I again sampled the English dub and found that it worked really well in English with some good voice acting.
English subtitles are available with the Japanese track, or with the English version if you want hard-of-hearing titles, although the subtitles vary only slightly from the spoken English. Subtitles are bold yellow, with occasional white titles for background dialogue. There are occasionally additional captions to translate on-screen dialogue, and they can be hard to take in, but this is at least a comprehensive translation.
Extra features on Disc 2 consists of the usual Textless Opening and Textless Closings for the variations of the closing credits. There are also TV Spots and Release Spots, which hint at OVA episodes on the Japanese releases that are not available here.
Season Two of The World God Only Knows doesn't show a whole lot of progression over Season One, but the high standards of the first season are maintained, the series remains outrageously laugh-out-loud funny with its clever script, strong characterisation and attractive animation, and there's plenty of imagination applied to ensure that there's still life in its successful formula to make a third outing highly anticipated.