There comes that one manga you find at the corner of your eye to where you can enjoy it whether you like the genre it consists of or not, all in the essence of parody and satire. Parody can be an extremely difficult comedic flavor to pull off perfectly. Not only do writers have to analyze the aspects of the things that they are trying to parody in the first place, but they have to make all of the things that make a good comedy work. These things include great comedic timing, sharp jokes that don’t feel forced, and great pacing in-between comedy segments. For manga that is focused on comedy, it can be quite a herculean task; but luckily with manga, you can go buck wild with the stroke of your drawing utensil and think of what works best. It takes a man like Tamiki Wakaki to make it seem like a pure cake walk to envision a perfect parody with The World God Only Knows.
The two things that best describe how the parody really works in The World God Only Knows comes down to the writing and the actual artwork that Tamiki has within his talent. Jokes all span out dealing with every day otaku tropes that are funny and also quite insightful in how it dabbles into gaming culture at large. Other times it pokes fun at it to the point of almost mocking it without it being too facetious with its own jokes, and they all add so much great humor within them. One reason why the artwork comes into play with the dialogue’s humor is how Tamiki’s style of drawing has a very wacky ascetic to his character designs that feels simply magnificent. Similar to how you see chibi-style designs in something like Aria whenever a comedic moment happens, The World God Only Knows plays with the same formula and never loses its steam throughout the manga.
Although the manga is generally a comedy, it does have its great share of drama mixed in. That is not to say it still pulls in satirical themes into those segments, at least in the first arc of the story. In the beginning, we follow Keima and his partner in crime, Elsie, as they try to collect “Loose Souls” from within their psyche. It is very straightforward and generally formulaic at face value, but what makes it work is just how tongue-in-cheek the character interactions are and the dialogue involving how Keima plans his tactics based on his gaming otaku logic. Even when its being dramatic in the arc, it still doesn’t lose focus of what it originally intended to be: a parody of dating sims where you get to the confession scenes in those games. It is a rare instance where genuine drama and wacky humor feel close at home together in one great package.
As the story goes on to the 2nd arc, where Keima has to awaken the five goddesses, we are quickly put into a scenario where there is a minimal formulaic structure than beforehand. Like I said before, the comedy is still hilarious throughout the entire manga with memorable scenes that all go down into straight up hilarity. The story is still quite strong and even emotional in some places, introducing a heartwarming romance between Chihiro and Keima and great chemistry between Haqua and Keima when they both become buddies for the time being. But then after that plot arc is done and we get to the last two arcs, it all goes a little downhill in terms of pacing and comprehension. I have the feeling that Tamiki didn’t really know where he wanted the story to go, so he just pulls up random plot conveniences that don’t really add up once you sit back and think about it for a second. Though the later plot arcs were not terrible by any means, there were also new characters that were still funny, they do not follow up as anything other than weak.
For a story that wants to be self-absurd with an atmosphere that wants to be fun and energetic in its humor, characters should be the one characteristic that should reign most important. The World God Only Knows manages to not only give us a wide range of characters that exceed way above 20+ of the main cast, but they actually give each and every one of them great development and personality to make all of them equally memorable. Normally a story that attempts to bring a large main cast have a habit of not having an equal amount of focus for some characters, making them forgettable in the long run. While someone could make the case that the manga does that in the later arcs, where we’re mainly following the other main girls in Keima’s conquest, that shouldn’t be a negative in the sense that we’ve already had enough development for those characters from the very beginning where they were introduced.
Now here’s why The World God Only Knows sets its greatness to new heights is its lovable, but also hated in a few cases, protagonist, Keima Katsuragi. With great clarity and logical precision in how Keima is written, he is by far one of the best harem protagonists just from the sheer value of heart given to his role. Even when there are moments where Keima might act irrational against what many would consider normal attitudes towards how romance is like, we still want him to succeed in his conquest. One main reason why this is so is because of how Tamiki writes his dialogue in really silly ways that make him so full of charm and wit to how he grows as a character; both in terms of a comedic and general character.
As for Keima’s main sidekick, Elsie, she has great chemistry with Keima with her cutesy personality that manages to stay consistent and not overbearing to the point where she becomes a nuisance after several chapters. The other soul capturing buddy is the hilarious tsundere devil, Haqua. Almost as equally lovable as Elsie, but with a different twist: She’s smarter on the level of Keima’s intellect. For that reason, Keima and Haqua actually prove to have a little better chemistry with one another than Elsie because of the fact that Haqua still becomes the bumbling sidekick despite her intelligent stature compared to Elsie’s.
This manga is one of those instances where even if you are not a fan of the harem genre in general or if you love it to death, there is still many elements to The World God Only Knows that can be looked at with great enthusiasm on either side. Its wonderful characters leave a wondrous joy ride into hilarity thanks to the fact that they all have their own unique characteristic to enhance their significant presence in the story. Plus its satirical nature adds so much depth to the layer of comedy that can be conceived in this manga, even though the plot never reaches that same level of greatness as one could’ve hoped for with the first arc building up so much potential. But all in all, there is still plenty of wonderful humor to be found in The World God Only Knows and all in the name of the God of Conquest.