In my other blog (which at some point was a podcast), I wrote about a particular moment in a very recent anime series that made me really appreciate that I’d taken up learning Japanese. I mentioned there that I’d be writing about the shows in the new season that I like… and then forgot about it. Well, I’ve finally seen enough of the new season that I can start writing about some of the stuff that I’ve been following.

I actually explained the premise of the show pretty well on The Japanese Learner, so I’m just going to quote it here:

The premise is that a demon in Hell lures a young boy who dubs himself “The God of Conquest” into a contract to help her exorcise “loose souls”, souls which have come up from Hell to the surface world to continue doing ill deeds by hiding in the hearts of humans. Particularly, girls.

His job is to take the place of the loose soul in their hearts by making them fall in love with him, driving the soul out so that the demon can capture it. Conveniently, the girl forgets that it happened afterward, avoiding a lot of awkwardness. (You know, because dating sims never deal with all of that icky “relationship” junk.)

Unfortunately for everyone involved, the boy has really only mastered the art of winning the hearts of girls in dating sims and his claim to notoriety is that he has played through 10,000 dating sim endings. He spends most of his days either playing dating sims on his PFP (heh), or posting advice to others on forums and by e-mail as “The God of Conquest”. He has not even so much as held a real girl’s hand in his life!

But the contract between them has already been arranged and neither can back out now; a collar on each of their necks threatens to remove their heads if they do! So to make the best of a bad situation, the boy applies what he has learned from dating sims to real love, with a little help from his demon partner.

The demon is, of course, a really cute girl with a skull accessory in her hair, a rather odd straw broom that she carries everywhere, and a fluffy ribbon that floats around her and which affords her some special powers.

What I like about it

After reading the premise, you might wonder why there has never been an anime like this before. After all, dating sim games have been a staple of Japanese video gaming for a long time. But thinking back over all of the series that I know of, I can say with confidence that this particular concept has never been done before. KamiNozo (short form of the title based on the Japanese title) scores serious points for novelty in an industry currently dominated by “moeblob” and “me-too” shows.

Not only is the premise novel but the way it is executed makes it delightfully funny. Otaku may identify slightly with the hero’s obsession with dating sim games and their various clichés and tropes, as well as a few parody references to real games thrown in for good measure (for example, a sign and poster for “LoveMinus” displayed in the background). Non-otaku can cringe and laugh at the hero’s awkwardness in being forced to apply those principles of dating sim games to real life.

It’s cute, romantic, awkward, well-animated, and makes a subtle statement about Japanese society (in particular, otaku). In short, it’s a combination of many things that I like in other series.

What I don’t like about it

The pacing confused me a bit. In the first episode, the basic elements are put in place and the hero even manages to draw out one loose soul for capture. The second episode spends half of its time on developing the relationship between the hero and demon girl and then starts a hunt for a second loose soul that isn’t completed until the end of the third episode. The fourth episode is entirely spent on an unrelated story about the hero’s obsessive quest to finish a game that everyone else has given on because of the hundreds of bugs that cause the game to glitch out and go into infinite loops.

I realized later that there are only five (?) girls excluding the demon in the credits, so it looks like they’ll all be spread out throughout the episodes.

Sometimes, watching the hero pull a rather dramatic gesture right out of a dating sim and the girl actually falling for it seems like it’s making a statement that girls are rather simplistic and shallow. In short, this series suffers from the usual subtle sexism that pervades anime aimed at a largely male demographic. However, there is considerably less fan service than a lot of shows out there, so KamiNozo manages to remain tasteful, in my opinion.

In summary

Novel concept, pretty funny, can appeal to a wide audience, but is sometimes ever-so-slightly sexist. Still, definitely a must-see for the Fall 2010 season.