The main concern I have writing anime articles is: am I stating the obvious? And when I started watching Kami nomi zo shiru sekai (The world god only knows), every episode stroke me as an obvious reference to Plato’s oh so famous philosophy. However a quick google search informed me that it may not have been a widely spread opinion? So I guess I’ll dive a little into that because I really like ontology apparently. There will not be any precise spoilers, I’ll just broadly discuss some general points about the anime.
The premise of the show is simple: Keima Katsuragi is the biggest dorkiest otaku ever, and his specialty is dating simulation games. He’s supposedly the best in the business, and is referred to as the god of conquest. The show revolves around him using his outstanding experience to capture the hearts of the girls in real life.
And contrary to what you may think, it mostly works out for him. Sure there are rough times (it’s a comedy after all), but it seems that his theoretical skills have real life applications. You may then consider the question of the accuracy of simulating and modelling relationship, but Keima has a different approach. To him, the game is not copying reality, but rather reality is a pale copy of the game.
He keeps going on about everything that is wrong and not accurate in reality compared to how it is in games, that is to say how it should be to match his expectations (the standard spread out codes of the domain).
Keima is focused on this widely spread stereotypical patterns that the japanese modern culture is relying on. He is seeing the world through the lens of these concepts, analysing reality as a manifestation of these ideas, an imperfect incarnation of ideals. Or, if you will, symbols standing for conceptual standards. (metaphores ^^ ?)
If you’ve done any philosophy at all, you’ve probably heard of Plato, and the allegory of the cave. To sum it up quickly, Plato theorizes that things in the real life have an essence that helps you recognize them (ie you can recognize a chair as such because it shares a common essence with all chairs, its inner chairness if you will). As such, all objects in the real world are incarnation of their essence. And us poor humans are condemned to live among these reflections of the Truth that we could never see, only imagine, much like cavemen facing a wall may see the dancing shadows projected by a fire but never the real objects projecting them.
Rings any bell? It seems to me that this is exactly what this show is all about! Real life is the domain of the imperfect shadows who pale in comparison to the pure ideal depicted in games. In fact, Keima explicitly strips down these concepts to exhibit their essence by getting to their very simple core:
You may say that Keima deals with a higher level of reality, touching the everlasting conceptual absolutes.
He seems to be the only one who can grasp and see the real concept projecting the shadows on the walls of the cave. He lives in a world unknown to humans, the world of pure concepts, the world god only knows. And this title drop is way deeper than a simple play on words with his nickname, for what is God but the concept of Absolute Truth, that which does not change or vary, the very essence of the universe.
Which makes him, I suppose, some kind of prophet? But here is where it gets really interesting. Keima, which would be considered an outcast everywhere in the world but who is a messiah on this blog (but isn’t wisdom strongly correlated with loneliness as Nietzsche puts it so well ^^), has actually gained his wisdom through videogames, which are work of fiction made by men. It does make sense that, by trying to reproduce and analyse reality, mankind exhibits underlying patterns and rises into absolute (that’s called science and it kicks ass). And I find it extremely elegant that through creative invention, mankind touches the very essence of reality within reality itself, using the language, the Verb, or the Logos as neo-platonicists would put it. This ability to create and to use Reason is at the very core of man (some may say it contributes to its essence ^.^), which brings me back to Augustine’s of Hippo and how according to him Jesus was kinda the realisation of this inner Reason into a man, the incarnation of Absolute through the Verb and man this idea is cool but this is starting to get too messy…
Since we find Absolute in the product of man’s creation, the essence is both at the core and the emerging result of incarnation. But it goes even deeper than that in the sense that this anime is itself a work of fiction, and Plato’s allegory must likewise be an image of an underlying concept. And i’m not just pointing this out because of my desire for a meta orgy, but to come back to the anime. Keima has a very teleological vision of the world, that is to say centred around a goal (kissing the girl), as illustrated by his catchphrase « I can see the ending ».
In fact, the final kiss is a fleeting moment where reality corresponds to the expected model, where incarnation and essence converge, where the potential of reality realizes itself. This is exactly what you would call a moment of epiphany where you can find perfection in the world be it only for a second. I do believe that this convergence is mirrored by the production of fiction about fiction and how it converges to uncover the very essence of the universe by being a fixed point in meta. And I would end by correcting Nietzsche who stated that « God is Dead ». Somehow, at an age where so much work of art are produced and pile up on top of each other in a tower of babel of meta, I think that after all, God is Meta.