There are so many manga series out there. All of them seem to conform to strict genre guidelines. A shoujo series will have a dorky yet cute heroine who gets a hot guy. A shounen series will involve a hot blooded protagonist battling foes. A harem series will follow dozens of beautiful women inexplicably in love with a helpless, indecisive everyman. Sometimes, a fresh, interesting series is hard to come by.
The World God Only Knows is a refreshing look at the harem genre. Keima is definitely not your average harem protagonist. Unlike most harem heroes, he's got a good reason to ignore his suitors. He's a socially inept nerd with a disdain for the "real world". In your typical harem series, it just seems like the girls fall for the hero for no good reason. Here, Keima actually has to romance and win over each girl, using his Dating Sim knowledge to create each girls' perfect lover. While a typical harem protagonist may be harassed to "hurry up and choose", Keima actually suffers tangible consequences for choosing to romance multiple girls. He's a refreshing change from the typical audience-insert indecisive nice guy protagonist.
For me, most of the manga’s appeal comes from Keima’s strategizing. Each arc follows a somewhat similar line – Elsee detects a runaway spirit and Keima devises a plan for capture. Elsee expresses doubts, but Keima assures her that his strategies always work (in games). Each arc is different enough to keep interest and Keima’s brilliant plans don’t always work. What’s fun is watching him come up with a different strategy for each girl. The girls themselves are always cute and interesting too. They all have motivations and goals other than scoring with the protagonist. Love is just one of the things that helps them get on the right path.
The current Goddess arc has been especially fascinating for me because Keima is finally dealing with the repercussions of ‘loving’ multiple girls, something most harem protagonists seem to avoid. This situation is pushing Keima to his limits trying to come up with new strategies and the silly Real keeps throwing him curveballs.
If you’re looking for a fresh, interesting series with clever writing and cute characters, I definitely recommend TWGOK. It’s not your typical harem fare. It’s one of the few manga that keeps me coming back each week wondering what will happen next.