Katsuragi Keima for most of the time I knew his existence as a character from The World God Only Knows‘s universe was a fairly average harem lead noted for his lack of affection for any other human beings. He viewed people very much like characters in the visual novels he played; either they were characters he had to conquer and pursue down their various routes or they were simply mob characters that could safely be ignored most of the time. This served him quite well in his job helping Elsie capture loose spirits that inhabited girls with gaps in their hearts since he could follow them. There was still a big question the remained with this approach. What would Keima do if he found himself affecting a girl’s genuine feelings?
I’ve alluded to this before, but my knowledge of this series particular universe is limited to the anime and everything in the manga that happens after the arc that is being covered this season. The fact that the current episode and the manga are effectively covering the same territory is a fairly nice coincidence from my point of view. I think it’s easiest to start with the anime first.
In this week’s episode, Keima discovered that Chihiro was not the girl hosting the remaining goddess. The fact that she had confessed her feelings in last week’s episode for him and the feelings she conveyed for him this week had messed with him mentally. Here was a person in Chihiro, who had fallen in love with him without his intervention, showing her feelings for him. For the first time, Keima had to take in another person’s feelings in accomplishing his mission. He had to focus on Ayumi’s route now, but that would come at the cost of the feelings of Ayumi’s best friend.
The end result was a decision that would deeply affect him. He mocked Chihiro’s feelings for him in an attempt to make as clean a break as he thought he could. In effect, he was setting fire to a real person’s feelings. The sadness he caused would echo long after she ran away from him. The kiss from Chihiro marks the beginning of a transformation for Keima. Gone is the pure God of Conquest able to conquer any target he wants to. He’s replaced by a man who fulfills his duties while mindful of the emotions of others. In the process, he gains a heart of his own.
Where this episode ties in well with the current arc of the manga is the latter’s dark turn. Keima has switched places with his 10-year younger self in trying to stop Vintage from executing their plans. All proceeded fairly smoothly as though he were playing a game which would reset if he made a wrong move. When he finally comes across the current antagonist of the story, a 6th-grader called Kaori, kisses him in front of Tenri, who later says that Keima doesn’t love anyone. Like a dagger through his heart, he realizes that he’s messed with another girl’s feelings and after seeing a younger Ayumi and Chihiro playing innocently, he wants to start the process over again.
Going back to the anime episode, Keima’s reaction following the incident on the rooftop is something that really humanized him for the first time. He’s taken outside of his comfort zone with other people for the first time and finds that he absolutely hates it. He hates that he destroyed the genuine love of someone else because he had to. The very games he has played that have made him so effective in the capture of loose souls have made him unable to answer a simple question. What does he want? All we really know at this point is that he doesn’t want to hurt others. It’s a terrible way to live life avoiding the pain, however we now know that he inhabits not the realm of 2D visual novels but humanity itself.