Review/discussion about: KonoSuba

by BanjoTheBear

KonoSuba / Episode 8 / Aqua, Kazuma, Megumin, and Darkness arriving at the mansion in need of exorcising

The opposite of useless

That night, as I started to drift off to sleep, my brain spoke to me. You forgot to brush your teeth. Gross, dude. I got up, half-groggy, and started to make my way to the bathroom. I was unfamiliar with the room’s layout, and it was dark, so I fumbled and felt for the door.

Once inside, I turned on the lights and began to brush my teeth. My eyes weren’t open, and I was barely conscious. Both of which made the sound of a door opening behind me that much more nerve-racking.

When I looked in the mirror, I saw my father sitting on the toilet in the bathroom closet. I stared at him, dumbfounded, wondering what in the world he was doing.

My father only said a single word: “Hellooooo!”

I laughed so hard, toothpaste sprayed across the counter. My father started to laugh uncontrollably, too. Our combined laughter woke up my mother and my two siblings. Upon seeing me foaming at the mouth and leaning over the sink, and John squatting on the john, they couldn’t help but laugh as well. It was a happy beginning to a truly happy vacation.

I don’t fully know what prompted my father to push open his door and say hi, but his ridiculous decision led to comedy genius. Thankfully for KonoSuba, it likewise made the right decisions.

STORY

KonoSuba starts off innocently enough. Kazuma, a boy who basically keeps to himself, one day saves the life of another from an oncoming vehicle, dying in her stead. But when he finds out that the vehicle was actually a slow-moving tractor, that he really died of shock, and that he wet himself in the process, the anime begins its comedic journey.

While this opening example hints at the show’s parody chops, it is not until Kazuma (and Aqua) get to the parallel world that it really becomes apparent. The looming threat of the Devil King has to wait while Kazuma digs a whole for some carpentry and Aqua parties (and vomits) the night away. A horse-filled stable, rather than a comfy hotel room, becomes the home for these “heroes.” Monsters, quests, and money are difficulties too large for them to handle.

This parodic approach seeps into nearly every part of the show. When Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness save the city, they earn millions in the local currency but have to pay millions and then some to fix it. Abilities are often overly useless, dangerous, and perverted. The villains are not as evil as one would normally believe.

As parody parades, KonoSuba avoids repetition. Often times, it introduces new characters and elements without using them again directly. For example, Chris the thief arrives to give Kazuma the “Steal” skill which only gets used for stealing panties, some cabbages, and the dullahan Verdia’s head.

An even better example is Kyouya. Around for a single episode, he is used to parody the “chosen hero” stereotype: the girls find him creepy, he loses to Kazuma, and his fabled sword gets sold for a quick buck.

And even when the anime does reuse specific elements, it twists the presentation through parody. Verdia reappears because the others didn’t go to fight him in the first place. Wiz, one of the “evil” generals, teaches Kazuma how to use “Drain Touch” which gets used later as a joke during the “kissing” scene. Kazuma’s second reincarnation goes against the rulebook.

KonoSuba / Episode 5 / Aqua utterly devoid of thought after her harrowing alligator experience

Aqua’s tough times easily parodies the adventurous lifestyle

The anime also uses references from earlier episodes as jokes for later. Kazuma suggests fighting giant toads again, which Megumin and Aqua object to, but Darkness wonders and wants to experience it. The townspeople wait for Kyouya, but he won’t be showing up because Kazuma ruined the guy’s life the episode prior. Megumin mentions that “crimson demons don’t go to the bathroom,” and, while at the mansion, the entire bathroom debacle occurs.

All of the jokes and the parody leave little room for a thematic presence. Not that KonoSuba needs to have one, but it does try to inject one idea regardless: Life in this new world is not as glamorous as Kazuma was led to believe.

Unfortunately, this appeal also represents one of the show’s only major weaknesses. In many of the episodes, Kazuma gives some (thought-only) variation about how much he hates “this wonderful world” (to use the anime’s title).

The final words of the season reflect this not-so-subtle direction well, but it’s episode seven that demonstrates why the idea is an issue.

Kazuma’s second afterlife scene, where he “complains” about the troubles he went through, adopts a sentimental tone that the anime actively avoids. It’s one of the only kindhearted moments in the entire season.

Indeed, this scene offers the other perspective. That maybe a silver lining exists around the various troubles he encountered. Yet the show rips that thought away when, once again, Kazuma laments that he “made the wrong choice” on getting brought back as the episode concludes.

Now, to be fair, this idea is part of the parody. I.e., poking fun at such an emotional moment fits the premise. But that still does not excuse the show’s inelegant handling of this centralized concept. Especially when its other elements are handled with more execution.

ANIMATION

KonoSuba’s artistic direction leads to a small debate.

On the one end, the anime’s singular setting keeps the show from branching out. In fact, the same area just outside of the town’s gate is visited four times: once with the cabbages, twice with Verdia, and once with Destroyer. It wouldn’t be much of a problem if the location itself was teeming with detail, but it’s just an unassuming, boring spot for action to occur. Almost as if the anime didn’t know where else to go.

Other backgrounds are likewise not as appealing. A snowy plain, a large lake, and a shot of the stables are certainly appropriate but devoid of creativity.

On the other end, the anime can prove itself. The inside of the local inn has patrons, bar maids, and other facets – such as light fixtures, wooden tables, and the nearby quest board – that make the building a hub of activity. Quaint shots of the city streets, accompanied by soft lighting, give the anime a homely feel, contrasting with Kazuma’s oft derision of the world. And the anime can visit different spots: the succubus brothel, their mansion, and Wiz’s store to name a few.

All of which says nothing of the minor details. Lips are sometimes fully drawn, eyes sparkle with intricacies, and clothes crinkle and crease. Added details that may not be expected but are certainly welcome.

The anime further proves its clout when one of its “negatives” ends up being a positive overall: roughness. Uneven lines, misplaced eyes, and wonky facial expressions are normally turn-offs, but, in KonoSuba’s case, this roughness in the art elevates the comedy and hence the appeal of the show itself.

Due to the unchanging location and the roughness, actual animation sees a lot of attention. Aqua’s eyes moving to see if the others are still watching her cry. Megumin going through some karate moves. Darkness unable to control her excitement at joining the party. Each an example of KonoSuba’s attention to animated detail.

Indeed, the show arguably diverts most of its animation resources into the different sexual bits. Luna, the big-busted quest-giver, always receives extra frames for her breasts. Chris, after her panties are stolen, grabs her crotch rather vigorously. And the leader of the succubus brothel moves, bends, and squishes in all the right places.

KonoSuba / Episode 2 / Megumin posing for her grand chuunibyou entrace

Megumin’s design, as well as those of the others, screams execution

If nothing else, Megumin’s famous “Explosion!” sequences – with their colors, swirls, and galactic depiction – demonstrate that both its animation and art are nothing to scoff at.

The anime also plays with perspective. Kazuma running down a hallway in first-person view or Darkness getting really up in the audience’s face showcase different levels of cinematography.

But, without a doubt, the character designs are easily the best part of the art department.

Kazuma’s starting track suit fits the parody direction, and his later shoulder garb finally gives him a sense of heroism. Aqua’s looped hair, embroidered outfit, and revealing-yet-not-quite skirt envelops the goddess with an air of importance. Megumin’s large wizard hat, eyepatch, and mismatched leggings fit her chuunibyou antics splendidly. And Darkness’s long blonde hair, tough armor, and stunning figure highlight both her classiness as well as her sexiness.

Yet it’s their coloring and color symbolism that truly shines.

Kazuma’s black and green symbolizes his derisive attitude and “good luck.” Aqua’s blue and pink symbolizes her crybaby personality and “sweetness.” Megumin’s red and brown symbolizes her power and her “endurance.” And Darkness’s orange and white symbolizes her enthusiasm and “purity.”

As can be read, each character has a color associated with him or her that contrasts with what the audience normally perceives, heightening the parody and subconsciously adding to the overall level of comedy the show so regularly achieves.

CHARACTERS

While KonoSuba’s story and art are intriguing, its lovable troupe of characters make the anime into the comical romp it becomes. Namely, Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness are the champions of the series.

Starting with the girls and Aqua more specifically, she is initially pinned as a kindhearted goddess. Sending the deceased to better lives and using holy magic to heal others, she seems helpful and understanding.

But it quickly becomes apparent that she is not only rather mean but also rather annoying. She constantly cries for Kazuma’s help, and she either has powers that are impractical or overly detrimental.

In comedic terms, she’s a character that makes the audience feel superior. It’s fun to see her wailing about her snow buddy or about not wanting to teach others her type of magic because of how useless she manages to be. In other words, the audience feels as though they are always in a better position when compared to this crybaby.

Megumin is similar. She’s not rude like Aqua, but she is certainly not without her quirks. Chief among them being her chuunibyou persona. She speaks, dresses, and acts in a fantastical manner, giving her an air of silliness. Her silliness, however, is justified when she displays her immeasurable destructive power through the explosion magic she commands.

At least, it’s justified until before she unleashes her singular ability. For that’s all she can do. Literally. After using her one spell one time, she is essentially rendered inert, unable to move without the assistance of another.

Again, in comedic terms, she’s a character that makes the audience feel relief. Her character talks the talk and walks the walk. But when the explosion subsides and the dust settles, she, like Aqua, is useless and hence funny. In other words, she builds up emotion in the audience that is later released (in the form of laughter).

Perhaps obviously at this point, Darkness is similar, too. On the outside, she’s a beautiful woman whose determination to protect the people is laudable. But once one gets to know her, however, they realize that she’s a bit strange. She revels in the pain, the suffering that comes with said protection. To the point that it sexually arouses her. Plus, she cannot even hit stationary targets with her weapon. That’s how pitiful she is at wielding a sword.

Again (again), in comedic terms, she’s a character that makes the audience feel incongruous. Her immoral behavior and abysmal swordsmanship in no way befits a proud knight, and it’s this stark contrast that makes her useless and therefore funny. In other words, her unexpected characterization creates comedy.

KonoSuba / Episode 4 / Kazuma berating Aqua for her uselessness

Kazuma’s harsh words are like music for the ears

Altogether, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness each exemplify a different “brand” of humor. It’s what gives the anime so much comedy clout. The show relies on a unified motif of uselessness, but, by branching out into different forms of comedy, KonoSuba manages to appeal to many people.

As for Kazuma, he gets the brunt end of the stick. When he gets a new chance at another life, he discovers that it’s not much better than his old one. Indeed, it’s worse. A final goal so daunting that he chooses instead to accept his current fate. A set of situations so harrowing that he refuses to do anything even remotely dangerous. A group of friends so aggravating that it’s a wonder he makes it through the day in one piece.

Kazuma is fed up with all of these problems, taking it out on said friends. He berates Aqua for wasting all of their money. He chastises Megumin for her one-and-done approach. He harps on Darkness for her masochistic tendencies.

It’s understandable. Most people in his position would most likely have similar feelings. It’s human nature to complain when the going gets tough, when life hands one lemons, and any other related cliché.

For this reason, it makes Kazuma relatable and therefore likable. Where the rest of the town sees the girls as members of the best class roles and saviors of the city, the audience sympathizes with Kazuma and his mindset because they get to see what the arch-priest, the arch-wizard, and the crusader are actually like.

To be fair, the girls aren’t completely useless. Aqua brings water to those who need it, Megumin obliterates the competition, and Darkness boosts the morale of others. And it’s precisely for this reason that Kazuma’s constant negativity comes off as hilarious. In other words, since the audience knows that the girls can be useful, when they aren’t (which is most of the time), Kazuma’s scathing words are more than justified and therefore comedic.

Sadly, the anime does not give much more to their characters beyond their fleshed-out characterizations. Kazuma’s previous life, Aqua’s religious sect, Megumin’s own “race,” and Darkness’s rich family are alluded to but never shown.

Given the show’s shortened season (ten episodes as opposed to twelve or thirteen) and the show’s nearly pure focus on comedy, it may be unreasonable for one to expect the cast to have more of a background let alone development.

Even so, them lacking more to their characters leads to them relying on their shticks again and again. Aqua only ever cries, Megumin only ever yells out her catchphrase, Darkness only ever gets turned on, and Kazuma only ever speaks the (harsh) truth.

It can get repetitive, but, thankfully, their strong comedic roots keep this issue in check for the majority of the season.

SOUND

Arguably speaking, the single strongest aspect of KonoSuba is its ending track.

Titled “Chiisana Boukensha,” this ED is one of the best to ever grace the medium. The beat’s methodical calmness instills a sense of peace and elation. Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness sing both individually and in harmony, their voices both tranquil and sincere. And the country-farm tone – with its banjo, flute, drums, and other atmospheric instruments – captures the down-to-earth, everyday life that the lovable cast never gets to have. It’s a phenomenal track that deserves as much praise as possible. Now and for years to come.

While nothing else in the sound department comes close to the ED, the voice-acting performances are fantastic in their own right. Sora Amamiya as Aqua brings hilarity in droves with her crying, screams, and arrogant manner. Rie Takahashi as Megumin chants her way to “Explosion!” cuteness. And Ai Kayano as Darkness, with her impassioned speeches and seductive moans, provides attractiveness in more ways than one.

KonoSuba / Episode 7 / Darkness liking the fact that she will be feeling the cold more than usual

Ai Kayano as Darkness amps up the sex and the comedy even further

Jun Fukushima as Kazuma also deserves a shout-out. Mostly for his mean-spirited speaking. But he also introduces even more comedy with his occasional interjections. Responding with “Yes, I’m Kazuma” when the girls try to get his attention, asking “Really?” as they talked during dinner time, and getting in a “Bring it” as Wiz prepares to “suck” him made for some silly adlib moments that fit the anime more than well.

The original soundtrack is also praiseworthy, for while it does not have the same high level of execution as the ED and the voice acting, it’s not without its own strengths. The rap-like, ukulele track is both catchy and fun. The soft, simple piano piece makes those heartwarming moments that much warmer. And the individualized tracks for each character – Kazuma’s heroic tune, Aqua’s church choir, Megumin’s otherworldliness, and Darkness’s promiscuous ladies – add further to their overall characterizations.

Lastly (and perhaps least) sits the opening track. Guitar, chimes, and drums create an optimistic and lofty OP, taking a contrasting direction when compared to both its ED counterpart and the anime itself. The ending segment with the stepping violin gives the track a final flourish that gets the audience prepared for the comedy to come. It’s not exactly strong, but KonoSuba’s other sound offerings more than make up for the passable OP. (The ED alone covers it and then some.)

ENJOYMENT

I absolutely love this one.

And there’s a reason for that. It doesn’t always happen in an anime for me, but this one managed to achieve the ever elusive dream: I am fully a fan of each character.

For Kazuma, him speaking aloud his disapproval of the others was never tiring. Getting ready to punch Aqua for her deliberate attempt at sympathy. Telling Megumin to use a nearby vase to pee in. Forcing Darkness, without reproach, to lather him up in the bath hall. He’s a likable central protagonist through and through.

For Aqua, her overreactions had me laughing out loud. When she was excited to beat up Kazuma for him defending the “evil” succubus (Aqua’s eyes especially). When she bawled about needing money or help. When she acted like she didn’t want praise but actually did. She’s incredibly annoying yet insanely funny.

For Megumin, her chuunibyou behavior was always welcome. Her floating down a puddle of water to get closer to Darkness to give her a thumbs up. Her pretending to be dead in the snow. Her caressing her arch-wizard’s staff due to the drug-like addiction she has with explosions. She’s small in stature, but she left a large impression.

For Darkness, her attractiveness had me hooked. Getting pushed into the snow turned her on. When she smiled from embarrassment while admitting her faults in fighting. Her willing to protect her friends as the crusader she is. She’s sexy, interesting, and amazing.

KonoSuba / Episode 6 / Megumin, Kazuma, Darkness, and Aqua reacting to the total amount of money they earned for succeeding in their quest

The entire cast is extremely funny from start to finish

Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness are just so much fun that it didn’t matter what they were doing on-screen. I knew I could count on them to make me laugh. And I know they will continue to do so when that second season eventually rolls around.

KonoSuba is a comedy adventure. With extremely hilarious characters, amazing sound-work, and parody for days, it’s a wonderful anime that nobody should be afraid to say “Hellooooo” to.

SUMMARY

Story: Good, an adventurous parody with smartly reused jokes and subtle in-narrative references, brought down by an overstated complaint about the world being too tough

Animation: Great, despite the unchanging location, positives like the comically rough art, the above average levels of actual animation, and the superb character designs are visually pleasing to see

Characters: Good, the main cast’s strong comedic roots are hampered by their overused shticks caused by there not being a whole lot more to their characters

Sound: Great, one of the best ED’s in the medium, fantastic voice-acting performances, and a nice OST overcome the passable OP

Enjoyment: Great, Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness are a downright awesome group of adventurers

Final Score: 9/10

Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3