It’s time for a pop quiz, everyone. What do you get when you take a popular series like Sword Art Online, and add a little dose of LSD to it? The result is bound to be a misadventure of epic proportions. Instead of an adventure for our characters to bring order and justice, we highlight their wondrous journey throughout this world where they display an immense lack of co-operation and mutual trust in each other, and somehow manage to get the job done… like a college student who raced through an entire essay in one night. This, folks, is the first of a two-part review on story of Konosuba: God’s Blessing On This Wonderful World.
KONOSUBA: GOD’S BLESSING ON THIS WONDERFUL WORLD
Originally written as a web novel series by Natsume Akatsuki (the English translation of which can be found here), Konosuba presents itself as your standard adventure series where a troupe of heroes goes on a quest to fight a greater evil and his forces. Kind of like Sword Art Online, Rising of the Shield Hero, or Inuyasha in that sense; but before anyone passes this series off as just another word-for-word rip-off of this show, Konosuba takes this trope for a spin, effectively flipping the tables on the adventure trope and turning it into a comedic parody of sorts. And it worked – somehow it became a hit with anime fans, and recently enough it was popular enough to spawn a movie in lieu of a third season, titled Legend Of Crimson – whatever that is, so please for the love of God, no spoilers.
STORY (SEASON 1)
Satou Kazuma, a lonely, secluded NEET (someone who is not in education, employment or training) dies in a freak accident involving him mistaking a tractor for a truck, which leads him to “saving” a girl from getting run over in its path, and dying out of shock from it. He is then chided by Aqua, a blue-haired water goddess for his untimely death, and reincarnates him into an RPG-like afterlife with the option to choose one item to bring with him to this world – which ends up being Aqua herself, much to her displeasure.
After struggling to make ends meet as an adventurer in this new home of his, which involve manual labor and an embarrassing situation while fighting giant toads, he is joined by two other residents of the world: a self-proclaimed archwizard named Megumin with the power to conjure up giant explosions (caution: only once before it drains her entire energy), and a masochistic knight named Darkness, which is pretty ironic considering that her armor looks like something that the Pittsburgh Penguins would wear. Together, they team up with each other despite their combined incompetence, and set out to
vanquish the enemy of this world, known as the Demon King make Kazuma’s life in this world as wealthy, hedonistic and stress-free as possible.
To understand what kind of series Konosuba shows itself to be, allow me to introduce to you one scene from this series: Kazuma and Aqua’s first quest, from episode 2.
WHAT I LIKED
- One thing that Konosuba perfected was the premise. Instead of overpowered characters whose abilities transcend the limits of reality, we instead are treated to watching a fallible group, with little to no skill, laughably crawl their way through quests, dangers and all sorts of side gags. The execution of such scenes were perfectly orchestrated, unexpected yet ridiculously hilarious.
- The progression of the story was well-manufactured – what I mean by that was, rather than start off our story after a backstory or jump right in the middle of an already-happening quest, it starts off more like a MMORPG does; our characters begin with nothing, and have to gruel their way before they achieve a status that barely qualifies as “greatness”, rather than jump through hoops until we get to the point where the characters are already too good. Take notes, Kirito.
- Stunning visuals for a world, it makes you forget that this place is supposed to be Kazuma’s afterlife. The character outfits were also worthy of a high grade.
- Some of Kazuma’s facial reactions to the things he has to go through on an episodic basis are so hilariously drawn. See, for example, the below picture for an example.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
- Episode 9, where Kazuma visits a succubus in order to get lewd dreams, I found was needless filler and wasn’t remotely funny at all – save for that last scene where he gets beaten up. I… don’t even know why this episode was neccessary at all. And to top it off, next episode is suddenly the final battle against a gigantic monster known as The Destroyer that came right out of nowhere. So… wasted?
- The whole shtick with Kazuma’s capability at stealing girls’ underwear. At first, it was funny and rather unexpected – but the second and third times he goes at it, you might as well have been beating a dead horse.
- Lastly, and not to be nitpicky, but another thing that didn’t really fly well with me was the show’s failure to explain why the evil force that is the Demon King. He’s set up by Aqua as the “big bad” that must be defeated, but… why? This season never really explains anything about it, so it just felt like an excuse for Kazuma to start his life anew.
Much of Konosuba‘s action is directed by the characters, of which the cast is quite small and easy to follow with. Each character is loaded with their own straightforward personalities – Kazuma the blunt, sarcastic type; Aqua the proud yet incontrovertibly useless; Darkness the hopeless masochist and Megumin the child-like, shameless pyromaniac. The best way to describe the characters’ interactions is kind of like how American animated sitcoms such as South Park or The Simpsons pulled it off. Throughout the series, the interactions they had with each other were quite entertaining and I found myself enjoying how dysfunctional their relationship was – some of which would eventually lead to situations that range from the extremely hilarious (such as “Hai hai, Kazuma desu”, the time when Megumin and Aqua beat up Kazuma over a succubus, or the Kazuma’s spat against random NPC Kyouya) to the downright mundane (like Darkness’ overblown obsession with masochism, or Kazuma stealing underwear).
Other than that, there wasn’t anything much else that could be said about these characters. They’re just there purely for the slapstick and for the plot to mindlessly throw them around.
Soundtrack aside, one of the bright spots of this series when it came to the music was the opening theme song, Fantastic Dreamer by Machico, which is quite distinctively catchy as can be. It gives off the feeling that each episode’s going to be a brand-new, exciting adventure of sorts and definitely gets you ready to experience it. The bright melody, smooth guitar riffs and easy-to-sing lyrics definitely made the impression on me. On the other hand, its ending theme, Chiisana Boukensha sung by the voice actors of Aqua, Megumin and Darkness together, provided a good contrast to each episode’s crazy outcomes, by providing a soft, relaxing theme song to close things out. Overall, Konosuba definitely set the mood well by employing these songs.
Favorite episode: Episode 8, where Kazuma and the group stay overneight in a haunted mansion, was one scene that I liked for its ability to provide laughs and entertainment to a storyline that’s clearly meant to be scary.
Favorite scene: I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say any scene that involved Megumin blowing something up, but of honorable mention too is that one time Darkness got cursed by villain Verdia the Dullahan, only to have it easily lifted by Aqua (the one time where she WASN’T useless!)
Favorite ‘Kazuma gets trolled’ incident: There are a lot of scenes in this show where one of Aqua, Megumin, or Darkness manage to successfully troll Kazuma to no end. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few significant scenes that stand out in my mind for this category:
- Kazuma realizing for the first that Megumin’s powers only last one time, and his frantic race to save them from being eaten
- Kazuma’s reaction to Darkness’ masochist tendencies against the flying cabbages
- Kazuma’s initial reaction when he realizes how useless Aqua’s powers are
Favorite quest: The one involving Verdia the Dullahan easily takes the cake in this one, as it’s the only remotely intimidating challenge this season has to offer. Not to mention, his reactions to the protagonists and their works are quite funny to watch.
I wouldn’t say that Konosuba itself is a masterpiece of an anime from the 2010s, but I will admit that it’s a very unique take on the adventure genre. Rather than spend an entire arc dedicated to one man’s quest to deliver his homeland from evil, this series completely subverts that idea and makes it about one man’s quest to retain his sanity while attempting to do anything that remotely resembles delivering his homeland from evil. The stable plot progression, the depiction of this series’ world and certain parts of the humor were laudable aspects of this series, but beyond that, that’s pretty much all that Konosuba has to offer.
Bottom line, if you’re the type of guy that needs a series to provide you laughs once in a while, or are wondering if there’s an anime that closely resembles The Simpsons, then you might want to give this series a shot. But if you want a deep plot and good characters… you might want to look at something like, I don’t know, Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicles or Boku No Hero Academia.
Now, the second season, on the other hand…