Today we’ll be looking at an anime called KonoSuba.
You know how the anime industry’s been on an RPG-style fantasy/trapped in another world binge for the past couple years, but by this point the gimmick has been completely worn down, dismembered, and trodden over so much that a lot of us really just don’t care anymore? That was my mindset back in January when I saw two shows exactly like this in the seasonal charts, but to my surprise both of them actually turned out somewhat decent, though for completely opposite reasons.
Our main character Kazuma is your typical otaku shut-in, but suddenly dies while attempting to save someone’s life.
He then reawakens in the afterlife, where a goddess named Aqua says that he will be allowed another chance at life in a fantasy world as an adventurer. Kazuma is then granted a single request on what he wishes to bring with him to this new world, and, surprisingly, he chooses Aqua herself, and so the adventures of this bizarre duo begin.
As I mentioned earlier, the “trapped in another world” and “RPG-style fantasy” settings have been practically beaten to death by this point, but KonoSuba seems fully aware of this as it constantly reverses, parodies, or just straight-up denies our expectations on what’s supposed to happen. We even see Kazuma himself complaining about how this world isn’t what he thought it would be like and how he’s constantly failing at every turn, and despite being a goddess, Aqua is just as inept as Kazuma, if not more so in some areas, and she even has a bit of a mental breakdown when Kazuma drags her along for the ride.
What really sells KonoSuba though is that it refuses to let a joke end at the first punchline.
With other shows, this could end up being a huge negative because the joke just drags on, but KonoSuba makes use of every asset in its arsenal to push the joke further and further until the insanity and ridiculousness of the setup overwhelm us with laughter. This anime is fully intent on mocking and deriding every dumb trope that has developed in this subgenre lately, and I could not be happier about that.
A lot of the comedy also comes from just how brutal and ruthless this story treats its characters. Everyone is on the butt end of the joke at some point or another, and watching Kazuma’s optimism break over how much he simply does not care for whatever stupid scenario he gets pushed into is incredibly hilarious. He actually kind of reminds me of Alba from Senyuu with how he just can’t catch a break from all the idiocy going on around him.
That being said, the comedy is pretty much the only thing you’re going to get out of this series.
It definitely is really strong comedy, and some of the best I’ve seen in a while, but anything outside of that is about as flat as a pancake. Kazuma, Aqua, and the rest of the cast are fairly two-dimensional, and you can kiss character development goodbye for the most part, but that’s not really the point of what this series is trying to do, so it’s not a huge negative in my book; plus, Megumin is just the best thing ever and balances overpowering strength with complete ineptitude perfectly. There was also a bit of a lag after the first big boss battle ended so the series slowed down a bit around episode 7-9, but it definitely rebounded by the final episode, an episode which I would argue handled the balance between seriousness and parody even better than the final episodes of other parodies like One-Punch Man.
As for animation, I was pretty much expecting total crap since this is one of four different anime that Studio Deen worked on this season, on top of the fact that Deen has a reputation for being generally bad in the first place.
While there were some things I liked about it, a lot of it also really rubbed me the wrong way. Most of it felt pretty basic without much flair to anything, and while the character designs are nice, there’s always a handful of little nitpicks that I have, especially when it comes to fan service. The comedic animation, however, is pretty stellar on the whole and really drives the parody in the right direction, particularly with its absurd and exaggerated facial expressions. Despite the animation’s shortcomings, though, I almost feel like this rough and imperfect style fits the show pretty well. It’s crude, unpolished, and leaves a lot to be desired, much like how Kazuma views the world into which he’s been thrown.
As for music, it was nice for the most part.
There really isn’t anything that stands out at all, which is always a big disappointment for me, but the music never really gets in the way of anything either.
Overall, simply stating that a Studio Deen anime about a character being trapped in an RPG-style fantasy world actually turned out pretty good and became one of the highlights of the season is more than enough to speak for this series. It does have a lot of flaws, but the presentation on the whole is pretty solid, and I’m actually pretty hyped that the second season has already been greenlit. If SAO and its knockoffs have become too overbearing at this point and you just want to nitpick and laugh at how stupid it all is, then KonoSuba will definitely help you there.
KonoSuba is available for streaming over on Crunchyroll.
Final Score: 7/10