Tentacle-Free Anime: "KonoSuba" (2016) Review
- by Kazekun, 24 May 2016
With all the anime that exists in this world, and especially having to review a new anime every two weeks on tap, you could think that eventually one's enjoyment would begin to wane and become utterly exhausted watching it all to the point that one may need a break from time to time. Well lucky for you that kind of person is totally not me, so here I am back again for yet another rousing anime to review for you all! This week it's KonoSuba, let's go!
Tell me if you've heard this story before: Boy gets sent to another world, it's a fantasy world, and is forced to team up with an abnormal amount of girls in order to bring that world to peace. And maybe he'll get laid in the process, depending on if you're watching a hentai or not. Which you're probably not. Sound familiar?
I thought so. There's quite a few anime out there that exist with similar types of stories. Maybe not that exact synopsis, but close enough to make such a premise a cliché. In fact, we covered a show much like that a few times with Sword Art Online seasons 1 and 2, which were highly popular when they aired.
He's also surrounded by a gaggle of girls who surprisingly want little to do with him and even less in the romance department. He has a harem, sure, but they're all strictly friends. And eventually feel more like a family. Oh, he knows how attractive all of them are and he doesn't shy away from that, but not at any point during season 1 do the girls suddenly fall for the guy or vice versa.
It's truly refreshing when shows like Sword Art Online feel the need to shoehorn a needless romantic harem into its story. KonoSuba resigns itself to just being a story about friends trying to make it in a fantasy world and I love that about it.
Aqua is the goddess who sends Kazuma to this new world and, as his one item, he chooses her. Forced to live in this world with him, Aqua becomes highly agitated by various things she deems beneath her and generally reaps what she sows more often than being rewarded. Ultimately, Aqua is trying to do good in this world, but easily comes off as the most annoying of these main characters. I find her difficult to like, but I don't hate her either. It's a fun dynamic to play with. It's even better because, though she is anime's quintessential tsundere type, Kazuma doesn't allow her to walk all over him and routinely points out her flaws and why it's probably her fault they're in -insert mess here- in the first place.
One thing that I do wish wasn't so inconsistent with Aqua's character, however, is in the times she chooses to use her most powerful Goddess magic. Through most of the anime she generally uses no magic at all, or weak attacks, but there are a few times she easily conjures up extremely powerful magic and I just don't know where her decision making skills come from if she isn't using her most powerful magic all the time. There were times it could have helped them a lot.
Darkness is a blonde-haired knight who teams up with our heroes and is a major depraved masochist. Whatever her back story may be – which we learn some of us near the end of the season – I would like to know where she gets her depravity from. Her running gag is that she can't help but routinely fantasize about being overtaken sexually and others having her way with them in all manners of ways which leads to genuinely funny moments and some that are just ehhhh.
However, I appreciated later in the season when she is finally placed in a position where she is forced to actually give into her desires against her will. Its not something that comes easy to her, or even enjoyably. Being forced to actually do something sexually, though ultimately nothing ever happens, does not sit right with her emotionally. As it shouldn't. And though she isn't cured of her masochism by the end of the season, it's really nice to see her gain depth and to know that though she may fantasize, actually acting upon it is a very different ballgame for her.
I'm sure many of us can relate to that. It's really nice of this show to give that to us and to her. Even if it may not seem like it.
Rounding out the main cast members is Megumin, who's the “loli type” of the group. A younger looking girl with a flat chest and cute features about her who's also an incredibly powerful explosives magic user. Her power is literally to cause explosions and the more powerful they are, the more it takes out of her. She is also forced to use explosive magic once a day or she'll over heat. That's a really interesting trait for a character like this. It sucks for her, but for the viewer it's definitely something new.
She's spunky and I like her just as much as I like Darkness. Again they're more like sister types in the show and want nothing to really do with Kazuma. They're his friend and I enjoy seeing that dynamic play out on screen. Even when they're given chances to “fall for him” like other – debatably lesser – series would have happen in their story.
The big flaws of this series is that of taste from the individual viewer, really. Like other stories similar to it, instead of just going straight after the big bad and hunting them down, our characters are forced to hunker down and deal with everyday problems like working to live, and then living in conditions under their wage rate, racking up debt and having to pay it back. Ultimately being caught up in an economical crap storm that leads to one putting their ambitions on hold and settling instead for whatever they can make do with.
As the season goes on ultimately their conditions improve, but every time things seem to go their way another piece of karma bites our heroes in the butt so that they're not allowed to go too far. If that isn't your bag, then this show won't be for you. While other shows have made this kind of storytelling work and others haven't, some have managed both in the same season. KonoSuba does exactly that. It also manages to add in plenty of accurate RPG action as well. From picking quests off a public request board to even failing those quests if they prove to be too difficult. As well as dealing with not having the right gear and having to match up team attacks just right in order to land that killer blow.
KonoSuba ultimately feels closer to an RPG than many other shows before it and I think that's pretty great. But there are still some shows under this genre that I haven't seen, so who knows if that way of thinking will also apply to the next series.
The other break I can't give it is that this series doesn't offer up intelligent story. It's more of an adventure comedy and not once does it pretend to be anything but. There are some emotional scenes here and there, but we don't get to a point where our characters are opening up their hearts to one another, or maybe we fear that one of them is going to die. It doesn't make you think deep thoughts, it just exists as something fun to turn on while your brain is turned off.
Personally, I like thinking anime more but I appreciate having something to just watch every now and then, too. KonoSuba has some depth to it, but not as much as it could if it tried just a bit harder. Still, I really enjoyed it and will definitely be looking forward to season 2, which is confirmed at the very end of season 1. There's also an extra OVA episode coming out next month I'll be looking forward to.
This is a show that is definitely not for everyone's tastes, but it's far from a bad show either. I've seen way worse and ultimately had a lot of fun with it, which is the main thing, don't you think? I do recommend it, however. It's an interesting mix of something we've seen a thousand times and yet also haven't really seen much of in this setting. That's refreshing to me and I hope it is to you as well.
Final Score: 4.5 “Explosions!” out of 5
Have you seen KonoSuba? Let us know what you thought of it below!