I had heard a lot of positive press for this anime while it was airing, but never really took the time to learn more about it. All I knew was what the premise had shown: a shut-in otaku gamer randomly dies and is transported into a fantasy world with the aid of a goddess named Aqua. I wasn’t aware of the satirical nature of the show until just recently, when I came across the title on a fellow blogger’s list of good comedy anime (which I would absolutely recommend you check out). I had a residual interest in watching the show for myself, but seeing it placed so far up on his list was the push I needed to try the series out for myself.
Now, initially this anime reminded me of another parody anime: Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu. The key difference between these two titles is the starkness of their parody styles. Twintail took a subtle approach to its parody, in which it presented a number of incredibly ridiculous things and went along with it as if they were the most logical things in existence. I will admit that the parody was completely lost on me and I rated it accordingly so. What Konosuba does is make its parody incredibly obvious, turning the otherworldly tropes completely upside-down. None of the characters are particularly talented, the “adventures” are never completed with any sense of finality or finesse, the characters care for one another, but care in a way closer to that of the family from Married… With Children, and the humor is primarily trying to break the expectations of the viewer based upon the situation. This type of humor is the difference between others of its genre. It is, in fact, the only difference.
One will know from reading my entries on anime that I absolutely loathe any sort of tired cliché. Konosuba takes these clichés and openly mocks them, executing at a level on the opposite side of the spectrum to continue the plot forward—or in this case, keep the plot planted at square one. While this is fun and dandy for some, to say that this style of parody makes the anime better than others of its genre is debatable. Sure, they partake in clichés and predictable formulas, but the only thing Konosuba chooses to do is parade those clichés around and flip the destination. It is, essentially, the same one thing, only on the other side. It’s like changing from far-left to far-right on the political spectrum. I prefer to have my flavors balanced, so that it can give me a variety of different looks and feelings as the anime plays out, rather than have me expect the outcome to be the opposite of what I would normally expect for the sake of comedy. While I’m not discrediting Konosuba‘s creativity, I feel they could’ve done more had they focused on fleshing out the story and the characters while also continuing to incorporate said satirical humor. Instead, they focus solely on the satirical humor, which leaves me feeling either unsatisfied or uncaring altogether.
Even with the opposing nature of the show, the story has that sort of creative charm to spark the viewer’s interest. While it’s not entirely gripping, I found myself entertained with the environment and set-up of the fantasy world the characters are trapped in. However, this only lasts for the first few episodes or so. Once it reaches the fourth episode or so, it takes upon a more slice-of-life type of linearity that devolves into a “monster of the week” formula with occasional doses of filler and fan service fodder. Again, fairly entertaining, but not exactly brain food. By the end, it feels almost like the anime indulges itself a little within the clichés it tries so hard to slander, but immediately goes back to the same “Short end of the stick” humor the male lead has to go through thanks to his hasty decisions. The story is almost like a broken record with a hiccup near the end.
Story is not the drawing point of an anime such as Konosuba. That honor goes to the characters, who are blessed with appealing designs and wonderful voice acting. Indeed, I turned up my volume for this anime and found myself enamored with the range of the voices accompanying each of the characters. Hats off to Aqua’s seiyuu, Sora Amamiya, for the MVP award. Gloss aside, the way the characters behave can be a trickier slope to climb. If you enjoy characters who behave one way, and typically never stray from that one personality type, you will enjoy the cast of Konosuba. The characters have their one joke and the jokes made by their behavior will continue to leapfrog itself until the very end whether you like it or not. Explosions suit your fancy? We’ve got it. How about a hardcore masochist disguised as a holy crusader? We got that, too. And a goddess who is useless at everything aside from thinking of herself? The main course.
All of these characters are (thankfully) balanced out by the male lead, who does a wonderful job of not being a typical male hero. The most abundant change in dynamics of popular clichés within the genre is that the male hero is willing to fight with his female cast. He is willing to chastise them for being stupid, think of himself before them, and showcase how an actual, logical human being would react to being grouped together with a bunch of weirdos. The male hero might actually be my favorite character, simply on the basis that he’s a snarky asshole. But he’s got a good heart to him and comes through when it counts. He seems to me like the only developed character of the bunch, and for that the series becomes all the more relatable. For those (like me) who grew tired of Aqua’s whining, Megumin’s explosive dialogue, or Darkness’s penchant for random sexual dialogue, the main character’s reaction to all of it is enough to keep the group’s appeal light enough to find the exit of the darkened path.
The series did enough to get a giggle out of me every once in a good while (I couldn’t help myself when the male hero unleashed his sexual prowess), but overall I found the humor too one-dimensional to be consistently funny. It relies heavily on parody and breaking expectations to tickle the funny bone to the point where the actions become predictable. Things are going well, they won’t stay that way. The characters brag about their abilities, but then become useless in battle. The main group is awarded with a cash reward, only to pay it back tenfold in damages. Things like this are what to expect from a series like this (along with realistic reactions to absurd things). Chances are, if one enjoys the humor of One Punch Man, Konosuba will be an appropriate fantasy choice. Otherwise, it won’t allow you to use any popular acronyms to express its hilarity.
I’ll admit that I’m easily charmed by otherwordly designs. The apparel of wizards and knights and merchants are far more interesting to me than high school uniforms. Something like Konosuba is sure to draw me in through aestheticism alone, regardless of other factors. The characters look fresh and clean and offer a wide variety of different facial expressions, outfit changes, and colors that pop to signify who the important characters are. Design-wise, the anime is very nice, but animation fluctuates in quality quite a bit. There are times when expressions don’t look too noticeable and faces become distorted when shown in ordinary conversations. I never noticed anything too distinct in terms of movement, but a lot of movement was for the purpose of comedy, so they get away with it to a degree. The animation really shines when the use of magic is occurring, looking like something straight out of Sword Art Online. It dazzles and gives off an atmosphere that the show isn’t just trying to make fun of its own genre. But it still is. Despite Megumin’s long and seemingly meaningless chanting, her explosions do look and feel rather impressive.
My expectations were fairly mixed going into this anime, and it didn’t disappoint on a part of the level of parody. Quality, however, fluctuated considerably and I found myself more loathing the one-sided direction than anything else. Characters, story, and the way they interacted with one another had an adverse effect on the way I felt about Konosuba, almost similarly to the way I (still) feel about Twintail; an anime too held up by its own satirical whimsy to give a thoroughly engaging anime worth watching. Parody is a fine genre in moderation, but going overboard with it, like most things in life, drags the entire body of work down to a level that’s hard to recover from. There’s always the chance that the second season will do more than use the male hero as the butt of all of its jokes, but I wouldn’t expect anything to come of it until it happens.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.