The Anime Annex: Konosuba
Although I have never considered myself a hardcore gamer, I’ve always loved Japanese role-playing games. Many are formulaic, but the template for a good JRPG is timeless. Weapons and armor shops, magic, grinding, NPCs, and dungeons are all essential ingredients, but the most important aspect of a good game, in my opinion, is lovable characters and a great story. There have been plenty of anime based on the mechanics of role-playing games, such as RE: Zero and the ridiculous Bikini Warriors (guess what that one’s about). However, those shows aren’t as hilarious and charming as Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!, also known simply as Konosuba. As always, beware of spoilers going forward, anime-niacs.
Konosuba begins with Sato Kazuma, a teenaged recluse who spends his life playing video games, encountering a ridiculous and untimely death. The boy meets the goddess, Aqua, who offers to resurrect Kazuma in a preindustrial RPG setting. Through silly circumstances, Aqua is forced to accompany him, and in order for her to return to her authoritative position in the afterlife, she must defeat the primary threat in the RPG world – the Devil King (poor guy probably had limited job opportunities with a name like that). Of course, there are more threats in this world than just the Devil King, and of course, Kazuma and Aqua cannot defeat the Devil King alone.
Kazuma takes the role of adventurer and is given a special item that transforms the experience he collects from defeating enemies into new abilities. Since Aqua was already a goddess, she takes the role of an archpriest and becomes a healer. As the pair acclimate to life in a small town, they meet two more travelers who join their party – Megumin, a teenage archwizard, and Darkness, a female crusader. Since all of the party members are low leveled, they cannot attack the Devil King immediately – the villain has generals throughout this world that the party must first defeat. In between these potentially difficult battles, however, the party encounters plenty of monsters throughout nature, such as giant toads and flying cabbage (keep them away from mayonnaise – there is nothing more evil than coleslaw). Although the threats that the team face are very real, it is each individual member’s shortcomings that produce hilarity and make Konosuba so charming.
When Kazuma learns the “steal” ability, he inadvertently discovers that when he uses it on females, he causes their panties to materialize in his hand (he’s not very popular with the ladies to absolutely no one’s surprise). Aqua is not very bright, loves being worshipped, and often uses “nature’s beauty” as a party trick when everyone is drinking. However, “nature’s beauty” is nothing more than very small water spouts materializing out of Japanese fans. Megumin, although very headstrong and confident, can only cast one spell – explosion. Casting this spell just once depletes all of her energy and causes her to faint, but Megumin refuses to learn more spells. Darkness, while an endearingly ditzy character, is a terrible fighter and cannot do much more than act as a shield for other party members. This works perfectly for her, because she’s also a masochist. Darkness gets pleasure from injury, the threat of injury, verbal punishment, and aggressive demands. Unsurprisingly, this show features plenty of fan service.
Low-cut tops, impossible boob movements, butt shots – Konosuba has plenty for viewers to ogle (and keep you company on prom night, anime fan). However, most of the excessive show of skin usually stems from ridiculous situations, so the fan service seems to be making fun of itself. For example, Kazuma wrongly believes that a succubus he has paid for has taken the form of Darkness, and the teenager orders her to wash him. Of course, it is actually Darkness, and her reactions are hilarious because of her reluctance, but also the pleasure she receives from being dominated. However, this show isn’t just funny during sexual situations. Megumin practices her explosion spell daily by targeting a seemingly abandoned castle. Weeks later, one of the Devil King’s generals approaches the village complaining about the noise and the damage to his home (and stay off the lawn, dammit!). Regardless of the occasional sexualization and seeming incompetence of the three female party members, however, all of them are very strong women.
Aqua, though dumb and vain, is a powerful Goddess capable of resurrecting those who have recently perished. Although Megumin cannot cast a spell without complete incapacitation, she is ridiculously powerful and brave. Regardless of Darkness’s poor offensive capabilities, she is extremely valiant and always willing to help her teammates. Despite their flaws, these three women are valuable during combat and always manage to overcome whatever difficulties they face. Kazuma, although an immature jerk at times, is typically witty and intelligent enough to keep the party on task. As funny and absurd as this show can be, it is the relationships between these four characters that makes Konosuba such an endearing show (and if you don’t care about that, just remember that there’s fan service, you pervert).
Despite the characters’ shortcomings and the problems that the party encounters, Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness stand by and ultimately care about each other. There are very few familial references throughout the show, so it is as if these four are each other’s family. Everything that happens around them is almost incidental, because their individual personalities and interactions with each other are really what drive the massive amount of enjoyment I experienced while watching Konosuba. In fact, there is one episode where Kazuma nearly abandons the party permanently. Although he can definitely be a jackass, this instance is literally my only complaint about this anime because it seemed very out of place. There are occasions when the characters fight amongst each other, but never did abandoning the others seem like a serious option. Kazuma helps Megumin practice her magic and carries her home on his back every day after she faints. When Aqua is accused by townspeople of casting a curse on the water supply, the others stay by her side and defeat the true culprit. All of this is evidence of a deeper meaning within the show.
Konosuba is about the power of camaraderie and friendship over individual faults. This anime illustrates that, even without family bonds, those who feel like outcasts can still find solace in their relationships with each other. As annoyed as Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness become with each other, it is clear that the characters care for one another. That this quartet not only stick together, but vanquish monsters and demons, illustrates how people can endure and overcome difficulties with friends by their side (which sounds heartwarming until you remember the panty-stealing).
Konosuba perfectly captures the essential elements of a role-playing game while simultaneously using those elements in hilarious situations effectively. The characters are interesting and endearing, and the threats that they face together perfectly match the comedic tone of the show. Thankfully, there have only been two seasons so far, so for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet, there isn’t too much to view in order to catch up. I would recommend Konosuba to anyone who likes comedies, but especially to anyone who is even remotely a fan of RPGs.