Anime rarely makes me laugh in a general sense of the word. Most of the time I tend to lean towards a smile and rarely have any kind of genuine laugh. So when a show comes along that can get me to laugh out loud, let alone do it consistently throughout a series, that’s something I need to address. Even shows last year that I thought were really funny like Monster Girls or Prison School, rarely did I laugh out loud. And before you think I just don’t have a sense of humor, believe me when I tell you that I laugh on a consistent basis at the most stupid things. It really isn’t that hard to make me laugh, but for some reason Anime rarely makes me. Which now that I think about it is probably a topic for another time.
Series Synopsis (courtesy of Anime News Network)
Kazuma Satō is a hikikomori (shut-in) die-hard fan of games, anime, and manga. A traffic accident brings his disappointingly brief life to an end, or it should have, but he wakes up and sees a beautiful girl who introduces herself as a goddess. She asks him if he’d like to go to another world but he can only bring one thing with him. Kazumi chooses to bring the goddess. With that, he is transported to another world and his great adventure subjugating the demon king begins, but first the hard work of finding food, clothing, and shelter begins. Kazuma wants to live in peace, but the goddess raises one problem after another, and then the demon king’s army has its eyes set on him.
As we all know over-saturation can ruin almost anything. Recently I’ve been trying to get my friend to watch School-Live! but he doesn’t want to watch it because of being burned out by zombies. This is super frustrating since its such a great show, but I do get where he’s coming from. Enter Konosuba, or KonoSuba – God’s blessing on this wonderful world!!, a series that by all rights I would have thrown to the side solely on its generic light novel premise. However, this season I gave every show one episode and Konosuba was no exception, at first I thought it would be a gimmicky show I would watch for a few episodes and then drop once its gimmick wore out, sort of like Himouto Umaru-chan. That didn’t happen though. In fact exactly the opposite occurred and it steadily grew into my favorite show this season. This kinda makes me wanna kick my past self for not putting this on my watch list for this season. If I had waited for the second episode it would have surely been on there. Which you may find odd given it’s totally generic and overused premise that we see too much of in todays anime. Premise however doesn’t make the show, which I explained in my School-live! review and will now explain about Konosuba.
Konosuba makes its bread and butter on its characters, which are all enjoyable in the exact opposite way you would expect light novel characters to be. Usually light novel characters are the epitome of wish-fulfillment girls and guys who have little to no noticeable flaws or relatability. Konosuba follows nearly irredeemable characters with tons of flaws, all getting themselves into undesirable and miserable circumstances one after another. Basically its a show watching these people tormenting and being tormented by this fantasy world they all live in. So what about these characters makes their hijinks so fun to watch?
Like I said before, all these characters are super relatable in the way they think and go about things. They personify how real best friends act, and while most of the situations are blown out of proportion for comedic effect, I find myself laughing at how on the nose they get it. They provide a cathartic release of how shitty we like to be sometimes. Whether it’s being super petty over something your friend did, making fun of a friend for something they are embarrassed about, begging for money, or just hanging around them for so long that they get annoying.
Konosuba takes those mean feelings that all the characters act on and follow them to their logical conclusion, most of the time having things backfire on the instigator of whatever childish prank one of the main characters is trying to do. Almost everyone gets their just-desserts and its the timing and out of left field delivery that makes me laugh every time. I believe comedy is 90 percent timing and tone. Konosuba knows this and delivers when you are most off your guard and knows how to follow-up with a joke and when to let one go. Never did I feel something lingered too much, and at the same time when running jokes would come back I found myself laughing out loud at how they related to past jokes. Every joke usually gets at least a smile out of me, most get a chuckle, and quite a few get a laugh. A good ratio considering I don’t speak Japanese and don’t get the bonus of understanding where the inflection on certain words is being put. This is quite important when it comes to comedy in general, which is why I usually prefer to watch comedies in english if I can.
But just-desserts isn’t enough to make a show, no matter how good they are. At the end of the day you have to care about the characters and what they are doing. Konosuba surprisingly manages to give each and every character enough of a personality and motivation to where they seem interesting enough that I want to see where their adventure will take them. It’s a matter of taking whats great about their character and showing how that causes them to act in certain situations that makes the show funny and heartwarming at the same time. It’s a matter of giving them actual chances of humanity that makes them endearing. For all their shitty and apathetic decisions, Konosuba’s characters manage to show true friendship every now and then giving us a reason to root for them. Theres signs of growth and again, that on the nose portrayal of how we would act with our own best friends. All these endearing scenes are still well within character and come with punch lines consistent to the shows tone. It’s this steady balance of endearing and cruel that keeps the audience on their feet when it comes to the punchline.
When it comes to the world that these less than upstanding adventurers find themselves in, it more than fits the tone the show is going for. We are presented with a (while still fantastical) more realistic version on what it would be like being an adventurer once you take away the abstraction of video games. And it kinda sucks. And it kinda rocks at the same time. It takes some of the concepts you would find in video games and plays around with the logic of them and how people would really go about spending their time in this type of world. A lot of genuine comedy isn’t necessarily witty hijinks, but how the characters either can’t deal with the world their in, or how they come to love the world in a Stockholm Syndrome way.
Konosuba is a horribly simple show with a simple goal that doesn’t demand too much of its viewer. But I honestly think that similar shows try to fit in too much and the overall show ends up feeling like a tonal cluster. Konosuba sticks to what it wants to do, puts all its efforts into doing that one thing and that’s what makes it awesome. The only thing I think is holding this show down is its use of meta tropes. Though it does spin these tropes on their head from what you would expect, and that’s where most of the comedy comes from. It takes a person who’s seen a lot of these tropes to pick up on what they’re doing. This is to be expected given the satirical nature that Konosuba is trying to portray towards the “stuck in a video game” genre. Buts its something to mention if you aren’t necessarily anime savy, and just like to watch casually. Not all the jokes require anime meta knowledge to be funny but there are enough that I feel it needs mentioning.
Like the main character points out, Konosuba’s story doesn’t follow the usual anime adventuring beats you would expect from a fantasy RPG kind of story. And while the main character teeters between whether this is a good or bad thing, it certainly is funny and refreshing. Overall its a show that would be seen as good by the average fan, and a satirical masterpiece from the veteran anime fan. A comedy for everyone, which is something that’s hard to come by. So go check it out. Konosuba is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.com.