[Synopsis]: High school student and reclusive gamer Kazuma Satou (Fukushima Jun) loses his life one day when he throws himself selflessly in front of an oncoming vehicle in a spur of the moment attempt to save the life of a passing stranger. Awakening in afterlife, he meets a blue-haired goddess by the name of Aqua (Amamiya Sora) who offers him the choice to either pass on to Heaven or reincarnate with all of his memories intact in a new world ruled by a Demon King whom he must defeat. Opting to live out his dream of becoming a heroic adventurer, Kazuma begins his life anew in a world full of monsters and magic. He quickly realizes that the world is not what his gaming experience had led him to expect and struggles to make it through each day as he becomes surrounded by comically incompetent allies.
Though KonoSuba has little investment in its overarching plot and doesn’t attempt to drum up any legitimate character drama within its story it is undoubtedly true that its characters are its greatest strength. The main cast members are established very early on which was a comfortable and beneficial approach for the show given its brief run of only 10-episodes. This quick introduction served to give the viewer more time with the characters while playing up KonoSuba‘s primary strength founded in the interactions and comedy of its main cast.
Though all of the characters are worth detailing I think understanding Kazuma and his role in the show is the most important aspect of the show going forward. Though he is initially established as a shut-in gamer KonoSuba chooses to emphasize his knowledge of games, his adolescent antics, and his role as the straight man of the group rather than his reclusive or unsociable nature which never actually manifest. Kazuma truly sets himself apart as a protagonist in what is becoming a very tired genre, not only by undermining certain stereotypical character traits but through his unique comedy and chemistry with his allies. The way Kazuma and Aqua are at comical odds with one another, constantly enjoying schadenfreude at each others expense while still getting along, establishes an entertaining and humorous dynamic very early on.
Kazuma is most definitely the most integral character of the show not just because of his role as the protagonist but because of how everything plays off of him. The quirks and gags of Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness are hilarious in their own right however the show primarily accesses them through their interactions with Kazuma. For this reason I would emphasize the importance of enjoying the comedy of their character traits as they are the root of most of KonoSuba’s jokes. All of the members of the main cast have their individual oddities which feed into the comedy of the show and their chemistry with one another from Aqua’s incredible stupidity and constant money squandering to Darkness’s masochistic tendencies and Megumin’s deep-rooted love for making explosions.
One thing that I can’t applaud enough is the energy and personality the actors bring to each character – KonoSuba most definitely has some of the best comedic acting and timing I have seen for a very long time and the strength of its characters is most definitely elevated to new heights due to the outstanding vocal performances of their seiyuu.
Looking even briefly at KonoSuba would suggest that its art and animation are its weakest element and perhaps even a fatal one however I think those concerns can be put to rest. The character designs fluctuate in quality from time to time and lack the same crispness usually associated with highly detailed visuals but the settings and backgrounds are actually quite good and establish the adventurous, game-esc aesthetic of the show well. Moreover, while the animation may be spotty at times, I not only think that those occasions are fairly infrequent but that KonoSuba hosts a great many instances of where its animation is very good. I typically have pretty low tolerance for low-quality visuals however I think KonoSuba succeeded in a myriad of ways visually that more than made up for wherever it faltered. It’s also worth mentioning that the show has fantastic facial expressions that benefit its comedy immensely.
I also wanted to quickly talk about how the show handled its fan-service elements. They only manifest occasionally however when they do they aren’t the central focus of the scene. The shots are done in such a way that they can be revealing yet those elements of the shot are never its primary focus and in that way they don’t detract from the action or comedy transpiring. Anyone who is typically wary of fan-service I think will find KonoSuba’s approach perfectly tolerable. One could even chalk up the show’s intermittent usage of fan-service as furthering its side-interest of subverting the ‘trapped in a game’ genre given how ultimately forgivable and non-direct it is.
From its first episode onward KonoSuba is very entertaining and humorous. It starts off in somewhat cliche fashion in order to undermine some of the tropes associated with Kazuma’s predicament through his and Aqua’s twisted personalities while simultaniously establishing the premise. The following realization that befalls Kazuma, that the life of an adventurer is less heroic than he imagined and far more similar to being a job-hopping part timer who can barely scrape by, is downright funny yet also represents some wonderful world-building elements. The idea that all of the monsters near town have long since been killed off because it is a town of novice adventurers or that quests are hard to come by because one of the Demon King’s henchman recently moved in nearby offers surprisingly good world-building all the while feeding excellently into the humor of KonoSuba’s setting and Kazuma’s predicament.
Something that I think is important to detail is that, while the show subverts a good many of the elements typically present in a show about being trapped in a game world, it does not exist solely for this purpose, nor does it thrive purely by doing so. Kazuma has impressively average stats which sets him apart from more typical protagonists and this undermines both the idea of having a capable main character as well as the premise of being a heroic adventurer capable of defeating the Demon King in the first place. He finds himself woefully under-equipped for the task before him and the world isn’t about to lend him a helping hand. What I find so highly engaging and entertaining is that the show does more than parody these things and through the ridiculousness of its cast members and the world they live in, KonoSuba stands on its own effectively.
Kazuma spends half his time as bewildered at the proceedings as the viewer which extenuates their hilarity while grounding the events that transpire in a very important way. By acknowledging what happens, continuing to react to it, and addressing it in the retrospective, Kazuma breathes life into the gags and comedy of the show by attaching them to reality. Too often do comedies roll out a sequence of gags or exchanges and then treat the proceedings as if they had never transpired or that they had existed purely as as an aside. I find that this often compromises the humor of a show and so seeing the ridiculous and bizarre events of the KonoSuba affecting Kazuma and his friends so meaningfully is both refreshing and hilarious.
The music of KonoSuba is much what you would expect given its premise – its soundtrack emphasizes adventurous and heroic themes in order to play up the aesthetic of the world Kazuma reincarnates into as well as undermine the reality of that world through musical juxtaposition. The soundtrack is enjoyable and for the most part does what its supposed to do without becoming particularly memorable or worthy of additional attention.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
KonoSuba I think represents a very successful comedy born out of an otherwise tired and often dangerous genre premise. You would be hard pressed to find a time where the show ever takes itself seriously – its proceedings are ridiculous and Kazuma knows it. If I had to voice one critique it would be that the members of Kazuma’s party were slightly too reliant on him to bounce their traits off and create comedy and could have intermingled with each other a bit more than they did. I found each of them highly enjoyable and funny yet I think their relationships with each other, Kazuma withstanding, is a slightly under-explored and very entertaining prospect of the show that will very likely be expanded upon in its second season.
I gave KonoSuba an 8 because of its hilarious cast of characters, its wonderful gag expressions, its subversive genre elements, and the outstanding vocal performances of its main characters. I think the show was highly enjoyable and funny and though it takes a few hits in the art department I found it very visually appealing. I eagerly await its next installment as expanding upon what the show has laid out thus far will only lead to more entertaining content.
I would recommend KonoSuba to anyone who enjoys comedy as it succeeds in this area tremendously. The main cast of characters is fully introduced by episode 3 and so one should have a pretty good idea of how the comedy of the show functions by that point. The action scenes are surprisingly well done at times though I wouldn’t suggest the show purely for that reason despite its shared premise with more action-oriented shows like DanMachi. Those who enjoy games and gravitate towards the kinds of shows that KonoSuba somewhat parodies I feel will enjoy it as the settings and characters should feel familiar despite their humorous designs.