20 January 2017

V Reviews Konosuba - Slayers anno 2016

After receiving some recommendations, I've been watching Konosuba. And I've got to admit. It's been a while since I've been laughing my ass off with a series like this.

Comedy in anime is something that either works or doesn't. And with this anime it works wonders. It was colorful, had a few unexpected twists that were funny. And heck, even the hooks that were predictable were still funny in its execution. Yet, it all has some sort of familiar feeling I couldn't shake... until it hit me.

This anime is heavily influenced by the Slayers franchise. And I don't mind it one bit.

V reviews - KonoSuba: God's blessing on this wonderful world

Let's dig into the Backstory

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o! (which is usually abbreviated as KonoSuba) is a web novel written by Akatsuki Natsume in the period of 2012-2013.

In 2013 the web novel got officially released as a light novel series, with the 10th volume being released last November.

It also spawned a few spin-offs with similarly colorful titles that translate to: "Give Explosions to This Wonderful World!" and "Consulting with the Masked Devil!"

And since the novels got so popular (already selling over 1.5 million copies), it spawned a manga incarnation that has been running ever since 2014 and a radio drama that was released in 2015.

So it was bound to happen that an anime would be made as well. In early 2016 we finally got a short first series of 10 episodes, 1 OVA (to promote the 9th novel of the main series), and a second season airing at this very moment!

FYI: If you want to stay posted on the releases of her novels, Akatsuki keeps a blog (in Japanese, obviously) where she occasionally post status updates on her franchise.
Link: http://natsumeakatsuki.blog.fc2.com/

The Story:

Our protagonist Sato Kazuma is a shut-in gamer who dies on the one day he decides to pick up a new game. When this death scene at first seems like a rip-off from Yu Yu Hakusho (even to the point where the character is confronted by this universe's Botan: Aqua), the follow-up on this situation comes out of left-field and leaves you on the floor laughing. And that is just a small example on how this anime joyfully plays with expectations. If I'm being vague, that's because the humor works best if you don't know what is going to happen.

Botan, err, I mean the goddess Aqua gives our hero Kazuma a choice to either go to heaven (which is described as boring-as-f**k), to be reincarnated as a baby (and thus a full reset) or to be "spawned" into a dangerous fantasy world with the task to defeat the demon king, with all of his memories intact.

Kazuma chooses the fantasy world and (in a twist of fate) forces Aqua to come with him.

Yeah, she likes that idea. Go for it!

But bringing Aqua along with him is something he regrets nearly immediately. Why? Because Aqua is virtually useless as a companion. She ironically has little to no knowledge of the world she sends Kazuma and other adventurers into and her only real skill is that she knows healing magic (and occasionally remembers that she can use water magic too).

But as a consequence for forcing Aqua in his adventure, Kazuma has entered this world without either equipment nor money (and neither does Aqua). So our two heroes need to find a job as adventurers with basically nothing (which surprisingly is harder than they expected).

Sorry i ain't got no money, i'm not trying to be funny...

What follows is a series of comedic adventures of our heroes struggling to get money to live while doing odd-jobs and quests to obtain experience, equipment and new skills.

When this "amazing duo" realizes that certain quests are virtually impossible to complete on their own, they try to gather some allies. But to Kazuma's surprise, the people that end up joining their party (a mage called Megumin and a paladin-like warrior called Darkness) are both highly classed, but also very, very useless in their own rights.

"Yes, my eyepatch IS fake. Amazing, right?"

The rest of this story focuses on this (useless) party of four going on quests and taking on certain challenges (of which the are often the root cause of).

But even if they somehow win big quest money, they have reaked so much havok that the repair cost leaves them virtually broke or in debt. There's a reason why they spend most of their time sleeping in a horse stable.

Yes, that IS horse shit. Why do you ask?


Sato Kazuma: The protagonist. He's a bit of a scumbag, but we easily forgive him due to the way he's being portrayed. He is the only competent character of his party and is able to guide his useless party of four to an uncertain victory. But he also has good enough leader skills to find the best use for his team mates and allies in order to survive their battles.
Aqua: One of the most selfish and lazy goddesses out there. She's probably the strongest character on the team in terms of abilities, but when push comes to shove she's dumb as f**k and very, very dense.
Megumin: The dark mage. The perfect incarnation for the term "glass cannon". She knows incredibly strong magic, but can only perform it once per day. And since she's a die-hard fan of explosion magic, she refuses to learn anything else.
Darkness: The Paladin-like warrior who wants to "protect" everybody with her body. She has a few serious screws loose and an incredible accuracy of 0% on all her hits.

Animation & Sound

Okay, let's address the elephant in the room. This series is animated by Studio Deen. And yes, the animation of the first season and OVA are very good!
This may sound weird to you if you're not familiar with animation studios or if you're just getting into anime. But Studio Deen is kind of infamous when it comes to animation, especially when trying to keep up a certain level of quality animation.

So for average Deen standards, this level of quality is surprisingly good.

The second season however somehow started on a lower note in terms of animation quality. I can only hope this first episode of S2 is an odd ball out and that the quality will increase from here on (wishful thinking?). Cross your fingers and hope for the best!

Don't make this a recurring thing... please.

In terms of sound & music... it's okay. The music isn't bad per se. The opening is good enough to not skip it and ending is chill enough to listen to. But for the rest of the anime, it often feels like I'm listening to typical generic royalty-free music from a random youtube channel. I sincerely doubt that's the case, but that is just how it feels. So that's a bit of a downer.

Inspired by Slayers?

If you are a long-time anime viewer, you may have some familiar feelings when watching this anime. No, I'm not talking about how the opening episode is a parody on the first episode of Yu Yu Hakusho. I'm talking about how the entire series feels like I'm watching Slayers all over again.

But while Akatsuki makes sure her characters and story isn't a carbon copy of Slayers, there's no helping that some of the personalities of the Slayers characters can be found back in many of the KonoSuba cast (both main and supporting cast).

  • Lina Inverse can be found back in both Aqua and Megumin. Megumin is the Dark Mage with her own kind of Dragon Slave Magic who only loves explosions and massive destruction. Not to mention that a lot of Lina's looks are projected onto Megumin. Aqua on the other end has lots of Lina's personality and big mouth.
  • Gourry can mostly be found back in Darkness. Darkness is the Paladin-like warrior who wants to protect her allies and is a straightforward idiot. She also generally looks like a gender-swapped Gourry (which isn't that strange since he was forced to cross-dress from time to time).
  • Wis is a lot like Slayer's Sylphiel, even to the point where the person with Lina's character (Aqua) does not like Sylphiel's character (Wis).
  • Yunyun (who appears in the OVA and in season 2) is a fusion of both Naga and Amelia
  • Kazuma actually is the most difficult to pinpoint to one or more Slayers characters. If anything, he sounds a bit like a fusion of Zelgadis and Xelloss, but in general he feels like the most "original" character of the group.

So yes, a lot of similarities. But is it a rip-off?
No. I think it's just very difficult to write a fantasy comedy without any references to anything that happened in Slayers. Slayers just had that much of an impact on both comedies and fantasy stories.

Cut episodes?

In terms of negatives, the only thing I can think of is the feeling that some episodes have been scrapped from the original planning. This should've been an anime with 12 episodes, but we somehow only ended up with 10.

Why do I think this? Well, three reasons:

  • There's the awkward introduction of Wis. She's just there and we're told very shortly how our heroes encountered her "before". But there is an immediate animosity between Aqua and Wis that required a voice-over explanation in that episode.
  • Then there is the lack of Yunyun, even though she appears in the opening theme. Yunyun does appear in the OVA, but in the OVA there is a need to voice-over on how our heroes encountered her before. And since the OVA was a promo piece for the 9th novel, I don't really know where this story fits in with the story canon.
  • Also, the last episode ends on a weird cliffhanger which is resolved in the first episode of S2. A comedy like this doesn't really need cliffhangers, so this was kind of a weird way to end your first season on.
  • Oh yeah... and the fact that it was announced at the start that the first season would be 11 episodes + 1 OVA. So yes, at least one episode definitely got "lost" on the cutting floor.

Yes, I exist. But not in this season!

Personal opinion & conclusion

Overall, I give this anime an 8/10. It's no masterpiece, but it doesn't need to be. It's a comedy that's 10 episodes long that will leave you laughing A LOT (11 if you count the OVA), so it's easy to sit through.

Final conclusion: If you like comedies and anime in a fantasy setting, give this anime a watch. You will not regret it.

Until next time,
V out.

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