(6.5/10) - If you are curious about the point system I use to grade shows, check my profile for more information.
Konosuba is most likely the last anime i'll be watching this summer. In a way, that makes me happy. Its a very light-hearted and breezy show that I honestly don't want to critique too heavily. At its core, its just so likable and easy to watch. However, I wouldn't be a hardass if I didn't tear up a likable show like this every so often, so lets get into it.
Much like this show, i'll keep this review breezy and to-the-point. But not before I explain the concept of comedy.
The very base idea of a joke is something that makes someone laugh. Something told through a story with a funny punchline that subverts expectations and causes a response of happiness. Put simply, this is exactly what a joke should be.
Jokes and comedy in general live on unexpectedness. Something called "subversion." If you think back to any funny joke, the punchline is always there to subvert some sort of expectation. Whether its making something dirtier than you originally thought, or stupider, or more random, or darker, everything in humor is there to be unexpected at its core.
I won't delve into ironic humor which is obviously become so big recently. But that's it. To prove my point I typed in "Funny jokes" on google and the first website I went on was titled Jokes.cc.com.
I clicked the first tab I saw and the first joke I saw and what I read the following :
A grasshopper walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Hey, we have a drink named after you!"
The grasshopper looks surprised and asks, "You have a drink named Steve?"
Is it a good joke? Well, maybe not. Its a very overdone joke at this point, but it follows every format that a joke does. It had a setup, a delivery, a punchline, and a subversion of expectations with that punchline. You expect a grasshopper not to have a name but man, his name is STEVE! Fucking hilarious! Or, at least it was at some point.
So the more we see a similar setup and delivery, the more unfunny a joke becomes. The less you get surprised when the punchline has an animal saying his name is "Steve". That subversion element is gone and the joke is no longer funny. It becomes a cliche.
But still, I see so much television out there that strives on comedic cliches in bad and good ways. In a bad way, there is television out there just checking off a checklist of "cliche humor that is sure to make someone laugh", and then in a good way, there are shows out there that use cliche humor AS the setup to a more clever or ironic punchline.
With that in mind, i'll get into Konosuba.
[PART 1] : The theme
This is a fun little show. I won't waste your time by giving you a plot synopsis, but at its core its a show about a dysfunctional group of people trying to live in a fantasy world. I automatically recommend it for two kinds of people. Avid MMO players as well as just fans of anime.
Its at its funniest when it does clever (and occasionally not-so-clever) nods to the idea of being a show about a party in an MMO.
A tank who's a horndoggo masochist.
A healer who's a weakling and a coward.
A glass-cannon DPS who's out of mana after one spell.
The party-leader who's useless in combat.
Its a funny concept in itself and it lends well to subvert a lot of expectations that anime has. Especially with the boom of MMO anime like Sword Art Online, RE:Zero, etc. Its always nice to see the piss being taken out of a really popular cliche.
I just wish Konosuba actually did that more. I felt like this concept was often a bit too hidden or even underutilized. A lot of scenes were simply cliche and not a funny twist on the cliche. Mind you, I don't find pointing out that this a cliche and still doing it with a straight face is any different that just doing the cliche and moving on. If anything, it drags it out.
The show is occasionally self-aware and occasionally not. That's what makes the tonal shifts in a few episodes so jarring. We have a lot of self-awareness in the final episode of the season and then literally none in the episode before. This makes the author of the Light Novel feel as though he's cherry picking the things he wants to make fun of. If anything, the reason this show falls a little short in execution is because the author isn't willing to to go "whole hog" with the concept.
Its like he's laughing at one thing because he thinks its stupid and then doing another, equally dumb, cliche with a straight face. It comes off as though he's not creative enough to think of something else in place of that cliche. Or if anything, do it with the same self-awareness.
[PART 2] : Art
After I finished the show I read a little about the response it got. The show received a mostly positive response, however, I see a lot of people criticizing its art. Personally, I didn't find it any worse than a lot of anime I've seen. In fact, it did a few things better.
I'll gladly take simpler designs with enhanced animation over complex designs over literally just still images (looking at you ever Shounen-action show ever).
So this shows actual animation was fairly solid throughout. It was unclean, sure, but honestly that kind of added to the charm of the whole thing. I liked that these characters didn't feel like a perfect-looking flawed bunch. They are a flawed-looking flawed-bunch, which fits.
Whether this was done on purpose or not doesn't matter to me. I'm going to give Studio Deen the benefit of the doubt here. Where this show is also a bit hit-or-miss with is the character designs.
We get a generic looking protagonist with Kazuma, who gets elevated by VA Jun Fukushima's voice work, which is often times deadpan and the highlight of the show, comedy wise.
Other characters are also fairly uninspired looking. From the goddess, Aqua, and her "seen her before" look of "anime goddess". To a few of the locals having the whole "same-face" treatment.
That being said, the show stands out with its design of Darkness, the crusader tank of the group who's armor looks pretty great. As well as the adorable Loli mage Megumin who quickly skyrocketed to my favorite character in the entire show. Her design is the shows most unique (and cute) as well as a pretty nice performance by her VA, Rie Takahashi, who from the looks of it is newer to voice acting than the others in the show.
So the design is a mixed bag that's elevated by the entire style of the show. I'm also a complete sucker for fantasy, as its my favorite genre. So everything from the quaint starting town to the grass-swept hills are things that I look at extremely fondly.
[PART 3] : Sound
I'll keep it short. The sound design in the show is OK. It seems to be using the same effects as most other shows in similar environments use. This is fine, to be honest. I'm not expecting some crazy level of detail in the sound design. Apart from the cool popping noises we get from Megumin's magic, and the magic itself looking pretty cool, its generally run-of-the-mill.
The intro song is also fairly forgettable, to be honest. There's really nothing about it that's memorable and it plays as every other Shounen opening does. Its loud, poppy, and features scenes of the characters looking at the camera or at each other.
Where this show REALLY excels in sound is the credits song, which is fucking. AMAZING. It might actually be my favorite song I've heard an anime produce, ever. Its really really good and I found myself constantly just listening to the entire credits track, which is something I've never done before.
It honestly perfectly encapsulates the starting zone feel in MMO's. It has this soothing, catchy, and memorable quality about it. It also reincorporates the shows title in it. Its perfect and I wish i heard more of it as I believe that in the second season when they inevitably leave the starting area, the song won't be used.
[PART 4] : Comedy
Inevitably, lets talk about comedy. I touched a little on it in the first part, but lets get into it fully. This show is a action-comedy show which means that the comedy is equally, if not the biggest element in the show. Its also the first action-comedy anime I've seen. Even if a lot of the action Shounen that I've seen did have comedy elements.
This show is very "anime" with its comedy. I hope that doesn't sound offensive, but every single anime i've seen approaches comedy in a very similar way. For some reason, and I cannot for the life of me place it, maybe its cultural or something, anime has this necessity of making a joke TOO obvious. It makes the joke right in your face. It suffocates you with it. Every reaction is usually overdone and HUGE.
This is great for some people, especially people who love unsubtle slapstick. But for someone like me who finds comedy to be the funniest when its subtle, it falls flat more times than one.
Although this show does do some funny facial expressions as well as cuts the music for some deadpan delivery, which actually did get a few chuckles from me, it often feels as though its too deep in its "roots" to try and create anything subtle about any of its delivery.
The only actor who really nails it with the concept of "subtle" is our protagonists VA. I don't think I've ever called the protagonist of an anime its "best" part, but honestly, Kazuma wrung the most laughs from me. He plays the deadpan to the other characters crazy, which makes him a funny foil a lot.
The show also has a tendency to drag its very obvious setups and jokes on. A panty-stealing scene is forgivable as it helps establish our protagonists knack for the 'steal' spell. But a bathing scene that goes from chuckle-worthy eye-roll-inducing cliche to "please this is just getting stupid" is the show cutting it a bit too long.
To reiterate my point about comedy way above in the start of the review. The writer needs to realize that adept watchers who watch a lot of television pin-point cliches from a mile away. Just because you point out certain cliches doesn't make the cliches you do any more forgivable. If anything, it makes them LESS forgivable.
In a show that's bases is its interactions between characters, i'm also sad to say that these interactions become a bit stale. Especially the relationship between Kazuma and the goddess Aqua, which becomes repetitive by episode five.
Thankfully romance is never really introduced into this harem-esq show as that would spoil any amount of fun I was having. It just doesn't need shit like that. Especially since these characters talking is so one-note a lot of the time.
The only scenes which honestly don't have semi-cliche and repetitive dialogue are the scenes with Kazuma and the best character, Megumin. Their scenes feel more natural and as though they actually have a friendship, instead of darting from "caring about these people " to "hating their guts", like our protagonist does so often.
This impacts the shows development. Which a comedy show doesn't necessarily NEED to have, but if it prompts not to have development, it NEEDS to have a solid base of characters.
Shows like Rick and Morty, Community, Parks and Recreations, The Office, Arrested Development, all have character development and progression.
While shows like Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia do not. So how does Always Sunny stay fresh? Well the base characters that we were introduced to had a various amount of personality to them. They came stock with so much personality that the show can ring eleven, ten episode long seasons from them and it still feel fresh. The show is still going onto its twelfth too.
So where Konosuba should really focus next season is on making sure these characters don't feel as one note. Not every dialogue scene has to end with Aqua and Kazuma yelling at each other. Not every scene has to end with Darkness being awkwardly sexual. Its just not necessary since those parts of the characters are already established.
Much like the joke about the grasshopper named Steve has become old and overused, these characters interactions became somewhat of a drag midway through this shows VERY short season!
This is only emphasized by the messy introduction of a lot of background characters that fill up the show. From Kazuma's two friends that get randomly introduced in episode nine to the lich Wiz, who all feel like stories cut from the Light Novel that were still included in the show.
Its more than a bit messy.
So I don't find it THAT funny, I find the base concept generic, I think it misses a lot of opportunities to comment on MMO's, it cherry picks too often on what it wants to be meta about... why does this show have a 6.5/10? Which is by all means an above average score!
Well, as I said early in the review, its likable. If I wasn't laughing at certain scenes and jokes, I had a little grin on my face. It was a fun little show to watch and I found myself thankful that it only had ten episodes. These ten episodes were a bit messy, much like the animation and dialogue, but they were endearing if anything.
Everything from the montage in the third episode of Megumin and Kazuma blowing shit up to the way the shows slice-of-life feel is formatted with quests these characters need to complete.
And these quests were the shows more entertaining aspects because I know many people including myself have had these experiences with players in an MMO before. The hilarious incompetence is something we look fondly back on. I only wish this show focused more on that. Its most laugh-out-loud moments came from quests as well as the events that came about because of those quests.
Most specifically the entire string between episode two and three, where a quest involving giant frogs leads to some pretty damn funny results. These results are what build this shows undoubtedly large heart.
I think it wrongfully thinks that its heart comes from emotional scenes that it sparingly includes in its run-time. No. Its heart comes from everything but that. Its the working for money. The questing and getting overrun by mobs. The high-level player encounter. Its all what makes MMO so memorable.
I hope the show doesn't lose that feel when the second season airs next year. I hope it keeps that and doesn't instead go into its own more focused story. Have them move around doing higher level quests, gear up, and just work together. From that there could be ample time to develop these characters more.
I get that their point is that their all just a dumb bunch of shlubs, but if they aren't going for an Always Sunny in Philadelphia level of unlikable douchebaggery, then the author shouldn't be hesitant to give them a better relationship with each other.
I give this show a lot of merit because for everything that it does wrong or messily it makes up for in memory and heart. For every joke that falls flat on its ass and every prolonged scene of awkward and not very well done fan-service, the shows more relaxed moments are what kept me watching in the end.
This brings me back to the end-credit song of the show. That songs perfectly explains the feelings this show occasionally delivered. That's what I want to see more of. Not another scene of Aqua being bitchy or Darkness having giant jiggly tits. Let the comedy come naturally through the flow of events that a lot of people can relate to.
Let the breezy heart of the show take you away into the world.