(This review has been adapted from my blog/reddit thread. Spoilers ahead!)
During a sequel trip to Disney, my family and I visited Disney Springs (which will forever be Downtown Disney to me). In my teal polo, white hat, and matching white shorts, I looked, dare I say, dashing.
I wasn’t there to strut my stuff, though. Instead, we sat down and dug into some delectable Ghirardelli sweets, making excuses about ignoring our calorie count. When the last morsel of mint-chocolate-chip ice cream settled in my belly, we began walking back to the bus station. It didn’t take long, however, for a drunk man somewhere in the crowd of people to holler out in a North-American-Southern accent.
“Ha! You dun crapped your pants!”
People started to stare, and a little girl pointed – everything directed at me. I had no idea what was going on until my younger brother chimed in. Apparently, the spot on the bricked enclosure where I sat to eat my ice cream also had a small chocolate surprise of its own to share.
The brown leftovers smeared onto my white shorts, giving the drunkard and the onlookers a mishap to behold. When we finally understood what all the hubbub was about, we all started laughing. My family huddled around me like a football formation to protect my backside from any more interested eyes, and no shortage of bathroom humor left our mouths that night.
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (or KonoSuba Season 2 for short) prompted me to share a Disney-related anecdote since the first season made me do the same. Thankfully, it also brought along more of its comedy gold.
KonoSuba Season 2 is the sequel to the first season of the massively popular KonoSuba series. (The number two in the title over there should make this statement obvious enough.) Such sequels often have a very tough job: balancing the old and the new.
Unlike sequels to dramas that have the luxury of “refreshing” themselves (assuming the previous installment concluded its plot succinctly), comedy sequels, more often than not, have no such luxury. They risk falling into the “been there, done that” trap since the characters’ personalities and the premise at large not only do not change but also have “already happened” last time.
But a sequel also cannot just forget about its origins. Those same qualities are what defined the series to begin with, so to ignore its past would only serve to make the audience question its future. Thus, as a comedy sequel moves forward, it must venture out into new territory while still remembering how it got to where it is today.
Did KonoSuba Season 2 balance the old and the new? The answer is “more yes than no.”
Much of what made the first season so fun was how the show shaped much of its content as a parody of the fantasy genre. True to form, KonoSuba Season 2 continues this approach well enough. Episode three features an “evil” arch wizard who only wishes to be purified. In episode four, the knight Darkness is forced to marry is a complete gentleman and the nicest guy imaginable as opposed to the sleaze ball she desires. The adventurers and fans of the group in episode eight attempt to give them money and praise, but Kazuma cannot possibly accept any of it since they caused all the troubles anyway.
With parody as a big chunk of the foundation once again, the anime also reintroduces other elements that keep the comedy going. For instance, it will make callbacks to previous episodes. At the end of episode five, Kazuma lets everyone know Darkness’s true name (Lalatina) as a follow-through on the “crazy punishment” promised to her at the end of episode four. Meta jokes find a home here as well. In episode one, Darkness’s usual pleasured reaction to Sena (the prosecutor lady) calling her a “meatshield” causes Kazuma to remark that he hasn’t “seen that in a while” given the year between this season and the last.
Most importantly, the anime strikes at that balance between old and new. On the old side, Kazuma’s trial in the first episode brings back characters and events from the first season to paint him as a lecherous, guilty man. Or how, in episode nine, Wiz sees Verdia the now-deceased dullahan in her dreams whenever she gets precariously close to death herself. On the new side, scenes like Kazuma buying a set of unusable armor and a too-long katana or the visit to Arcanretia with its radical proselytizers give the anime fresh chances at comedy stardom.
Unfortunately, the anime sometimes reuses older content without tweaking it enough. Those giant frogs return to eat the crew. Kazuma repeats his lewd hand gesture and steals Chris’s panties once again. Kazuma and Megumin’s cut-off-the-word-“explosion” practice gets played out once more. As they deal with the Lizard Runners in episode six, Aqua bursts into a tantrum that leads to the show “pausing” the screen, a replicated action from Aqua’s initial tantrum in the first season’s first episode. Indeed, this same season-two episode also revisits Kazuma dying to a “head-related injury.”
The reuse of these different jokes does not make-or-break the anime by any means, but, with only ten episodes to work with for the second time in a row, it seems like a waste to include the same ones again. Plus, they impart an imbalance in that vital old-versus-new idea within this sequel.
When the anime ends, it comes off as perhaps a tiny bit cruel that Aqua’s efforts still go down the tubes after saving the whole city. It’s all in good comedic and parody fun, but it seems like now would have been the perfect chance to finally allow some sincere gratitude thrown her way. And, unlike the first season that concluded right as the next conflict began, this season finishes in a spot that seems unsure of where it can go. It had the money deal struck between Kazuma and Vanir before their trip, but the anime forgot about this plot point upon their return.
Nevertheless, the show keeps the comedy flowing throughout the whole season, remaining at least within a favorable state.
ART & ANIMATION
As a sequel, KonoSuba Season 2 does not deviate much from its previous artistic outing, a sentiment applied across the board. Quaint shots of the city return. The characters’ color-centric designs still catch the audience’s eye (with Darkness’s new designs and outfits being particularly attractive). Breasts do not stop jiggling. Megumin’s “Explosion!” scenes remain a spectacle each and every time she summons forth her immeasurable power.
The only major change in the anime’s artistry is one that goes in a direction that the audience may not have anticipated: the roughness of it all. Coincidentally, this change, similar to the sequel nature of this project, brings up a small talking point.
Most would agree that the first season of KonoSuba sometimes presents its characters’ in a rather rough manner. E.g., weird mouth placements, strange proportions. Such roughness, however, doesn’t take anything away from the anime but rather adds to its charm and comedic flavor.
For this season, the show decides to ramp up this roughness quite a bit. In essence, the anime occasionally takes it to an extreme, exaggerating the exaggerations to an almost obscene degree. As a result, the art possibly becomes not so much deliberately rough as it looks mistakenly unpolished. One needs to go no further than the opening track’s visuals. The gang’s rounder appearance during their loose, goofy dance and the at-times janky faces warn of the rougher art ahead.
Even so, this looseness helps in the other direction, too. It has always been funny to see Darkness blush hard or Megumin lash out, but, with this looser approach to the art therein, the nose flares, the crazy eyes, and the huge mouths not only invite more diversity to their facial expressions but also up their expressiveness that much more.
Plus, this small sacrifice on a cleaner presentation does not compromise on its command of the various animated segments found all throughout the season. Examples include the triple perspective of Kazuma shooting the queen of the Lizard Runners and Aqua’s God Blow followed up directly with her God Requiem. Indeed, the higher level of roughness can also translate into extra personality behind the very movements they make. Aqua’s reused tantrum joke in the middle of episode six stands as a nice candidate for this line of thinking.
To KonoSuba Season 2’s credit, it can also be quite nuanced when it so chooses. For instance, in episode nine, the suspicious yet eye-catching woman at the bath, who Kazuma stares at (“Don’t mind me.”) and who speaks with Hans, gets up to walk away. With her back to the audience, they believe a bootyful treat awaits them – except a sneaky water droplet from the accumulated steam on the camera streaks past to censor any would-be perversion.
If nothing else, the ending track’s visuals once again involve that much-needed balance in the old-and-new content for the season. New shots of the girls in different parts of town or admiring the scenery exist, but the familiar claymation-esque sequences, the kids watching Aqua’s tricks, and that old fisherman sharing a headshake with Kazuma remind the audience of the season that once was. The best part, though, is the end of the ED. It calls back to the first one but in opposite fashion. Kazuma greets Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness back home instead of the other way around – all while sharing a firm thumbs-up.
KonoSuba Season 2 enlists the same troupe of “adventurers” that the audience grew to love in the first season but also invites never-before-seen guests to liven up the place. That is, much like the story, the anime must balance the old versus the new. Save for one key factor, it does just that.
Starting with the old, Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness initially burst onto the anime scene with derisive words, cries for help, weird names, and unfettered masochism (respectively). Thankfully, they do not falter. No longer needing to focus on introducing the main cast or establishing the premise, the anime delivers their raucous personalities and actions with ever stronger comedic punches, crafting scenes that bring out the very best in its characters.
Kazuma “confesses” his sins to a distraught Aqua. Aqua purifies ghouls and ghosts in rapid succession. Megumin doesn’t back down from a bathing challenge. Darkness “succumbs” to Drain Touch in orgasmic fashion. No matter the scene, the anime makes sure to have its cast deliver as many funnies as possible.
Unlike last season, though, the series explores the characters somewhat beyond their base personalities. Darkness’s family, her home, and her faith take up more importance than usual, and Aqua’s returned devotion to her many followers showcases a sincerer side that the audience doesn’t always get to see from the goddess.
Kazuma, too. He still has a tendency of following up his appreciation of life with lamenting his situation, but he has his moments. He looks out for Aqua. He relates on some level with Megumin. He worries about Darkness. He learns new skills in archery and blacksmithing. He possibly falls in love with Eris (a figurative and literal godsend when compared to the other girls). Kazuma may be a pervert, he may hurl insults at everyone (both out loud and in his head), and he may yearn for “true gender equality.” But seeing him be even more of a nice dude this season gives him an edge that he hasn’t always had.
New characters also take to the stage. Yunyun, Megumin’s childhood friend, describes herself as the soon-to-be leader of the Crimson Demons. She also must duel Megumin whenever the chance arises, and she “just-so-happens” to be in the same area as her fateful rival on more than one occasion. As the magical device in Wiz’s shop reveals, however, she leads such a pitiable life that even the flowers near her would rather uproot and walk away.
Speaking of Wiz, she helps the gang out in defeating one of the anime’s first pure villains, the soap-hating blob monster named Hans. Vanir, the mask-wearing, death-wish-having commander in the Devil King’s army, also forms a fun duo with Darkness during his introduction in episode five and later (similar to Wiz) becomes a semi-friend to the group. And while Sena isn’t around past that same episode, she prosecutes, summons, and bends with ease, fitting right alongside the comedy around her.
Up to now, and in similar vein to the anime, a distinct and important character has been (purposefully) left without much attention: Megumin.
Based on polls and various words in the community, many people would argue that Megumin stands as the favorite character of the series. At the minimum, she’s a staple part of it. Not only because she is literally one of the four major protagonists but also her one-and-done powers are an iconic element of the show.
So, it comes as quite a shock when KonoSuba Season 2 gives Megumin the short end of the magic stick this go around. Episodes three, four, and five leave her outside of the dungeon or on the outskirts of town, and episodes seven, eight, nine, and ten keep Megumin from participating in the more hectic events encountered.
Much like the story, this lack of Megumin represents an imbalance on the show’s part. Granted, episode one has a few explosions, but they are not the focal point. Likewise, episode six has her drawing on Kazuma, but the outcome, not the action she took herself, earns the laughs instead. Furthermore, it is nice to see Darkness and Aqua receive a bit more background and angles to round out their characters. But, with the tradeoff being close to a disregard for one of the anime’s vital cast members, it ultimately may not be worth it.
Even the episode that could be classified as Megumin’s for this season reserves half that time for Yunyun and her (official if counting the between-seasons OVA) introduction into the series. Chomusuke the kitty cat becomes her pet in this episode as well, but her inclusion doesn’t lead to anything worthwhile besides the occasional scream and background boob fondling.
Megumin’s lacking presence aside, the anime still forms a better balance between the old and the new here with its cast when compared to its story elements, elevating the show’s overall execution that much more.
MUSIC & SOUND
Once again, the highlight of the entire anime is the voice-acting performances from everyone who takes part in the project. Hearing Jun Fukushima, Sora Amamiya, Rie Takahashi, and Ai Kayano again in their respective roles reaffirms how perfect the four are for the job. Kazuma’s responses to his name as they talk. Aqua’s crying and range of squeals. Megumin’s chuunibyou chants. Darkness’s moaning. From the in-between transitions to the layering of their sighs, breaths, and growls, they elevate this anime several times higher than where it would be at without their presence and skill.
After the glorious VA performances, one finds an ending track that hearkens back to the first ED in its countryside, lackadaisical progression. It’s not as smooth or as catchy when compared to the drawl and the instrumentation of the original, but that’s not saying a whole lot when the first ED remains one of the best listens in the medium. Indeed, KonoSuba Season 2’s ED picks up the pace and finishes once again on a higher vocal note, finding that sweet balance between old and new in this song as well.
Unlike the ED, the opening track surpasses the first season’s OP. Groovy bass, tremolo picking, the fun little tune that cuts into the song a couple of times, the cut in sound that leads into the rousing finish, faint bells and chimes in the background, the “Subarashii!” lyric. It all comes together as downright fun piece that captures the silliness of the series itself without a doubt.
And continuing the audio trend, KonoSuba Season 2 finds extra strength in the rest of its original soundtrack. It doesn’t change up the songs or the effects to any noticeable degree, going with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach that works here if only because of the inherent supportive nature of OSTs. In particular, the rap-like, ukulele piece makes a welcome comeback, as do the individualized tracks for Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness.
As for the sound design in general, the gushing, sloppy noises of frog slime as the characters move around and Megumin’s ear-deafening explosions let the audience know that the anime has the audio portion of this adventure down pat.
For a second season straight, I found myself laughing way too loud during every episode. Kazuma’s gratefulness to Aqua for turning the other way when he “rustled” at night when they used to stay in the stables. Aqua’s mega, stifled cry (that I cannot replicate even after trying a couple times) after she loses hardcore at rock-paper-scissors. Megumin’s food escapades before befriending the others. Darkness’s “sacrifice” and “protection” of everyone from the Running Hawk Kites.
No matter what they said or did, their shenanigans once again had me entertained the whole way through. Not to mention how all the other little moments still add up. Those crazy Axis Cult members spit not once but twice at the mention of the rival-goddess Eris. And Dust, the one side adventurer who cannot seem to contain his hormones, attempts to use “Steal” on the bar maidens at the inn.
Also, shoutouts to Sena, the new prosecutor woman. She didn’t so much make me laugh as she caught my eye. Long, dark hair. Attractive figure. Blue, professional work outfit. Glasses. She wasn’t around for half the season, and, even when she was, she didn’t have much more of a role besides spurring the characters onwards to a new conflict. But she had my attention nonetheless.
Altogether, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful to the author of the source, the creators behind this project, and the anime sphere as a whole for providing yet another hilarious installment in this wonderful series. Hopefully I will not have to wait long to see an announcement about the next season, for Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness most certainly deserve it.
KonoSuba Season 2 may be a very small step down from its predecessor thanks to small imbalances in the content and the cast therein. However, this imbalance does not dethrone the anime from its spot as one of the premiere comedy outings in this medium. Parody, diverse reactions, quirkiness, wonderful voice acting, a never-ending streak of funnies. Simply put, no crap in sight.
Story: Fine, the popular fantasy-parody tale returns, delivering content that occasionally leans a bit too much towards the old side of the all-important old-and-new balance
Art & Animation: Great, the color-centric designs and the normal backgrounds return, a looser approach to the artistry adds hilarious exaggeration, movement remains more than solid throughout, and nuance finds its place when it can
Characters: Good, Kazuma, Aqua, and Darkness earn more to their persons while maintaining what made them so fun to begin with, the new characters continue the comedic trend, but Megumin finds herself oddly sidelined for an inordinate amount of time
Music & Sound: Great, the once more superb VA performances, a reminiscent ED, a fun-filled OP, nice tracks off the OST, and numerous audio design decisions make everything simply a treat to hear
Enjoyment: Great, yet another hilarious experience in the series
Final Score: 8/10