[Anime] KonoSuba (2016)


Title: KonoSuba

Studio: Studio DEEN

Director: Takaomi Kanasaki

Rating: 8.0/10

Every now and then you come across a series that’s just plain fun to watch. It might not be the most innovative piece of work. It probably won’t be objectively superior to its peers. Instead, there will be one aspect of it – perhaps the story, perhaps the setting, maybe even the characters – that make a strong enough first impression on you that any future faults (within permissible thresholds, of course) can be forgiven in. In case you couldn’t tell, KonoSuba (or, if you so prefer (I certainly don’t), Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!)) is one of such show. KonoSuba is a celebration of incompetence and unpleasantness. From a perverted shut-in turned reluctant protagonist to a bratty goddess that no one takes seriously, to a one-trick pony of a wizard to a sadomasochistic knight who is suspiciously better at taking hits than dealing them out, the characters’ only true talent is finding themselves in increasingly absurd and, often, downright pathetic situations. Don’t feel too bad for them however; more often than not, it’s their own selfishness and stupidity that both creates these situations and generates the series’ many laughs. Yet, the characters, whose dislike for each other is only matched by their fondness for each other, are a lovable lot and their dynamics are what set the show apart in an oversaturated subgenre.

As a satire set in the isekai (loosely translated as ‘transported to another world’) sub-genre, KonoSuba takes itself exactly as seriously as it should – which is to say, not very seriously at all. It’s clear from the beginning that the series prioritizes its punchlines over its plot. In fact, the characters treat their alleged mission (which forms the backbone of the series’ plot) more as an inconvenient chore and an afterthought rather than a real driving force behind their existence. Indeed, most story-related progress happens entirely coincidentally which, of course, makes such occurrences all the funnier. That is not to say that there is no story here at all. Considering that most satires don’t put much thought into their stories and into continuity, KonoSuba is especially remarkable in how, often, seemingly one-off gags end up being called back to and having consequences for the characters. As an adaptation of a light novel, KonoSuba also has surprising depth to its setting – the world feels more fleshed out than it has any reason to be, which certainly isn’t essential to the story but makes for a nice touch.

The crown jewel of the series however, must be the characters. There is a certain risk associated with having a cast full of fairly dislikable characters. No one wants to see such characters prosper and there’s a real danger that they annoy the audience if they aren’t served some sort of karmic justice for their unpleasantness. The cast of KonoSuba, however, rarely comes close to crossing that line – while they are no saints themselves, the love-hate dynamic between the group is entertaining enough that the audience can never think that they aren’t getting exactly what they deserve. It helps that what malice the characters have is so poorly enacted – and so frequently leads to disastrous consequences – that it ends up becoming more laughably pathetic than downright despicable. As one might expect in such a series, there is little character development to be found – the characters rarely learn from their bumbling antics, though as the series progress, their expectations of each other continue to fall lower and lower. Still, their interactions retain enough comic value that it’s certainly for the best that they don’t change too much.

I shall not fall into the classic trap of trying to explain something as subjective as a comedy series’ humour. Instead, to give anyone reading this a taste of the humour, I can try to draw allusions to similar popular shows that I feel share KonoSuba’s sense of humour. Arrested Development would be a close match in several ways; both series feature tight knit yet extremely dysfunctional groups and the source of the humour stems from the dysfunction itself. However, while KonoSuba is not as well-written as Arrested Development (though it’s possible a lot of its wit is lost in translation) but does retain the latter’s love for continuity gags. Other similar shows would be Archer and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, both shows that are able to make the most of their bumbling and vaguely dislikeable casts.

Of course, there is a good chance that even if you like the shows I mentioned above, KonoSuba might not be your cup of tea – after a while, the subject of the jokes can become repetitive; whether it’s the goddess Aqua’s stupidity or incessant fan-service around Darkness and her love for sadomasochism. Still, I would recommend giving the series a few episodes to get itself in its groove before deciding its not worth a two season commitment – it takes at least that long for the full cast to assemble and for the intercharacter dynamics to set in. After all, those dynamics sell the whole show – and if you’ve ever been part of an inseparable yet insufferable group of friends, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

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Till next time!

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