It’s really starting to get to the point where the theme of ‘I’ve died and been reincarnated in another world/trapped in another world’ is really starting to be over saturated. Sword Art Online, .Hack, Log Horizon, Re:Zero and Overlord are but a few of the more well-known series in this genre and with a bustling light novel circuit, there are hundreds more.
With so many offerings how does Konosuba match up? Titled ‘Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o’ or ‘KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!’, it was initially a Novel series which was readapted for a Light Novel series and of course the Manga followed and then the Anime series. Airing in the Winter 2016 line-up it strangely ran for 10 episodes instead of the usual 12-13. However, an OVA was later produced. The anime covers the events of the first two volumes. A later series is due to air in the Winter 2017 season.
Konosuba’s general story is that Kazuma Sato, a Japanese teenage loser (aren’t they all?) is killed off in the most pathetic way possible. He then meets a young goddess named Aqua who offers to reincarnate him in an MMORPG type world. However, rather than being offered a unique ability or item Kazuma instead picks Aqua herself. Unfortunately for Kazuma he soon finds that Aqua isn’t as smart as he hoped, instead usually being more of a hindrance.
Their quest is to defeat the Demon King, and with the aid of Megumin; an Arch-Wizard that only knows an insanely powerful explosion spell that can only be used once a day and Darkness; a Powerful Crusader whom almost always misses her attacks. She also happens to be a masochist. With their own quirks they add a lot of fun to the mix, however, thus far they haven’t been developed nearly as well as the two main characters.
Each of the characters are utterly likeable in their own way, Aqua is simple minded as much as Luffy is, in which a brilliant mind is hidden behind the childishness and selfishness. (As a Goddess she thrives off the attention and praise of others.) She is full of faults which despite her title makes her a very human character and one that you as either the reader or viewer can easily grow to love.
Kazuma, on the other hand, falls into the trap that he’s unfortunately too normal. How many times have we seen the Gamer Guy/Otaku/Loser transported into these worlds? Or put in charge of a group of girls? Yeah. This is Kazuma. While he ultimately has a good heart he never truly manages to step out of the shadow that other main protagonists in this situation have managed to create. While he does show some character development in that he evolves from an unsociable otaku to being more social it’s never really enough.
Unlike most other in the same plot line Konosuba is firstly a comedy series with each of the members being incredibly fun in their own way, the story is well paced that through the ten episodes you never feel that anything pointless is happening or that there is a meaningless episode. Although there is one that I may actually suggest skipping, we will discuss this later, as the antics of Kazuma as he discovers the world around him with the three girls is always interesting.
One of the things that is fun to see was the level up system and the guild system the series has put in place to the point that the world feels very carefully laid out. Those who want a deeper version of Fairy Tail’s guild system will enjoy this as each task, be it farming cabbages to taking down Spider Mechs is fun in its own way and the guild hall is full of interesting and fun characters.
The level up system is similar to that which you would find in any RPG as Kazuma and Aqua find themselves with the option to learn new and valuable skills with each goal. Kazuma spends his skills somewhat wisely, choosing to learn skills that will help him pay the rent or for quests. Aqua opts to spend hers of Party Tricks. It’s almost like they are planning to adapt the world into a game.
The animation in Konosuba is bright and fun, with each of the unique characters managing to stand out amongst most series (even if Megumin is literally Nico from Love Live) however, it must be pointed out that this series, with all good intentions otherwise. Is an ecchi series. And one that most people won’t pick up on from the start. Breasts will bounce freely (but hey, it’s an RPG world. They won’t have bras) and the number of ass shots will make Yuri on Ice and Keijo look almost normal. However, they almost never get in the way of the story. And even when the fanservice gets a bit too overboard (episode 9) it’s done in a justified way that lends itself to the plot.
Of course, then we bring ourselves to episode 9. This episode was rather painful to watch. While ecchi played a lot in the overall story this one was essentially focused on it. Starting off with Kazuma going to a Succubus Brothel he agrees to employ their ‘services’ which results in a very uncomfortable scene in which Kazuma essentially treats Darkness rather abusively, while this works with Darkness’ masochism it left a sour taste in my mouth. While ecchi is often used as a gag in series this simply made Kazuma into an almost unlikeable character.
Personally, I would watch the first half of the episode with the Succubus and then skip to the next episode as a hilarious gag in the final episode harks back to the events. Fortunately, the rest of the series makes up for this shortcoming with a lot of fun moments and the want to watch more.
Konosuba is proof that despite a genre that is oversaturated there can be a lot of fun with the series if done right. It may not be the best in terms of story but each of the characters are fun in their own way. Although it seems to be running a very thin line between an adventure plot and a harem right now it’s not losing anything for being either in my opinion, but I can certainly see it being enough to put people off. It’s relaxing nature boosted with comedy is perfect amongst those series that require a lot of concentration and thought.