Today I shall talk to you about my favorite Isekai show. To be fair I have only gotten into the genre fairly recently so there is plenty I missed out on but among all the Isekai I have seen so far there still is a clear cut winner for me. Something that is so ridiculous that it is more a spoof on the Isekai genre maybe yet it has still won my heart. I am talking of course about Konosuba.
STEALing the spotlight
Konosuba follows the misadventures of Satou Kazuma, whom upon his untimely death gets to choose one item to take into a fantasy world with him. He choose the snarky goddess Aqua and together they move into a wonderful world. Yet I assume you all know this and since the plot basicly is “this is an Isekai” I will not be going into it to deep! Watch the show! It’s great! “But Pinkie, how could you pick that one, the animation quality of the second seasons is so bad” At least that’s what my somewhat money hungry chinese friends keeps telling me when I praise this show. So let me make this clear, I don’t really care about animation all that much. I see it more as a bonus that oftenly I even hardly notice. I didn’t even notice how badly drawn the Goku versus Beerus fight was in Episode 5 of Dragon Ball Super the first time around. I get caught up in a story and since I don’t read manga all that much , I don’t need to pay that much attention to it anyway. This is all still new so I can fully enjoy the wondrous adventures for a first time. I am not watching my favorite manga come to live in a somewhat wooden way. It’s like how I do not read the books of a western movie I really wanted to see (though I really wish I did with Twilight) because I am setting myself up for disappointment. As long as it is not Spawn’s live action cgi levels of bad, I am mostly fine with these sort of , what I think are petty gripes.
Konosuba is not a show that has to shine around it’s animation anyway. I can see a racing anime or something with cyberpunk ninja’s having a need for very fluent/sleek animations.. even something like the devil may cry anime. Yet this is a show about a party fighting a horde of cabbages, loudly arguing in a dungeon or lewd dreams induced by a succubus.
Konosuba is a comedic and lighthearted show that shines through it’s jokes and whimsy. That is where a show like that should shine and to be honest, I don’t think I laughed harder with any anime show than I did with Konosuba. Marking it down strictly on it’s animation feels like buying one of those family cars.. you know the minivan things, and then criticizing it that is not very fast. Konosuba doesn’t try to dazzle you with epic fights.. in fact Konosuba has some of the lamest fights I have ever seen and I love it.
During the first big encounter , when facing a Dullahan named Bedlia, who is one of the generals of the big bad Demon King, they tease him, play soccer with his stolen head and the entire fight is just him whining.
Why did they fight him in the first place? Because Megumin , the groups archmage trained her magic and blew up his house day after day after day. The build up for this had great comedic timing, the anti climatic encounter is hilarious and the conclusion and jokes satisfying from beginning to end. The show knows it’s strengths and what to highlight and I rather have the budget be allocated to extra episodes as making something look cool, what does not need to look cool. Comedy is where this show shines so much and some clunkiness to the looks kind of improve that experience for me even.
EXPLOSION of Laughter
Konosuba is extremely relatable to me as a regular DM in a fantasy world. When we play D&D people pretend they would like to play cool knights that slay dragons and woo a princess heart. We would love to pretend we are a skillful mage that is knowledgeable and wise. We think people play a strapping young lad, who was once a thief but has now find a calling that makes him use his skill for the greater good. That is the image people get of people playing D&D. In actuality virtually every game of D&D I ever mastered AS WELL as the games I played in end up more like Konosuba than an epic fantasy adventure. Sure the series might exaggerate it a little bit, but in honesty not all that much. That fight where the Dullahan gets completely dominated and people play soccer with its head.. it happens in all D&D campaigns where players get to make their own character. At one point the DM will forget about an ability of one of the characters that completely renders a boss or dungeon useless. If you create a fantasy world at one point this WILL happen to you.
The entire concept of when Kazuma takes Aqua to this magic world with him as his chosen item seems like something a D&D player would do. He basically dragged the DM into her own game and now the game is DMed by someone else. As a result we get a super salty player in the form of Aqua that is portrayed brilliantly. Aqua makes choices a player who has DMed would have made. It feels just so right when connected to the hobby of D&D. We see Kazuma obtain a legendary weapon once, but since he is not proficient with it.. he just sells it off for a measly amount of cash. THIS happens in D&D as well. You as a DM create something very cool for the party to have and they don’t recognise it right away so they just toss it away for coin they will spend at the tavern.
Every episode had me rolling on the floor with laughter because of how it reminded me of the adventures we had in the past. To me Kazuma, Aqua Megumin and Darkness are so much more real than most Isekai characters not because they actually feel like “real people” but like relatable characters. This really is your average D&D party and it makes the adventure that much better. This is just really cleverly written throughout.
Isekai to me is a bit of a hit or miss genre. Sword Art Online for example I find atrocious myself despite the good reviews it’s not for me. Rise of the Shield Hero was okay but never really gelled with me. Didn’t I tell you to make my abilities average in the next life, I really enjoyed myself with. I do not like it when an Isekai takes itself to serious. For example let’s take Isekai Cheat Magician as an example of this. Putting an overpowered hero in a serious situation like a war doesn’t work particularly well as there is no real tension arc. Deaths that happen feel even worse when a character is overpowered. It feels extremely avoidable and often like lazy writing. Yet so many shows do this, Sword Art included. We see Kirito duel some vagrants who can’t even hit him because he is so high leveled that they don’t do actual damage yet in an earlier dungeon his party still wipes because of a trap. It feels weird.It’s like you are reborn in the world of dragon ball as a super saiyan 2, yet you still can’t stop Frieza from killing Krillin. That’s not dramatic that is just dumb.
Isekai often relies on game like world building or a skill system or has a character rise above the occasion because they are familiar with these tropes. Many of these elements do not work with a serious tone.
Konosuba is aware of this and just has fun with the way it’s world works. Showing us what we want to see in a fantasy world without having to create too much logic behind it.The show manages to pull my heart strings by creating the cutest creatures imaginable, like the cabbages they fight in season one , or chomusuke and the snow sprites in season 2. These creatures are all adorable in design and would not work as enemies in a serious Isekai. Yet EVERY VIDEO GAME EVER that is set in a fantasy world has enemies like this. At least in my beloved JRPG’s . To me an Isekai show needs to have that kind of thing these tributes to what we know in fantasy. We want to feel we are in another world in a fantasy world or a video game world. Shows like Didn’t I say to make my abilities Average and Konosuba use that trope well.
Take Re:Zero for example and we see Subaru doesn’t really HAVE to be from another world. It adds very little to the plot. Sure he is unfamiliar with his situation but he just might as well have amnesia and the show would remain largely the same. Danmachi for example knows that it doesn’t have to be an Isekai. The world is somewhat serious and makes sense to the characters so there is no real need to have a protagonist be aware off the whole fantasy world aspect. Konosuba would not work as well if it was not an Isekai. Kazuma’s style of thinking is rather unique in this world define by culture, the world is too“odd” to be inhabited by just people of that world. Both Kazuma and Aqua come from a different world and use this in their train of thought. In a way they even Meta-game pestering a god to be brought back to their world so they can do insane suicide strategies. This fits and we get a world that gels together nicely even in its stupidity.
I’m broken.. please BREAK ME some more!
Konosuba does something that very few Isekai do, although in a bit of a different direction one may expect. They make Kazuma and Aqua seem alien to the world. Their different way of thinking, their quirks from the other world often get them in trouble and as such like again in most D&D their worst enemies is actually themselves. More often than not they are clearing up their own mess , we see them move from living in the stables to getting their own mansion and then losing it just to regain it again. A big part of this show is actually focussed about living in the other world. Plenty of Isekai have our heroes join a guild and then be carried of into a slipstream of a huge adventure. They immediately become a part of this world.
Kazuma and Aqua don’t do that as much, they much like their party are dysfunctional and do not completely gel in this world. The same can be said for residents of that world who join them in the form of Megumin and Darkness. A mage that only knows one spell and is an extreme oddball, and a noble lady that is utterly useless with a sword but trough her deep rooted masochism makes a great “tank” are so twisted, yet so close to actual fantasy adventures where we place ourselves in another world that it really keeps that Isekai feeling. You DO always believe these guys do not fit in this world. None of them, in part because some behaviour is spearheaded by Kazuma. This shown never stops being Isekai and I do think others could take examples from this.
That same brokenness these characters share adds another strength to this show. That is the ability to surprise. Each adventure has a wacky outcome, that while predictably may not be in our heroes favor most of the time it still offers something new. I constantly found myself amazed by their clever solution to a self imposed problem or the after effects of an action. Oftenly in D&D we see a party burn a town down to stop a single thief to complete a quest. Oftenly these damages are taken for granted but not in Konosuba. There is a deep level of consequence to your actions. Like when you teleport a bomb to a random part of the world…or a hidden reason why most adventurers do not bother with a seemingly easy quest. This show made me laugh out loud, feel extremely happy when Megumin finally was able to cast a second explosion spell and at every twist and turn I feel they are just enough on a leash so the show never really derails. I love everything about it, from the music to the entire cast and how it all comes back to my beloved D&D. God’s blessing upon this wonderful anime.