What happens when a shut-in finally breaks out of his shell? Well, that depends. In some series, he finds love. In others he learns to enjoy the world around him. But in KonoSuba, our hero dies saving a girl from being run over... and then it gets even worse for him.
A cute but massively obnoxious goddess laughingly offers to let him reincarnate as-is in a fantasy world, and even gives him the choice of taking any one item along for the ride. In a fit of spite that he doesn’t expect to even work, he simply points at her. Unfortunately for both of them, she’s a valid choice...
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (God’s Blessings on this Wonderful World in English, though also commonly referred to by the Japanese abbreviation KonoSuba) is a lighthearted romp through a fantasy world, with a stellar cast and a fun plot. It’s also possibly the very first LN adaptation that manages to be more entertaining than its source material!
The party’s explosion-specialist Arch Wizard totally blew everyone else away. Megumin is a standout character in a wide cast of standout characters. It’s actually kind of funny how nuanced she is as a person, because she’s extremely one-dimensional in terms of ability. Her single-minded devotion to her craft (and the one specific aspect of her craft, to the exclusion of all else) is both a major character trait and a nearly endless source of gags.
Her total commitment to explosion magic also serves as a limiting factor, as she’d be massively overpowered if she bothered learning or using any other spells; more on why this matters later. In addition, she has a common personality quirk that is justified in an extremely rare way: her rampant chuunibyou is actually explained in-universe as a genetic trait of her race, the Crimson Demons. She’s also just barely self-aware of it enough for it to be highly comedic rather than annoying.
Despite being a walking Dragon Slave / Lina Inverse reference, Megumin is also perhaps the best-developed of the cast. She goes above and beyond her already awesome premise and shows quite a bit of both depth and cuteness outside of her combat role. She’s basically the only person in the main cast that’s tolerable on a personal level for long periods of time, which isn’t saying much, but it’s worth recognizing; she’s a fun person to be around and she arguably causes the least trouble overall. (They would have eventually had to deal with that Dullahan anyway.) I really hope her spinoff gets an anime adaptation too.
The tank of the group, Darkness starts out off-putting but slowly gains traction as her background and complexity are revealed. She’s the final main party member to join Kazuma’s group, and she works well as a foil for the rest. She’s also a natural troublemaker, due to both her job’s traits (Tanks Gonna Taunt) and her masochistic personality.
While she reacts in a rather tropey manner to Kazuma’s occasional perviness (not that he’s only occasionally pervy, but rather that she’s only occasionally the target), there’s a surprising element of depth even in that. She’s a sheltered rich girl, and basically everything she knows comes from an unfortunate combination of being raised as a medieval noblewoman and exposure to books most likely written by some of the most awful, perverted people Japan has ever ‘exported’.
(Did you know Japan’s biggest interdimensional export is otakus? They usually send them by truck. /rimshot)
A Fun World
The world itself is colorful, beautiful, and a whole lot of fun. There’s an interesting mix of RPG mechanics and more practical, realistic elements. It’s definitely not as easy as what Kazuma - or really anyone else who grew up on JRPGs and anime - would expect, but really that only makes it even more intriguing. (If you ask Kazuma though, the world fucking sucks, makes no sense and is out to get him. Kazuma miiiiiiight have some trauma, which may or may not be justified.)
The other residents of the world make for a fantastic supporting cast, too. They’re persistent, they have lives offscreen, and most of them serve actual functions in their world rather than just being gag timebombs for the main cast. In particular, Wiz turns out to be a much more interesting character than her initial bumbling appearance suggested. The rest aren’t slouches either, though; from Kyouya, another ‘exported’ hero with a stock harem party (who gets kicked around and bullied by Kazuma and Aqua), to the put-upon guild receptionists who have to deal with all these whackjobs daily, to the huge macho guy that first welcomes them to the Guild (it’s the front-and-center dude with the mohawk in that gif) who holds a rather amusing secret later on. This wonderful secondary cast makes the already vibrant world even more lively.
The main group is a total blast (Explosion pun intended). They bounce off each other, they fight, they stick blame on each other, they have unresolved sexual tension, they bicker and banter, they use and abuse each other… Honestly most of their relationships aren’t exactly healthy, but holy hell are they entertaining.
Kazuma’s permanent exasperation with his allies is a riot. He’s got his expectations up in several ways and they just keep getting shot down over and over and over. In his eyes, the goddess is terrible, the wizard is a one-trick pony, the hot knight is an enormous masochist, and gods dammit, they’re all cute and mostly well-meaning and he can’t quite bring himself to just leave them out in the cold. Sometimes the romantic subtext feels more like Stockholm syndrome, and even though Kazuma is a total jerk, it’s often debatable who’s holding whom captive.
Like An Actual Tabletop RPG
As has been mentioned before, the show is like a drunken game of D&D with friends. In many ways it feels like an actual campaign; several of them show signs of being That Person in the party. For example, Aqua can very easily be either the GM’s half-NPC party member, between being a literal goddess and constantly bringing trouble to the team, or possibly the GM’s SO, playing a terrible character and getting away with it; Megumin feels like that one player that is 100% committed to being in-character, even when that character drops out of character in-universe; and Darkness is played by that one weirdo that keeps trying to turn the rating of this story into 18+.
On top of that, you’ve got a supposedly balanced party - warrior, priest, mage, rogue - and all of them are minmaxed in strange ways. Every single one of them has terrible personality flaws: Kazuma is a horny douchebag, Megumin is a grandstanding chuuni, Darkness is a masochist, and Aqua is a selfish moron. They are each specced out to do what they do well: Kazuma has sky-high Luck and decent agility, Aqua is a literal goddess with totally ridiculous stats (bar two), Megumin has a racial intelligence bonus on top of being a munchkin beyond munchkins, and Darkness is built like a total brick shithouse.
But they each also have mechanical flaws: Darkness cannot hit the broad side of a barn, Megumin’s only spell is so far beyond her level that she collapses after one shot, Aqua is a brainless twit (the guild receptionist tries - and fails - to be discreet about her rock-bottom Intelligence stat) and wastes lots of skill points, and Kazuma’s non-Luck stats are so low he’s stuck with the shitty starter class. It’s a “well-balanced” team in sort of the same way that enough poisons mixed together can cure some ailments, and it’s exactly the sort of hodgepodge mix of people that have no business being together that I am used to from my own D&D groups.
The main character of the show is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, he has a terrible start, and is actively trying to make things better when his entire world gets turned upside down, multiple times in rapid succession. On the other hand, at his core, he is not a very good person.
Kazuma spent the last 10 years or so before the start of the show as a hikkikomori. He was bullied in school, so he shut himself in his room and dicked around on the internet all day. For ten years. He was effectively raised by 2ch, possibly one of the worst influences on the planet, and light novels/video games, which generally have all the perspective of a ten-year-old’s Etch-A-Sketch drawing and all the tact of Donald Trump.
Consequently, Kazuma is an asshole. Now, he’s not totally irredeemable, but by no means is he a totally nice guy except when it benefits him to be so. He’s a horny, selfish teenager with some minor delusions of grandeur (brought on by his actual circumstances, unrelated to chuunibyou), so really most of his actions are understandable given his background, and to some degree relatable. Also, rather a lot of his douchebag actions are in retaliation to someone else either trying to shanghai him, or being some combination of condescending, overconfident, and/or just plain stupid. But honestly, despite seeming like a huge jerk to us, Kazuma doesn’t stick out too much in this RPG world for all that. There’s plenty of less savory people around, so his twisted personality doesn’t really make him stick out.
Above all else, the reason Kazuma doesn’t fit in is because he is the straight-man for an insane world. Many of the events accepted as common knowledge run completely counter to everything he expects from such a world, and his party members are each a different total mess. It makes him the one we can relate to even when his behavior is anathema. One of my favorite things about him is that constant “Yes, I’m Kazuma” whenever his name is called, as a way of attempting to ignore whatever the person calling for him just said. He’s just so fed up with it all, especially...
In my opinion, Aqua is an even worse person than Kazuma. He at least has no responsibility to anyone but himself, so his douchebag tendencies usually only affect himself and his victim/conversation partner. Aqua, on the other hand, is a major deity governing an entire planet(‘s afterlife?). She’s supposed to be an important, influential figure whose actions impact far more people than Kazuma could even dream of, which makes her abject stupidity, complete selfishness, and utter ineptitude appalling. She’s terrible at nearly everything, and even manages to do the things she’s good at in terrible ways.
Aqua only makes it into the Not Bad section because of three points: she can be very funny (though we’re usually laughing at her), she really is necessary to the party, and because of how much she is improved over her LN representation. Which doesn’t mean she’s a good party member; she’s still an annoying, detrimental, needy idiot, and she isn’t even pitiable because the vast majority of her problems are more-or-less directly the consequences of her own selfish, stupid actions. But in some ways that’s more realistic; when’s the last time you got a group together and didn’t have at least one waste of space? She does have a few redeeming moments, and she manages to serve as comic relief just slightly more often than as deadweight or an actively harmful agent to the party, so she managed to juuuuust barely avoid being in my Terrible section. She’s actually the reason I dropped the LN where I did (well past the ending of the season), and several other people I’ve talked to have also dropped it mostly because she’s awful there.
Now, some might claim that her being in the world at all is Kazuma’s fault, but honestly he would have just chosen a cool item or power like the hundreds of other heroes before him had she not been a complete ass to him. Her total failure to be a decent person sparked his petty, mostly-joking act of choosing her as his “perk” - as I already mentioned, many of Kazuma’s meaner actions are done out of spite rather than malice - and as the series continues we quickly find that she deserves everything that is happening to her, if not worse. There’s a reason (in fact, several) why both Kazuma by himself and the group as a whole regularly considers kicking her out on her mostly-useless ass.
While each specific quest the party undertakes is radically different, the show suffers a bit from having them all resolve the same: collateral damage makes for either a pathetic amount of total progress or, in fact, a net loss. By the latter half of the series, each arc is less “will they succeed?” and more “how is it going to bite them in the ass THIS time?”, which makes the overall story a little more predictable than I’d like.
There’s quite a bit of unnecessary anime physics going on, with Luna (the guild receptionist) and Darkness being the primary offenders. There’s a bunch of panty jokes, quite a bit of ogling, and a potty crisis... and then in the middle of all this there’s the succubus episode, which while totally egregious, makes more sense than any major fanservice sequence in recent memory. It kind of makes me wonder why that whole dream-brothel concept hasn’t been stolen and adapted into all the other harem LNs. (Probable reason: they want sexual tension to explode violently rather than be resolved peacefully and consentually. Dammit, Japan.)
Also, one of the nice things about this show is just how much shit Kazuma gets for his perversion. Very few just let it slide; he has an actual bad reputation around town, receives disgusted glares from girls he’s never met, and is frequently taken to task for going waaaaay too far. (Which is all the goddamn time. Have I mentioned he’s an asshole?)
Not Long Enough
There’s only 10 episodes, and it’s not enough. It’ll never be enough. This series is super fun and I could watch it for ages. Luckily, season 2 has already been greenlit, so I’ll get another temporary fix soonish.
All in all, KonoSuba is a fantastic show that had me rolling in laughter every single episode. The voice actors blast every scene out of the park, the world is gorgeous, and the characters are fantastic overall. I can’t wait for Season 2!
Header and scorecard gifs by Unimplied.