When I was growing up, there was this show called Yuu Yuu Hakusho, where the main character saved a little kid from getting hit by a car, and then died–so when the Winter 2016 anime season started off with someone almost getting hit by a truck in Erased, and then someone actually getting hit by a truck in A-Jin, and then the main character getting hit by a truck trying to save a girl in Konosuba, I started to feel like maybe this set piece was getting old. But then it turned out that the guy from Konosuba had actually died of shock in front of a slow-moving tractor, and then the doctors and his family laughed at him in the hospital for being such an idiot–and I decided that maybe I had to reassess my opinion.
Konosuba had a lot of surprises in store for me in that first episode. It introduced this like bitchy goddess character who I thought was just there for domination fetishists at first; but then the main character basically tricked her into being his partner, and she fucking straight-up cried like a baby for like thirty seconds. I was so ready for her to act like one of those arrogant tsundere types that I just couldn’t stop laughing the whole time while she was crying; and then I realized that I am a truly sick and twisted individual.
But the moment that really sold me on Konosuba was this nearly two-minute montage of the main characters working as menial laborers. The joke here is that after joining an adventurer’s guild and thinking that their journey through this video game-like fantasy world was about to begin, the characters instead end up doing basic handyman work to repair a part of the town wall. Where the scene becomes special, though, is in the fact that it just keeps going. The characters get locked into this job for weeks on end. They find themselves getting good at it, making themselves comfortable, getting drunk with their work buddies, and even throwing up in an alleyway.
It’s one thing to have a simple little joke about how doing guild work turns out to be hilariously unglamorous; but the way that this scene takes that ball and runs so far with it goes full circle from parody, into becoming something which feels strangely genuine. There’s a real sensation of the passage of time here, and it feels like of the both characters actually undergo an entire arc. By the end of that one scene, they’ve already gone from basically hating each-other, to some level of genuine camaraderie; and it’s completely believable thanks to a combination of the facial expressions, the amount of subtle detail in the backgrounds and in how the characters act, and because of the sheer amount of time which seems to pass over the course of the montage.
The driving theme behind all of Konosuba’s comedy is to lampoon the tropes of role-playing games via this goofy, uncool fantasy world, wherein it turns out that being an adventurer kind of sucks when you remove the abstraction of video games. But while the parodical elements of the series are funny on their own, what really sells it for me, is how it doesn’t skimp out on bringing its derpy fantasy world to life. For instance, in episode two, the main characters take on a quest to kill a bunch of giant frogs, which is already pretty funny–but then Kazuma starts narrating all these facts about what the frogs eat, and why they have to be eliminated, and even that they supposedly taste pretty good; and now, suddenly the giant frogs aren’t just a gag, but an actual part of this world where the story takes place. The joke then pays off even further when we actually see them eating one of the frogs in the pub later; and then again when their new party member remarks that, while the frogs are very smelly on the inside, they are also strangely warm and comforting.
In spite of the show’s overall tone of irreverent silliness, Konosuba is rarely content to just throw out a random joke and then move on. Instead, every stupid thing that happens continues to be relevant to the story going forward, snowballing into even more ridiculous hi-jinks as the series continues. For instance, right after the aforementioned remark about the inside of a frog’s stomach, Megumin cons Kazuma into letting her join his party by complaining loudly that he’d gotten her covered in goo and then abandoned her, causing the nearby townspeople to look on in disgust. Then, in the next episode, a masochistic knight approaches Kazuma about joining the party, having heard the rumors about his sadistic treatment of the other girls. It’s this nonstop chain of cause-and-effect humor that just gets funnier and funnier the more it builds on itself.
Another thing that I love about Konosuba is that the characters are all just kinda dumb. None of them are ever built up to be cool or intelligent beyond an average level at best; and at worst, they’re all completely useless and not even all that good-natured. Their few moments of success only barely offset their constant failures; and they mostly grow to like each-other just out of happening to be in close proximity to one-another for so much time–just like real friendships!
It helps as well that all of them are backed by stellar vocal performances. Most of the cast is comprised of up-and-coming actors, who all sound like they’re having an absolute blast giving their all to these roles–and the chemistry between both the characters and their actors makes all of the dialog a blast to enjoy.
I even kind of love just how derpy and unclean the animation tends to be. I love that all the girls’ boobs are always flapping around at random, even though they aren’t really drawn to be all that cute most of the time–almost like the show is making fun of its own sleaziness. I have no idea if any of that was intentional, but there’s something really down-to-earth and funny about a show full of dumb characters who all look kind of wonky and terrible. Whether it’s off-model or goofy looking or whatever, there’s no denying that the show oozes with character in its aesthetic, and that the team behind it seems at least to be having a lot of fun with their work.
Konosuba is one of the most genuinely hilarious anime series that I’ve seen in the last few seasons, and probably the most fun that you can have with a currently-airing show if you’re still a half-decade behind on Gintama. The show is available on crunchyroll, and if you don’t have an account there, then I encourage signing up with this link that has my name on it–because if you do then I get five dollars, with which I can continue to pay for my own crunchyroll subscription. In all seriousness, though, it’s always nice when a show like Konosuba comes around to make me feel like whatever I pay for that subscription is totally justified.