Back in early 2016, the first season of KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World was airing. At the time the anime seemed like just another isekai adventure, but several years later it has become extremely popular both here in the West and Japan. Now the series has finally made its way to home video in the UK and I’m here to tell you why you should be watching.
What if, when you die, you were given the chance to be reborn in another world and tasked with defeating a demon lord? This is the choice that our protagonist Kazuma must make after he pushes a pretty girl out the way of an oncoming tractor (that he saw as a massive truck) and dies from shock.
A pretty (but rude) goddess named Aqua greets Kazuma in the afterlife and informs him that if he should decide to go to this other realm, he may pick one item to go with him: whatever he desires. Our hero decides that the best possible solution to this problem (and out of spite towards Aqua’s lack of caring for his wellbeing) is to simply take the goddess with him. And so begins the unfortunate – I mean, brilliant – adventures of Kazuma.
After joining the guild in the starting town he’s landed in, Kazuma finds out how unfair his new reality really is. His stats (like those you’d find in an RPG), apart from intelligence and luck, are below average, which doesn’t offer him many choices for his life as an adventurer. Meanwhile, Aqua has brilliant stats, apart from intelligence and luck, and can choose any job she’d like, even one of the highest: Arc Priest. Could things get any worse for Kazuma?
Well, yes, things could definitely get worse. As he and Aqua attempt to take on many quests around the city, they all end in failure. To make matters worse, their party is soon joined by an Arch Wizard, Megumin, who can only fire off her magic once a day; and a knight, Darkness, who can’t even hit a target standing still (and really enjoys being hit by enemies…). This party truly isn’t a useful one and, try as he might, Kazuma just can’t get away from the trio of idiots.
At its core, KonoSuba is a comedy centred around the trials and tribulations of adventurers, showing that life is perhaps not as easy going as it would be in an RPG. Even if this isn’t a video game, Kazuma manages to pull many links between the two and his extensive knowledge does come in handy. As a viewer, it’s great to watch the similarities, especially with quests and the useless party members (I mean normally we’re only stuck with one, but Kazuma has three to deal with!) and the anime does nothing but amplify this feeling. I’m a huge fan of the JRPG genre of video games, so seeing how well KonoSuba captures the feeling and tropes of fantasy worlds like those is great fun.
Almost every episode of the anime features an “emergency quest” of some description that Kazuma and friends are dragged into helping with. Half the time these quests have come into play because Kazuma or one of his ‘helpful’ party members have angered some evil monster, but there are some more random quests to balance things out. My personal favourite is the Cabbage Quest. This quest involves defeating and rounding up a flying hoard of cabbages, yes cabbages, that are flying toward the city. If this were a video game it would be a pretty low-level quest and the type you just can’t be bothered completing, which KonoSuba knows and plays with wonderfully by having Kazuma make numerous comments about how he wishes he could just go back to bed. The series manages to make fun of every aspect of a JRPG that you possibly could in some fashion or other, and I quickly fell in love with the somewhat quirky humour on offer.
My only criticism against the show is how sexual some of the comedy can be. Having read several of the original light novel author’s other works I’ve long accepted that this is just what they’re like, but at the same time, I think this is liable to put some people off the show. It’s certainly not as child-friendly as the synopsis or illustrations would have you believe. Having said that, the jokes are funny, so if you’re fine with this sort of humour, then you’ll be okay.
Animation for the series has been handled by Studio Deen (Log Horizon S2, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen 2020) and while I was initially quite harsh about it when it aired, my feelings have changed a great deal since. I’m not sure if the home video masters are simply significantly improved from the TV broadcast or if Crunchyroll’s stream just wasn’t very good, but either way, the anime looks very impressive on Blu-ray.
While characters are often off-model, this seems to be a stylistic choice to boost the comedic element of the series because the action scenes are very impressive. The world is bright and colourful, just like we’d find in a video game, and when Megumin lets off one of her signature explosions, you can’t help but be held captivated. It’s far from the best animation I’ve ever seen, but it has its charms for sure.
Meanwhile, music for the series has been handled by Masato Kouda (Domestic Girlfriend, Radiant) who not only composes for anime but also video game series like Monster Hunter and Devil May Cry. Kouda’s compositions feel right at home here in a show so focused on poking fun at video games. If you’ve ever played a JRPG then you’ll instantly recognize the kind of jaunty sounds that Kouda has created for the anime. The opening for the series is “Fantastic Dreamer” by Machico, which shows the cast going on an adventure and is a catchy track. The ending is “Chisana Boken-sha” sung by the voice actors for Aqua, Megumin and Darkness. This proves less memorable than the opening but is by no means a bad track.
When it comes to the voice acting, both Japanese audio and English dub are on offer here. Having watched so much of KonoSuba in Japanese until now, it’s difficult for me to warm to the English cast although they certainly don’t do a bad job! My favourite among the cast is Sora Amamiya (Toka Kirishima in Tokyo Ghoul, Akame in Akame ga Kill!) who plays Aqua. The goddess is very emotional and goes from being happy-go-lucky to being crushed by depression at the drop of a hat, which Amamiya captures incredibly well – so well, in fact ,that whenever I read KonoSuba or see Aqua somewhere I imagine her voice. Her English actor is Faye Mata (Rin Hoshizora in Love live!, Fukaziroh in SAO Alternative) and she does a fine job but I simply can’t imagine anyone but Amamiya as Aqua for me.
Being able to smoothly transition between so many emotions is something Kazuma’s character also requires. This is handled well by both Jun Fukushima (Dai Himi in A Place Further than the Universe, Makoto Takei in Fruits Basket) and Arnie Pantoja (Eisaku Noguchi in March Comes in Like a Lion) in English, although again it’s hard for me to get along with anyone but Fukushima in the role.
KonoSuba has been brought to the UK thanks to Anime Limited and has been released as a Blu-ray collector’s edition, with a standard release set to follow. The release includes all 10 episodes of Season 1 as well as the OVA episode God’s Blessing On This Wonderful Choker! and on disc-extras are clean opening/ending themes and trailers. The collector’s edition includes an 80-page booklet, containing character profiles and storyboards for the opening and ending animations.
Overall, KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! is a must-have for isekai and comedy fans. The series has an unforgettable cast of characters and some of the storylines are sure to have you in stitches. Most of all, it’s compelling to watch Kazuma’s companions do their best, despite all the odds.