Saturday, June 11, 2016

'KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!' Is a Hilarious De-romanticization of Living in an MMORPG Fantasy World

I first encountered the charm of being in an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) fantasy setting while playing Ragnarok! Online back in high school.  I didn’t really fantasize of living in such a world, but I understood the appeal.  It seemed one would have a fun, adventurous life in it.

KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!  (or Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o!) basically de-romanticizes such kind of thought.  Through the eyes of the main protagonist, Kazuma Satō, we can see through a hilarious manner that it’s probably not as terrific as we might think.

The anime starts off with the introduction of what kind of person Kazuma is.  He’s a teenage otaku shut-in who squanders his time on video games.  One day, needing to purchase a new game, Kazuma is compelled to go out.  On his way back home, he notices a girl about to be hit by an incoming vehicle.  Without any second thought, he jumps into action, sacrificing his life to save her.
In the afterlife, he meets the goddess Aqua, who offers to reincarnate him into a fantasy world that functions like an MMORPG.  If he accepts, his task is to defeat the main villain of that world, the Devil King.  In addition, he can bring any object of his own choosing with him.

But before Kazuma can make his decision (SPOILER!), Aqua reveals to him that his death hasn’t exactly been as heroic as he thought to be, but actually rather embarrassing and pathetic.  The girl that he supposedly saved was in no danger at all of being killed, since the upcoming vehicle was merely a slow-moving tractor.  Worse, his death came due to a heart attack from unnecessary shock.

This hilarious twist set the tone of this anime for me.  And it’s just the first one.  KonoSuba has plenty of hilarious twists.  Whenever it seems to be going on a predictable path, comedic surprises would happen instead.

Anyway, because of ridiculous manner of Kazuma’s death, Aqua begins ridiculing him about it.   Irritated by her reaction, Kazuma retaliates by picking her as the “one object” he’s allowed to bring into that world.  Much to her helpless horror, she has no choice but to join him in his quest.  She will only be able to return once the Devil King is defeated.
Being a gamer, Kazuma is very happy of starting a life in an MMORPG fantasy world.  Unfortunately for him, it’s not as glorious as he expected.  He has to begin from zero.  He has to work himself up until he has the money, weapons, equipment, stats, and skills to embark on an exciting high-level quest.  Till then, he has to start off from doing menial labor and living in a stable.

Having a goddess with him isn’t much help either.  Despite having outstanding aptitude for an arch priest job-type (she’s a goddess after all), Aqua is dragged down by lack of intelligence and nigh incompetence in all other aspects.
Two members are soon added to their party: first is Megumin, an arch-wizard who can cast the most powerful kind of offensive magic there is, which is explosion magic; and then Darkness, a crusader that can be a highly durable “tank” (gamer term, look it up if it’s unfamiliar to you).  They seem to be invaluable allies at first look, but upon further examination, they turn to have oddities that make them useless party members overall.  Megumin is obsessed with explosion magic, so it’s the only kind of magic she focuses on; she refuses to learn other kinds.  Worse, due to her low level, she is only able of using such powerful magic once a day – collapsing from exhaustion and depleted manna once she cast it.  Meanwhile, Darkness’ willingness to take the hit for her comrades isn’t primarily out of team spirit and desire to protect others – though she has these, too – but particularly because of her masochistic tendencies.  Moreover, her durability in battle is made moot by her inability to hit a target with her sword.

Kazuma, despite being the least powerful of the group, becomes the de facto leader due to being the smartest – or, at least, the only one with common sense or average intelligence – among them.  But with such inept party, he doubts that defeating the Devil King is still a possibility.  Instead, his focus shifts to getting by and eventually earning enough to retire in luxury.  But though he constantly complains about the ineffectiveness of his companions and his fantasy world not turning out to be as great as he expected, deep inside, Kazuma is having fun being with them and does cares for them.
I tremendously enjoyed KonoSuba.  What makes it a distinctive anime is how it creates fantastic comedy out of parodying elements of an MMORPG fantasy world.  With such quirky premise, I expected that there will be laughs.  But what I didn’t expect was that there’s going to be this much quality of anime comedy generated from it.  The humor in anime – even the good ones – tends to be clichéd.  However, I found the humor of KonoSuba pretty fresh in general.  This anime had me constantly laughing or chuckling all through its ten-episode debut season (an OVA is also on the way later this month).

Thus, for what it’s worth, I highly recommend KonoSuba to everyone who has played Ragnarok! or some other fantasy MMORPG – or just everyone who wants to enjoy an excellent and funny anime series. 

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