Finally the Winter season is over and now it’s time to pick the best shows that aired during these months. I am going to review separately my top three anime I saw this season. As part of these reviews I’m not going to dive only on the show but also what made them good in the first place. I will begin with the third place that goes to the second season of Konosuba and its place as one of the greatest parodies (at least in the anime world) ever made.
Konosuba, for those who haven’t watched it yet, is a “trapped in a RPG world” show where our main character Kazuma who is a NEET is sent to a magical RPG world after dying. But Kazuma is more than your average otaku, he is someone who has a more cynical approach to life and it’s more cunning than others characters from similar shows. The Goddess Aqua mocks him and forced him to reborn in this magical world to fight against the Demon King. To retaliate against this mischievous goddess, Kazuma chooses her as his weapon to fight the Demon King army and drags her along to the new world. They won’t be alone in this world, Kazuma will add to his party a Chuuni arch wizard, Megumin, who only knows one kind of magic. And Darkness, a crusader from a noble family and a hardcore masochist. Together they will try to survive in this magical but crazy new world.
While this description can be applied to a dozen of similar anime from the same genre, Konosuba distinguish itself by lampooning all of the tropes and cliches that are part of other shows. Now, this is not enough to make a good parody, more so a good show. A parody should be as good as the material they are mocking and there is not one simple way to make parodies. There are different kinds which can be encapsulated like these:
Parody bit-by-bit: This type of parody takes the source material and reproduces it entirely in a humorous style. The original story is maintained with little tweaks to serve the comedic timing. Jokes come at the expense of the situation or how the characters interact with. The whole premise is silly only for the audience because everything in the story is took serious by its characters. Anime that work like this is “Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi” but only does it episodic. And more popular parodies that fit this role are: Airplane! and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
Parody by mocking: One of the most common parodies that are available. The idea is simple, making fun of different stories or the original material. Character traits are exaggerated for comedic purposes, the story serves merely as a whiteboard to draw all the jokes. Sadly this also could lead to lowbrow comedy which constantly nodes to the audience asking “Do you remember this? Eh? Do you?” and gets boring and obnoxious if done wrong. Anime that work well within this framework is Senryuu. Movies such as “Spaceballs” and “Not Another Teen Movie” are examples of good mocking parodies.
Have your cake and eat it too: A type of parody that seeks a balance between the previous two. As the name suggests, we are talking about of a show that can make fun of the genre it portrays but also excel at it. Tropes are mocked and used to create an overarching story that works both as a parody and as another movie/anime with similar topic. You need to know the original source to enjoy it and even if you do, you will have a pleasant experience. “Galaxy Quest” is one of the best movies that fill into this category.
If you haven’t realized it, Konosuba is also part of that type of parody. Trapped in a RPG is a popular genre for Light Novel authors because it’s a cheap way to explore a fantasy setting without having to come up with a large mythos or universe. Most people assume SAO began this trend, but it only made it popular for the general audience and since then we had an explosion of these shows. Some of them are good (Log Horizon, Overlord), some of them are terrible (Ixion Saga DT, Hai to Gensou no Grimgar). But they all play by the same rules of the genre.
It is no wonder that last year we had four different shows of this kind, Konosuba included. And yet, Konosuba sticks out by lampooning all the things we have saw before and yet the audience are rooting for them in their adventures and quests in this world. It is a merciless and unabridged mockery that does not stop at poking the surface of the story. Kazuma is not the adventurous hero, the noble knight that will free the land of the oppression of the Demon King. He is just a horny guy with a cynical sense of his life and those around him. His motivations are not intended for the greater good. Aqua is not the wise goddess that help our hero to overcome his problems. She is a dumb narcissistic girl whose only purpose in life is to be venerated by her followers and drink all day. Megumin is not a powerful wizard who knows all the tricks in the world. She is just a chuuni who likes explosions. And Darkness, well, she is garbage.
Even if you haven’t saw a show of this kind, you are familiar with the Hero’s journey in other media and you probably know how the story goes. Konosuba can be enjoyed not only for its comedy purposes but as another show of that type. Because the writing and direction is intended to create a balance between the parody elements and the creation of the fantasy setting. As I said, it is difficult to make it right and this story does it. Another thing that helps is the voice acting. The deadpan delivery of Kazuma and Megumin lines could not be done if the actors behind it did not understand the mood of the show.
Konosuba has its problems and I have been very vocal about it. The show is too short consisting only of 10 episodes, both seasons. I gave a pass last year because it was risky adaptation that got popular and for good reasons. But now with more material available, it has prove to be popular why they adapted only 10 episodes? Two episodes short to be a whole series. If the excuse is that we will have another season, I hope they do an entire run (12 episodes minimum) so they flesh out the whole story. Another minor setback was the downgrade on the quality of the animation, the first two episodes look like unedited footage that just came out of the studio. It gets better after that but again, Studio DEEN should have put more attention in those details.
After all is said and done, I enjoyed it and Konosuba has become one of my favorite anime of all time. If you haven’t watched it, do it now, stop reading and grab the first episode. Konosuba has a good grade of rewatchability, so if you already saw it, you will also laugh the second time. Anime is available where you can find it.