One of the most satisfying feelings as a reviewer is to see one of your favourite shows receive a sequel and for it to be so much stronger than its predecessor. Sparked with a fresh look into its animation while keeping the lovably useless characters we became attached to last year, Konosuba Season 2 is incredible. Not only has the narrative become more dynamic and actually progressed from season one, but the scenarios have only gotten more ridiculous – which works wonders for this show’s unique style of comedy.
Konosuba Season 2
A FURTHER IMPROVEMENT ON THE ALREADY PHENOMINAL SERIES THAT IS KONOSUBA
ADVENTURE, COMEDY | ANIMATED BY STUDIO DEEN | DIR: KANASAKI, TAKAOMI
Wasting no time in continuing the cliffhangers we were left with in the first season, the narrative develops from Kazuma being labelled a follower of the Evil Demon King. Still with a monstrous debt to pay, and now one slip up away from public execution for treachery, Kazuma and his party must earn their way and clear their names. Oh, and Darkness is still in captivity of the Demon King. I’m sure she’s fine.
Excellently Improved Pacing
One aspect of complaint that the first season received was its relatively slow start to its narrative. The setup to this show had to be executed perfectly to avoid any miscommunication as to what kind of show Konosuba was presenting. What inherently comes with this concept is a show refusing to progress at a speed that the average viewer has come to expect of a 10 episode series. Thankfully, this can be set aside when discussing sequels as the premise has already been established.
This show rarely ever kept me waiting when it came to the spacing of exposition and comedy. At the core of this show is a series of gags used for comedic effect, when the spacing between these gags become too apparent is when you have inconsistency. This show’s ability to develop these characters to such a high standard while still delivering some of the funniest moments of the season is a very big aspect to its success.
Flawless Animation and Visual Comedy
The only way that a studio can cram in such a large amount of content in twenty minutes is its capacity to visually present what a character is feeling. Among fans of the show, the variety of detailed reaction imageshave become a signature staple – Crunchyroll going as far to structure an entire giveaway around the concept. When visual comedy is discussed, there is a certain line that most reviewers will go down. This line usually ends up as either exaggerated reactions to a calm situation or dramatic change in art style. In their own right, both of these deliveries can work very well but it’s not how I personally see the humour of Konosuba.
The complication with this show is that the entire universe is structured around the fantastical and yet deviating from that immersion is encouraged. With a setting based on humans being reborn, there is a constant reminder that people are playing their best selves which is how they get ahead. This concept of rebirth and re-evaluation is how the main cast of this show is able to be presented in such a negative light, yet still be loved by the audience – and one of the ways this is implemented is through the visuals of the show. There are sequences where the viewer watch in awe at what these characters can do when they really try, but are then reminded of how useless they are as an actual person.
Juxtaposition is one of the strongest features in Konosuba, it’s as if you’re watching a school play but these four characters just cannot remember their lines. But when they do, they put on a fantastic show.
A story led by its characters
As a writer of any kind of fiction, one of the first decisions you have to make is what aspect of your writing will take control. It’s no different in anime, there are shows that clearly conceptualise a thorough storyline before discussing the characters within it. While this approach has worked in the past (many times), a gag comedy like Konosuba thrives in its character development and dynamics. The fact that the show is set in a fantasy world only serves to provide interesting and out of the ordinary scenarios for our main characters.
The fantasy RPG world concept has been done to death and talked about by reviewers even more so I’ll keep it brief. Seeing such a fresh revival of the video game world archetype is really nice to see. In recent history there has been a flurry of the same type of show trying to piggyback on the success of those that came before it. The reverse could not be more apparent for this show, as it takes leaps and bounds over the themes we’ve been bored to tears with by now. Focusing on the comedic dialogue and humorous aspect of this show is what keeps fans coming back for more every week.
Full embrace of its fantasy elements
Although it’s said that this show would work well without its fantasy roots, it’s really good to see this season really dig its heels into these elements. Having to setup up as much as they did in the first season, it’s difficult to focus on these ideas more than just references or as an end reward for an episode. This season really knocks it out of the park in terms of presenting a rich and fantastical world.
Even halfway through the season, there have been more dungeons, mob quests and boss battles. With the stellar pacing of the show, we as an audience can really start to see how these characters are improving their adventuring skills which was somewhat lacking in its prequel. One example of this is Kazuma’s decision to put points into an archery skill tree, giving range to the otherwise vulnerable party. Obviously, there are some aspects that will never improve such as Megumin’s One Shot Explosion mentality or Darkness’ Swordsmanship. It’s just really satisfying to see these characters develop and actually have their day in the spotlight from time to time.
Perfect balance of successes and failures
Somewhat following on from the previous point, I really adore these characters. I talk a lot about creating ‘lovable characters in anime’ but Konosuba really takes the cake on this front. The writers of this show strike a perfect balance between having useless characters in a brutally unforgiving world and having them triumph in unexpected situations. Due to Kazuma’s natural bad luck that was established in season one, these four get themselves into a ridiculous amount of trouble in which a levelheaded adventurer would probably die immediately. Yet somehow, these dorks seem to come out relatively unscathed every time. This is less of an analytical point than a short vent on how well written these characters are, it is very rare that I enjoy watching every character; and I’m happy to say that Konosuba is a wonderful exception.
Enhanced pacing and comedic timing
A distinctive to the first season’s success was its comedic timing and ability to drop tension just as effectively as building it. One of the funniest recurring jokes in the series is how seriously Megumin takes her explosion magic but isn’t always able to pull it off. From a cinematic point of view, this is often depicted by using a low camera angle with a clear blue sky – visually empowering Megumin on a higher level. This is then contrasted by positioning the camera at eye level as if from Kazuma’s point of view and showing the beautifully “un-exploded” landscape behind her. Director Kanasaki, Takaomi really knows how to present these characters both for comedy and for empathy which are two of the largest emotions felt towards these characters.
Excellent demonstration of Sakuga
As I’ve mentioned in numerous articles and various episode of the podcast, this season has faced a large amount of scrutiny in terms of its change in animation format. To say that Konosuba’s visual direction is ambitious would be a huge understatement as, in this article alone, I have picked some of the most detailed and visually stimulating sequences of Winter 2017 as a season. Konosuba demonstrates the power of prioritisation so that these intensive sequences can look as fantastic as they do – without damaging the overall quality of the show.
Smears and smudges have made a much more prominent feature in this season and works wonders for evoking the motions of these active and energetic characters. Studio Deen have really excelled when portraying these constantly moving characters and I personally feel that they deserve more credit than they’re currently being given. Taking the time to frame-skip through these key sequences are a really effective way of truly seeing the detail in these sequences.
Having recently watched in awe at the final episode of this season, it is with no hesitation that I can say that this is my favourite show of the season. Although the series did take a very slight dip during the latter end of the season, its finale episode made up for that tenfold. Konosuba’s effortless conveyance of pitifully worthless adventurers is one that I fear we may not see done in such a magnificent way anytime soon. This show really is something special and I implore all viewers to at least try this series.
Let’s just hope that season three is on it’s way…