KonoSuba has made it a point to never play any fantasy/adventure convention straight, but that doesn’t mean it always results in ridiculous farce. Sometimes, when it turns a quality or trope of its genre on its head, it ends up more like real life than fantasy, which actually makes the world of KonoSuba more relatable than some of the shows it lampoons.
Take the boy-girl dynamic in KonoSuba. It’s a party of one guy and three girls, but the show has always successfully resisted the urge to pit them against each other with Kazuma as the prize only one of them can claim.
This isn’t a group of love rivals, it’s a group of comrades and friends, where gender isn’t an issue so much as the strange brew of personalities, be it Aqua’s haughtiness, Megumin’s megalomania, Darkness’ eccentricity, and…all of Kazuma’s myriad issues.
Often in fantasy adventure shows, party members of the opposite sex will start off not liking each other, and end up in sexily compromising positions that nonetheless end up bringing them together in some way. Naturally, KonoSuba aims to take that convention and put its own personal twist on it, and again succeeds.
Of course, before we get to that inversion, we’re faced with another one: Kazuma follows his horny male friends into a den of succubi, where men sign contracts to be given dreams that provide “necessary release.” In exchange, the succubi get to take a small amount of the client’s vitality, though not enough to interfere with their day-to-day function.
In another show, this would be a clear racket and/or trap our horny protagonist gets tangled up in due to his inability to control his raging hormones; a predicament his female comrades would rescue him from, even as they hold their noses at the protag’s perversity.
But…this isn’t a racket, or a trap. As usual with this show, Kazuma is in no physical danger whatsoever. The succubi are simply running a business, performing mutually beneficial transactions with consenting customers. Nor is Kazuma patronizing a den of inequity where women are objectified or exploited – they’re succubi. Seducing men is what they do.
That being said, they still resemble women—shapely, sensual women—wearing next to nothing. As such, after purchasing a dream from them, Kazuma can’t help but start looking at his female comrades in a different light after all that, er, stimulation.
Kazuma starts to see Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness as the temptresses whose wiles he must withstand, since he was warned not to drink too much the night he’s to have his dream, and the girls are trying to ply him with choice crab, sake, and hot sake with crab guts. Just when his thoughts seem about to lead him to cutting loose, he calls it a night, and everyone, particularly Darkness, is disappointed.
That brings us to Kazuma’s erotic dream involving Darkness in the bath, which it’s pretty obvious from the start…isn’t a dream. Still, Kazuma is convinced this is what he ordered from the succubus, and even when Darkness acts in ways different than what he specified, he kinda just goes along with it, simply happy to be having the “dream” (while also chalking it up to mild clerical errors).
Poor Darkness is of the disposition that no matter how raunchily Kazuma acts, she still feels compelled to do what she says. The sceneis obviously played for comedy, and it works, yet I was also intrigued by how Darkness is not made the butt of the joke. In fact, as the one person in this situation who knows this is not a fantasy, we’re more on her side. Furthermore, she doesn’t just turn into a puddle of masochistic goo at Kazuma barking orders.
Rather, she expresses a wide range of understandable emotions: mostly embarrassment and bewilderment. Sure, she may talk about having things done to her, but for it to actually happen, and for Kazuma to do it? It all but switches her Masochism Chip off and snaps her into emotional coherence. Basically, ‘this is not okay’. ‘Please, Kazuma, realize this isn’t a dream before you do irreversible damage!’
Kazuma is bailed out not by sudden awareness, but by an intruder alert; Aqua and Megumin have captured a young, inexperienced succubus; the very one sent by her guild to give Kazuma his dream.
Obviously, the girls don’t know that, and as a goddess, Aqua is compelled to exorcise the succubus. But more than duty, it’s Aqua and Megumin’s loyalty to Kazuma that drive their actions. They know she’s here to drain their male friend, and they won’t let her.
The thing is, they’re operating under several understandable—but in particular case, inaccurate—assumptions: that succubi in this world are a lethal threat (they’re just running a business); that Kazuma’s a victim (he arranged for this); and that Kazuma is presently in this succubus’ thrall (when she never actually got to him).
The latter assumption is courtesy of Darkness, who just had an experience with a Kazuma that couldn’t possibly have been in his right mind. And yet, for all their good intentions, and the fact they give Kazuma the benefit of the doubt (and he knows they do), Kazuma believes his comrades are in the wrong, and won’t let them kill the succubus who was only doing her job and screwed up because she’s new.
Again, the girls see this as the succubus using Kazuma himself as her shield, and “grudingly” beat the shit out of him to try to get to her, but Kazuma stands his ground. Whatever misunderstandings the girls harbor, he’s not going to let someone get caught up in it, even if it means sacrificing himself. It all makes for a wonderfully complex and funny confrontation, that’s far more entertaining than simply making it all a dream, or having the girls rescue Kazuma.
It’s also more satisfying, because Kazuma now has to deal with the consequences of totally freaking out Darkness. In this, Kazuma exercises self-preservation by lying about not remembering any of it because of the succubus’ power, and in doing so reinforcing their original misunderstanding while avoiding undue awkwardness with Darkness.
But then he gives away details of the bath, proving to Darkness he actually did remember what he said and did last night, so the awkwardness endures. For her part, Darkness said she didn’t necessarily dislike any of it, staying true to who she is, but with a clear intention to maintain certain boundaries in their relationship.
This was a surprisngly rich, deep episode that breathed new life in the “compromising position” trope (with accompanying titillating fanservice) by making it a meaningful exploration of Kazuma’s relationships, now that they’re all living together in a huge fancy mansion with private areas where misunderstandings are inevitable, succubi or no.
Just to add one more layer to this onion, the show doesn’t make it explicit that the succubi are running a legitimate (or harmless) business, and it’s definitely within the realm of personality that Kazuma and the other males who gave them their business actually were being unfairly influenced. Caveat emptor, and all that.
Kazuma said in the beginning (while Aqua was trying to commandeer the fireside couch): they’d satisfied the essential need for shelter and protection from the bitter cold of Winter. It’s only natural other…needs be addressed in turn. And they were, just not the way Kazuma or anyone else expected.
But never mind that shit…DESTROYER ALERT!!!