KonoSuba – 03

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And then there were four. Two of whom, Megumin and Darkness, are extremely eccentric individuals with no concept of personal space whom Kazuma wants nowhere near his party, even though he’s well aware he and Aqua aren’t enough to make it in this world. (It was also a little mean of him to call Megumin a “little girl”…she may just be small for her age!)

Ultimately, Darkness doesn’t endear herself to Kazuma so much as she simply doesn’t go away and refuses to take no for an answer, because for her, “no” is a pleasurable experience. The sterner and harsher the rejection, the happier she seems to get. Kazuma’s usual arsenal of repelling barbs only embolden the bombshell.

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KonoSuba enters ecchi territory when Darkness’ thief friend Chris teaches Kazuma the “Steal” ability, then challenges him to steal back his coin purse from her. Instead, he scores her panties, which distresses Chris to no end and makes Darkness jealous that she isn’t the one being humiliated in the streets.

That being said, Chris is otherwise a pretty normal and capable kinda person, one of the first to enter Kazuma’s circle. So of course he ends up doing something terrible to her, due in part because he’s an adolescent virgin shut-in. He ends up with her panties because it’s where a part of his dirty mind happens to be during the Steal process.

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Just as Megumin shamed Kazuma into surrender last week, Chris shames him in front of the entire adventurer’s guild (though it’s at least partially an act). I gotta say, while Kazuma sports the lion’s share of annoyed, exhausted, and flabbergasted expressions, he gets plenty directed at him here, even from Aqua and Megumin.

When he demonstrates his new Steal ability on Megumin, he claims her panties as well, which astounds him because he thought the loot he’d receive would be more random (not that he’s complaining). Darkness continues to make her case for joining the party, feeding off of Megumin’s energy.

Kazuma, a little thrown off what game he usually has by the craziness, ends up motivating both Darkness and Megumin by pointing out how tough his and Aqua’s quest to defeat the Devil King will be. In fact, all the talk about how tough it will be make Aqua nervous and reluctant to proceed.

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Circumstance brings this Dream Team of Ineptitude together in the form of a town-wide emergency quest alert. A swarm of…something is quickly approaching the city, and all adventurers gather at the gates to meet it.

When that something turned out to be flying cabbages, well…I nearly fell out of my chair. Yes, in this alternate world, harvesting cabbages is more of a hunting frenzy, as they don’t go gentle into that good…salad.

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After mutiple swings from her sword fail to claim any heads (of cabbage) Darkness decides to prove her worth by serving as a shield for some overwhelmed fighters, getting more and more excited as the cabbages pummel her and her armor is shed and her clothes torn, she feels the uncultured men gawking at her and feels tremendous, wonderful shame.

Megumin inadvertently causes a near-“crisis” in Darkness by launching another one of her patented one-off explosion attacks, being as unable to hold back as Darkness. But while there’s quite a bit of collateral damage, she’s able to harvest enough cabbages to give the party a very nice payday (Correction: her explosion doesn’t really help much; it’s Kazuma who collects most of their cabbages with his Lurk skill.) Aqua is able to do little things like hydrate the other adventurers and keep the cabbages cool.

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After tasting this world’s cabbage for the first time and being pleasantly surprised by its superior flavor, Kazuma looks around to see what fortune hath wrought: he is now “cursed” by not just a variably competent arch priest and unreasonably specialized arch knight, but a gorgeous but clumsy, masochistic crusader.

I placed cursed in quotes, because that’s only one limited way of looking at his situation. Sure, he may foresee hardships in the future with a party that looks a lot better on paper than in the field, but time should yield better teamwork, and even when everyone screws up it tends to turn out okay.

Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness may be as much blessings as curses in this wonderful world. And together they’re a swirling vortex of comedy gold. Which is a blessing for us.

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P.S. Tilt-shift is often over-used in live-action TV, but I love its usage in KonoSuba’s beautiful ED.

KonoSuba – 02

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That forthright pledge to strike out into the wilderness on a daring kill quest turned into an excuse to sleep in for Aqua, much to Kazuma’s chagrin. I like how the ending of the last episode was played straight, only to be flipped into another failure by the Worst Party in the World.

When they do get out into the field, Kazuma’s shortsword is no match for the giant toads they’re trying to kill. Worse, Aqua spends their first battle either laughing uncontrollably at Kazuma’s expense (she still has a mean streak!) or praising her master goddess powers, right up until she’s swallowed. That leads to the line of the episode: “Don’t get eaten!” (Akin to “Esteban was eaten!”)

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Aqua doesn’t take disappointment or defeat well, as we saw from how she reacted to Kazuma forcing her to accompany him to the alternate world in the first place, and how she cries a lot when things don’t go her way.

Still, she tries her best to do a good job; it’s just that her offensive capabilities are, shall we say, limited, even against the relatively docile giant toads. She almost gets eaten again, giving the quest a nice comic rhythm (and those legs sticking out of the toad’s mouth is a nice sight gag).

So Kazuma has to save her again, and in the process manages to kill two of the five toads necessary to complete the quest on the first of three allotted days. What’s somewhat amusing is we never see how he beats them.

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Overlooking entirely that seemingly impossible feat, Kazuma nevertheless knows if they’re ever going to make enough money to make adventuring even worth it, they need a new party member. When Aqua posts a hastily-scrawled recruitment poster, there are predictably no elite takers (despite the clout she believes she has with everyone).

Instead, a pint-sized arch priest answers the call, introducing herself as Megumin with a long-winded and elaborate chuunibyou introduction that leaves both Kazuma and Aqua a little incredulous. I’ll point out that Megumin is voiced by Takahashi Rie, one of may favorite new seiyus (who did fine work in Sore ga Seiyuu and Gakkou Gurashi).

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However, her credentials check out, so they take her out to the field, where Aqua rushes headlong towards the nearest toad without any kind of backup and promptly gets glomped up again. Megumin’s explosive magic is indeed very, very…explosive, and she takes out one toad with one blast.

The only problem is, that’s about it for her as far as battlefield presence. Her sole attack causes instant KO…which is quite the liability! After using the spell, she can’t move, and the explosion rustled a third toad from its sleep. That toad glomps the helpless Megumin up, leaving Kazuma to defeat the remaining two frogs to save his party members, again, amusingly, totally off-camera.

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It’s clear that if they face anything with claws, teeth, speed, or pretty much anything more threatening than smelly slime, this party is going to be killed very, very quickly. Adding insult to injury, Megumin proclaims she can only cast the most powerful explosion spell and nothing else, not because she’s unable to cast other magic (which might be of better help in a party), but because she doesn’t wanna.

That unreasonable attitude is enough reason for Kazuma to dump her (something all the other parties in town must have done by now), but he realizes he has a lemon too late: some townsfolk see him struggling to pry her off of him, and see all the slime, and suspect the worst. And Megumin takes immediate advantage, showing off a bit of that crimson demon intelligence.

So as useless as Megumin (and possibly Aqua) might be, Kazuma is stuck with both. He’s so down in the dumps about the prospect of making enough money to make the whole enterprise worth it, his guard is down when he encounters a stunning onna-kishi named “Darkness” who looks like a serious operator…that is until she tries to talk and things are…a little off.

No doubt her tryout period will go about as well as Megumin’s, and she’ll find some way to coerce Kazuma into letting her into the party. Or maybe Kazuma will have no choice either way. Can’t sleep in stables forever!

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Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 12 (Fin)

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Yuusha coaxes the ancient Demon King to leave Maou’s body, which is his property. The Mage goes to the Winter King & Co. with information about a smallpox vaccine, which could be used to end the war. The crazed one-eyed commander attacks the Maid sisters, but the young soldier intervenes and kills him. Onna-Kishi drives away the Central army. Back in the Central capital  the leader of the church conspires with a demon general, promising him the Southern Triad he’s about to conquer. Maou addresses her people in the Demon realm, telling them her intentions to begin negotiating a peace with humans, an arrangement the Alliance merchant supports. Maou, Yuusha, Onna-Kishi, the three maids have a celebratory feast, and Maou reflects on the progress she and everyone else has made.

This didn’t really feel like an ending. Aside from a few flourishes and jumping from place to place a bit more rapidly, it wasn’t all that grand. But maybe it wasn’t the episode’s intention to feel like an ending. In fact, it’s the continuation and beginning of far more things than it is the end of. Now reunited, Yuusha will remain by Maou’s side, providing awesome displays of power when necessary, or just a warm shoulder to lean on. She has sown the first seeds of liberalism and enlightenment-style civilization, but many, many challenges lie ahead. Maou is proud of the progress and in awe of the humans who have helped her and themselves. But no one’s under any illusions that it’s smooth sailing from here on out.

The demon realm initially takes her announcement of a moot to mean they’re going to war with the humans, not about to make peace. Rogue demons are in league with the human church, scheming in gilded halls to keep the people down with constant war and strife, undermining everything. And they have honest-to-goodness guns, which is worrying. The vaccine likely won’t go down easy, if the potato incident is any indication. And those are just the obvious bumps along the road, many more could spring up that can’t be predicted. So there’s a lot on the demon king’s plate, but she’s come too far and loves the world too much to give up.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • All Yuusha had to do was yell a little and hug Maou for the evil demon to release her? Alright then.
  • Maoyu’s cast ballooned in later episodes, as it had to in such a wide-reaching series about an entire world (two, if you count the demon realm). Still, even with the simplified character names, there was too much going on. The best episodes of Maoyu manage to world-build while remaining focused on a small number of characters or events. This episode was overstuffed.
  • The scene of the maids being attacked by the one-eyed guy could have been left on the cutting floor. We didn’t believe for a second he’d succeed. Ditto the baffling scene of the Mage in some magical place, talking to her two alter egos. Talk about a peripheral character!
  • Yuusha accidentally destroying a mountain – on the one hand, it was funny; on the other, we don’t see how a good number of demons would be upset about him destroying a whole friggin’ mountain. Hopefully he or the Mage can fix it.
  • We like how casually it’s revealed that the church is in league with demons disloyal to Maou. The lie the perpetuate mirrors the lie about the demon realm itself being another world only accessible via the gate, when in reality it’s just deep beneath the human world.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 11

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When White Night Country launches a surprise attack against Iron Country, A demon army approaches from the south. The Winter King and Onna-Kishi lead up the defense against White Night, while Yuusha heads south to deal with the demons. He encounters the Mage, who tells him to destroy the gate after she teleports the entire demon army back home. Yuusha discovers the demon world is merely deep underground, and blasts into the central castle where he finds the head maid has been maimed by Maou, who has been corrupted by evil demon kings of the past.

Like Spice & Wolf, Maoyu hasn’t been content to just tell the story of its small cast of characters, but lay out in great detail the mechanics of the world in which they live. Here in Maoyu, though, the hero and demon king aren’t just two people trying to find their way in the world, but are crucial players who will shape its future…especially now that we know the demon world and human world aren’t even separate realms. The series has also been very stingy with the female Mage, but now that she finally has more than a few moments of screen time, she doesn’t waste any time establishing that she’s properly badass…and has multiple personalities to boot!

Yuusha is now faced with the same situation in the first episode: crossing swords with the Demon King (or at least catching her scythe in his palms). But as that goes on, the gears of the world keep turning, with everyone’s favorite alliance merchant making a counter-move to Central’s reissuing of currency. Wheat is used as a food, a currency, and a weapon of war (when Onna-Kishi taints some to prevent a cavalry attack). We also get a peak at three of the “students” Maou, Maid Chou and Onna thought  They’re all making names for themselves. One on the battle lines, one negotiating with the merchant, and Maid Ane spreading the truth in print.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 08

 

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With Maou away to renew her license, Yuusha tries to use Maid Ane to fill in for her, using the magic ring. However, the young merchant isn’t fooled. Yuusha takes him to Gate City, demonstrates its value, and offers to sell it to him in exchange for showing him something that “cannot be expressed in loss and gain.” Onna-kishi wants Yuusha to officially knight her, and he assents. A messenger from the Holy Capital informs the Winter King the Crimson Scholar (Maou) has been branded a heretic and must be arrested. The King goes to Yuusha, who will give the church Ane, disguised as the Scholar, then rescue her later.

Kings and Politicians are just another kind of merchant: peddling influence and resources. But they are driven by a desire for power, total victory, and the destruction of their foes. But true merchants understand there can be no business if there’s no one to do business with. Thus, every gain comes with a loss, and a balance is maintained. This is what Maou and Yuusha want: not for the demons or humans to defeat and rule over the other; but peaceful coexistence. This is already happening in Gate City, which Yuusha shows to the merchant to prove it’s not just a pipe dream.

The soldiers are gone, but the merchants remain, and they dont’ care if their business partners are demon or human. The city is offered to the merchant in exchange for his help in finding that elusive place beyond loss and gain they’re searching for. Onna-Kishi also moves forward: even if Yuusha will never be hers, she wants to be his; their quiet little knighting scene is wonderfully presented. This is just when her former charge, the church, has made a move against Maou. Were she in the human world, she’d probably let herself get arrested as part of a scheme. But she’s indisposed, so the hero must improvise.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 07

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After the battle, Yuusha returns to Winter’s Pass Village to spend time with Maou, but Onna-Kishi is competing for Yuusha’s attention. While in the Gate City, he is accosted by the Dragon Archduke’s daughter. Minor earthquakes start cropping up in the village. Maou travels to Iron Country to inspect her prototype for a printing press. While she shares a bed with Yuusha and Onna-Kishi, Maou announces she must return to the demon world to have her king’s license renewed, lest civil war rend the realm. She leaves Yuusha in charge and gives Maid Ane the ability to mimic her appearance.

Maou isn’t about handouts. Better to teach someone how to fish or grow crops or use a printing press than to just supply such things to them already done. After all, if Maou’s plan works out, she won’t be around forever to see it sustained. And so the latest and best weapon in her arsenal is education. The serf girls who became her maids are microcosms of the amazing change education can bring in people. There’s a huge difference between knowing one’s plight but being unable to change it, and not even being aware of said plight, or of the possibility of a better life. The maids didn’t until they were shown and taught.

In this regard, Maou seeks to bring a dark world into the light…but educating the masses is a double-edged sword. The social structure of the current world is a certain, if imperfect, form of stability. Awakening the masses means inviting further conflict. But Maou doesn’t believe keeping one group of people ignorant and subservient to another is the proper way to peace, and in any case, there really is no true peace, as long as people like the disgraced Gate city administrator are plotting in dark rooms. It dawns on us we haven’t mentioned that Yuusha was in bed with two girls this week…but since nothing happened, we didn’t really see the need.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 06

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The Winter King and Onna-Kishi lead an army to retake Bright Light Island. Maou arrives with know-how and resources to build an ice bridge to the island in the night. They use the bridge to establish a beachhead, but lack the men to mount a successful siege, until Yuusha arrives from the remote Gate City with the human army encamped there. The demons vacate the fortress, and once Onna-Kishi defeats the Ice General in single combat, the island is theirs. The Winter King throws a celebratory banquet, in which Maou and Onna are honored and Yuusha and Rou catch up.

Maou believes war to be a natural escalation of the natural conflict that arises whenever two individuals and by extension two groups cross paths. War doesn’t occur in a vacuum; it requires that steady escalation from more trifling conflicts, just as people aren’t born into adulthood. This week we watch Yuusha nudge a human army out of a demon city to meet up with another human army to root a demon army off a human island. Maou wasn’t after total victory in the classical sense; she essentially shuffled conflicting forces back onto their sides, while giving them a taste of the war she hopes will one day not be necessary.

Still, you have to break some eggs to make and omelette, or in this case, break some big chunks of ice. After showing off her mad agricultural skillz with the crops and science with the compasses, Maou shows her strategic prowess, as well as her engineering and logistical expertise. Her gran plan goes off without a hitch thanks to Yuusha’s assistance a in foreign land, and even Onna-Kishi gets to show off her badass swordsmanship against a giant Sauron-style boss who can take out platoons single-handed.  By moving forces that were exacerbating conflicts back to their own territory, perhaps Maou is on to something here. One thing’s for sure; girls got some big plans.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 05

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Yuusha has been away from Maou for a year, planning to take Gate City. The Holy Capital and church launch a massive fleet of ships to retake Bright Light Island from the demons, but are defeated at sea, causing the death of the Winter King. The Winter Prince takes the throne and chooses Onna-Kishi as his commander for another attempt at the island. Before she leaves, Maou confesses she’s the demon king, but Kishi already heard it from Yuusha, and is fine with it, and agrees to be friends. Yuusha visits Maou in the night and they dance to the music of the New Years festival.

This week, after a whole year, Maou and Yuusha finally meet and touch, at it was about time. Both were on the edge of doubting their own wills, and their courage was failing, but the power each exerts on the other, if only briefly, was enough to recharge their batteries, so to speak. Bottom line: the power couple can get more done if they’re apart than if they’re both chilling in the same village. So rather than constantly hang off each other, they’re more ships passing in the night. Their faith in one another sustains them, and when it doesn’t, well, they meet again, exchange a few barbs, and try to see who can blush the most.

Yuusha, bred from birth to be a hero to mankind, sees the suffering of the demons and doesn’t like it. It’s clear to him that Maou’s way is better: if there was a clear victor, that victor would believe they could treat their defeated foe however they like, and a vast number of living beings would suffer. Yuusha isn’t on board with that. At the same time, some battles apparently have to be fought even in the service of ending war, so it’s better for such battles to end quickly than get drawn out. Myriad game pieces are being moved about the world, while Yuusha and Maou continue to dance to their own beat, fueled by one another.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 04

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Maou hosts a young merchant and member of the Alliance for negotiations: she offers the idea of introducing corn crops in regions where previous agriculture had failed. The merchant is intrigued, and smitten by her fire, going so far as to propose marriage before they part ways. Maou has also not seen Yuusha for six months. Yuusha is afraid to get too close to her, lest his demise cause her sorrow. Onna-Kishi trains the town nobles in Yuusha’s stead, and Maid Ane asks her to help teach her how to fight.

Maou declares the second-strongest bond between heaven and earth is having something to gain from one another. It is with that belief that she reaches out to any and all that could help her gain what she desires: world peace. Even if the Alliance, which depends on the furtherance of the war to prosper, cannot share that particular desire, they’ll still make a huge amount of profit from corn, and so contracting with her is still the right move. This week Maou proves adept at negotiating, even while she wears her heart on her sleeve with regards to that ultimate goal of hers.

That brings us to the strongest bond: love. Yuusha, who has exiled himself from the one he gave himself to, can’t quite grasp what use he is to Maou, but in reality, the hero is the most important thing to her. She is uneasy and distracted by his conspicuous absense, and even breaks out the Yuusha pillow! Her…enthusiasm for him is keeping him away because he’s afraid. Not of sex, but afraid of what taking the next step will do: make it that much harder for Maou if she were to lose him. But like Maou, perhaps it isn’t good for Yuusha to think too much about such things.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 03

With the crop experiments in the village proceeding well, Maou and Yuusha travel to a convent in Lake Country to share knowledge of potato cultivation. The prioress turns out to be Onna Kishi, a member of the hero’s original band. She tells him another member, Onna Mahoutsukai went looking for him and hasn’t been heard from. Kishi agrees to Maou’s terms and will join them at the village where the first new convent will be built. They return home, and Yuusha sets out to find Mahoutsukai.

Last week got an 8 and we feel it deserved it. It didn’t shy away from the inherent cruelty in this world, or the implacable human compulsion to sort themselves by class. We couldn’t find it in ourselves to give this episode the same rating. This week was a little more clinical; we felt like Maou was constantly giving us lectures. Onna Kishi’s introduction was…underwhelming, and Maou couldn’t help but label any female friend of Yuusha’s as an “old flame.” These new characters make Maou weary, even jealous.

In the end, one of them draws Yuusha away from Maou, at a time when Alliance members are talking about assassins. We get it: if a hero hears that someone is in trouble, he has to save them. But leaving Maou alone just seems dumb; even her tagging along would’ve been safer. And why has nothing. gone on between them in all these months? You’d think he’d have the guts to give the woman he’s promised himself to a goodbye kiss on the lips at the very least…but you’d be wrong. Needlessly slow romances annoy us…and the Chief Maid is with us on this!


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. Goddamn is that ED theme beautiful.