KonoSuba – 10 (Fin)

ks101

Yes, it’s the quickly waning Winter’s first Fin, coming so early it feels wrong. Not because we haven’t dealt with 10-episode series before, but because I was having so much fun! KonoSuba really made the most of its ten, though, cementing its title of Best Comedy of 2016 So Far. And it ends in appropriately grand fashion.

The biggest threat to the Beginner’s City arrives just in time for the finale, but like every other threat before it, we’re not meant to take it all that seriously. Instead, it becomes a matter of now if but how the spidery bastard will be taken down, and at what cost.

While vowing to face the Destroyer head-on as a knight, Darkness reveals her true name (Dustiness Ford Lala(or Rara)tina) and status (rich girl whose family is repsonsible for the protection of the city and its environs). She gives a pretty cool speech, but the serious tone is nicely undercut by Kazuma scoffing at the silly, cliche name, as he should.

ks102

It’s interesting, then, that when I look back, Darkness didn’t actually do anything to defeat the Destroyer. Instead, it’s up to the other girls—Aqua, Megumin, and Wiz—with Kazuma offering moral support.

The girls aren’t sure their abilities will be enough against the hulking foe, but once Aqua gets into the spirit of things (and yells loudly enough), the Destroyer’s shield shears off like a tissue in the wind.

ks103

With the shield down, it’s Megumin’s turn to contribute, and surprisingly, she forms a tandem with Wiz in launching dual explosion spells at the Destroyer, knocking it on its ass.

Darkness stands unmoving in front of the thing as it skids toward her, but like I said, doesn’t really do anything (but looks cool not doing it!) With that, Megumin is down, as expected.

ks104

But in keeping with the show’s spirit of lampooning every aspect of RPG fantasy shows, the battle is Far From Over, as the Destroyer activates a self-destruct countdown that will wipe out the town. Darkness jumps at the chance to be ravaged and defiled by whatever is inside the mobile fortress, and rushes in alone without a plan.

I guess this is when Darkness comes in handy, as she motivates her fellow adventurers to, well, venture in behind her. Mostly though, the men of the town don’t want the Succubus brothel destroyed, which is an honest motivation! It’s good to know what you want to protect.

Kazuma takes a reluctant Aqua by the hand and goes in, and it isn’t long before they find the Destroyer’s creator, having died in his chair long ago, a journal handily nearby to offer some insights about his life. Strangely, Aqua determines he died without regrets.

ks105

She learns why when she reads the journal: the dude was a scientist or engineer who didn’t expect his team to procure the coronatite core he needed to complete the Destroyer…but they did, so he finished it.

It went out of control and destroyed the world, with him trapped inside, but for whatever reason, the situation doesn’t really bother him, and he dies satisfied and fulfilled…The End.

This is the part of the episode I laughed at most, not just because of how hilariously absurd a perversion of the “confessionary journal” trope this was, but because the narrator’s voice and delivery is so funny, as is the reaction by Aqua, Kazuma, etc.

To stop the self-destruct, they have to transport the coronatite out, but to do so Wiz needs a lot of magic and life energy. Kazuma volunteers, hoping the experience will “make him an adult” (something he proudly reports to his parents in his head), but Wiz doesn’t french him; she just sucks him dry until he looks like a shriveled old man.

ks106

It does the trick, though: Wiz transports the core away (to an ominously random location). But it still isn’t over, because without the core the Destroyer starts to overheat, which will eventually engulf the city in flames. Kazuma’s solution: blow it up before it does.

Only problem is, Wiz is out of magic, as is Kazuma (back to normal!), and Aqua can’t transfer her holy magic to the lich without making her disappear. Enter Megumin (on the back of a helper), who won’t disappear if she gets magic from Aqua.

Kazuma serves as the conduit between the two, and once Megumin has what she needs, she lets loose her biggest boom yet, a blast that sure as hell looks like it consumes a good portion of the town…only it doesn’t, which is good!

ks107

After that last blast, the Destroyer really is defeated for good. Victory! Time to celebrate, and for some guys to get married!

The party’s mansion escapes the crisis unscathed; Aqua has her patch of grass to nap on; Megumin has what looks like a new staff; Darkness can rest easy her town is safe; and even though he’s been through a lot, Kazuma is finally upbeat, considering everything that’s happend to be a trial to prepare him for the real adventures he’s about to begin.

Except that doesn’t happen. Instead, authorities arrive to arrest Kazuma on the charge of subversion of the state. That coronatite core he had Wiz teleport away to a random location? That random location was the overlord’s mansion. Furthermore, he said he’d take responsibility. Looks like his formidable luck ran out at the worst possible moment. But of course it did!

KonoSuba was a fine collection of fantasy anime send-ups, which never felt like it was trying too hard. It was a show with a plot you could completely brush off because you knew full well it wasn’t what mattered.

And while the characters weren’t the deepest in the world, they were satisfyingly specific, rootable, and never failed to entertain. I’m sad to say goodbye, but it seems there will be a second season down the road, so it’s really just a see-you-later to this Wonderful World.

9_ses

Advertisements

KonoSuba – 09

ks91

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.

ks92

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.

ks93

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!’

ks94

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.

ks95

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 shitDESTROYER ALERT!!!

9_ses

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 07

aw71

The sprawling underground ballast area where Ayato and Kirin fall becomes a crucible in which Kirin makes the crucial move from her uncle’s path to one of her own, encouraged by Ayato to do so with the assurance she won’t be alone on such a path. Considering how decisively he handles the boss dragon (albeit reaching his 5-minute limit), Kirin knows she has an ally who is strong and kind.

What she needs a little help with, which isn’t surprising considering how young and impressionable she is, is realizing her own agency and value as an individual, not as the tool of another. She also decides (due to Ayato’s nervous vacillating) that she might have a chance with Amagiri-senpai, making her an official member of the harem, if she wasn’t already.

aw72

For too long Kirin’s uncle has gotten away with using her guilt, her sense of obligation, his bluster, and the back of his hand to cow Kirin to do his bidding. No longer. In a very simple but elegant scene, she takes one last slap, but blocks his second. She refuses to cut ties to Ayato, and instead looks her uncle in the eyes and cuts ties with him.

She’ll do things her own way from now on. Will costs come with that choice? Of course, not least because her uncle doesn’t really have any other means of advancing in the bureaucracy. He could grow desperate and do something unpredictable. And while some may say Kirin is swapping out her uncle’s influence for Ayato’s, it’s clearly that of the latter who has her own best interests at heart.

aw73

Kirin asks Ayato to a rematch to serve as the first step on her freshly paved path to betterment and happiness. And it’s a very awesome duel at that, with Kirin displaying her usualy mastery of swordsmanship, but Ayato besting her by continually switching up his weapons from sword to spear to daggers, and finally to his bare hands, which she was open for. She’s soundly beaten, but when the match ends she’s smiling ear-to-ear, because it’s her loss, not her uncle’s, and it was also a valuable learning experience.

aw74

After the match, Kirin asks if she can join Ayato, Julis and Saya’s training sessions after all, no longer bound to isolation, which one could argue had stifled her exposure to fighting styles and led to her loss. She’s determined to become stronger so she can save her father. I assume winning a Festa or three would give you enough clout to request sentencing modifications for family members, otherwise, wouldn’t Kirin be better served studying law?

Her uncle shows up one more time, but Kirin doesn’t waver in reiterating she no longer intends to let him use her. She’s also backed up by Ayato, who blocks one of the uncle’s cowardly cheap shots for her, and by Claudia, who promises she won’t take kindly to someone trying to sabotage or corrupt one of her beloved students…and her high-ranking mom will hear of any attempts.

Kirin also thanks her uncle for all the good things he did, but because he never did it for her, only himself, he leaves without responding to her heartfelt emotions. She then gets on first-name basis with Ayato (likely annoying Julis) and is later asked by Saya to be her tag partner. All the while, Ernesta and Camilla prepare to take the next step in their grand plan. Even as only semi-bad guys so far, they’re still preferable to Silas.

8_ses

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 06

aw61

In the aftermath of his duel with Toudou Kirin, Ayato is surprised to find Julis mad not because he got into the duel. In fact she would have been disappointed if he hadn’t stepped in to protect her, and she would have done the same thing in his position, even if it mean showing her cards to a crowd. She’s angry because he lost, which means to date, the sixth grader remains unbeaten, despite being neither an Ogre Lux Wielder or Strega. She just uses a regular ol’ katana.

When he goes to get his new academy badge, Ayato finds Claudia in a very skimpy bikini, which probably isn’t an accident. Claudia lays out the deal with Kirin and her uncle: he’s trying to get a seat on the IEF board, while she seems to have her own agenda. She also mentions her mother, who became an IEF member by undergoing invasive psychogical conditioning to eradicate all her personal desires. It’s something Claudia doesn’t seem to happy about.

aw62

Ayato might’ve thought his dealings with Kirin were over when he lost the duel, but he’s sorely mistaken. Kirin is the “little sister/kohai” member of his harem, reporting for duty. While normally shy and withdrawn, Ayato’s chivalry really inspired her, and she brightens up when talk turns to swordsmanship, an interest both of them share.

When he asks her what she’s fighting for, she says to help her father, without getting into more detail. Whatever the particulars, she’s decided it’s a fair trade to be used as a tool by her uncle in exchange to achieve her own dreams. Ayato doesn’t see it as so equitable (what with the slapping and all), but agrees at least to let Kirin join him for his early morning training.

After seeing her home, Ayato is jumped by Saya, who is suspicious of his motives and eager to hear his answer to whether he’ll be her Festa tag partner. He won’t, and the rejection stings, but it’s good to see Ayato isn’t keeping everyone in his harem hanging. There are winners and losers.

aw63

On the Festa front, Julis is the winner. She’s a bit troubled by his early morning “interaction” with Kirin, however innocent it truly is. But when she accidentally orders extremely spicy curry (dang technology!), he agrees to switch with her, an intimate gesture to be sure. That, and his reiterating that they’re partners and have to learn to work and communicate as one, comforts her considerably. It would seem Ayato likes Julis the most, while Kirin is as I said more of a little sister figure.

aw64

In spite of her uncle’s insistence she remain aloof, Kirin can’t quite resist Ayato’s kindness, and when he jokes about holding hands in the fog, she doesn’t hesitate to take his hand, surprising him. The fact she’s more “developed” than most middle schoolers is also a complication. But when Ernesta and Camilla unleash a horde of regenerating, slghtly-cute monsters on the two, the awkwardness shifts to All Business Mode.

aw65

Kirin shows her sensitivity to the waves put out by the monsters and successfully deduces that if you slice them in small enough pieces a core is revealed that prevents further resurrection. But either because they fought in an under-construction zone (how convenient!) or it’s another Allekant experiment/trap, the very ground beneath Ayato crumbles and he starts to fall.

Kirin grabs his hand, saving him, but he ends up dragging her down the abyss with him. So whether he wants it to be so or not, Ayato’s going to be all alone with the smitten Kirin far longer than he expected. Whatever’s at the bottom of that pit, we’re going to see what these two are made of.

8_ses