The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

God’s Blessings on This Wonderful Work Of Art: Review and Reflection on KonoSuba’s Second OVA

“The essence of lying is in deception, not in words.” –John Ruskin

While attempting to maintain the air of a seasoned adventurer at the Guild, Kazuma is approached by Ran, a freshman adventurer who seems taken in by his stories and experiences. Luna has a new quest for Kazuma and his legendary party, and Kazuma finds himself unable to turn this down – he gathers Aqua, Megumin and Darkness, taking them to a derelict ruin rumoured to be housing golems, and after successfully destroying it, returns to the Guild with yet another story to tell. With the golem threat removed, Luna sets Kazuma on an assignment to see if there’s anything noteworthy in the ruins. With his party, Kazuma discovers that the ruins was once the home of a Japanese adventurer who asked for the power to engineer everything, but over time, became disillusioned with his task to destroy the Dæmon King and lapsed into creating robots for his own amusement. This individual turns out to be the same researcher who built the Destroyer: Kazuma despairs at reading his journal, but also resolves to unlock whatever the individual had built. When he opens the vault, he finds an android inside that subsequently begins beating up the party, forcing Megumin to use her explosion magic, which destroys the ruins completely. Kazuma later learns that his “fan” was actually on Luna’s employ, falsely praising Kazuma so they could motivate him to deal with quests that other parties would not take. Frustrated, Kazuma employs his “steal” skill on Luna and Ran in revenge. This is KonoSuba‘s second OVA, which is set a ways after the second season and deals with yet another misadventure of Kazuma’s: this time, the tables turn, and it is Kazuma on the receiving end of humiliation.

By portraying the life of the head researcher who had built the Destroyer, KonoSuba‘s second OVA gives insight into the level of detail that went into Kazuma’s new world. The first season had simply shown this individual as an exceptionally talented, if absent-minded engineer who inadvertently destroyed an entire civilisation upon finishing the autonomous fortress, but in the OVA, it turns out that he had similar origins to Kazuma – both were antisocial individuals who hail from Japan, and while the head researcher had started out with motivation and an honest intention, seeing the futility of his quest and what he could accomplish alone eventually led him to lapse back into his old ways, although his powers to create advanced constructs indicate that at least his drive to build never left him. The contrast between Kazuma and this adventurer serves to show the importance of companionship, and in particular, how having a party with him has led Kazuma to, often against his wishes, undertake quests that serve a tangible purpose for his current world. In the absence of his party, and specifically, had Kazuma requested anything other than for Aqua to accompany him, it is conceivable that he may have lost his motivation to undertake quests and do things for those around him. As a result, while Kazuma’s decision to take Aqua with him, motivated by a petty desire to humiliate her in revenge for laughing at his death, seemingly appears to be a poor choice, it has also resulted in the constant need for Kazuma to fight for those around him, keeping him on the path of being an adventurer and bringing him a considerable ways in getting closer to the Dæmon King.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It is nice to go back to my usual programming: I don’t particularly enjoy shredding negative reviews, even if it is to make the point that sesquipedalian criticisms are usually uninformed, and so, I’m going to enjoy this talk on KonoSuba‘s second OVA. It turns out that, thanks to his antisocial tendencies in his past life, Kazuma is ill-informed on common food items and even in a fantasy world, is unprepared to order manly food items. He’s unexpectedly interrupted by Ran, who appears to be a new adventurer and wants to hear more about his stories. Luna then coincidentally appears, and Kazuma feels duty-bound to accept the quest even though he’d wanted nothing more than to do nothing.

  • Whereas Megumin is always game if there’s a chance to use explosion magic, and Darkness is likely to accept any quest where she might sustain damage, it takes a bit more effort to get Aqua going. Their latest quest is a seemingly run-of-the-mill one – investigate some ruins and deal with any golems there. Golems originate from Jewish folklore, being animated beings created from inanimate matter, but beyond this, has been subject to different interpretations.

  • Because of Aqua’s reluctance to take the quest, Kazuma steals her staff, which forces her to accompany the party out. One random bit of trivial about Aqua is that her hair ornament resembles a water molecule, mirroring her namesake and powers: I’ve not cared to see whether or not the ornament gets right the 104.45° angle between the oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which come from the electrostatic repulsion of the lone pairs, but the fact that the smaller beads on her hair ornament are bent is satisfactory in conveying the shape of a water molecule.

  • Throughout KonoSuba, Aqua and Kazuma’s fights are always funny to watch: the second OVA is no different, and I certainly enjoyed watching the two bounce off one another. The second OVA was released four months after the second season ended, in the July of 2017. A glance at my site archives show that this was an interesting month for the blog: I had just written one of the biggest posts of all time for Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, which I consider to be one of my best posts of all time, and had a few other interesting pieces out, including for New Game!! and Washio Sumi is a Hero‘s final act.

  • When the golem of the ruins appears, it is in the form of a mecha with a Japanese influence, and after intercepting one of its punches, Darkness notices it’s much lighter than it appears: it’s clearly not a golem of traditional lore, having a hollow interior rather than being entirely solid as one would expect. In spite of this, the mecha would be quite strong, and the fact that Darkness can stand up to it speaks to her own physical strength – had Kazuma continued fighting her during the second season, he certainly would’ve been annihilated.

  • Taken aback at its design, Megumin refuses to blast the mecha, desiring to tame it and have it become her pet. Kazuma immediately objects, but one could make a case that since Megumin had been looking after the cat, Chomusuke, since the second season’s second episode, she’s got at least some experience in looking after pets and therefore, unlike most childrens’ series that use pet care to convey messages of responsibility, Megumin would be able to do a decent enough job.

  • During the course of her tussle with the robot, Darkness’ chest piece gets knocked off, and the robot begins to screw with her mammaries. For Darkness, it’s just another adventure – she enjoys the experience in her own way, and the OVA does something that the TV series certainly wouldn’t in its animation. That the robot does this suggests that it has limited sentience, and while it’s no BT-7472, it does hint at its creator’s mindset.

  • In the end, Kazuma has to work hard to convince Megumin that destroying the golem is a necessary evil, and she relents, using her explosion magic to knock it down. While her explosion spell is presented as visually having the same yield as a very small suitcase tactical nuclear device, that it leaves its opponents intact after one shot suggests that the spell is more bark than bite: even a low-yield device would inflict severe burns and blast damage at close range.

  • Megumin is so utterly devoted to explosion magic that, despite having enough skill points to spend in other areas, she refuses to do so out of pride, and so, even two seasons in, she’s forced to have someone carry her rather than pick up spells for increased mana regen. This leads one to wonder if there’s a hard cap on how much one can buff certain spells: in most games, there’s a limit to how far one can invest skill points. For instance, in The Division 2, those running the Demolitionist specialisation can only push their signature weapon damage up to a maximum of 125 percent and further increase explosive damage up to a maximum of 25 percent, after which they’ve reached the cap and must spend any accrued specialisation points on something else.

  • Kyoya Mitsurugi makes another appearance, and Kazuma wastes no time in humiliating him. In any ordinary isekai, Kyoya would be the protagonist, going on adventures to prepare himself for facing the Dæmon King and coming to terms with whatever unresolved tensions he had remaining from his old life. KonoSuba completely discards these expectations, and it is for this reason the series is so successful – a good series isn’t about being as grimdark or philosophical as possible, but rather, for doing the unexpected. This is why Madoka Magica is an excellent series: not because of its “realistic” portrayal of suffering, and certainly not for the imagery that gave the impression philosophy was a requirement into appreciating the series themes, Madoka Magica took a familiar concept and went in a new direction with it.

  • Isekai series are often criticised for saturating the market, and this complaint invariably comes from the fact a fair number of them take the adventure very seriously. When many isekai create this atmosphere, the repetition can make it difficult to tell one series from another. However, KonoSuba never has a dull moment and remains very memorable. It seems that when Kazuma’s party is not on an assignment, they remain quite able to find things to do, such as building a paper mâché mecha from spare milk cartons. Of course, having now seen the very best of what isekai can do, I am curious to learn more about more conventional series.

  • I’ve heard that of late, Goblin Slayer and The Rising of the Shield Hero are two isekai series to keep an eye on; the former is about an adventurer who exists to kill goblins, and the latter is about an adventurer whose signature gear item is a shield, and how he works his way towards saving the world and coming to terms with himself. Both series does feel like they have a more grim and serious feel to them: here, I note that I watched Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash some three years ago, but never got much from that series because of how melancholy it felt, and how cold that alternate world was. Because of this, I never ended up writing about it after I finished.

  • After being convinced to return to the ruins and see if there’s anything worth salvaging, Kazuma takes his party back into the depths to explore. Aqua is immediately attacked by undead dolls and is forced to exorcise them. However, even for their troubles, it seems like there’s nothing of value in most of the rooms. The frustrations of a cleared-out area is one I’m familiar with: while I’ve not touched an MMORPG for over a decade, I recall that in The Division, one of the biggest gripes I had about the Dark Zone were landmarks that were already cleaned out, but towards the endgame, I became powerful enough to clear landmarks on my own, and this led other four-man teams to reconsider fighting me. I think that the last time I played a proper fantasy RPG was Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. I remember enjoying that game, but for reasons I’ve forgotten, I’ve never actually finished the main story mission.

  • KonoSuba‘s superb animation quality and artwork means that, when the moment calls for it, Studio Deen can fall upon deliberately worsening the animation to create a point. Aqua usually falls victim to this, and while she’s just delegating the combat strategy here so she wouldn’t have to do anything, in the second season, after absolutely botching her duties when their party was tasked with hunting Lizard Runners, she throws a a tantrum so hard that her art style devolves into something that resembles the abominations created by an individual with a streak of infamy the size of Arizona. That KonoSuba does this suggests they are poking fun at that particular style, and in the interest of not having the individual find this blog via Google’s indexing and proceeding to spam my comments with various all-caps threats, I’ll refrain from naming them.

  • Like Megumin, the summoning circles and sequences whenever Aqua uses her magic are a wonderful sight to behold, rich with vivid colours and visual effects. It looks like being a mage, warlock or equivalent in the world of KonoSaba would be a fun thing provided one specs themselves out properly, although in a classless game like Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, I’ve actually opted to go with a range of specialisations. My character is a combination of archer and mage, specialising in offensive magic and sharpshooting. Of course, this renders me ineffectual at close quarters combat, but one of the nice things about Skyrim is that over time, one could hypothetically level up different attributes well enough so that they are a jack of all trades. Now that I think about it, it could be fun to go back into Skyrim and actually beat the main storyline.

  • Upon reaching one final room, a private chambers of sorts, Kazuma discovers a safe with a keyed lock, and sets about looking for anything that might unlock this safe. The party finds a journal of sorts, which follows the annals of the fellow who came to this world, asked for the ability to create anything through sheer force of will, and sought to stop the Dæmon King, but slowly lost his motivation over time. He was eventually hired by another nation and asked to build the Destroyer, but failed to implement any failsafes. On the surface, KonoSuba‘s second OVA provides a bit of world-building by shining more light on the Destroyer’s creator, but the OVA also accomplishes something much more.

  • With due respect, this is something I was not expecting; both Kazuma and the older adventurer share similar backgrounds, but the distinction of having a devoted, if eccentric, party in his corner means that Kazuma is always pushed into adventure whether he likes it or not, and he finds that in spite of himself, he wears the role of leadership surprisingly well at times. This screenshot was chosen in the spirit of showing off Aqua, and returning to the flow of things, reading the old adventurer’s journal does provide the access code into the locked room.

  • It turns out that the adventurer had in fact created one robot up to his specifications, although when Kazuma activates it, it immediately begins beating up everyone in the room. Darkness seems to be enjoying herself thoroughly, but Aqua, Megumin and Kazuma are terrified. In the end, Megumin destroys the facility, which fails the quest outright. The older adventurer’s ability was a well-chosen one, and as I’ve noted previously, I would’ve likely asked for the Infinity Gauntlet with all six Stones, plus the power to wield it. With the quest butchered, Kazuma and his party return to town.

  • After having spent some time reflecting on Kazuma’s world, KonoSuba‘s second OVA returns to comedy with yet another surprising twist: Ran is actually doing a quest herself by approaching Kazuma and asking to hear about his stories, and she’s dissatisfied with how dull Kazuma is, negotiating for a boosted quest reward for her troubles. Kazuma had followed, feeling that he should step in to help out, but the contents of Luna and Ran’s conversation leaves him humiliated beyond all measure when it turns out it was a clever ploy. The page quote was chosen for this aspect of the OVA.

  • Darkness, Aqua and Megumin had felt bad for Ran earlier and resolved to comfort Kazuma when the truth got out, but the reality is even more amusing, and for once, viewers get to see Aqua enjoy things. Her squeaky laugh is adorable, and upon seeing this, Darkness immediately decides that they’ll have to be kinder to him once things blow over. After the events of the last OVA, KonoSuba‘s second OVA shows that humour is indiscriminate in this world, and so, no one character ever suffers disproportionately for their troubles. Instead, everyone can suffer in an unprejudiced, unbiased and fair manner. This is how KonoSuba keeps things engaging, and with this post, my last of April, in the books, it’s time to go ahead and enjoy the movie.

Despite its masterful use of comedy, KonoSuba manages to weave numerous other themes into its story that greatly enhance the series’ enjoyability, and when given the space to do so, KonoSuba demonstrates that it can strike a balance between world-building, character growth and comedy – the second KonoSuba OVA is superior to the first in this manner, using a quest to give Kazuma’s party more insight into the man behind the Destroyer, and also to remind viewers that despite his gripes, Kazuma’s party is far more valuable to him than he would care to admit. Insofar, Kazuma and his party have contributed to the destruction of two of the Dæmon King’s commanders (Verdia and Hans), and further, have removed at least one more (Vanir). With three kills under his party’s belt over two seasons, KonoSuba shows that in spite of their ineptitude and shortcomings, the unique synergy that comes together in Kazuma’s party, thanks in no small part to Kazuma’s cunning and ability to lead, gives him a fighting chance against the Dæmon King where others have previously been unsuccessful. While KonoSuba might be known for Aqua’s tantrums, Megumin’s explosions and Darkness’ perversion, as well as the ensuing humour, the series also demonstrates that it is set in a world rich with stories, and moreover, that the series isn’t going to squander the opportunity to entertain its viewers in more ways than just one.

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