“Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” –Robert Benchley
As a child, Megumin was saved from peril by a mysterious lady who had mastered the awe-inspiring explosion spell. Years later, Megumin enrols at the Crimson Dæmon’s academy, Red Prison; Crimson Dæmon youth learn magic here and are considered full-fledged members of society when they graduate after learning advanced magic that becomes available to them upon accruing enough skill points. Megumin is excited to become a student after her parents closed off a sale that gives them the funds to enrol, but on her first day of classes, runs into Yunyun, who immediately declares Megumin her rival. Megumin proves to be quite skilled, but also discovers that explosion magic is not well-respected. She vows to continue in spite of this, and later, learns that her younger sister, Komekko, captured a black cat, hoping to eat it. Megumin decides to keep the cat and convinces Pucchin, her instructor, to let it accompany her in class. Later, the students drill in the forest, but when some gargoyles run afoul of the Crimson Dæmon’s village, the adults lead an all-out attack on the gargoyles, levelling the village in the process. Despite the damage done, the adults rebuild the village overnight, and the next day, Megumin returns to class, learning her classmates have named the cat after her. Later, while studying in the library, Bukkorori appears and implores the students to help him with winning over Soketto’s heart. Megumin and Yunyun are roped into things, and while Soketto is initially disgusted by Bukkorori’s actions, after he fends off some monsters with a fire spell, Soketto agrees to read Bukkorori’s fortune. Unfortunately, Soketto foresees nothing in the future for Bokkorori’s love live, causing him to flee in despair, and Megumin and Yunyun both get the feeling that despite his poor initial impression, Soketto does not dislike Bokkorori. Later, Megumin and Yunyun accompany one another home, with Megumin feeling that Yunyun’s attempts to duel her might be a consequence of the latter wanting friendship. With this, KonoSuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World!, spinoff to KonoSuba, has kicked off. While lacking the over-the-top antics of KonoSuba proper owing to Kazuma, Aqua and Darkness’ absence, An Explosion on This Wonderful World! nonetheless is off to a solid start as it presents the Crimson Dæmon’s world and Megumin’s journey towards learning explosion magic – the series retains much of the comedic charm that comes from Megumin bouncing off the other characters, as well as the Crimson Dæmon’s bombastic tendencies; these elements reiterate to viewers that An Explosion on This Wonderful World!, like KonoSuba, is all about the comedy; while viewers follow Megumin’s story, they are assured that life in this whacky world is anything but ordinary, and Megumin’s path to explosion magic will be one that is also filled with laughs.
Although the merits of a KonoSuba spinoff may not be immediately apparent, and viewers may find that a continuation of Kazuma’s adventures following the Legend of Crimson movie would be more enjoyable, the film had also set in motion the notion that, despite his shortcomings, Kazuma’s willingness to accept Megumin into his party and make creative use of her explosion skills means that over time, Megumin begins to fall in love with him. Because of this outcome, providing a story that gives more insight into Megumin’s past was logical. By establishing Megumin’s story and giving viewers a chance to really see why she’s so adamant on explosion magic, there is a chance to see why Megumin became somewhat of an outcast despite her Crimson Dæmon background: as a child, Megumin had been saved by a mysterious lady, who had used the explosion spell to defeat a powerful foe. Since then, Megumin became enamoured with the brute force and impressive presence of explosive magic; the memory of that day overshadows everything else for her, and despite her own magical prowess and natural affinity for the dramatic, Megumin’s focus at the academy has been to master the basics well enough to use the magic that held her spellbound. KonoSuba viewers are well aware of what happened next: Megumin would come to master explosion at the expense of being useless elsewhere, and by the time of KonoSuba, Megumin’s developed a reputation for being quite useless outside of casting explosion. Since she refuses to learn any other magic to help restore her magic, or other forms of magic, Megumin struggled to find her place in the world. Things change when she meets Kazuma, and thanks to his decision to (however reluctantly) accept her, Megumin’s been given a chance to utilise her favourite form of magic in situations beyond just setting off explosions for her own enjoyment. Seeing the start of the journey here in An Explosion on This Wonderful World! is therefore valuable because it gives one insight into where Megumin had been coming from. It is easy to dismiss Megumin’s limited repertoire of spells, but seeing the story behind how Megumin came to be greatly accentuates the significance of Kazuma’s actions later on in KonoSuba. In this way, An Explosion on This Wonderful World! ends up being a valuable addition to the series that gives viewers additional insight into what shaped Megumin’s world prior to Kazuma’s arrival in KonoSuba.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Influences from childhood can indeed have a strong impression on individuals, enough to shape their future careers, and as an example, I need to look no further than myself. I had a relative who was a software developer, and I remember being enamoured with computers at a very young age as a result – my relatives had a Windows 95 machine I would play with when visiting, and as a student, the first computer I used was a Macintosh Classic II. As such, Megumin’s persistent reverence for explosion magic is not implausible, and while the light novels indicate that the lady who ignites Megumin’s love of explosions is of great significance, An Explosion on This Wonderful World! gives no indicator of this early on.
- The world of the Crimson Dæmons was first explored during the events of Legend of Crimson, and since then, I imagine that there had been sufficient interest in expanding the world out further. When done well, spin-offs allow for enough world-building to occur so that viewers’ curiosity about these fantastical worlds can be satisfied, and so far, An Explosion on This Wonderful World! has certainly been enjoyable for me. When I began watching KonoSuba, it was early April three years earlier. The world had ground to a halt on account of the global health crisis, and amidst the uncertainty, I was asked to work from home. Unable to hang out with friends or go anywhere, I suddenly found myself with a great deal of free time.
- With almost every aspect of daily life up in the air back then, I decided to start watching KonoSuba – I had been sitting on this series, and shortly after starting, I immediately kicked myself for not having started sooner. KonoSuba had been a masterful comedy, bringing a smile to my face every time I watched an episode. I would watch an episode every day during my lunch break from the comfort of my cozy basement office, and this gave me some laughs during otherwise uncertain times. KonoSuba had been so enjoyable that I finished both seasons, their OVAs and the film within the space of two months. Since then, I’ve been looking forwards to a continuation, and with the success KonoSuba enjoys, I have heard that a third season is a matter of when, rather than if.
- It is a little striking to realise that it’s been three years since I first started watching KonoSuba, and by extension, that the global health crisis was three years earlier. In between then and now, I’ve taken up a new position as a mobile developer and became a homeowner, so being able to watch An Explosion on This Wonderful World! now acts as a reminder of how relentless the flow of time is, as well as how quickly things can change. For Megumin, her early days at the academy are colourful from our point of view, but it also looks quite unremarkable for Crimson Dæmons. Megumin has no trouble with the coursework and exercises.
- Red Prison, the name of the academy, is basically a school of witchcraft and wizardry, complete with potions class. However, unlike the world’s most famous school of witchcraft and wizardry, Red Prison also has one unusual class: students must train in the art of introducing themselves in exceedingly cool ways, since all Crimson Dæmons have chūnibyō tendencies. The concept of chūnibyō loosely describe youth who exhibit heightened grandiosity, and was coined by Japanese comedian Ken Shinooka to poke fun at children who had unrealistic aspirations. However, the term was taken seriously, and Japanese psychologists often look at chūnibyō as a legitimate disorder, despite the fact that grandiosity isn’t always a problem unless it is present with other disorders characterised in the DSM-V. Chūnibyō is a common part of the younger anime community, and this comes from youth wanting to express their individuality.
- However, admittedly, for folks who are used to more ordinary communications, trying to communicate with chūnibyō can be tricky, and here in An Explosion on This Wonderful World!, it’s shown just how limiting Yunyun’s lack of chūnibyō is. In a society where chūnibyō is the norm, Yunyun is seen as an abnormality. I am reminded of the answer to an old health science question that Christopher Boorse posed. In his widely-maligned 1977 paper, Health as a Theoretical Concept, Boorse argued that health can be a value-free concept, and that health is empirical (can be measured). After Boorse’s paper, health researchers counter-argued that health is by definition value-laden and instead, propose that levels of normal function or behaviour in health are better compared against groups within a population.
- An Explosion on This Wonderful World! provides an anime counterargument to Boorse: although Yunyun looks normal to viewers, and her fellow Crimson Dæmons feel like oddities, to them, Yunyun is unusual. There isn’t a universal measure, and it is fair to say that both interpretations are correct based on the value-based approach. Poor Yunyun is therefore stuck with her people’s unusual mannerisms, and this initially makes it hard for her to fit in with her classmates.
- With all of this being said, I find that the Crimson Dæmons are able to speak with in the manner of chūnibyō without coming across as being arrogant or insane simply because they do possess the magical power to back their flamboyant style. Pucchin comments on how the first and foremost lesson to remember is that all Crimson Dæmons must be cool, and while Yunyun struggles with those, Megumin and the others have no troubles with things. I do not begrudge competent people if they wish to go for some embellishment, but in reality, I’ve found that most competent people are very humble, and those who embellish tend to be lacking in their ability.
- The dynamic between Yunyun and Megumin always had me feeling poorly for Yunyun – despite possessing all of the traits that make her a desirable party member (she knows her magic, is kind to those around her and does her best to communicate clearly), Yunyun’s lack of presence makes her easily forgotten. Soft-spoken and shy, Yunyun is voiced by Aki Toyosaki (K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa and Aoi Inuyama of Yuru Camp△ ), while Megumin is voiced by Rie Takahashi (Yuru Camp△‘s Ena Saitō and Gakkō Gurashi‘s Miki Naoki).
- The reason behind why the Crimson Dæmons regard explosion magic poorly has not been dealt with yet, and I am therefore curious to see why it’s not something the Crimson Dæmons like: clearly, since Megumin does learn explosion later, and other casters can also use explosion without too much negative consequence, it’s evident that explosion itself is not harmful towards the caster. If there are no physical reasons, and Crimson Dæmons revel in flashy spells without regard for collateral damage (which eliminates morality as the reason for why explosion is not used), then there must be something else to things, and I am hoping that An Explosion on This Wonderful World! will deal with this in the future.
- When Yunyun picks up a dagger she thought to be adorable, I was reminded of KonoSuba‘s Chunchunmaru, Megumin’s nickname for Kazuma’s personal blade. Owing to how things work in the universe, Megumin’s for the new weapon sticks, and the promptness of Megumin’s name suggests that she’d been thinking of a suitable weapon name for Yunyun since then. Megumin’s dismissive treatment of Yunyun, and Yunyun’s unusual rivalry with Megumin notwithstanding, I imagine that the pair had always wanted to be friends with one another but lacked the directness to be up front about things: in practise, the two resemble frenemies – both outwardly clash, but then when the chips are down, they’re present to support one another.
- Komekko is one of KonoSuba‘s more interesting characters. First making an animated appearance in Legend of Crimson, Komekko is basically Megumin in miniature and, thanks to her kill-stealing, already has accrued a number of skill points. Outgoing and inquisitive, Komekko loves puzzles, and here in An Explosion on This Wonderful World!, she’s the one who finds Chomusuke. Megumin remarks that Komekko may try to eat Chomusuke: their family’s long been quite poor and struggles to make ends meet, so Megumin and Komekko had spent most of their time hunting for cicadas and crawfish as food.
- Prior to Chomusuke gaining his current name, Megumin’s classmates decide to christian him “Megumin”, to the real Megumin’s chagrin. Later, Megumin attempts to name Chomusuke “black” (くろ, Hepburn kuro). Chomusuke’s origins are completely unknown early in An Explosion on This Wonderful World!, and Megumin decides it’s better to keep him around at school, versus potentially allowing Komekko to eat him. Although Pucchin initially is against it, Megumin’s able to put a spin on things that convinces him to let her keep Chomusuke around, so long as he doesn’t disrupt classes.
- The joys of watching the Crimson Dæmons in action stems from the fact that they’re show-boaters, and while this initially creates the impression that Crimson Dæmons are all bark and no bite, when the moment calls for it, their powers are actually quite impressive. Since the Crimson Dæmons already have a natural affinity for magic and spells, a part of their training involves being able to provide a pompous and eloquent introduction with which to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. The subversion of expectations is what makes KonoSuba hilarious: in a comedy series, it is anticipated that people who seemingly overestimate themselves will take a fall, driving humour.
- In KonoSuba, by defying that expectation, humour results. In this way, the student’s training speaks to the ludicrous nature of Crimson Dæmon society: for one lesson, Pucchin has the students working on dealing lethal damage to trapped monsters. While it looks inhumane and immoral as an exercise, the monsters are actually far from defenseless, and when Megumin takes her shot at killing a salamander, it breaks free and attacks her. Megumin somehow manages to win, and the other students take their crack at things. Here, Dodonko, Yunyun and Funifura struggle with taking out a rabbit-like creature.
- Megumin’s efforts to persuade Dodonko to take the rabbit out is interrupted when a large beast appears, prompting all of the students to run off. A hint of KonoSuba makes its way into this scene: everyone dashes off into the forest wearing the same expression that Aqua and Kazuma do whenever misfortune befell them. Besides Dodonko and Funifura, Nerimaki and Arue end up being roped into things, too. They eventually run into Bukkorori, who saves them with a fireball. It turns out he was out trying to impress Soketto, a beautiful woman he’d taken a liking to, but forgot that he lacks any teleportation abilities. Unimpressed, the students end up ditching him.
- While the scene initially appears to be little more than comedy, the moment where gargoyles attack the Crimson Dæmon village speaks volumes to their society: they appear to be behind most of their own troubles, but are advanced enough in their ability to sort things out, even if the solutions they take initially seem detrimental. The large monster that chased down Yunyun and the others earlier was actually a gargoyle the headmaster had frozen to keep as an ornament, but once the magic expired, they began running amok. The Crimson Dæmons’ solution is to go all-out in attacking them, levelling the village in the process.
- Comedy then comes from the fact that, despite the battle being the result of the Crimson Dæmon’s own carelessness, the fact that they can trivially restore their village back to functional order in a single night shows that what’s outrageous to viewers is actually not a concern for them. This is actually quite clever and establishes the fact that, even in a world as wild as KonoSuba‘s, there’s always more surprises around the corner than one might expect, and in turn, An Explosion on This Wonderful World!‘s direction becomes less obvious. This creates a scenario where I am excited to see what happens next. KonoSuba had done the same, contributing to my enjoyment of the series.
- There are a large number of students in Megumin and Yunyun’s class, and while I’ll probably not learn everyone’s names, it makes sense for me to at least learn the names of the students that interact the most often with Megumin and Yunyun. It suddenly hits me that, at least according to An Explosion on This Wonderful World!‘s character profiles, with Arue and the others being twelve, everyone else in the class must also be twelve. However, Megumin and her classmates don’t act twelve, and life at Red Prison feels more akin to what is seen in a secondary school setting, as opposed to a middle school setting.
- Megumin is shown to be spending most of her time in the school library trying to research explosion magic. From what viewers see, and through background reading, it looks like Megumin’s ability as a student is never in question; this allows An Explosion on This Wonderful World! to purely focus on her story. In storytelling, a given tale’s themes will always be tied with the nature of the struggle a character faces, and while those who consume fiction tend to express disapproval when characters appear overpowered in some areas, it is important to consider what the story intends to do. Here in An Explosion on This Wonderful World!, the aim was never about Megumin’s school life, so for the sake of being able to explore more critical story elements, it’s more helpful to simply has Megumin as a good student, which lends the series more time to delve into Megumin’s road to mastering explosive magic.
- Dodonko and Funifura are two classmates that end up trying to befriend Yunyun at every turn; insofar, An Explosion on This Wonderful World! hasn’t shown anything else yet, and it’s easy to suppose that the pair’s desire to befriend Yunyun are genuine. Here, they show up and begin braiding Yunyun’s hair, but things come to a quick end when Megumin becomes bothered by an insect and goes after it, disrupting the others in the process. If the source material is followed, I imagine that Dodonko and Funifura might begin taking advantage of Yunyun’s kindness later down the line, and Megumin will have to step up to set things straight.
- If viewers felt poorly for Yunyun in KonoSuba, her story in An Explosion on This Wonderful World! will only amplify these feelings. Of everyone in KonoSuba, I became very fond of Yunyun because of her desire to do good, possessing the capability to do so, and in spite of all this, the fact that she’s still able to maintain humility. The KonoSuba universe is a bit wild, so seeing a more grounded character was quite refreshing, and so, whenever misfortune befalls Yunyun, I always got the sense that said misfortune was undeserved.
- Soketto also makes a return from Legend of Crimson – a fortuneteller blessed with the ability to peer into the future, she’s someone that Bukkorori is rather fond of, and after an initial misunderstanding, Soketto realises his actions were not done out of spite. The approach Crimson Dæmons take towards problem-solving is very roundabout: Yunyun wonders why Bukkorori couldn’t just use his magic to complete quests and earn some coin, which could be subsequently used to buy a fortune-telling session from Soketto.
- With this being said, doing things in a manner consistent with what common sense dictates would yield for a much less amusing outcome, and a part of the humour in KonoSuba, as well as any series drive by comedy, is the fact that common sense is discarded. It is precisely because Bukkorori decides his plan is better that makes things funny: something with a lot of moving parts is more likely to fail, so the comedy here is derived from the fact that it’s obvious to everyone (save Bukkorori himself) that his machinations will not succeed.
- An Explosion on This Wonderful World! is also written by Natsume Akatsuki: his career began with a submission of Dragontarashi to a competition in 2012, where he placed second, but despite some initial setbacks, Akatsuki began work on KonoSuba, which would become wildly successful after receiving an anime adaptation in 2016. Akatsuki’s greatest strength is being able to find humour in every situation: the comedic element of KonoSuba was the main draw and stood in stark contrast with the grim, serious tenour of other isekai series. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is such an example: this light novel began in 2013 and received an anime adaptation in 2016 later, airing in the same season as Konosuba. This marked the point where isekai would really take off as a genre.
- I ended up watching Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash while attending a conference in Cancún and found it a bit too gloomy, muted and serious for my liking. While this series deals with themes of life and death in an effective manner and had a group of respectable characters whose interactions felt quite natural, I never could get behind isekai that were too serious because the same themes can effectively be conveyed in a purely fantasy world (the protagonists need not come from our world), or within their old world. On the other hand, I greatly enjoy the lighter-hearted series because, since the gravity of the character’s situation is much lower, it becomes possible for a story to explore the eccentricities of these other worlds without the constant weight of life and death hanging over the characters’ heads.
- Since 2016, isekai anime have quite dominant: seasons have at least a handful of anime like So I’m a Spider, So What?, In Another World With My Smartphone and Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon, and this has generated a bit of disapproval amongst some viewers. Such series are counted as being cookie-cutter series that make consistent bank because viewers are immediately familiar with their worlds, but otherwise might not offer something too novel, and if a given studio is working on isekai, viewers see that as manpower redirected away from working on anime of other genres. For me, I am not particularly fond of isekai where the gaming mechanics are too obvious, and where the story is too serious, but otherwise, I do not object to its presence simply because there’s plenty of other stuff to check out in a given season.
- This is why, unlike places such as the now-defunct Behind The Nihon Review, I don’t dedicate entire posts to hating on the genre, nor will I write lengthy, purple-prose filled diatribes criticising the people who like isekai – if people like isekai, that’s completely cool, and in fact, I’d love to hear from fans of the genre about aspects of isekai that I don’t understand. Back in An Explosion on This Wonderful World!, Bukkorori learns that his romantic future is bleak, and he runs off in despair. Soketto reveals that she can’t foresee her own future (a perfectly valid constraint on her fortune-telling powers), but remarks that she doesn’t necessarily hate Bukkorori now that she knows a little more about him. Despite being a comedy, the rules that govern how things work in KonoSuba is fairly consistent, and this makes it easier to get behind what happens.
- With three episodes of An Explosion on This Wonderful World! now in the books, I find myself returning to a world I’ve not seen for three years. After Legend of Crimson, and news of a continuation, I had been quite excited to see where KonoSuba would go, and in the present, having both An Explosion on This Wonderful World! and a third season is wonderful. What makes An Explosion on This Wonderful World! so gripping right now is that, even in the knowledge that Megumin will one day join Kazuma and live up to her reputation as an explosion fanatic, the series still appears to be full of surprises. As such, I expect a solid story ahead here in An Explosion on This Wonderful World!.
- With this post in the books, and my tax return submitted just ahead of the May deadline , April is rapidly drawing to a close. I’ve got two more posts lined up for this month, and remark that in May, I am going to be rolling back on the posts – come June, it will be the ten year anniversary to the Great Flood of 2013, and as it happens, I also booked a week off for a road trip to the remote mountain roads one province over. Between said vacation and a number of special topics posts (that likely won’t be of interest for readers), I would like to take advantage of the lull in May to get some of these posts prepared ahead of time.
My enjoyment of An Explosion on This Wonderful World! inevitably raises the question of whether or not KonoSuba would have worked had it been framed purely from a fantasy perspective, rather than as an isekai. At first glance, the spin-off does initially suggest that there’s enough going on in this world so that, even if Kazuma had been an ordinary adventurer rather than someone who had come from our world, the series could still tell a compelling story. However, it was Kazuma’s status as a NEET, his perverted tendencies and profound knowledge of RPG video games, that make him uniquely suited to impacting his new world to the extent that he did. It is because Kazuma has a background with video games that he is able to make use of his party in ways that other adventurers could not; in the absence of his past experiences, KonoSuba would not have been able to convincingly show Megumin’s growth in conjunction with her hilarious interactions with Kazuma quite to the same extent. In the case of KonoSuba, the isekai premise makes perfect sense because Kazuma’s old knowledge and beliefs strongly impact the series’ ability to deliver comedy, and similarly, it is because viewers already have some familiarity with the misadventures Megumin will later go on, that An Explosion on This Wonderful World! is able to drive humour. Despite being a solid series on its own, An Explosion on This Wonderful World! is a series where viewers will appreciate more fully if they had previously seen KonoSuba – the style of humour is quite similar to what was seen in KonoSuba, and the experiences Megumin has alongside with Yunyun and her other classmates become all the more significant if one is aware of how they’ll impact the events of KonoSuba. Three episodes in, An Explosion on This Wonderful World! has proven to be a fun addition to KonoSuba, and I am glad that this spin-off is being aired; when a third season becomes reality, An Explosion on This Wonderful World! will gives a bit more context behind how Kazuma and Megumin become closer and strengthen the significance of this relationship.