ANIME REVIEW | Megumin Origin Tale Delivers a Mid-Range "Explosion"
KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! is a comedic gem. One of the funniest anime to come out in the last ten years, the tale of Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and
Lalatina Darkness as they aim to take down the Devil King is been anime’s answer to the British sitcom. However, no one on the show has reached the explosive popularity quite like Megumin, whose personality and comedic timing shines brighter than anyone else in the adventurer’s guild. A spinoff about her origin tale seems like a no-brainer, as more of the best character sound right on paper. Alas, while KonoSuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World! has its moments, it lacks the real firepower of the main series.
The anime begins with a young Megumin (Rie Takahashi) watching a mage unleash a mighty explosion. Inspired by her power, the girl aims to learn explosion magic, much to her teacher’s laughable warning. Thankfully, with her friend Yunyun (Aki Toyosaki), little sister Komeko (Maria Naganawa), and a mysterious winged black cat in her corner, Megumin aims to accomplish her goal of learning explosion magic. But in order to do so, she’ll have to crack a few eggs; or — in her case — a couple of duxion necks.
With Megumin not having learned her explosion magic, the first few episodes focus on her determination to earn enough skill points to gain said magic. Her schoolmates and teachers laugh at the idea of her mastering the skill, as it’s deemed by many to be a useless power. Then again, when the head teacher’s main rule of magic is to always look very cool, it’s clear that there’s not much going on in many of the mages’ heads. Like the main series, everyone in KonoSuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World! is an S-tier moron.
Megumin is still a hoot to watch, as she scavenges for low-tier food, tries to sell Chomusuke to a weird lady, or become increasingly jealous of everyone’s bigger bust size. Yunyun comes into her own as Megumin’s rival-in-crime, with the two bettering one another skill-wise. However, while the main series has a great mixture of lovable idiots, the spinoff doesn’t do much to fill the spot Megumin’s cohorts usually stand in. Her schoolmates may get a laugh, but they feel more like background characters than replacements.
As she doesn’t have enough people to work off on, Megumin finds herself taking both roles of setup and punchline. Sometimes Megumin gets the joke down pat, such as when she imagines herself as the Devil King or finding herself jobless before making a big journey. Other times though, she places a firecracker of a joke down to light, only to have forgotten her book of matches, as evident by the two-episode Arcanretia arc.
Said Arcanretia arc also causes some plot hole issues with the main KonoSuba series. Season Two shows that being in the City of Water (and Scientology-leveled religious loonies) is emotionally scarring for her. And while she deals with a couple of nut bags in the form of the nun Cecily (Ai Fairouz) and Father Zesta (Yasunori Masutani), nothing really happens that makes her want to avoid the town outright. Quite the contrary, she finds herself enjoying some of her time there, even if she says so just to tease Yunyun a bit.
This also leads to the biggest problem with KonoSuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World!: its comedic timing. The original series teetered back and forth between high and low-brow humor at a perfect pace, on par with some of the greatest British sitcoms ever written. Here, the jokes tend to stay in the air a bit too long, with the odds of the punchlines hitting their marks dwindling the more they linger there. Without someone filter-free like Kazuma or full-blown stupid like Aqua to set the timing proper, much of the comedy falls flat on its face.
Compared to the original, the spinoff tends to lack a memorable moment in each episode. Outside of Megumin’s first explosion or even her tendency to murder duxion ducks, there’s not much here that stands out in the series. To be blunt: the story just goes through the motions without offering something interesting for the audience to witness. For a show that’s about one of the most iconic anime characters in history, that’s not good!
Animation-wise, Drive (VLAD LOVE) mimics the style of Studio DEEN pretty good. With that being said, the rubbery vibe of the original is nowhere to be found here. There’s a good facial expression or two, but the high-octane physical humor seen in Seasons 1 & 2 (and the movie, for that matter) has been greatly muted. At least Megumin’s explosions look great, with each one more vibrant and loud than the last.
Despite its so-so script, the voice acting team does a phenomenal job with what they’re given. Takahashi hasn’t missed a step in her role of Megumin, with her crazy mentality amplified thanks to there being no one sane enough to stop her. Toyosaki gets to grow more into the role of Yunyun, with her coming off more sympathetic when the butt of everyone’s jokes. Although she’s nary to be seen in the show’s second half, Naganawa brings her cuteness levels to their highest yet as Komeko (an impressive feat, since she also voices Kanna in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid).
Masato Koda returns to score this spinoff, which does a great job with helping to punch up some of the weaker humor elements. MACHICO also comes back to perform the opening theme “STAY FREE”, which is just as catchy and delightful as her previous KonoSuba contributions. The best song belongs to Takahashi and Toyosaki, whose end theme “JUMP IN” is catchy and filled with great vibes. (If you had told me that it was a new Cibo Matto song, I would’ve believed you!)
I love KonoSuba, which makes having to criticize its spinoff painful to do. An Explosion on This Wonderful World! tries to capture the spirit of the original, only for it to grab its scraps. It has its share of laughs, but they only come in droplets compared to the barrels of comedy gold the main series always delivers. At least we won’t have to wait too much longer for KonoSuba’s third season, which — as someone who’s read the original light novels — is going reach higher levels of funny than it ever has before. Until then, consider KonoSuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World! a so-so side quest that goes with the main journey we’ve come to enjoy.
Final Grade (not an average):
KonoSuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World! can be viewed on Crunchyroll, and has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-9 were observed for the review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.