Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! is dangerously close to being my first anime. It was fifth or sixth on a list of recommendations from a friend. Five of us — four relatively inexperienced in anime and one veteran — decided to watch anime together once a week.
As one of the newbies, I was excited to watch pretty much anything after falling in love with our first few shows. So here I am, on my friend’s couch as Konosuba’s opening rolls, and it introduces us to the main character. Five episodes later, I realized I was in the wrong universe.
What immediately struck me is that Aqua doesn’t wear underwear. I thought it would be temporary, so I gave it a pass and chalked it up to the weird overly-sexualized way that anime often portrays women. However, her lack of panties persisted throughout the show. As the night dragged on, Konosuba quickly felt longer than it’s 10-episode runtime.
Our “heroes” are useless. Kazuma Sato, the lead, seems only to possess the ability to steal underwear. Aqua, for being an all-powerful deity, is beyond inept. Darkness, the masochist paladin, feels uncomfortable as a recurring character. Finally, the archwizard Megumin is drastically underwhelming and overhyped.
After 234 excruciating minutes, the other anime newbies and I finished the season with a mixture of disgust, confusion, and disenfranchisement. Later, the veteran anime watcher asked me how I liked it, and I broke it to them that I disliked it. Quite a bit, actually. It made me uncomfortable, and I found it almost offensive.
“What do you mean? It’s satire.”
I was stunned. I had no idea that Konsuba was supposed to be satire. All I could see was the overdone JRPG party setup, the trite missions, the excessive fanservice, the shut-in main character, the lack of real relationships, and the thick coats of plot armor. Surely the community didn’t think that Konosuba was a good anime, right?
I couldn’t be more wrong. Konosuba is a big hit — popular in the community and rated highly by its fans. Since this conflict between the community at large and myself happened, I have spent more time than I care to admit rewatching it and thinking about why it doesn’t sell as satire — marking a paradox in the show’s mission and perception.
We need to start by separating satire and comedy. Comedy is trying to be funny — pure and simple. If your cheeks don’t hurt after watching a comedy, you are left wondering why you didn’t watch two overpowered guys smack the shit out of each other instead. Entertainment is essentially the only goal.
Satire, on the other hand, is purposeful beyond its entertainment value. We seek change through satire. We all know the difference. We may roll our eyes at Saturday Night Live’s cringy skits, but they aren’t just trying to make simpletons giggle after work. They serve to comment on the world around us.
Satire is a form of frustration and an attempt to embarrass its subject with pointed jabs. If Konosuba is going to share the room with things like A Modest Proposal or Pride and Prejudice, it needs to be held to the goal that satirists worldwide strive for — to comment on the industry and push for change.
Konosuba is undeniably popular, and I see it consistently recommended to new viewers. Yet, for being a self-proclaimed piece of satire, we don’t see it moving the ticker away from the stereotypes it claims to lampoon. I would venture to say that it functions more like an introduction to the tropes that reaffirm an outsider’s perception of anime. When the conclusion drawn by new viewers is nowhere near the point the author is supposedly making, the mark is missed, and the satirical medium fails.
That isn’t to say that satire needs to be immediately accessible. I regularly read classic works and have to put them down because I don’t understand them. However, fifty or more anime later, and Konosuba has gained zero satirical value for me.
Why is that?
It’s because Konosuba is one of the most egregious offenders of almost every anime trope. It does such a poor job of mocking the isekai genre that it inadvertently becomes what it claims to hate. Therefore, it can no longer be considered satirical. Part of satire is actually getting your point across. How can we say that Konosuba is getting the point across when they keep producing more of it? Clearly, the target audience isn’t in on the joke.
The answer is simple. Satire has a point to get across. Comedy has a story to tell. If a single season/manga/light novel cannot get the point across, the point was bad. If your audience doesn’t get it, even with an abundance of context, the point was bad. I would keep going, but this point doesn’t need a second season.
In addition to its unapologetic performance of tropes, Konosuba shows us that satire is not the priority through how it’s marketed. It only takes a quick skim of their Twitter to see that the merchandise they advertise is largely posters and figurines of women scantily clad in bunny suits, wrapping ribbons, and bikinis.
If I was any wiser, I might think that they were capitalizing on a community that doesn’t care whether it’s intended to be satirical or not but instead loves the sexual and comedic elements. But surely, this is also satire — like when George Orwell sold Soviet flags on the Facebook marketplace to promote Animal Farm.
Besides its advertising and merchandise, how they portray their characters also lacks any satirical value. Just a week before I wrote this, they made a post out about Kazuma tripping over a rock. I can hear the furious mustache twisting of armchair critics on my shoulder saying, “Why, Marshal, it’s obviously satire because heroes aren’t supposed to trip on rocks.”
Well, mustache twisters, where is the satire? Ironic? Perhaps. Funny? Situational. Purposeful? Not in the slightest.
Their Twitter runs like every other isekai Twitter. If this is supposed to be satire, there should be cheeky allusions and digs at other shows, established and otherwise. But it doesn’t do this. That is because Konosuba is just another paint-by-numbers isekai that follows the tropes of a stand-alone work. Simple, comedic, and without the satire it claims to have, it is purposeless beyond entertainment.
Let’s put the jokes aside for a moment — arguments like this matter. Anime is a passion, and the community treats it like one. People invest their lives, their money, and their time to identify with the medium. If we care so much, we need to insist that the anime, the people who create it, and the community that watches it stop lying about a show’s true nature.
The popularity of Konosuba alone warrants that we look critically at its message and how its creators hold themselves. Hiding behind the guise of satire is cheap and intellectually dishonest. It is okay to love the show. It is not okay for the show to hide behind something it isn’t.