The Spring 2021 Preview Guide
Combatants Will Be Dispatched!
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Combatants Will Be Dispatched! ?
What is this?
With world domination nearly in their grasp, the Supreme Leaders of the Kisaragi Corporation-an underground criminal group turned evil megacorp-have decided to try their hands at interstellar conquest. A quick dice roll nominates their chief operative, Combat Agent Six, to be the one to explore an alien planet...and the first thing he does when he gets there is changing the sacred incantation for a holy ritual to the most embarrassing thing he can think of. But evil deeds are business as usual for Kisaragi operatives, so if Six wants a promotion and a raise, he'll have to work much harder than that. For starters, he'll have to do something about the other group of villains on the planet, who are calling themselves the "Demon Lord's Army" or whatever. After all, this world doesn't need two evil organizations.
How was the first episode?
“In which the password is 'Penis Festival.'”
In most isekai tales, the central hook revolves around “what if a normal person was transported to a fantasy world.” Often, the protagonist who gets transported functions as an audience proxy. They tend to be an otaku of one form or another and are, for the most part, good people—or at least their experiences in the fantasy world help them to overcome their flaws and grow into better versions of themselves. KONOSUBA, in a twist on that concept, uncovered the comedic potential of having a lazy, selfish person as the one transported to a fantasy world and finding a group of equally flawed people to have misadventures with.
Combatants Will Be Dispatched! (the newest anime by the creator of KONOSUBA) twists the common isekai trope a notch further, asking “What if an ‘evil’ person was transported to a fantasy world?” While Six and Alice aren't exactly chaotic evil, they are far from what can be considered as morally upstanding, doing what's best for themselves and their evil organization back on Earth. They also enjoy performing little acts of mischief, which earn them “villainy points” that can be exchanged for items from our world.
But what's really interesting about the pair is that, while they are evil, they are also trustworthy when it comes to each other. Six and Alice's relationship may start off a bit adversarial, but they are clearly unified in goal and thought process by the end of the first episode, and at no point does either actively betray the other for their own personal gain. In the post-credits scene, we see that this is not unique to the relationship between Six and Alice. When it came to invading the fantasy world, the only people the leadership of the organization trusted to perform such a task were themselves and Six. In a massive organization that has conquered the entire Earth, he's the only man they trust not to betray them—and they even want to add him to their ranks when he completes his job. It's a great character detail that gives him at least one redeemable quality and helps endear him to the audience as the silly half of the straight man act with Alice.
All that said, the humor didn't quite hit me as hard as I expected. I have read the manga and find it laugh-out-loud hilarious—even more so than KONOSUBA. This first episode, however, makes me think that something has been lost in adaptation. Everything seemed so rushed. There was no time to laugh before we were ushered on to the next scene or joke. However, that may just be the nature of the beast when it comes to this first episode. Now that the status quo has been set up—i.e., Six, Alice, and Snow doing missions for the local human kingdom—perhaps the series will be able to set a better pace going forward.
About a minute into Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, I murmured to myself, “Oh, I don't like this. I don't like this at all.” The protagonist, Agent Six, had just spoken his first lines of dialogue: yelling about girls with “watermelon-sized tits” as the camera first focused on the two female characters' ample cleavage, and then a light shining from his groin. Later, as the episode neared what I was sure had to be its conclusion, I checked the timestamp and groaned as I realized that I was less than halfway through.
Comedy is one of those things that's always going to be hit or miss, and for me, this episode felt like it was about five hours long because I just couldn't stand the humor. I skipped KONOSUBA and Kemono Michi because nothing I heard about them appealed to me, so this is my first encounter with Natsume Atsuki. Now I can only hope this will be my last.
Oh Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways. It's your horndog protagonist, a complete garbage bag of a human being who does things like spends all his “evil points” on porn magazines instead of useful combat equipment and then complains. It's your costume design on the female characters who, with the thankful exception of the childlike android deuteragonist Alice, are all dressed like fetish porn characters. It's your humiliation-based humor, predicated on all the characters going out of their way to be terrible humans to each other.
It is, however, a technically competent production. The animation is glossy and smooth, and the physical humor is well-animated, especially Six's rubbery facial expressions. I didn't care for the storyboarding, which seemed to think that any scene without a cleavage shot every ten seconds or so was wasted, but hey, I also just plain don't like fanservice. Agent Six's voice actor, Agent Shirai, also played Ramuda in Hypnosis Mic, so he's already proven himself to be skilled at playing empathy-deficient shitheads.
Thusly, I can't dismiss Combatants Will Be Dispatched! as bad, not in a way that will deter people who like Atsuki's other series. I didn't enjoy the humor and objected strenuously and often to how disrespectful the show is particularly to its female characters, but I know a lot of you don't care about that. So, if this sounds like your jam, have at it, I guess.
Back when I read the first volume of the light novel series upon which this show is based, I remember thinking that author Natsume Akatsuki was a bit of a one-trick pony. That's less obvious here, with only the very start of the story on display, but it's still not hard to see that the creator of KONOSUBA is also behind this work, because all of the characters thus far introduced seem very, very similar to those in that other story. Or rather, they're similar with the obnoxious dialed up to eleven where the male lead is concerned.
Agent Six may be the make-or-break character for people watching this, because he's pretty darn repulsive. Virtually every single time the camera takes on his viewpoint the focus immediately becomes the bountiful bosoms of the female characters, and his entire thought process seems to revolve around boobs, except for that one time when he dedicates himself to embarrassing Princess Tillis. It's absolutely supposed to be funny, and it really is Agent Six getting outsmarted almost every time, so it's simply a question of whether or not that sort of humor works for you. And in the episode's defense, Six never once touches anyone inappropriately, falls into their chest, or lands with his face in anyone's crotch – it's all about what he wants, not what he actually gets, which suggests that the story knows that he's gross.
While the execution may be lacking, it's hard to deny that there's a fun premise at work here. Like KONOSUBA, this is an isekai story, but in this case Agent Six belongs to an evil organization called Kisaragi Company, and they've decided that now that their takeover of Earth is nearly complete, they're ready to subdue other planets. Six has been chosen (via dice roll) to go with the newly developed High-Spec Pretty Girl Android Alice in the also newly-developed teleporter to seek out takeover opportunities on other planets. (He may also be the guinea pig. Shh, don't tell him.) He ends up being sent to a fantasy-based planet where he immediately gets himself in trouble in the Kingdom of Grace, and there's a sense that a sci-fi vs fantasy plotline may be brewing, and that Agent Six is absolutely the wrong man for the job. Or any job.
While Snow gives off definite Aqua vibes and there is an overt KONOSUBA reference, at this point there isn't much to go by beyond the huge tracts of exposed female flesh. The preview, shown on a screen none of the three leaders of Kisaragi are looking at during their conference, indicates that two more ladies are joining the cast in the next episode, so this is definitely going down a harem or harem- adjacent route. If you're looking for that, or even just for fanservice, this will probably end up being pretty fun – assuming, of course, that Agent Six doesn't make you want to scream every time he walks on-screen.
I really, really do not like Natsume Akatsuki's style of humor. I didn't like it in KONOSUBA. I especially didn't like it in Kemono Michi: Rise Up. His MO seems to be the same throughout every adaptation of his work: take a bunch of belligerent, unlikable assholes and have them insult and talk shit about each other, place that in some kind of vaguely-defined fantasy setting, then garnish with some random sexual humiliation to taste. It's a charmless, pointlessly mean-spirited approach to comedy I have negative patience for. So I knew going in I was going to hate Combatants Will Be Dispatched!. And wouldn't you know it, I was right!
I'll give the show this much: At least there's no bestiality in this premiere! I can't believe that's technically a step up, but it is! Combat Agent Six may be an intolerable jackass obsessed with the boobs of every half-naked anime girl who walks on screen, but at least he never shoves his face into a dog's sphincter. Good for him. Unfortunately that's not enough to make this premiere any less interminable, taking whatever charm might be found in the goofy premise and driving it into the ground with repetitive, over-explained punchlines.
That more than anything is what made this episode a misery. Every single joke is the same thing: Agent Six encounters a person or thing, immediately says the most self-serving and shitty thing possible, and one of the other characters comments that he sure is a stupid piece of trash. Occasionally the gag will be that somebody else is also a giant garbage homunculus, but then it's Agent Six's turn to mug for the camera and holler at the top of his lungs. The one and only funny joke in this premiere is the random set of stairs sidekick Alice is standing on to look taller in the final scene, and it's only because nobody explains or mentions where they came from.
So yeah, this is a total wash for me. I know plenty of people enjoyed KONOSUBA, so maybe they'll find something to like here. But for me this premiere only avoids being the absolute worst by virtue of not starring a comedic child groomer.
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