The Spring 2022 Preview Guide
Ya Boy Kongming!

How would you rate episode 1 of
Ya Boy Kongming! ?
Community score: 4.4



What is this?

General of the Three Kingdoms, Kongming, had struggled his whole life, facing countless battles that made him into the accomplished strategist he was. So on his deathbed, he wished only to be reborn into a peaceful world... and was sent straight to modern-day party-central, Tokyo. The brilliant strategist Kongming will have to adapt to the wild beats and even wilder party people of the modern age.

Ya Boy Kongming! is based on Yuto Yotsuba and Ryō Ogawa's manga and streams on HIDIVE on Tuesdays.


How was the first episode?

Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

For a second, I was tempted to call the premise of this one old hat – yoinking a historic figure from the past and tossing them into the present day has been a go-to premise for comedy movies for ages. But there really haven't been too many of those in anime the last few years, since the current obsession is taking a boring-ass dude from our world and tossing him to a theoretically more interesting setting to get his stank all over that place. So in a way this time transplant comedy has some novelty on its side, but it definitely needed more than that to sell itself. Thankfully, as of this first episode it's more than managed to surprise me.

For one, I'm shocked how little the series relies on the rote jokes that come with this territory. You of course have the requisite scenes of Kongming learning about smartphones and modern culture, but those moments are sped through in under a minute, and seemingly every character just rolls with him either being a time traveler or a weird LARPer without much fuss. Not only does that keep this introduction feeling less predictable, it allows more time for the story to dig into sentiment alongside its goofy time-hopping setup. For all that this is a chance for nerdy history references, they take the time to give both Kongming and Eiko likable personalities and moments of emotional sincerity that seriously gripped me.

I was also surprised at how relatively in-depth the show gets with its central musical hook. I'm used to musical anime being idol shows that rarely dip their toes into the actual mechanics of music or the larger world of genres outside of marketable pop ballads. But Ya Boy Kongming! shows a lot of knowledge about music as a whole, from Eiko having a phone filled with EDM and Hip-Hop to discussing how the club she works at plays tracks with different BPM depending on the time of night and how many people are around. Eiko's music is pretty, if not particularly memorable, but the detail and attention being paid here makes me hopeful that the story can use music as more than just a marketing gimmick.

It's also just really well produced so far. The standout scenes are Eiko's first stage appearance and, later, her practice session in her apartment. Both are short but gorgeous sequences of character acting, and do a lot to sell you on why Kongming would suddenly devote himself to becoming her “tactician” to support her career. Really, the entire premiere just looks rock solid – great use of color, strong character designs that are distinct but all gel together effortlessly, and an altogether pleasant aesthetic to lean on. Put together it makes for a much stronger premiere than you might expect, and I'll definitely be staying for another performance.


Rebeccca Silverman
Rating:

Would I have been as thrilled with this episode if I hadn't already read the source manga? I'd like to think so, because even without the knowledge of where this is heading, Ya Boy Kongming!'s first episode is a delightful combination of pathos and humor. It's also a sort of reverse-isekai – our protagonist is in fact the Kongming from the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, and after his death from old age in 234 C. E., he wakes up 1,800 years later, young once again, in what he presumes to be Hell. It's basically Mayaya from Princess Jellyfish's dream anime. But a series needs more than just a good premise and a catchy title to work, and in that respect this episode delivers: rather than going with a plain old fish-out-of-water story, Ya Boy Kongming! instead focuses on Kongming finding a new purpose in his life and embracing his rebirth wholeheartedly, and that's a large part of what sells this premier.

It helps that Kongming's new liege is Eiko, an aspiring singer. Despite a lovely singing voice (provided by 96 Neko), success has been elusive to the point where she very nearly committed suicide at one point. It's Eiko's song that snaps Kongming out of his confusion upon first arriving in “Hell” (Shibuya on Halloween), and when they meet again the next day, he's wholeheartedly ready to back Eiko's career. Does it matter that he doesn't know anything about the 21st century's music scene? Not in the slightest; the episode does a very good job of showing us just how quickly he picks things up without actually stopping to say, “Hey, this guy picks up new skills really fast” in a beautiful display of showing versus telling. (His pride that he's got his own Wiki is pretty funny.) Since he's been brought to the world without war that he wished for, what better use of his prodigious intellect and tactical knowledge than to back the girl who saved him and is in need of a helping hand herself?

There's something really heartwarming about Kongming's and Eiko's relationship, even if she is totally thrown by him roughly every three minutes, and it helps that the episode doesn't skimp on the animation or the music – not counting the ending theme, we hear Eiko sing three separate songs, which is better than most idol shows. There's also nice detail in the art, from Kongming holding his sleeve back as he plays go to the clutter of Eiko's small apartment, and the occasional foray into chibi land doesn't detract from this. Honestly, this was just a really entertaining half-hour, and if it wasn't on your radar, I'd urge you to check it out.


How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

Although the Romance of the Three Kingdoms talk went right over my head, the show clearly lays out the two most important things for us to know about Kongming: 1) he was a master strategist, and 2) his side lost. Therefore, it's possible he sees this gig not only as his second chance at life but also his second chance to win—albeit through philosophy rather than warfare.

One thing I love about this episode is how it addresses the absurdity of its premise. Why is he in Japan in the modern day? Why can he understand Japanese? Why is he young again? Why does he encounter the one person who will not only deal with his apparent eccentricities but even bring him into her home? Why does he meet the one boss who will hire him on the spot? The answer to all of these questions is the same: some divine force willed it to be so. His task is to support Eiko, full stop.

Of course, it helps that the show is willing to use this all for comedy.Whether it is Kongming going from having never seen a computer before to asking Eiko about the blockchain over the course of a few hours, or him becoming a master bartender after just listening to Eiko's instructions once, there are a ton of good laughs as we get all those pesky questions out of the way and set up both the premise and our characters.

The other great thing about the episode is that it understands that the most important thing to have in a show about an up-and-coming singer is the music to match. If the songs don't wow you, you can't believe that the supposedly talented singers will make it big, robbing the show of its drama. Honestly, I'm saddened we didn't spend more time listening to Eiko sing (though with runtime limitations I understand why we didn't). I'll be sure to keep an eye out for the soundtrack if nothing else.


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