KonoSuba – God's blessing on this wonderful world!!
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 9 of
KonoSuba – God’s blessing on this wonderful world!! ?
A shop run by succubi who give their male customers great dreams in exchange for a little vitality being drained away? And Kazuma finds out about it and tries it out?
Oh, sure, nothing can go wrong there.
Things do, of course, go wrong, and in a fairly predictable direction, but with surprisingly awkward results. Scenarios like this may have been done before in anime, but this instance generates one of the weirdest vibes you'll ever get out of a fan service scene.
That fan service is the theme of the episode, rather than just a focal point or accoutrement, is also a somewhat unusual approach. The underground (in a figurative sense) succubus establishment doesn't trade in sex per se, but rather in erotic dreams made to order for the male customers. In other words, it's a cross between a modern-world strip club and Total Recall, an impression enhanced by the way the succubi brazenly flaunt their enticing physiques in stripper-styled apparel. This isn't just flashing skin, either; the movements of the succubus who explains things to Kazuma are entirely focused on her deliberately emphasizing her sexuality, something which even heavy fan service shows actually don't do that much. (Or at least not like this.) The way she specifically plays to Kazuma's situation – he's surrounded by female party members that he doesn't dare make a move on even if he wanted to – is also eerily on the mark. (Since this is a common situation in that world, it's also part of the joke.) So Kazuma, after making some probing questions about legality, eagerly makes his request.
When he returns back to the mansion for a feast provided by Darkness's family, things start to get weird. The whole scene with eating the crabs is played from an angle that suggests Kazuma is, for the first time, looking at the girls in a more erotic light. Is some statement intended here about how exposure to eroticism can make a man look at the women around him differently? If so, that's a pretty heady notion for a series like this. Things get even weirder when Kazuma dozes off in the bath and has a dream about Darkness joining him. It isn't, of course, a dream; we later find out that the succubus who was coming to give Kazuma the requested dream got trapped by Aqua before she could make it to Kazuma, which is in itself an inspired twist. Kazuma is unaware of this, however, so he treats Darkness like she's part of his dream, which leaves her utterly flustered over Kazuma's dramatic attitude change, though she does reluctantly play along. The result is a scene dripping with irony, as Darkness finds that seeing one of her masochistic fantasies play out for real is a wholly different matter. Or is it actually not irony, and she does get into being ordered around by Kazuma but was just taken aback by his atypical aggressiveness? Even she doesn't seem sure.
Regardless of how you interpret the bath scene, it is a tour de force of provocatively using nudity without actually showing anything too naughty. As with the succubus bar scene, this isn't the normal cheap titillation that prurient anime fan service normally aims for; it is more purposeful, like it's poking at the institution of fan service, albeit with a wholly different approach from Myriad Colors Phantom World (which regularly teases fan service but almost never provides it). The artistry and animation here is actually some of the series' best to date, as are some interesting choices for camera angles and genuinely sexy succubus designs.
The episode does also add some more typical jabs at its characters, such as the implication that Aqua's intelligence is not improving as she levels up because she was maxed out on it (at a low level) to start, and how the statement in the Knight's Code shown during the Next Episode preview seems oddly specific to Darkness. Overall, it is a memorable episode, though not necessarily one of the series' funniest.
KonoSuba – God's blessing on this wonderful world!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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