Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Konosuba - God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!
Novel 9: Crimson Fate
Kazuma's still enjoying the fruits of his labors (i.e. money) while fretting about what Megumin wants to tell him when the news comes in: another general of the Demon King is trying to get to the capital, and this time she may actually succeed. Kazuma's still willing to let someone else fight the battle, but when Megumin and Yunyun hear that the general's name is Wolbach, they insist on going. What is Wolbach's tie to the girls and the Crimson Magic Village? And could Kazuma care any less?
Into every series with a spin-off must come a point of reference. For Konosuba - God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!, this is that moment. As readers of the series who picked up the first manga volume of An Explosion on this Wonderful World may have already figured out, volume nine of the original light novel series marks the point of contact between the two, and while it isn't necessary to have read the manga (or to read the upcoming release of its parent light novel), this book does give you an idea of what the spin-off is specifically about. While it isn't hugely intriguing from what we know here, it's absolutely in line with the absurdity that is the trademark of the story's world and does increase the depth of the references to Lina Inverse of Slayers at least a little.
But all of that comes about halfway through Konosuba's ninth book, subtitled “Crimson Fate.” Before we get to the latest threat to humanity, Kazuma has to try to figure out what on earth Megumin wants to tell him in one of their bedrooms. Girls and sex have certainly been occupying his thoughts since day one, and while Darkness is the party member he's come closest to doing anything sexy with, he's definitely more conflicted (and possibly excited) about Megumin. In part this is arguably because she doesn't share Darkness' predilections, but she's also mostly sane and non-annoying, reading the most like what modern Japanese teen Kazuma would read as a “normal girl.” Plus she's just recently named him her explosier, defined as a sommelier for explosions, and who wouldn't have his head turned by that?
This is, however, Konosuba, so nothing nice is going to come easy, if it's even going to happen at all. Before Kazuma can talk to Megumin he gets a delivery of a special wire to use his Bind skill with, and Darkness' aforementioned predilections come raging to the fore. The extended scene where Kazuma and Darkness are hiding in a closet – a spur-of-the-moment action Kazuma comes to regret – is pretty funny as he grows increasingly annoyed with her excitement, but things get taken a bit too far when Darkness suddenly has to pee, resulting in shenanigans that are just a little too close to tasteless to be as funny as they should be. It does feel like the natural result of Akatsuki having created a character with a specific fetish that needs to be built up more and more with each new installment of the story, putting the author in the position of having to figure out how to do that and not giving many easy options. The problem here lies in both the fact that having Kazuma help Darkness with her underwear (her arms are bound) is a bit too close to crossing a line and that the whole business with Bind has gone on for what already feels like slightly too long; had Akatsuki just ended things a few pages earlier, the entire debacle would have worked better.
Things shift when Yunyun shows up with the news about Wolbach, a so-called Dark God who is also the most successful general of the Demon Lord to date. What makes Wolbach so alarming isn't revealed until Kazuma has been hauled off to the battle and he sees what she's been using: a very specific spell a certain arch-wizard is excessively fond of. Wolbach, it turns out, is closely tied to Megumin and the Crimson Magic Clan in general, and naturally in the most ridiculous of ways. (She was only imprisoned there in the first place because someone in the village thought it would be cool to have a dark god around for prestige purposes and specifically moved her there.) More surprising is Wolbach's link to Chomusuke, Megumin's “cat.” Megumin thus is proven to have one of the more complex backstories in the series; not a serious one, obviously, because this is Konosuba, but one that feels more interesting than Darkness' basic noblewoman on the hunt for adventure or Kazuma and Aqua's simple riffs on isekai tropes. While Megumin's history is heavily based in the sword and sorcery fantasy genre and plays with its established themes, it still feels different enough from what everyone else is working with, and old(ish) school fans will recognize the links to fantasy anime of the 1990s.
All of this also works towards making us ask the question, “Is Megumin the main heroine?” Things absolutely do heat up with her over the course of the book, in as much as the series is ever serious enough to consider a “true” romance a possibility. Kazuma does seem more comfortable with her than with the other women in his party, and he's also more conflicted about taking things further with her. In part this is because she's fourteen, but he also seems worried about how becoming romantically involved will affect their friendship and the overall dynamic of the party. Things are left a bit open-ended on that front (including in the extra chapter from Megumin's point of view), but it is enough if you're looking for that sort of content in the series. The author does, however, say that the romance plot is going on the backburner, out of concern about being able to write it well.
And really, that's just fine. While it does shake things up in terms of the series' basic formula, the true joy of the books is the underhanded way Kazuma manages to outwit (if that's the right word) his enemies and the sheer ridiculousness of the entire thing in the first place. On that front, this volume is still a lot of fun, even if the actual battle scenes take up a little less of the narrative than usual. Konosuba remains a delightfully silly parody of an increasingly over-stuffed genre, no matter who Kazuma is getting himself into trouble with at any given moment.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Smoothly introduces spin-off series, remains good absurd fun
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