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by Reuben Baron,

Ya Boy Kongming! Road to Summer Sonia

Anime Film Review

Ya Boy Kongming! Road to Summer Sonia Anime Film Review
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! Can even a brilliant strategist like Kongming adapt to the wild beats and even wilder party people?!

Compilation films are such a weird thing in anime, are they not? We accept their existence because there are a million of them. If American TV shows started cutting up full seasons into 2 hours and throwing five minutes of new footage in to sell as "movies," we'd never hear the end of how it signals the death of originality at the cinema. Can you imagine if David Lynch released Twin Peaks: Death and Rebirth five months before Fire Walk With Me?

Are the purpose of compilation films to give fans of the preexisting material a chance to re-experience it in a slightly different format, or are they meant to draw in new viewers who haven't watched the TV series? I'm reviewing Ya Boy Kongming! Road to Summer Sonia from the latter perspective; this is my first exposure to the Three Kingdoms general's 21st-century music management career. I enjoyed what I saw while also acknowledging it doesn't wholly flow as a movie.

This movie might be the equivalent of bingeing a full season of anime at double speed, but it's a good anime, and the fast pace works for a lot of the humor. The movie contains three main story arcs: the reincarnated Kongming forming his partnership with the singer Eiko, the recruitment of reluctant battle rapper Kabetaijin, and the rivalry with/rescue of the idol group Azalea. The first two arcs take about a half-hour each, while the latter lasts a full hour.

Each of these arcs is compelling but the editing 'seams' show in how the movie transitions between each of them. The first act immediately grabs the viewer with Eiko's opening performance of "Be Crazy for Me." We're charmed by Eiko's talent and earnest dreams alongside Kongming, who also wins us over with the sweetness he dedicates himself to helping her achieve her dreams. This anime takes its silly premise seriously enough to allow for compelling character work while also finding plentiful humor in Kongming's fish-out-of-water scenarios and his applications of military strategies to advertise his artists (I assume history buffs/Romance of the Three Kingdoms fans will get even more of it that I did).

The perspective shift to Kabetaijin's stressful day in the second act is slightly jarring in ways I suspect it wouldn't be in episodic format, and it's the least emotionally involved of the three arcs. Still, it's a fun enough diversion from Eiko's storyline. Kabetaijin's rap battle with Kongming offers a musical and comedic highlight.

Issues of transitions are more frustrating with the Azalea storyline, which gets introduced via a "previously on" narration for skipped scenes. The story that develops with Eiko's friendly rival Nanami is an affecting one, touching on issues of art vs. commerce and lending sympathy to both teams competing in the race to 100,000 likes. The constant string of banger performances of the bombastic EDM and sensitive acoustic variety, combined with the creativity of Kongming's competitive strategies, provide plenty of entertainment at the movie's conclusion. And yet, I can't help but feel that all these payoffs would feel even more rewarding if this arc had a full set-up beyond that rushed expositional narration. I'm entertained by the movie I watched, but if it was a bit more structurally solid, I might have even been moved.

Road to Summer Sonja looks the part of feature-quality production. I don't know how much of the animation is new vs. recycled. From looking at clips from the series, I can confirm at least some of the best-looking musical sequences are so heavily improved upon their original versions that they alone justify watching this film, even if you know the original by heart. On the other hand, I can safely guess that certain scenes that rely too much on still frames are recycled from the show. For most of the movie, though, there's not a clear defining line between what's "TV animation" and what's "movie animation." Even with quality variations, the animation stays solid on average, and the art is consistently great.

Since the Ya Boy Kongming! manga is still ongoing, perhaps this compilation film is to promote or test the waters for a second season. Having sat through this abridged version of Season 1, I'm not in a rush to watch the full season (even if it improves the film's pacing issues), but I would be on board with Season 2 from the beginning.

Overall : B
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : A
Music : A

+ Funny, great animation in most of the musical performances
I doubt this is the best-structured version of this material

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Production Info:
Director: Shū Honma
Series Composition: Yoko Yonaiyama
Music: Genki Hikota
Original creator:
Ryō Ogawa
Yuto Yotsuba
Character Design: Kanami Sekiguchi
Art Director: Junichi Higashi
3D Director: Motonari Ichikawa
Sound Director: Satoki Iida
Director of Photography: Yoshimitsu Tomita

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Paripi Kōmei Road to Summer Sonia (movie)

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