Ya Boy Kongming!
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Ya Boy Kongming! ?
Community score: 4.8
Ya Boy Kongming! is a music series. Regardless of any time-displaced tacticians as its main motivating mechanic, the story, especially in the past few episodes, has made clear that it is centrally about the power of performance, how that motivates musicians and the audiences they engage with. One of the key criticisms I had in the earlier parts of this anime regarded how Eiko came off like a passenger in the journey Kongming was charting for her musical career. There was a sense of her lacking agency in the plans he cooked up to promote her abilities he had faith in. The skewing was understandable, since Kongming's schemes were a major entertainment-value draw in those initial episodes. Hell, I even spent part of last week's episode review eagerly anticipating some dramatic reveal of a final gambit from Kongming, expecting one last triumphant trick up his tactically-deep sleeves. I should have known better. There was no more need for tricks or gimmicks at this point, it was all about Eiko's music. It had always been about the music.
Yes, Kongming had co-opted Azalea's concert venue contest to draw audience members to Eiko's spot, and deployed Kabe to stall Azalea's own accumulation of likes and demand those attendants' attention. But none of that would have meant a damn thing in the end if Eiko's performance hadn't proved worthy of that attention, and that is what Kongming's been telling us for the duration of this arc. In spite of his certainty, there's still a palpable tension in the moments running up to Eiko's song here; the fog of war becoming thicker than ever coupled with her brief hesitance to start. We, as viewers, understand that this all has to work out somehow from a narrative standpoint, and yet in that moment our beliefs are tested as they have across this whole storyline wondering how Kongming was going to make this work. It's only a small delay before Eiko busts into her performance of "Dreamer," the big setpiece that arrives just three minutes into the episode, but that's enough run-up to make it deliver.
How you actually feel about "Dreamer" as a song (and as mentioned previously, I think 96Neko's done a stupendous job of conveying how far Eiko's performing ability has come) isn't super relevant in selling this scene, since the direction therein is as expertly expressed in doing so as anything Ya Boy Kongming! has pulled off in its run. We hear the audience expressing that "Who is this?!" response a performance like this has to provoke in order to work. That audience is a macrocosm of the member of the populace we know Eiko has resolved to sing for at this point: Nanami, who is fully turned against her producer Karasawa and the direction of her career. She doesn't need to dramatically take off her mask in that moment, the art instead simply opts to only now fully render her eyes behind that mask. It's honestly an inspired artistic choice, as Nanami's identity was something the show never kept secret, it instead illustrates her fully realizing who she is again on an internal level— saved from the death of self by Eiko's music, as Eiko herself was previously saved by music.
That might come off as overblown in description of what is still, essentially, a reverse-isekai comedy with a goofy title like Ya Boy Kongming!, but it's 100% on-brand for this series, which has always been completely serious about music and its power. Eiko's victory-securing song is immediately followed up with Azalea getting their own lavishly animated performance, playing for the fans, their real fans, who would still show up for them regardless. This turns out to be where Kongming's machinations come back into play and we finally confirm the full scope of his schemes. It would appear that Kongming really did plan for each step involving Azalea in this arc, already having a graphic ready to go for their "Reborn!" iteration, proving to Karasawa that there was a way to provide the band that 'One Big Break' they needed to be successful performing for themselves. It's an engaging spin, given those earlier misgivings about how involved Eiko was in promoting her own performances for Kongming, who always believed in the musical power of his Lord, to prove to Karasawa the importance of having faith in one's clients capabilities. The brief tease in this confrontation, the idea of a marquee managerial battle of Kongming vs Karasawa, is dispelled almost immediately, as it's clarified that his big, surprising plan in this case was not just to help Azalea, but also Karasawa himself, in all rediscovering their love of genuine performance.
It rounds back to the ultimate theme of Ya Boy Kongming! in this case, one that's been teased throughout the series: the idea of "character development" for such an established exaggerated historical domain caricature as Zhuge Liang. His series opening wish to be Reborn! into peaceful times wasn't simply setting flavor-text, it was a direct declaration of intent from this version of the man himself. Apart from deploying cutthroat military tactics as applied to musical promotion, Kongming has, every step of the way, made a point of assisting his and Eiko's opponents as well, seeking to leave them better off than when they clashed with them. With the revolutionizing of Karasawa and his approach now as an example, it shows how Kongming could wind up being so much more than a passive participant in this peaceful world he's been Reborn! into: his approach could end up revolutionizing the world of music, and maybe the world itself, into a kinder, more genuine place. We understand, in this moment as he gazes upon the ghost of his former master Liu Bei, why wanting to make up for all the lives he took in his previous incarnation would mean he wasn't being exaggeratingly grandiose in his titling of this scheme as "Plan For Peace Throughout The World, Volume 1."
"Volume 1." This obviously isn't the end for Kongming and Eiko's story, but it is where this season of anime leaves them off, and it's a pretty damn good finish. My expounding on the (perhaps too flowery described) depth of everything that led here is something I hope makes its successes clear, but even simply as a depiction of an eccentric tactician helping a lovable up-and-coming EDM artist promote herself, it all comes together swimmingly. The finale makes use of a presentational trope I admit to being an absolute sucker for: the quiet, reflective conversation between the two leads at the end (bonus points if they're on top of a roof taking a breather from a big party that's otherwise happening). The synergy and faith in their abilities for each other is more palpable than it ever has been. As well, the revelation about Kongming's role in bringing about this "peacetime," how far he's come because of it, clarifies that it wasn't just him helping Eiko out in her journey, she's provoked development and growth out of him too. Harmony is a key part of any good musical performance, after all. And Ya Boy Kongming! has always been about the music.
Ya Boy Kongming! is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.
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