Greetings friends! As always, I shall be going on a long rant about morality in anime, so bear with me. The last thing I wrote about was an isekai trope in DanMachi, so I might as well continue the tradition with just about the most popular isekai anime show of twenty sixteen, “Konosuba, God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!” Immediately after the first season aired, and perhaps even during its run, I was already seeing memes, videos and clips of it everywhere on the internet, largely based on the more interesting of the secondary protagonists, Megumin the Mage. The amount of praise is overwhelming, and even critics of it gave surprisingly positive scores across the board. Online praise for anime is a strange beast; sometimes a show will get high scores just because it is a huge fan-service show with good animation quality, and sometimes a show will get low scores for the exact same thing.
Every show in the isekai (other world) genre usually receives fair to mixed reviews, with large constituents on both sides arguing how bad or good a show is. This seems to infer to someone like me that this genre is dominated by shows which ride on their premises or popularity rather than more critical or technical considerations. Each show is unique though, so such generalizations are a bit vulgar, but at the same time, the argument should be made that shows in the fantasy genre over all, get pretty mixed reviews these days. People still love Sword Art Online, and Ordinal Scale is making a killing, but the critics usually tend to pick this series apart til little left can be seen of it than the shreds of charisma, wonder, and simple, thoughtless emotion that birthed it. Konosuba however, being a simple comedy and not even a serious fantasy drama, the first isekai show to be a comedy only, blows that generalization out of the water, taking home scores of nothing less than 8/10 most of the time, even though it does not take itself seriously in the slightest.
This overwhelming positivity was enough to peak my interest for a while, but I could never get around to watching it until now. Within five minutes of viewing, I was surprised to find its killer charm tugging me into it. The characters. The characters are what carry Konosuba, like a high level tank champion character, who is able to take all of the damage which a low-level team of adventurers would otherwise be destroyed by. The development of the shut-in NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) Kazuma and his off the wall, unexpected and unsatisfying journey to another world, was pathetic just as it was hilarious, being an extreme parody of all the MC tropes isekai has ever given us. Meeting the seemingly graceful and self-absorbed goddess aqua, and seeing her transform into a weeping mess of helpless chibi when in a pinch, was reminiscent of the brilliance which came of Umaru’s otaku-tantrums in “Himoutou! Umaru Chan.” Megumin’s incredibly iconic chunibyo obsession with explosion magic, and finally Darkness the knight girl’s literally sadomasochistic desire to take punishment for the team, was all kind of magical adventure in well done character study.
Everything else however, during and after the first five minutes of the first episode, left me confused and disturbed when trying to justify the sensual overtones of its comedy. So, in any anime in which a character goes to a world of RPG fantasy, one should always know that some amount of fan-service is expected, right? Well, Konosuba takes that fact and runs with it in such a blatant and in your face way that the comedy goes from innuendo, to straight sex jokes and incredibly bouncy animated breasts, in the blink of an eye. This anime is not listed as a harem show, yet the main character attracts a large retinue of exclusively female adventurers, all of which either have some strange sexual fetish, or are scantily clad. All of this comes from the desire to mock the subliminal and offensive fan-service in other isekai shows, by having fanservice which is even more over the top.
If you know me, and if you have visited my My Anime List profile, (https://myanimelist.net/profile/CharlesQBanks
) you will know that I base the score for any anime I’ve seen off of a Biblical, Christian ethic, with a large chunk of the score being dedicated to moral considerations. Every show I watch, I watch it both for my own enjoyment, but also to analyze its moral implications, and what it tells me about the human race and psyche of modern people groups. This is what interests me about Anime in general, since Japan has such a different moral and ethical background that it makes this kind of analyses even more interesting.
I’m usually pretty capable of figuring out the overall moral of a story and whether or not young’ins or old’ins should be watching them, but when it comes to things like Konosuba, I find myself conflicted, because while I intensely enjoyed its characters and satirical treatment of the isekai genre, I could never imagine myself recommending it to anyone whom I respect as having a gentlemanly sense of humor. Questions such as, “What is OK to watch, and what isn’t?” tend to become rather simple to answer when given a Christian worldview, and especially with the Scriptures to help along in that regard. “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial,” says the preacher, and based on the wealth of knowledge the Lord gives us through the Bible for daily living, we can easily divine which is which in any situation. There is still the issue of subjective personal conviction, and only God can judge in that department. One Christian may have no qualms watching all seasons of the Walking Dead, an incredibly graphic and violent series with little to recommend it to conservative audiences but for extremely intense relational drama, but at the same time utterly condemn the low-key iyashikei (healing) show Mushishi for being too demonic, morally neutral, and spiritually dark.
This type of situation is pretty much a matter of very specific delineation between morally gray boundary lines which are completely relative to a person’s walk with God. What this comes down to in the end is, like I said, personal conviction. Your conscience will always tell you if you begin to watch something displeasing to God, but it is your choice as to whether or not you listen to Him. This is what is meant by Paul in Romans when he speaks of Christians with stronger/weaker faith. One may eat meat and feel guilty about it and condemn themselves, another may eat meat and be completely justified in themselves because of the blood of Christ. The one condemns themselves because they felt convicted about it yet chose to eat anyway, and the other is free from condemnation, not because they didn’t consider the situation, but because their conscience was not telling to not eat it under the Grace and freedom of God.
All of what I just said is to explain differences in dealing with very morally subjective situations which are matters of detail, like eating meat sacrificed to idols or not, but when it comes down to something like fan-service, the line is a little more clearly drawn than. “But Charles!” I hear you say, “You’re a Christian, and yet you watched Konosuba! If you had such objections to it, why’d you keep watching it, huh?” When it comes down to how I feel about Konosuba, it has to do with the fact that I actually enjoy it. The reason I get conflicted about it, is that I know that it is not an appropriate show for Christians or gentlemen to watch, and yet I did enjoy it, not because of the fan-service or innuendo, but in spite of it, because of all the other good things in it.
The only other reason I can justify having watched it, is that I was not necessarily tempted by its displays of sexuality, merely disgusted by it, and I know that many indeed would be tempted by it, even if I was not. It is, I would say, an objectively enjoyable anime; that is to say, that if you love anime, and are familiar with the anime sub-culture, you will indeed enjoy this show, whether you are a Christian or not. There comes the rub, that according to the Christian ethical code, it is unhealthy, and defiling to indulge in such smutty entertainment. The problem with sexual innuendos and sex jokes, is that they dehumanize people; mankind, womankind, and the human body, in a way that makes fun of that which brings forth love, life, and intimacy, as well as the image of God itself. So when it comes down to thinking about healthy sexual embarrassment and what sex is, it means nothing but a joke to the secularist, because according to the them, we should not be embarrassed about sex, and sex and gender roles can be casual nothings, swept into the dust bin of history as something outdated and obstructive to human freedom. The atheists will always advocate for free love, even the intellectual atheists, and that in itself is degrading to inherent human nobility, given only by God. That in itself is what secular people like about sex jokes, and what people would like about Konosuba’s humor, it brings down the common denominator between people, and makes anything that is taboo out to be basically a joke.
I feel I must explain the sort of subculture of person I’m talking about more specifically, because saying that people will like Konosuba for its smuttiness is obvious, but also an oversimplification. So, in example, admitting that pornography is a proud part of your life, is an embarrassing and shameful social suicide, and very well should be. However, in the secular otaku world, admitting that you visit porn-sites regularly seems to be a rite of passage for the community. So, to the worldly, Konosuba is quite a step forward in advocating for that sort of accepted state of unembarrassed perverseness they all desire. Again, I feel I must qualify, that not all otaku or secular people have this mindset; there are definitely anime lovers who have a more nuanced moral code to their anime viewing, even if they are not Christians. That being said, Konosuba is not written for those type of people, but the former, who love the idea of coming out of the proverbial closet to express their sincere feelings; that they are people who are sexually perverse.
This is why I will not recommend Konosuba to Christian audiences, and to answer my question, while it is not inappropriate to enjoy Konosuba’s plot or characters, it IS inappropriate to enjoy its humor unequivocally.
Something that a friend commented to me about this blog when I mentioned it to him, was the fact that two out of three of the anime blogs that I’m going to have written once this gets out will have been negative diatribes about anime that are examples of the perverted stereotypes I always thought anime to be, because for a while, I thought anime was just for children or perverted adults. Now, I want to prove that stereotype wrong by talking about the fact that my past stereotype of anime as perverse is an over-generalization which brushes to the wayside a whole crowd of morally acceptable, great anime which actually exist out there, and bring these to Christians online.
There are always bad or immoral parts or additions to any given medium, and it is the duty of the discerning consumer, and especially the critical thinker, to find and praise the best, and to find and warn the world of the worst. The funny thing about these particular anime that I’ve been criticizing, is that all of the more fan-service focused shows, are Isekai shows. SAO was a fan-service-like show, Re;Zero was a mildly fan-service show, DanMachi is a certain kind of fan-service show, and Konosuba is definitely a fanservice show, and it definitely does not help my case that Konosuba definitely fulfills the perverted stereotypes. The common denominator among all of these isekai shows, is that they all share a negative problem with anime in general; fan-service. The world may say, oh sexual fan-service can be good if it is done the right way, but for upright, self-respecting, morally minded people, especially Christians who have their reasons for moral standards given to them by God, fan-service is never right, and no amount of enjoyable content can make blatant sexual objectification OK.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading, I am impressed by you. Keep on keeping on, watching anime in the goodness and grace of God.