The first season of this anime just ended, and I. WANT. MORE. 🙂
The premise is one of those that, at first glance, it ought to have simply put me off, ya know? I mean, how ridiculous of a concept is it? A famous Chinese general of centuries past is, at the moment of his death, transported into modern-day Japan, whereupon he becomes the manager – or, rather, the “tactician” – of a promising young musician, using his many devious tactics to support her in her dreams of success as she competes with various other musicians for the favor of their audience. It’s a ridiculous, I say! Absolutely RIDICULOUS!
I found myself enjoying, appreciating, and even loving it!
…you would think, by now, that I would have become accustomed to being surprised by titles which, at first glance, one would think I wouldn’t like, but which prove themselves to be charming, enchanting, and even endearing. Spice and Wolf, Snow White with the Red Hair, Ah My Goddess, Silver Spoon, My Dress-Up Darling, and now Ya Boy Kongming! All of them, anime that I would not have expected to love so much, but I most certainly do! Oh, well. If nothing else, I can egotistically proclaim my own obvious wisdom in always giving anything at least one fair chance, per my one-episode rule. Mwahahah. 😉
Ya Boy Kongming starts by following its titular protagonist, Kongming, but the spotlight does not stay on him. He arrives in and adjusts to the modern era, becomes enchanted by the heartfelt singing of a girl named Eiko, and pledges his services to help her dreams come true. Those dreams are to make it big in the music business, that her voice might help to save someone, the same as she was saved by another musician at a low point in her life. Kongming’s devious schemes and tactics are adapted surprisingly well to the business of musical performances, yet he is but a humble guide. It’s Eiko who is truly the driving force of this anime. She puts in the work, and shines brilliantly as she bares her heart and soul on the stage. Hers is a liberating, uplifting, wholesome influence, and this first season of the show could easily be called her origin story: the who, the where, the how, and the why of her entrance into professional show biz, and the chronicling of her early triumphs.
Eiko’s triumphs do include singing before large crowds of people who enjoy her work, but a good amount of time is spent on her efforts to improve herself and her craft. She’s not alone in this, as Kongming recruits a partner of sorts for her in the form of a rapper, a young man who goes by Kabetaijin. Both of these promising artists are nurtured by Kongming’s influence, and they both dig deep to develop themselves, and to rise to the challenges presented to them. But most of all, and best of all, is when their work touches the hearts of those around them. That is the point of it all, of all this music that they make, not just to make money and stand in the spotlight for awhile, but to help those souls that are lost be found again.
This may sound presumptuous of me, but that, right there, is my idea of what is beautiful. Beauty, as I see it, is a force which uplifts the soul itself, and I find it here, in this anime. This is a big part of why I am craving for more.
Speaking of more physical kinds of beauty, I have to say, this anime is exceptionally well-crafted. The visual design and personal style of each of the characters speaks to who they, are. The animation is top notch, fluid and appealing without trying too hard, and without any obvious reliance on cheap tricks like CGI. It’s tricky making animated characters look appealing when they’re dancing, to make them look alive instead of robotic, but the style of Kongming pulls it off nicely, and that is no small thing. One could even say that every movement is part of expression of who they are and the journeys each of them is taking, such as when Kongming draws the rapper Kabetaijin up onto the stage, it’s clearly a powerful moment for the younger man. Every visual aspect of this show is, quite simply, excellent.
And the music! Oh, the music! I don’t know if there’s any English dub out yet, but whether there is or isn’t or ever will be, my most singular hope is, quite simply: do not ruin the soundtrack!
Yes, it might get a little tiresome when they have Eiko sing the same song so many times, but, even so, this is still a fantastic soundtrack, made all the more potent for how it does what stories are supposed to do, most of all: show us the characters in their defining moments, and show us how they grow. The characters are what truly drive the show. The visuals and audio design are the vehicle. And what a vehicle it is!
Speaking of, I have to wonder at the exact knowledge base of the people behind this anime. One moment, they’re referring to Kongming’s previous military strategies, and the next, they’re talking about the nuances of live musical performances. There is actually a great deal of thought, planning, and effort that goes into every aspect of stagecraft and the entertainment industry, so it actually feels natural for a renowned general to excel at such. There are ins and outs of music as an artistic form of expression, as a trade and craft, and as a financial business venture which are discussed and displayed with an intriguing amount of insight. And that, too, serves the story and the characters as it delves into the theme of every entertainer’s struggle to succeed, to become more than they were before, without losing themselves in the process.
I particularly like how the antagonist of the story is basically a dark version of Kongming, one who runs his music stars like a tyrannical general. Under him, he commands a trio of talented girls whose dreams for success swallowed them up into a darkness which they need help to climb out of. And that is the importance of Eiko’s work, her journey, and how her success is found in polishing, rather than changing, herself so she shines all the brighter.
About the only thing I might have changed, besides adding another dozen or so episodes, is having some scene where Eiko and Kabetaijin are performing for the audience together. I really like the two of them, and they could definitely make any crowd go wild. But, well, I suppose I’ll just have to hope they do that in the second season I am hoping for! 😉
In summary: we have an anime with lovable, interesting characters, powerful themes, wonderful music, awesome animation, a demonstrated knowledge both of Kongming’s military strategies and the modern music business, and a well-considered plot, all coming together to create something uplifting, something beautiful.
Yeah, I really like this show.
And I really want more! 🙂
Rating: 9 stars out of 10.
Grade: a solid A.