Konosuba: Legend Of Crimson Review - Falls Short

  • First Released Nov 12, 2019
  • movie

You're better off just waiting for Season 3.

Konosuba has made a name for itself in the jam-packed isekai subgenre with its series of interconnected, humorous skits that poke fun at both fantasy anime and video game tropes. For two seasons, Konosuba has delivered plenty of laughs and attracted a huge fanbase in spite of its you-love-to-hate-them characters and an almost distractingly large amount of sexual fanservice. As a movie, Konosuba: Legend of Crimson is the anime's first attempt at stretching its style of story-telling across 90 minutes. And though the movie does manage to capture some of what makes Konosuba special, for the most part, it veers too far off track--abandoning the main series' traditional formula to deliver a story that's not very fun to watch.

The opening act of the movie is the best part of the story, mostly because it leans into the best aspect of Konosuba: its main cast. Scumbag Kazuma continues to lead his party of dysfunctional adventurers--self-proclaimed goddess and selfish crybaby Aqua, masochistic Darkness, and explosion-obsessed Megumin--on missions in hopes of recovering from their massive financial debt, but with little success. The four have settled into a natural comedic rhythm at this point and the opening act of Legend of Crimson leans into the familial bond shared between the band of misfits, quickly delivering jokes as the main conflict is being set up.

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In this case, the four are drawn back to Megumin's home village after a letter warns an approaching army is set to destroy it. As is the case with most of Konosuba's stories, Kazuma and his party only manage to make the situation much worse upon their arrival, and so they decide it's up to them to fix the wrong they unwittingly set free upon Megumin's home. The movie stretches out this one storyline by interjecting several side-stories throughout--such as Megumin's mother trying to get her daughter to sleep with Kazuma and Megumin introducing her new friends to her old classmates.

After its opening act, Legend of Crimson largely struggles to capture the same tone as the anime series because it splits up the core group of characters. As Megumin and Kazuma are the main focus, Aqua and Darkness are left out of the picture for long stretches of time. As often as the first two seasons of Konosuba split up its main characters, it typically reunited them rather quickly or switched up who was with who to maintain a regular dose of the wide variety of dynamics that exist within the core cast. In Legend of Crimson, where it's mostly just Kazuma and Megumin, there's little variety in terms of humor--the movie repeats the same type of jokes over and over because it's only focusing on one relationship. The movie even repeats one of its set-ups, Kazuma and Megumin locked in a room together and Kazuma wondering if it would be alright to make a move, twice within the span of a few minutes. As a result, the movie grows rather dull after its exciting opening (with very few standout moments of genuinely funny jokes scattered throughout its runtime) until it reunites Kazuma, Megumin, Darkness, and Aqua in the finale and once again leans into the strength of Konosuba's formula.

Legend of Crimson focuses on Kazuma and Megumin in order to inject some actual character development into Konosuba, structuring the duo's deepening romantic infatuation with each other around the core theme of the movie: acceptance. It's a nice development for the overall story, especially since the first two seasons of Konosuba primarily focus on Kazuma's growing platonic friendship with Aqua and sexual relationship to Darkness. But the overall message--that two people in love will accept each other regardless of their faults--falls flat when it turns to almost any other relationship in the movie.

Granted, there are moments when this theme shines through. One of the better examples is when Kazuma, Darkness, and Aqua first meet people from Megumin's town and Kazuma puts aside his embarrassment to deliver a chunibyo-like introduction like they do--an act that earns him respect and gratification as he's one of the first outsiders to not mock their culture. Considering how openly contentious Kazuma was of Megumin the first time she introduced herself, it's a rare moment of growth for his character as he willingly forces himself to do something that he knows will make Megumin happy. Small moments like this suggest that Kazuma is trying to grow as a person. But, as much as the movie implies he's grown, Kazuma's interactions with other characters reveal that's definitely not the case. In Legend of Crimson, Kazuma largely devolves as a person, becoming someone who's genuinely unlikable and very difficult to root for.

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It all comes to a head when Kazuma and his party meet Sylvia, the main antagonist of the movie. Sylvia takes a liking to Kazuma immediately and--in typical villainous fashion--attempts to draw him to her side by promising to treat him with the respect he deserves. Eager to escape his worthless teammates and begin a life of luxury with the most curvaceous character he's ever encountered, Kazuma initially accepts the proposal and Sylvia treats him with the kindness she promised; she accepts him, faults and all. However, Kazuma's tune changes upon learning Sylvia possesses male anatomy (the movie borrows the definition of a chimera to provide a fantastical explanation for Sylvia, who was biologically born a man but identifies as a woman and thus is part-way through a sex change), and his party members immediately accept him back, sharing in his repulsion for Sylvia. The whole scene comes off deeply transphobic.

And therein lies the true problem with Legend of Crimson. Konosuba has never been an anime known for its restraint, but it has primarily aimed its rambunctious humor at poking fun at harmless cliches and tropes in anime or video games, not discrimination. Pretty much every character in the show is an archetype to the extreme--for example, Aqua is such a stubborn tsundere (a Japanese term to describe someone who's normally argumentative and haughty to hide their true caring nature) that she comes off as idiotic, violent, and emotionally stunted while Megumin is the purest essence of a gamer who refuses to help their teammates until the final moment so they can get the coolest kill and earn play of the game. You can't apply this formula to jokes about race, sex, or gender without coming off as discriminatory, though. And yet, Legend of Crimson stupidly goes for it anyway, cranking the traditional depiction of trans and cross-dressing characters in anime as the foundation for its antagonist--a "trap" that tricks men into falling in love with them because they're too gross to love--and then trying to play that portrayal off as a joke. It's not funny at all, and it creates a deeply uncomfortable feeling that permeates throughout most of the latter half of the movie, ruining pretty much any of the goodwill that Kazuma attempts to earn by accepting Megumin in spite of her perceived worthlessness.

The movie continually falls short on this theme of acceptance in other regards too--though never to the same extent as saying trans people are gross. Legend of Crimson does manage to deliver on this theme twice, in both the aforementioned relationship between Kazuma and Megumin as well as in the backstory behind Megumin and Yunyun's bond. Despite being Megumin's childhood friend and rival, Yunyun has never been one of the main characters in Konosuba and Legend of Crimson doesn't buck that trend. But the movie takes a few moments to explore why Megumin cares for Yunyun, and the reveal does more for both of their characters than the entirety of the two existing seasons of the anime. It's well-written, changes the entire perception of Yunyun for the better, and provides an opportunity for Megumin to mature as a person in the movie's final moments.

And they're some good final moments. After moving along with a lackadaisical bombardment of boring and unfunny jokes for most of its runtime, Legend of Crimson delivers a finale jam-packed with the same colorful animation and fast-paced humor that makes the first two seasons of the anime series as popular as they are. As annoying and worthless as each of Konosuba's main characters are alone, Legend of Crimson's conclusion is a reminder that when they're together, they're second-to-none--a group of lovable idiots that are easy to cheer for. Despite their faults, these four are a team, and they can single-handedly carry a storyline just through their interactions and relationship with each other. It's a good ending, but it's a slog of a storyline to get to that emotional payoff.

Konosuba is normally a funny series that rises above most other modern isekai anime by doing humorous bits and curating well-written skits between its four main characters. Legend of Crimson largely doesn't work because it deviates from this formula. By focusing too exclusively on two of the main four for most of the movie's runtime, it allows for jokes to grow repetitive--disrupting the overall flow of humor. It certainly doesn't help that Legend of Crimson tries to fill this void with jokes that are downright harmful. And although there are heart-warming moments in the movie, especially between Megumin and Yunyun, they're few in number. Without humor or an emotional connection to the characters, Konosuba: Legend of Crimson is just a story about annoying characters doing stupid things with little in the way of redeeming qualities.

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The Good

  • Opening act is humorous
  • Closing scenes are touching

The Bad

  • Transphobic jokes go against the overall message of acceptance
  • Most of the film's humor is repetitive, and the jokes just aren't as funny the second time
  • Regularly splitting Aqua and Darkness off from Kazuma and Megumin disrupts the foundation of Konosuba's premise

About the Author

Jordan isn't a huge fan of modern-day isekai manga and anime, though there are a few he repeatedly jumps back into on a regular basis--with The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Konosuba, and Overlord remaining his favorites. As you may imagine, he's a pretty big fan of Isekai Quartet. He watched Konosuba: Legend of Crimson with a press screener courtesy of Ellation.