- Titles: Paripi Koumei, Party People Kongming, Ya Boy Kongming!
- Genre: Comedy, supernatural, music
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: P.A. Works
Almost 2000 years ago the west was divided. Three powerful kingdoms waged endless war and the populace knew no peace. One day a man with a dream came forth, a simple but powerful dream to unite the land and heal its wounds so that the people could once again know joy. And for this dream to come to pass, he sought the help of the great sage Zhuge Liang, courtesy name Kongming, who would become one of the greatest war strategists of all time. Kongming spent his life on the battlefield wracking up unbelievable victories for his master and for the sake of that dream. But that was almost 2000 years ago. Now that Kongming has awakened in modern-day Shibuya, what will he do with his wonderous intellect? Will he find a new dream to follow? How about Eiko’s dream of becoming a world-class singer? The entertainment industry can be ruthless, how will an old warlord deal with it?
I was very curious about how China was viewing Ya Boy Kongming. After all, Kongming is a central and respected character in both classic Chinese literature and history. I did find one article repeated over and over again saying that the nation took offence at one particular scene but all the individual blog posts and Reddit posts I could find by actual Chinese viewers were very positive. Make of that what you will. I guess it’s a good sign if people in China could see the show at all.
Ya Boy Kongming isn’t exactly a powerhouse animation or anything. The visuals are fine. I like the character designs and turning Kongming into an ikeman was a fun touch. But they’re not very detailed and tend to be a little inconsistent. Still, it’s not a show I ever thought looked bad, maybe just a bit unimpressive.
The sound design is quite important here since music plays a central role. They do that thing that a lot of musicals (idol) anime do where one song is repeated in almost every episode for some reason and I got pretty fed up with it. I also liked the OP way more than that song so I wish they had just repeated that instead.
The brunt of the show rests on Kongming’s performance. His presence is so overwhelming that it can be felt even in episodes that don’t feature him. As such his performance was key. And it was great. I particularly enjoyed how the actor could switch from a hardened more imperative tone to a softer gentler inflection with so much subtlety that you would hardly notice it but somehow knew exactly what was happening in the scene. He also injects a slight mirth in most of his delivery that made me smile.
Story & Characters
In case my synopsis was unclear, Kongming of the Three Kingdoms fame, is unexplainably transported to modern-day Japan where he promptly decides to help a young barmaid with dreams of becoming a popular singer. He is starting at the very bottom so he has to build up a whole career from scratch.
The premise itself is rather amusing. Not mind-blowing but you can see the potential of it. It becomes considerably more interesting if you have read the Three Kingdoms as passages are directly references and you can see how the strategies are modernized and reapplied to fit the circumstances. It makes you really appreciate Kongming’s brand of genius. And honestly, as far as fictional masterminds go, Kongming is better than average. You know how it’s very difficult to write a genius unless you are a genius so fictional masterminds usually have a lot of luck on their side or there are some narrative tricks that make them sound very smart even if they aren’t actually saying or doing anything.
Well, in this case, there was an actual template to go from. And countless examples of real-world war strategies that can be used as the basis for Kongming’s. So he does come off as genuinely brilliant and occasionally pretty devious. This strengthens the character considerably.
Now it is a bit of a double-edged sword. Ya Boy Kongming is a character-driven story. You can change the events around quite a bit, you could make Eiko an aspiring actress or even an environmental activist instead of a singer and as long as the characters are the same in spirit, you will end up with largely the same show. That means that these characters have a lot on their shoulders.
The entire cast is great. They are all likeable and very different. They all have distinct personalities and issues to work through. All the main characters have a decent arc, even Nanami who is introduced pretty late in the season. And I just liked them for what it’s worth. But…
In my opinion, they all pale next to Kongming. They come off as more subdued and generic when he enters a scene and since his presence hangs over the whole show, they never really get a chance to shine that bright.
Have you ever watched a movie or live-action TV series where one actor is just so much better than the others? So whenever they’re on they draw all the attention and when you turn off the TV, it’s the only character you remember? People around just seem like people acting in comparison. It happened to me lately with Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m not a huge fan of the man but boy, he was acting circles around the rest of the cast and it made the movie feel unbalanced. It messed up the suspension of disbelief.
Well I got the same impression from Kongming. Not because the actors had any discrepancy in their performances, but the character of Kongming is just much more lovingly crafted and there’s a depth to him that I couldn’t see in the rest. It does help that Kongming is a preexisting character with a lot of history to draw from. That makes him difficult to compete with.
I keep talking about the Three Kingdoms and history and so forth. I should clear this up now. You absolutely do not need to know anything about Kongming to enjoy Ya Boy Kongming. You can go in completely blind and not miss a thing. The show is careful to not assume that their audience has any prior knowledge of the subject matter without talking down to them. I just get the impression that the author could craft a very detailed and nuanced Kongming because they had previous writing to get inspired from and that was missing for the other characters.
I also think that if Kongming wasn’t there I probably would have thought the cast was great. Because it was.
I enjoyed the show a lot. I thought the pacing was fantastic and I was looking forward to each episode. I really had fun with the strategies Kongming devised and like I said, they actually made sense and were impressive. Except for the last one.
SPOILERS AHEAD – JUMP SHIP IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ THEM!!!
Ok so hear me out. Eiko wants to participate in this very popular music festival but in order to get a spot, she needs to have a single post on pinstragram reach 100 000 likes before the deadline. It’s a huge task for her. She’s competing with another band to do so and this other band is actually openly buying likes. Basically, they are organizing a pop-up concert where they will flash a QR code. People can scan the code to automatically like their concert post and be entered to get paid. Kongming basically hijacks the event and gets a huge amount of likes for Eiko before people realize they aren’t liking the right post.
This is based on the 100 000 arrows strategy which was amazing. In his previous life as a war strategist, Kongming was on a particular battlefield with a general who did not like him. In order to get rid of Kongming, the general asked him to ready 100 000 arrows for the troops to use in the next few days. This was an open ploy to just get him out of the way as it was clearly impossible and the General would then be able to rub the failure in his face. However, Kongming accepted happily and had the arrows ready the next day.
Turns out that he had gotten a bunch of roughly soldier-shaped scarecrows on their fleet of small boats and sent the boats out towards the enemy camp during a foggy dusk where it would have been tough to make out anything more than shapes. The enemy attacked the decoys with a barrage of arrows and Kongming simply brought back the tethered boats and retrieved the arrows stuck in the scarecrows.
I really liked this strategy. It’s simple but you can see how it worked. You can argue that the fog was lucky but Kongming also knew the terrain and area, he knew that there was a high likelihood of fog there. It’s not perfect but I think it’s a great strategy.
And the hijacking of the votes was supposed to be an update of that. But it sort of messes with the tone of the series. Ya Boy Kongming does show us that at times Kongming has had to be fairly ruthless to win wars. He does have a fair amount of blood on his hands and although he does not relish violence, he also doesn’t shy away from it. But Eiko is unfailingly gentle and kind. And her influence as Kongming’s new master has softened him considerably. We see him as not only honourable but altruistic. And seeing his take away another band’s opportunity for Eiko was a bit odd. I mean he does ultimate also help that other band out but they lose their spot in the festival. What’s more, in the aftermath, the other band legitimately earns 104 000 likes without paying for them while we only see Eiko get to 100 000 even and 70 000 of those were from people that thought they were liking another person’s post. It just seems a bit unfair.
Also KABE Taijin. I love Kabe, I’m really glad he’s in the story. But when you really think about it, Kongming made a huge deal about how necessary he is and when push came to shove, he didn’t really do anything.
There you go, those are my two minor nitpicks about the narrative. Otherwise, I really have nothing bad to say. It’s not going to be for everyone. It’s a goofy character-driven comedy and I know a lot of my contemporaries don’t like comedies. But if you do like comedies, it’s a lot of fun.
You might like this anime if:
You enjoy light comedies
My favourite character:
I think Kongming is the only right answer but I also did really like Kabe even if I think he’s an inferior character, I enjoyed his arc a lot.
- Every time Eiko sings – clap
- Every time Kongming requests a command – take a sip
- Every time we see pinstagram – take a sip
- Every time there’s a 3 kingdoms flashback – pay attention
- Every time anyone thinks that Kongming is cosplaying – take a sip
- Every time we see a bottle of water – switch to water
- Every time anyone says “proposal” – take a sip
- Every time Kongming is being Eiko’s biggest fan – take a sip
- Every time we see Eiko’s actual biggest fan – take another a sip
- Every time someone sings the “whispers of love” line – take a sip
- Every time there’s an ancient Chinese remedy – drink some water again
- Every time the end credits change – now you’ll have to watch them all!
- Every time anyone says “Three Kingdoms” – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.