#1 Poverty and misery in the parallel world
When a young NEET called Kazuma Satou leaves the safety of his room to go buy a new video game, his life is abruptly and embarrassingly taken from him. Having lived a pathetic life, Kazuma is brought before the Goddess Aqua who mocks and belittles him while eating snacks and laughing it up. Saito is then tasked with reincarnating into an alternate world and becoming a hero, for which he is allowed to take a single divine relic with him. As an act of spite, he chooses Aqua.
The two of them are immediately teleported away and suddenly find themselves standing around on the streets of a medieval-fantasy city, with Aqua being, understandably, more than a little upset about being taken away from her divine realm. As Kazuma takes the lead in starting their adventuring life, they also soon realize that they are dirt poor, directionless, and lack any kind of skill with meaningful value in battle or medieval society.
Konosuba is an isekai story with no mercy for its protagonists. They are plunged headfirst into poverty and circumstances always seem to conspire to keep them there. They can’t reliably eat every day, they don’t have a place to call their home for most of it, and even when they score a big paycheck somehow, chances are it’ll backfire on them somewhere down the line.
It’s cruel, but a hilarious change of pace from the usual wish-fulfillment direction that many entries in this fantasy sub-genre take.
#2 A party of idiots
Kazuma’s quest is to go out there with only a tracksuit to his name and somehow managing to defeat the evil demon king and his officers. It’s a big quest and not one that is likely to rally the most sane of party-members to his side.
Aqua, former Goddess reduced to a priestess, is generally dim-witted and wastes her fantastic starting points on useless skills. She is prone to emotional outbursts and unreasonable fits of rage, with any praise she does receive for her role as party healer going to her head and causing her to become reckless. Kazuma is also joined by Megumin and Darkness, a young mage whose spells are too powerful for her mana supply and a crusader with a fetish for taking lots of damage.
Kazuma himself is a bit of a hybrid character himself without any skill he truly excels at. His background as a gamer does allow him to grasp the logic of this new world and strategize effectively, but his party members are all wildcards that can sometimes unexpectedly save the day, but usually cause his plans to derail and spiral into chaos.
#3 Dumb quests, silly monsters
Just like in a fantasy RPG, Kazuma and Aqua begin their journey in a city for beginning adventurers. Unlike the typical adventurers’ town, though, the problems plaguing Axel don’t typically involve goblins, rats, or other common starter foes.
Nay, goblins and orcs and spiders are someone else’s problems in this universe. Axel has to deal with the occasional invasion of flying cabbages or the breeding season of the local giant frogs causing them to feast on the farm animals and tiny children.
Every quest is treated as an important event, only to have some comedic twist or involve hilarious monsters. Even so, they still manage to make story events exciting, with the season finales always standing out by presenting a big threat that gives all the silly characters genuinely heroic moments and strengthening the bonds between them.
#4 Cute girls & fanservice
The character designs by Kurone Mishima are absolutely amazing, creating a cast of female characters that are immediately recognizable and appealing. Designs are very striking, such as Aqua’s eccentric dress style and distinct lack of underpants or Darkness’ knightly yet colorful armor, which makes the lewd masochist actually look like quite the respectable and pious warrior.
People love these characters both because of their personalities and because of their designs. Fanart of the girls has dominated anime communities since the show first began airing in 2016 and shows no signs of letting up. This also spurred on a counter-movement of people appreciating Kazuma and other male characters, whose design are definitely more simplistic, yet have their own touches and nuances that reflect Mishima’s skill as an artist.
Of course, where there are cute anime girls, there shall be fan-service. Konosuba has a lot of lewd comedy to it and the girls are plenty sexy, though not always in the most mainstream ways. Fan-service scenes are often creative and very comedic, though I have to say that I personally found the OVA episode God’s Blessing on this Wonderful Choker a bit too mean-spirited and uncomfortable. Fortunately, season 2 manages to redirect its course back to light-hearted fun.
#5 Highly expressive
Controversial take here: I don’t actually mind Studio Deen much. I have heard a lot of criticism directed at the studio and its animation work, but have thoroughly enjoyed many of their shows and think their iconic touches often add much to them. Konosuba is an example of such.
It’s not a good-looking show and it’s certainly not consistent in its animation. Characters frequently look wrong, though never to a point where they become unrecognizable. I mean, not even the season 2 opening song can keep it together and that’s just 90 seconds of animation that reoccurs every episode.
What makes this work for Konosuba is that the “flexible” animation mixes well with the characters’ expressive natures. The show is full of scenes that make for excellent reaction gifs as characters throw angry fits of rage, break out into deranged laughter, or, as in the picture above, celebrate the potential of their recently-acquired thieving skills. Every joke in the show is backed up by these expressive characters, making them incredibly memorable.