5 Reasons To Watch: Ya Boy, Kongming

#1 War strategy meets music industry

In October of the year 234, Chinese general Zhuge Liang, courtesy name Kongming, passes away shortly before an important battle. Long has he served the noble ideals of his late lord Liu Bei, but alas; he would not live to see their war to its conclusion. Instead, Kongming finds himself awakening on a Halloween eve amidst partying teenagers in modern-day Tokyo. No amount of strategic foresight could have prepared him for that.

PHOTO: Kongming presenting a formal greeting to Eiko.

Confused, Kongming stumbles his way into a club where he then witnesses a performance by amateur singer Eiko. She is one of countless performers hoping to somehow turn her passion into a professional career. So far, popularity has eluded her. This changes when Kongming becomes enchanted by Eiko. Whisked away from his time and place, stripped off his duties, Kongming dedicated himself to a new cause. He will become Eiko’s manager and help her achieve fame within the cutthroat battlefield that is the music industry.

The premise of an ancient Chinese warlord becoming a modern-day manager is incredibly funny, but also sparks the imagination. It gives you that initial laugh, then makes you wonder just how a feudal general would handle a modern industry. How could military strategy be applied to managing a rising star?

This is where Ya Boy, Kongming gets very clever. Kongming comes up with actual strategies inspired by historic battles, which are then retooled to fit his new line of work. This cleverness is the anime’s main appeal and I hate that I can’t give any examples of it. I want to rant about how gosh darn surprising this show is, but doing so would spoil some incredible twists. I hate having ethics.

#2 Constant Three Kingdoms references

Let me just reveal this right away: I love Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Dynasty Warriors was one of the first games I ever played on the Playstation 2 and since then I have consumed numerous other media that adapted this setting. Including anime like Beyond the Heavens.

PHOTO: Eiko is confused as Kongming and her boss turn sad whilst talking Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

To geeks like me, Ya Boy, Kongming does not disappoint. It’s deeply familiar with the source material and eager to flex that at every opportunity. Kongming himself constantly brings up famous characters and relates their achievements to whatever is happening in the story now. He also has amazing banter with Eiko’s boss, who is a massive Three Kingdoms nerd too. They’re constantly talking about these old battles and making jokes about Kongming’s contemporaries. It’s exciting stuff for anyone with an interest in this period of history or its romanticized adaptation.

A lot of these references won’t land for a majority of people and the anime knows that. Other characters in the story react with the same baffled confusion that a portion of the audience will feel. This gives a lot of scenes layers of comedy. So if you don’t get the reference, you can at least laugh along with the befuddled characters that also don’t get what’s going on.

#3 Kongming’s dynamic to the modern world

A story like this usually comes with a lot of “fish out of water” style comedy. A character transported to a different time and place, struggling to figure out how things work. They think phones are magical books, believe skyscrapers to be fortresses, that kinda deal. Ya Boy, Kongming does have this, but gets it out of its system fast.

PHOTO: Kongming rapping into a mic.

Episode 1 has a number of jokes to this effect when Kongming first arrives in the modern world. This initial confusion at how modern life works fades away quickly; Kongming comes to understand it just fine. He starts to use a phone and takes up a job that he gets the hang off quickly. He’s a genius tactician, so it makes sense that he’d have little problem adjusting to new circumstances. It’s a nice subversion of expectations that then gives the comedy entirely new directions to go in.

This is made extra entertaining because he keeps presenting himself like a weirdo ripped out of his time. He keeps wearing his formal clothes and hat, always carries a fan around. He does silly things like buying these tacky novelty glasses that make it seem like he has no taste whatsoever. Except it’s all very deliberate and serves purpose. Though I again won’t spoil exactly how this comes into play.

#4 The music is so good

I am not really the kinda person to go clubbing. While the historical period was right up my alley, Ya Boy, Kongming‘s music is very much opposite of what I usually like to listen to. Lots of EDM mixed with pop music, rap, and some very mild rock influences. Nevertheless, I came around to really enjoying the soundtrack.

PHOTO: Eiko during a live performance at a dark venue full of smoke.

The music is all-around very solid and I enjoyed the broad spectrum of genres that it tackles. There are high-speed electronic songs that hype up the club, but also slower, heartfelt songs or intense rock-adjacent tracks. Not only do they sound great, they are also performed in the anime itself. A lot of runtime goes to the characters performing these songs and those are reliably some of the most exciting moments in the anime.

Even if I didn’t care much for the song itself, watching Eiko perform it in a crowded club—with all the atmosphere surrounding it—changes the experience entirely. It sounds cheesy, but at times it genuinely succeeds at drawing you into these performances.

#5 Eiko is so cute

We haven’t talked much about her, but Eiko is a fantastic character as well. She is a passionate artist with a strong sense of perseverance and lively personality. She is also very modest, though this occasionally leaks into self-denigrating behavior. She lacks confidence in her own skills and potential, even as her career begins to take off.

Kongming is a perfect partner for her and not just to give structure to her career. Eiko is upbeat and kind, but also a touch naive. As she begins to make waves, it doesn’t take long before others attempt to abuse her good nature. Other singers try to trick her for their own gain. Like in one early storyline where a more popular singers gets her a slot at a festival, but at the exact same time as herself. She isn’t doing Eiko a kindness, she is hoping everybody will come to her stage because the only alternative is a rookie nobody. Still, that nature is also what makes Eiko so precious.

Eiko is also made more lovable by how expressive she is. As charming and beautiful as she is during performances, there are also many moments when she’s just so silly. I couldn’t even pick a single picture from the dozens I took of her. Hence the collage above.

More like this…

Bocchi the Rock: Talented youth kickstart their music career.

Devilman Crybaby: Anime with Japanese rap in it.

Sangokushi: Romance of the Three Kingdoms in anime format.

2 thoughts on “5 Reasons To Watch: Ya Boy, Kongming

  1. Good reminder that I have to finish this show. Bizarre concept, but I like ROTK and Zhuge Liang was one of the most fun guys in that story, so the fish-out-of-water thing really works well with him. I’m not big on the music, but it definitely does fit the party atmosphere of a lot of the show. And yeah, Eiko is cute, that’s a draw too.

    1. I went into it with the same mindset of “this may be fun, but the music won’t be my thing” and ended up really liking it. Even liking the music quite a lot. If you give it a shot, I hope you enjoy it too man.

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