Beautiful dreamer, this is the story to set your worries to rest, the one you steer jaded anime fans towards in their time of doubt. This is a show vying for anime of the season, and one I find myself humming to day to day. If you haven’t tried out Ya Boy Kongming!, you are seriously doing a disfavor to yourself.
As colorful and hip as the promotional art for this anime was, I was still hesitant to let myself get excited. I’ve never been very interested in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms for some reason. The fact that the show itself was titled after a notable figure from that literary work confused me. Would this be some lame attempt at humor crossing times and genres? How much knowledge would I need of the original work?
You need absolutely zero knowledge of the Three Kingdoms or even ancient China to appreciate the humor in YBK!, nor do any of the jokes fall flat. Kongming is a perfect blend of sly wit and goofy modernity with his traditional clothing and brightly colored sunglasses. His move from wartorn history to the streets of Tokyo is sudden, but he adapts remarkably quickly without losing sight of his sense of self.
The inclusion of Eiko’s style of music–a mix of pop, hiphop, and EDM–seems at complete odds with Kongming, doesn’t it? Despite the oddity, his quick fall into love for her singing and bright light is both believable and endearing. I can’t not love a man who’s a fan of a girl as warm as Eiko. He might not understand the buzz of electronic music, but he knows he loves her voice and that he’d like to see it spread across the world.
The methods he takes to promote Eiko run parallel to known tactics from his wartime experience (supposedly? fans of Three Kingdoms please confirm) and to some might be considered sneaky or even underhanded. I, however, was impressed with his understanding of human nature and the power of misdirection. Music fans who frequent live venues might find some of facts of beats per minute and stage location common knowledge, but I still found their inclusion in Eiko’s continued growth as a musician extremely effective for storytelling. One of my favorite arcs was Eiko’s faceoff with fellow musician Mia Orimoto, a more successful and popular singer with misplaced priorities on her social media appearance rather than improving her singing. Kongming recreates his Stone Sentinal Maze to redirect fans from Mia’s stage to Eiko’s. I could completely believe that people would get confused in the dark club and get lost trying to navigate rooms.
Now if the writing had continued to use Kongming as a means for Eiko’s growth, I probably would have become bored. Thankfully, he steps out of the picture before it starts to feel like he’s the only reason for her success. She’s forced to work out her own weaknesses and improve upon them–though he does still provide enough assistance to keep up her momentum. He’s a mentor I’d love to have for myself: dependable but not overbearing, challenging but my biggest believer.
It’s during this period of her self-discovery that she stumbles across another fellow singer on the streets of Tokyo. They sing together, form a bond, rediscover their love for song. Even when the revelation about Nanami’s identity happens (not a surprise at all, by the way), they don’t let that break their friendship. It propels them forward to greater heights and results in the best final arc I could have asked for.
Even though Kongming announced at the start he would use her music to bring peace to the world, I’m satisfied with this blossoming step towards acknowledgement on her home turf. The pacing and character development over the course of this single season was enough to satisy my hopes for this ending and a large part of me doesn’t want a sequel. Too many shows featuring idols try to ride that momentum to extra seasons and spin-off characters, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself. Sometimes the setting and premise is that large and inviting of additional stories. YBK! might actually work in that formula, but I really don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t need to see Eiko on the world stage to believe in her future. “Beautiful dreamer, perceive your dream…there is nothing to lose…just spread your wings as your heart desires.”
Rating: 2 dango
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.