Before Spring 2022, hardly anyone had heard of the wacky reverse isekai manga Ya Boy Kongming. But through positive word of mouth and an amazingly catchy opening theme, it crept up to become one of the most popular non-sequel shows that aired this season. However, does this tale of an ancient Chinese tactician in modern-day Shibuya measure up to its own hype? Let’s see in our review of Ya Boy Kongming!
Engaging Characters with Relatable Goals
Despite its admittedly off-the-wall premise – real-life ancient Chinese tactician Zhuge Liang (aka Kongming) reincarnates into the present day and decides to dedicate his masterful intellect to ensuring that a young musician reaches the stardom she deserves – this anime is actually pretty down-to-earth in its execution. Kongming himself is unabashedly weird, since he continues wearing his traditional robes, speaks in riddles, and is easily fascinated by modern phenomena like house music or the blockchain, but he’s ultimately just happy to be living in a time where he can use his strategies to promote peace instead of war. He’s even occasionally visited by the spirits of his long-gone comrades, who seem to be proud of him for his accomplishments in his new life.
Eiko, the musician who he takes under his wing, is also a relatable and super sweet person. She doesn’t necessarily strive to be the most famous singer ever, but just wants to get her music out there so more people can appreciate it and so she can figure out who she’s truly singing for. Her friends/rivals Kabe-Taijin and Nanami have similar character arcs, each with a love of music and personal expression at the heart of their journey. We feel like we could be friends with all of them!
Good Pacing and Even Better Music
For the vast majority of Ya Boy Kongming’s run, we had absolutely no complaints about anything. It structures its episodes and mini-arcs well, often focusing on an event Eiko or Kabe-Taijin must attend and likening it to a moment in Kongming’s life from which he draws his tactics to push them toward success. If you’re familiar with the Three Kingdoms period in which Kongming lived, you’ll get many of the more subtle references to historical events, but it’s in no way necessary to understand or enjoy the story. And even though there are big stakes and hardships our heroes must push through, there’s a feel-good energy throughout the whole narrative that always leaves you in a good mood by the end of each episode. The few issues that we do have are mostly about how Eiko and Kabe-Taijin’s plotlines sometimes feel disconnected from each other, to the point where it’s somewhat confusing why Kongming even insisted on hiring a rapper in the first place. We wish they’d gotten a chance to sing together besides just in the ED!
Speaking of the ED, though, all of the music in Ya Boy Kongming is vibrant and memorable – 96Neko (Eiko’s singing voice), Shouya Chiba (Kabe-Taijin’s voice), and Lezel (Nanami’s singing voice) all put in amazing work performing the many songs and rap battles throughout the anime. And even though some of the tunes are actually covers of older music - namely the OP “Chiki Chiki Bam Bam” and the ED “Kibun Joujou ￪￪” – these new versions feel fresh and filled with an energy unique to the Kongming world. Its official soundtrack releases on June 29th, so be on the lookout for that!
Against everyone’s expectations, Ya Boy Kongming made a huge splash on the anime scene this season and we loved pretty much every second of it. We’re crossing our fingers for a Season 2 in the future, but until then, we’ll be jamming to “Chiki Chiki Bam Bam” some more!
What did you think of our review? Did you enjoy Ya Boy Kongming? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!