It’s the Three Kingdoms era, and the greatest military strategist and most learned scholar Kongming is ailing in his battlefield tent. Though his work of uniting the known world is not yet done, and he fears for the future of humanity with this all-important task left unfinished, he ultimately surrenders and breathes his last. Only to awaken in Hell. Er, I mean Shibuya. On Hallowe’en. Which he takes for Hell. And to be fair, nothing he encounters that night really contradicts this misunderstanding, as first he is force-fed fiery tequila by some jolly revelers who admire the attention to detail visible in his costume and his commitment to remaining in character, and then he is dragged into a club where the wub wub wub drives him bonkers. But then—but then!—a
heavenly hellish (?) songstress takes the stage and blows his mind with the beauty of her music. Being a straightforward fellow, he tells her as much, which softens her heart toward him and earns him a place to stay later that night. The next day, Kongming gradually realizes he’s not in Hell, but rather Japan, many centuries after his own death (which he reads about on Wikipedia). After learning from the singer, Eiko, about air conditioners, clocks, humidifiers, smart phones, and EDM, Kongming accompanies her back to the club and manages to get a job there as a bartender—a role that he excels at since it is much easier to mix drinks than make tea. (Thankfully, the owner of the club is a Three Kingdoms wota, and hires him solely in order to have someone to geek out with over Chinese history.) After hearing Eiko sing for a third time, Kongming commits his formidable tactical abilities to ensuring that she succeeds as a professional singer, so that he might fulfill his renewed destiny of uniting the world…through music this time.
An ancient general whose renown is on a level with Sun Tzu of The Art of War fame, and who becomes a dance music producer/idol manager in modern Japan? What genre even is this? Screwball time travel musical comedy war game? And by P.A. Works no less?!? Let’s just say this is pretty far out of the box that the studio normally excels in: slow-paced slice of life, melodramatic emotional arcs, and gorgeous backgrounds. None of these really apply to Ya Boy Kongming, certainly not the trailer anyhow. And yet, this first episode… There’s something about it that is quite intriguing. Ok, there are several things, and here they are: first off, the humor is actually pretty good, hitting the sweet spot between corny Dad jokes and heart-warming charm. Definitely some screencappable moments in this one!
Second, despite the unbelievable (read: unsafe!) way in which the two leads’ relationship begins (ladies, we do not take passed-out strangers dressed in fancy costumes home, even if they do complement our singing, amiright?), their interactions were surprisingly genuine. They have a good rapport, and I look forward to the blossoming romance. Third, those trademark P.A. Works backgrounds do make a sneaky appearance after all! There may not be any wildlife or seascapes in Shibuya, but the rendering of Eiko’s room during Golden Hour is absolutely stunning.
Finally, there’s some great musical talent on show here too, with 96Neko voicing Eiko’s songs in excellent English, and the promise of more vocalists soon to join. (Also, it’s not just EDM, but singer-songwriter style too.) Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this unusual mish-mash of a series, and I will give the revered tactician at least three episodes to win me over completely. And if he succeeds, well, watch out world! Prepare to be united under the banner of J-pop!
Ya Boy Kongming can be streamed on HiDIVE.