Ach ja, before even creating KonoSuba, Natsume Akatsuki apparently wrote the manuscript for Combatants Will Be Dispatched!, but kept it hidden, until one day Tappei Nagatsuki, author of Re:Zero, told Kadokawa about it, which is… honestly, pretty hilarious.
It, however, also explains where a lot of my problems with the series stem from. I rarely want to let external information cloud my judgement of a piece of media, as I think that everything should be given the opportunity to stand on its own merits. With Combatants, however, those externals are simply to obvious for me as to simply ignore them. In short: It is hard for me to look at Combatants Will Be Dispatched as anything else but a less funny KonoSuba prototype.
To be fair, I arguably didn’t give both series the same chance to impress me. I watched Combatants dubbed in german (the dub is utterly unhinged and I love it), while exercising at the same time. On the other hand, both those circumstances probably made the viewing experience better, as I was never bored or had the urge to drop it entirely. Beyond that, I also simply consider Combatants weaker in anything that KonoSuba so brilliantly excels at.
KonoSuba is a surprisingly profound story of comradery and the mundanity of life, window-dresses as a spoof of fantasy and Isekai tropes. Combatants Will Be Dispatched is a loud attempt of trying to be funny, while not ticking most of the the boxes for anyone over the mental age of 16. Combatants lives and dies by its comedy and it pains me to see how it isn’t even bad per se, but rather completely unappealing to me.
Juvenile is probably the best word to describe Combatants’s comedy. There is an over-reliance on sexual humor and encounters, foul language and characters reacting in extreme manners. There is no tact to it, which is funny, considering to what I will continue to compare it to. KonoSuba may be accused of the exact same things as I just did to Combatants, but do I thing there is a very important distinction to be made. In my opinion KonoSuba’s comedy is way more driven through its characters and their interactions and as such is able to pull its punches from a larger variety of angles and even themes.
Let’s make one thing clear, the characters are somewhat identical to each other: Nr. 6 is Kazuma, Snow is Aqua, Rose is Megumin and Grimm is Darkness. The only character not having an almost direct parallel to KonoSuba’s cast is Alice. However, while the characters basically all encompass the same tropes and surface-level personalities, their dynamics couldn’t be more different. A good chunk of KonoSuba’s story is basically just the four main characters getting into stupid situations through their dysfunctional team dynamic, yet they almost always solve said situation through the same dysfunctional team dynamic. It creates a lot of moments, where the characters are allowed to bounce off each other in a magnitude of ways, each one revealing a different facet of their characters. While Combatants has those moments too, they are far and few between and it hurts its cast in general, as most of them fall pretty flat most of the time.
It also helps that KonoSuba has a smaller, but more directly involved cast of four. Combatants’s main cast consists five characters, though Grimm tends to be asleep or be out of commission most of the time, Alice feels strangely absent and Rose ist mostly just there. The only characters with actual screen presence are Nr. 6 and Snow. Additionally, there a couple of often reoccurring characters like Heine and later Russel on the antagonists side, as well as Astaroth, Belial and Lilith mostly sitting in the background or presenting the next episode preview. KonoSuba feels more focused and streamlined in this regard, adding its supporting cast with better timing and variety, resulting in a more rounded experience, where the moment by moment situations can be adjusted through the characters interactions and not the plot per se.
Surprisingly, despite their many similarities, the plot of both series are structured very differently. Combatants follows the generic Isekai storyline of eventually defeating the demon lord, even if the starting position originally had nothing to do with it. It is this reason why I don’t really have a big problem with the extended cast, as it is more befitting to have one in a narrative of potentially larger scale. It is just that KonoSuba’s approach of having a way more loose story, if any at all, seems to be a better fit for situational comedy and group dynamics, which both series seem to be going for.
On a completely different topic, the production of Combatants looks… okay? By all means, this is a passably good-looking anime, though compared to KonoSuba, this is nothing to write home about. I would argue that the design sensibility of KonoSuba’s main cast greatly improved upon Combatants, but where Combatants fails for me the most is in its world- and prop-design. KonoSuba may exactly look like a your generic fantasy setting, but is everything drawn with a depth and details that really make it feel lived in. The starting town is cozy and warm, lush greenery surrounds most settings and the scenery can be straight-up breathtaking at times. Compare this to the literal dessert Combatants is mostly set in and most of the props that might as well come from another series and KonoSuba simply looks more inviting to watch. This isn’t even talking about the actual animation, in which KonoSuba easily wins over Combatants static and more standard designs.
While watching, I also had this weird feeling that a lot of the timing and even storyboards are greatly inspired by the KonSuba anime… I mean, obviously this would be case in some regards, but it felt weirdly off. Especially with the ending theme I have the feelings that it is supposed to recreate the same vibe as KonoSuba’s ED. Also, why are the female characters drawn pretty? KonoSuba’s less on-model designs had so much charm and I had a similar whiplash as to the mobile game opening. Anyway, I think KonoSuba greatly gains something from being adapted into animation, while I can imagine having more fun with Combatants as a novel. The openings absolutely slaps, though, I will give it that.
Watching Combatants Will Be Dispatched was just a really weird experience. While not even bad in itself, I can’t stop but think back to another series that so absolutely does everything better than itself and it is a bummer, that this will be my final verdict. I mean, I guess I could see how Combatants may appeal to someone that might not get into KonoSuba at all (Yes, those people exist and my brother is one of them), but this is as far I am willing to reach.
As it stands, Aqua is simply a hotter Snow… get it? Because of thermodynamics of dihydrogen monoxide! Considering how much KonoSuba completely swept me away on my first watch, while I have already forgotten most of Combatants, this seems about right. This post is really all over the place, but I hope I could make it clear, why I prefer KonoSuba without delving into the specifics of every detail, as this will most likely be a post in itself for another time.
Combatants Will Be Dispatched! is available on Crunchyroll.