By Natsume Akimoto and Kakao Lanthanum. Released in Japan as “Sentouin, Hakenshimasu!” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Noboru Akimoto.
Given that this is a series by the creator of KonoSuba, featuring characters who bear great similarities to those in KonoSuba, has a sequence where our “heroes” use The Destroyer from KonoSuba, and finally features a literal crossover with KonoSuba at the end, where a different evil operative goes to that world and is horrified by the overpowered nature of Aqua, Megumin and Darkness, it would not be unreasonable for a potential reader to ask me if Combatants Will Be Dispatched! is as good as KonoSuba. And the answer is… no, of course it’s not. Even if you weren’t aware that this was an earlier work that was dusted off and published by Kadokawa after KonoSuba became ludicrously successful, the fact is that KonoSuba’s characters are all likeable and you root for them, despite their many, many deep personality flaws. Even Kazuma. Whereas Agent Six, Alice and the others are just as flawed, but are really unpleasant people at heart. Rose comes closest, but it’s bad when the author has to say in the afterword “they’ll get more heroic soon, I hope.”
Alice is on the cover, and Akimoto states she’s the “featured girl” of the book, but honestly she doesn’t get much to do beyond what she did in Book One – snark at Six. Even her saving the day at the end of the book is only mentioned secondhand, because Six was knocked unconscious for all of it. To be fair, she is VERY good at snarking at Six – she’s still my favorite part of the book. With the Kingdom desperately short of water, the King missing, and the princess unwilling to say Six’s stupid password to a large crowd, he and his group are charged with negotiating water from a neighboring kingdom. Well, actually, he and the group are bodyguards for Snow, who is supposed to seduce the horny and easily led ruler of that kingdom. Unfortunately, due to a ridiculous chain of events, they end up starting a war. And also reviving an ancient superweapon. Fortunately, Six can still do what he does best – be petty and horrible till he wins the day.
I mentioned on Twitter that this feels like a KonoSuba with all the brakes removed, and I still stand by that. Snow is still a horrible combination of Darkness and Aqua with the flaws of both characters, and I longed for her to get run over by a bus. Rose comes off best of the crew, as I said before, but is driven by her appetite, which unfortunately leads to a lot of cannibalism jokes… not to mention sex = food jokes… when they have to cross a desert for several days with no food. Grimm is less fun here, with her one personality trait seeming to be “desperate”. There is a long-running argument over the course of the book between her and Alice over the nature of magic, which Alice, as an artificial human, rejects entirely. This could lead somewhere good, but it will have to be in future books, as nothing comes of it here.
Fortunately, this book does have one big thing still going for it: it’s funny. I laughed quite a bit. But with KonoSuba I laugh and also care, and I haven’t gotten to that point with this cast. They need a third dimension. Hopefully in future books.