By Natsume Akatsuki and Kurone Mishima. Released in Japan as “Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Bakuen wo!” by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.
If you were going to suggest an obvious choice for a side-story spinoff in the Konosuba universe, Megumin immediately comes to mind. She’s the most popular of the cast, and her backstory could use some fleshing out beyond what we got in the 5th novel. Indeed, in Japan, this volume came out before the 5th novel, and the first thing I wanted to do after it was released was to reread that book to see if more of it made sense. It also allows us to get a sense of Megumin’s headspace – through most of this, she’s the narrative voice, and we can see her eccentricities filtered through a coating of relatively sedate and logical thought. Well, logical for the Crimson Magic Clan, of course, whose one truly eccentric member is Yunyun, she who gets embarrassed by the whole thing. If you wanted a book filled with Megumin and Yunyun being funny, good news, this volume delivers, while also fleshing out the overall story.
The book takes place two years before the main series starts, and shows us Megumin and Yunyun in magic school, learning the finer points of saying cool lines and practicing your awesome poses. Both have almost earned enough points to learn Advanced Magic – indeed, Megumin secretly already has the points to do it, but is saving up even more to get enough to learn Explosion, the spell that she’s been obsessed with since she was a little girl. Everyday life for Megumin consists of conning Yunyun out of her lunch every day, looking after her younger sister Komekko, and generally getting into trouble, particularly after picking up an odd cat, nicknamed “Ink” by Yunyun, who Komekko wants to eat but most everyone else wants to snuggle. Unfortunately, more and more monsters are coming to their village, and seem to be after Komekko! Will Megumin be forced to abandon her dream of Explosion to save her sister?
The main reason to get this solid first volume is the relationship between Megumin and Yunyun. Megumin tends to worry about Yunyun as the sort who would get suckered by the first person who called her friend, and she’s not wrong, as we later see two other classmates seemingly conning Yunyun out of money so they can help a sick younger brother, something Megumin regards with more than a little scorn. Despite Megumin’s constant bullying, it’s clear that the two are close – indeed, at least one girl thinks they’re lovers, and when Yunyun is dragged off by her other friends, accuses Megumin of being cuckolded. Despite that, there’s no yuri subtext here, but it is heartwarming to see Megumin look after Yunyun even while she makes her life miserable. The weakest part of the book involved the irritating NEET Bukkororii and his stalker crush on the girl he likes. Megumin and Yunyun think he’s a massive creep, yes, but so does the reader.
Aside from humorous foreshadowing, the other main cast is absent from this book, which is fine. It’s Megumin’s Turn, as the subtitle suggests. The next volume is supposedly Yunyun’s Turn, but I’m not all that optimistic about her achieving much – she’s funnier when suffering. In the meantime, Konosuba fans will definitely enjoy this.