I watched the Winter 2016 season without paying attention to any anime related website or related source. After finishing Konobu I was surprised to see it as a favorite among many of my friends and people I admire and respect in the anime community. So let me first start of by saying I didn’t connect to the series as well as others. I thought it was a fun quick anime to pass the time. This high praise made me start to really think about how I feel towards the series. At a certain point I asked myself “Is Konosuba sexist or misogynistic?” This question surprised me because I am a die hard harem fan and have watched more harem anime than I can count. I write lengthy reviews on random harem shows that no one ever reads. I’m a guy who doesn’t consider myself a feminist. I’m for equal pay for equal work but I’m tired of the media’s frenzy over feminism and personally think many supposed “feminists” have gone too extreme and equate feminism with man hating. I am hesitant to even write this because I know I’m going to anger people, many of whom will scoff at the title and comment on how stupid I am to even question this.
Why Konosuba can be perceived as being misogynistic:
Literally every female character is portrayed as being dumb. I don’t even mean the main cast, even the secondary cast falls victim to this. The only smart one as the anime points out is the male protagonist Satou. When I say dumb I don’t mean not being smart it terms of understanding magic, I mean being generally clueless and lacking common sense. The female lead Aqua is said to have a low intellect, you see her leveling up water tricks instead of more important stats. Another female named Lalatina is a masochist and wants to be abused making her entirely irrational. Megumin is a witch who uses too much magic and needs Satou to carry her, there is a weak submissive female lich named Wiz, a thief girl who becomes a baby once her panties get stolen. In fact multiple females in the show are shown as being helpless and require Satou to come save them. They constantly beg and whine to Satou. There is not one strong female character.
The running gag is that everyone in Satou’s party is helpless making the team dysfunctional. It can be argued that this is the whole point of the comedy show, that is why it is funny. I give comedians a lot of slack when it comes to comedy. Personally I think it’s ok to be sexist in a playful manner but not in a way where there is apparent ill will to whatever group you are making fun of. If you look at Konosuba 90% of the time, the girls are the brunt of the joke. Even Satou the male protagonist constantly berates Aqua. When this happens over and over again at a certain point you begin to wonder if this is becoming misogynistic. Which might be why I was slightly annoyed and frustrated when watching the show. I got bored and tired of it. “Oh look Aqua’s being dumb again, oh look Lalatina wants to be abused again, oh look Megumin needs to be carried again.”
Since watching Konosuba I have watched a random harem anime called Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance and it made me confirm my stance on why I feel the standard harem treatment of women is different than Konosuba. I would say harem anime are sexist, you have girls inexplicably falling in love with the protagonist for no apparent reason. Females can be clueless or stubborn, even the standard strong female falls in love with the MC. But I could never call a harem anime misogynistic. I think a big part of why is because in a harem anime there is still a plot even if it is pretty thin and weak. Throughout the course of a harem anime you begin to connect and care for the females. You see their faults and insecurities, you see how they grow in order to rise up and meet some goal. You mostly laugh at the MC and not at the girls themselves.
On a final note this is all very subjective and your opinion probably differs than mine. My problem with Konosuba is not that it is sexist but that it is misogynistic. I do not believe that every anime needs to have a strong female, I think a lot of recent tv shows and movies have a strong female lead for the sake of having one. However in Konosuba the girls are all perceived as being dumb and in a country like Japan where there is a high degree of gender inequality, where you see females on japanese variety shows just there to smile and look pretty, it all becomes a little jarring. Konosuba is a comedy, a parody in fact so I get where they were going with this; but personally the gags got old over time. Maybe they are parodying the role of women in anime, but honestly I think that is a bit of a stretch. I don’t think the anime is smart enough for that, and if that is true it was never tasteful or clever. Here’s looking at you Succubus whore house and the gratuitous Lalatina bath scene. In Konosuba the girls are always the brunt of the joke, I laughed at first but over time it changed from being endearing to just being mean.