In a stark contrast to the rave reviews and recommendations being received by the new film KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! Legend of Crimson, a review by video game news outlet Gamespot has accused the film of promoting “harmful” transphobia due to humor centered around the film’s main villain, Sylvia.
In the review by Gamespot Associate News Editor Jordan Ramée, Ramée is more critical of the film than most outlets, criticizing the film.
He writes, “the movie stretches out this one storyline by interjecting several side-stories throughout” and how it “largely struggles to capture the same tone as the anime series because it splits up the core group of characters.”
While various aspects of the film appear unsatisfactory to Ramée, it is not until he touches upon the character of Sylvia that his dissatisfaction turns to outrage.
The main antagonist of KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! Legend of Crimson is Sylvia, a general in the Demon King’s army with the appearance of a gorgeous, voluptuous chimera who is able to assimilate weapons, items, and living creatures into their being and grow stronger as a result.
Kazuma Sato is immediately attracted to Sylvia’s figure and flirtations, going so far as to willingly present himself to be abducted by Sylvia and suggest that he may defect to the Demon King’s army in order to make the party more appreciative of him, as Sylvia is.
It is at this moment, in the grips of Sylvia’s arms, that Kazuma Sato begins to feel Sylvia’s male genitalia rubbing up against his backside. Sylvia reveals to Kazuma that they possess traits from both women, such as a curvy figure and a buxom chest, and men, such as a slight beard and the aforementioned genitalia, due to their nature as a chimera.
Upon hearing this revelation, Kazuma hilariously and desperately begins to panic and beg his friends to defeat Sylvia and save him from her grasp.
It is this scene in particular that Ramée finds “deeply transphobic,” and despite Sylvia’s own insistence in the film that the amalgamation of female and male traits is a result of her chimeric ability, states that the demon “was biologically born a man but identifies as a woman and thus is part-way through a sex change.”
“It all comes to a head when Kazuma and his party meet Sylvia, the main antagonist of the movie. Sylvia takes a liking to Kazuma immediately and–in typical villainous fashion–attempts to draw him to her side by promising to treat him with the respect he deserves. Eager to escape his worthless teammates and begin a life of luxury with the most curvaceous character he’s ever encountered, Kazuma initially accepts the proposal and Sylvia treats him with the kindness she promised; she accepts him, faults and all. However, Kazuma’s tune changes upon learning Sylvia possesses male anatomy (the movie borrows the definition of a chimera to provide a fantastical explanation for Sylvia, who was biologically born a man but identifies as a woman and thus is part-way through a sex change), and his party members immediately accept him back, sharing in his repulsion for Sylvia. The whole scene comes off deeply transphobic.”
Ramée continues, stating that the series humorous depictions of ‘stereotypes’ (such as Aqua’s tsundere personality or Megumin’s insistence on only learning a ‘cool’ magic), can’t be applied to “jokes about race, sex, or gender without coming off as discriminatory.”
“And therein lies the true problem with Legend of Crimson. Konosuba has never been an anime known for its restraint, but it has primarily aimed its rambunctious humor at poking fun at harmless cliches and tropes in anime or video games, not discrimination. Pretty much every character in the show is an archetype to the extreme–for example, Aqua is such a stubborn tsundere (a Japanese term to describe someone who’s normally argumentative and haughty to hide their true caring nature) that she comes off as idiotic, violent, and emotionally stunted while Megumin is the purest essence of a gamer who refuses to help their teammates until the final moment so they can get the coolest kill and earn play of the game. You can’t apply this formula to jokes about race, sex, or gender without coming off as discriminatory, though.”
He then chastises the film for how it “stupidly goes for it anyway” and incorrectly asserts that Sylvia was being depicted as a “trap.”
“And yet, Legend of Crimson stupidly goes for it anyway, cranking the traditional depiction of trans and cross-dressing characters in anime as the foundation for its antagonist–a “trap” that tricks men into falling in love with them because they’re too gross to love–and then trying to play that portrayal off as a joke. It’s not funny at all, and it creates a deeply uncomfortable feeling that permeates throughout most of the latter half of the movie, ruining pretty much any of the goodwill that Kazuma attempts to earn by accepting Megumin in spite of her perceived worthlessness.”
A ‘trap’ is used in reference to men who dress as cute, sexy women in an attempt to trick others into thinking they are women. The term ‘trap’ was adopted to refer to these individuals in reference to the Admiral Ackbar meme ‘It’s a trap!’, usually used in reference to someone stating how attractive a ‘trap’ is.
Despite constant insistence from activists, the term ‘trap’ has never been widely used or accepted to derogatorily refer to trans individuals or the concept of tricking or ‘trapping’ people into having relations with a trans individual. The term also has no common association with a person’s sexuality or gender identity, as many ‘traps’ continue to identify as homo and heterosexual males.
Though Ramée states that the film “continually falls short on this theme of acceptance in other regards too–though never to the same extent as saying trans people are gross,” this is absolutely never stated outright or alluded to in the film.
Kazuma is shocked and wishes to escape from intimacy with Sylvia solely because he is not attracted to males or male genitalia. At no point does anyone insult, criticize, or attack Sylvia for her chimeric appearance, nor does anyone claim that they are disgusting or evil simply for existing or presenting as they do. Ramée’s criticisms seem to be inferring more about the film than is actually presented.
KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! Legend of Crimson will debut on November 12th and November 14th in select theaters.