Main characters of this thing that they are, a key element of Ya Boy Kongming! as it continues should be developing the relationship between Kongming and Eiko. Their meeting and connection to set up the basic gimmick of the show was kind of a funny little coincidence, strengthened by demonstrating the genuine effect Eiko’s music had on Kongming. But since then, their roles in the portions of the story have felt oddly siloed, as Kongming clearly respects Eiko’s talents and cares for her as a person, but doesn’t really bring her into the strategies he’s concocting around her career. Meanwhile, she has to simply curiously regard him on her own sidelines until each phase of his plans for her have their purposes become clear.
I understand the reasoning for this from a storytelling perspective: Part of the appeal of the series is that ‘payoff’ moment when we (along with other characters) suddenly have revealed to us what Kongming’s big scheme in a given scenario was. But that could prove troublesome long-term, if the styling of Kongming’s plans continuously relies on keeping Eiko in the dark to the point of her own consternation. With two big performance plans pulled off, this episode sets up a different, more long-term goal so it can turn around and specifically focus on detailing and deepening that dynamic between Kongming and Eiko, and to be honest, I don’t know that I’m 100% sold on how the relationship is working at this point.
There were previously a couple…if we weren’t being charitable we could call them ‘excuses’ in the writing for Kongming being opaque with Eiko regarding his plans. The main one was his point that he wanted to increase her confidence in her own performing skill, and letting her in on the complex logistics he was using to drive up engagement, still focused on her talents though that was, would undercut that. It made sense for the cases of drawing more audience members to her shows so she could bask in that attendant energy. Similarly, and he brings this point up again in this episode, Kongming simply wished for Eiko to concentrate on continuing to hone her musical ability, with the idea that paying attention to his organizational side might be no more than a distraction for her. Those explanations worked in the moment, but come off less applicable in the actions Kongming takes towards their goal in this episode.
Obviously we can guess just from the storytelling and style of the show that Kongming’s regular partying excursions are part of an earnest effort at engagement in seeking the 100,000 Likes that Eiko needs to secure the spot at the next music festival they’re shooting for. But him not even attempting to communicate that to her until she exasperatedly prompts him to can make their relationship come off as unnecessarily uneven. We definitely know that Kongming is a cool dude who’s only doing his best for Eiko, but it feels like a little more specific clarification and communication might make that sort of endearment feel more genuine. Part of the idea with the presentation of this dynamic between the pair, which this episode makes clear is still very much growing and evolving at this point in the story, seems to be the idea that they’re supposed to have faith in each other: That Kongming genuinely appreciates Eiko’s musical ability and believes that it can deliver in whatever attention-grabbing setup he orchestrates to present it in, so she ought to, in kind, believe in his ability to concoct those setups. But it still comes off as lopsided, when the prompt by the end of this episode is that Eiko was holding out on Kongming in opening up about the specifics of her goals, her concerns about his efforts, and even her composition of a new song, but all that doesn’t equate to Kongming opening up to her much beyond confirming that he will, in fact, come up with some sort of plan among all this.
I should confirm that, if I sound frustrated with the structure of the character connection in this one, that’s mainly because the lack of a paid-off plan and the still-evolving presentation of the dynamic just means this episode comes off as less tight than the ones that preceded it. That well-orchestrated narrative satisfaction of seeing one of Kongming’s wild strategies come together isn’t here to carry things, so instead it’s the meeting of our main characters’ personalities that’s doing the heavy lifting. To its credit, there’s still enough there to make me feel like Eiko and Kongming are good kids deserving of our attention. The idea of observing Kongming from Eiko’s point of view prompts a few more fun developments for him as a figure. I enjoy the implication that Kongming has just become a well-known fixture with the crowd of Shibuya at this point. And it’s nice to see that his excursions result in Eiko realizing that she misses talking to him, winding up wondering about what this guy gets up to in his time off (which turns out to include stargazing, divination, and finding out where the cheap drinks in Roppongi are). That’s the sort of grounded, personal interactions that help bring these two together to endear them to each other and the audience.
Similarly, whereas we got historical intersections with Kongming’s backstory and what drove him last episode, this week we get to hear more details on Eiko’s history, where connective issues between her parents and her music and how that led to her developing her confidence problems might be just a bit more relatable than Kongming’s third-century military experiences. It’s made clear how much Eiko really loves music, and that forms the sort of neat connection with Kongming that she should always have, since he loves her music just as much. This realizes that ‘faith in each other’ concept that’s apparent as the idea of this episode, a demonstration of the ‘water-fish fellowship’ that Kongming likens their relationship to.
As I said, this storyline is clearly still in-progress by the time this episode finishes. And it does leave me curious as to where it will go, not just in terms of how Kongming will actually pull off nabbing those 100,000 likes, but also in if it will deliver on a more concrete definition of what Kongming and Eiko’s relationship really is. Faith in each other’s ability is important, but that might need to be reinforced with some more direct trust, and Kongming doing his goofy obtuse party-guy bit, while cute, obstructs the appeal of that trusting connection. For now, I’ll try to have the same sort of faith in this series that Eiko and Kongming end up having in each other, but I still definitely want to see the complexities of that trust grow as it goes on.
Ya Boy Kongming! is currently streaming on
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.