It’s been kind of a long road so far following ya boys and girls of Kongming, and with this episode it’s finally time to taste that sweet musical fruit borne of all their efforts. The quest for those 100,000 likes is still a work-in-progress by the end of this episode, but it’s starting to see the results from all of Kongming’s laborious preparation that is the draw here. Eiko and Kabe spent several episodes finding themselves, and after last week’s episode made clear through Eiko’s singing that the experiences had fundamentally changed her capacity for performance as intended, we can focus on this show as a music series actually depicting those aspirations. Hey Boy Kongming!‘s commitment to the more realistic requirements of the music industry (time-displaced tacticians notwithstanding) emerges here with the thread of Eiko actually recording the newly-arranged iteration of her new song, backed by all the buildup that her and Kabe’s journeys led to here.
Now if I’m being honest, I’m still not 100% sure what Kabe’s actual reason for being here is? His rapping doesn’t seem to have (yet) been incorporated into the current version of Eiko’s new song, now titled ‘Dreamer’. And his built-up battle with Sekitoba, cementing his comeback in the rap-battle circuit, still seems entirely for the sake of his own career corner, not being focal as far as what Eiko will be putting out there to accumulate those desired likes. Granted, this is Hey Boy Kongming!, so I’m still absolutely bracing myself for a dramatic revelation before this story’s end of some outlandish scheme by Ya Boy that ends up incorporating Kabe to seal the successful deal. But more than that, it does become clear just by this episode how Kabe factored into Kongming’s overall idea to orchestrate situations as backing motivation for Eiko as she worked towards her main goal here. That is, Kongming brought Kabe on-board because he knew Eiko would herself get invested in his comeback quest, and their collaborations on their parallel rises would uplift her dedication to ‘The Populace’ and the resulting required skills.
Directly-consequential to the creation of the song or not, Kabe’s return to the competitive stage does feel like a climactic component of the story here. A lot of that’s down to being another well-rendered rap battle. Hey Boy Kongming!‘s ability to depict easily-noticeable upticks in musical performing ability is apparent again in this case, as you can really hear how much more comfortable Kabe has become in his flow since his provoked showdown with Kongming. The way he attributes it to reconnecting with the roots of his old friends under that bridge makes sense, as he comes off more like he’s ‘at home’ in this performance now, codified even further as he describes for us how the beat itself feels slower , more easy to keep up with and play off of than ever. And it’s made pretty cozy for us to keep up with too, courtesy of another clean rap-translation effort that makes following the tonal meaning here (important to both Kabe and Eiko’s ongoing stories) a breeze. I’m a personal fan of the way Sekitoba’s rhyming onomatopoeia were adapted, and overall it’s a display worthy of the unilateral concession of victory Mr. Kung-Fu hands to Kabe by the end of it.
Apart from the motivation of those on-point vibes, Kabe’s conclusion is operating similarly to Nanami’s continued contributions to the story at this stage, providing parallels and contrasts for Eiko’s efforts. It had already started to become apparent as of last week, but this episode really works to drive home just how much Nanami’s producer Karasawa is the Anti-Kongming. He completely lacks faith in the singing of Nanami and the other Azalea members as a component of his promotional plans, and his desire for them to concentrate on their performance is predicated on not Being freely allowed to exercise their skills in things like street venues. Kongming may have been willing to juice audience attractions with free drinks before, but Karasawa is willing to straight-up buy engagement with cash giveaways. It can seem a little overbearing in places, in that yes, we already know how much Nanami hates her career at this point. But like Kabe’s contest, this illustration is meant more as a tonal prelude to what Eiko ends up putting out. We need that hard confirmation of what it means to want to sing, and to do so alongside the wishes of a promoter/mentor/friend who actually has your best interests in mind. Great music is all about harmony, after all, and the results are made clear not just with Eiko herself being adorably impressed with the quality of her own music (there’s that increase in confidence Kongming so wanted to instill), but in even provoking Kongming to have a Ratatouille-esque retrospective on his fondly formative earlier days.
It’s nice to get a little more insight into Kongming’s characterization, especially as he’s been largely absent from his own show for the past couple weeks. Though what we get in this depiction of the tactician’s apparent first meeting with Liu Bei is still more about that overall conceptual tone of the story. The idea seems to be using past context to show where that focus on ‘The Populace’ originated, in this case per the pop-culture historical characterization of Liu Bei as a benevolent ruler of the people. As much as Hey Boy Kongming! Already trades on a pop-history understanding of Three-Kingdoms figures (only occasionally acknowledging certain stories as more ‘myths’ in time to subvert them with its own takes on the material) I don’t know that we need to worry too much about an overtly critical analysis for a figure like Liu Bei. In this case it’s purely a characterization component of Kongming as we’ve seen him in this specific story, and it works within that framework it’s set up for itself. The vibes, as Kongming himself describes earlier, are on a whole new level.
It’s a lot of effort at showing all the effort that led to a point like this, and if you’ve been following Hey Boy Kongming! up to now, you know the show is more than capable of making it work. Even as we still haven’t reached some supremely dramatized revelation of the full scale of Kongming’s plan (though you know I’m looking forward to that) his return to a more active role lets us appreciate smaller aspects of his plotting personality, like his ability to arrange ‘defeat’ for people like Kabe and Kid and still have them thank him for it. And even though I obviously didn’t have any problems with the presentation of the previous couple episodes, this one does a neat job of justifying Kongming’s withdrawn role over them, making clear how much his shadow-tactician encouragement of Eiko was still a factor in her efforts which she was exercising a lot of her own agency in. It’s brought a lot of things full-circle, and that’s as satisfying as seeing a singer who now knows who she’s performing for.
Hey Boy Kongming! is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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.