‘Ya Boy Kongming’ Revisits the Three Kingdoms Period


Zhuge Liang, famous strategist of Liu Bei, and one of the greatest minds during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD) isn’t someone to be associated with modern culture, right? WRONG! Kongming has returned to the center stage, now featured as the leading star of a Japanese animated series, Ya Boy Kongming. Yes, that’s its actual title if you aren’t using the Japanese version, Paripi Kōmei. 

Released as a manga (Japanese comic) in 2019 by Yuto Yotsuba and Ryō Ogawa and adapted into anime form in spring of 2022, Ya Boy Kongming has already reached the hearts of many. ”It has a very interesting concept and definitely hasn’t been done before,” said my close friend and avid anime viewer, Jeffrey Popek when bringing up the show one afternoon. It looked strange and bizarre, but I saw it any way and fell in love, and it was all thanks to him. This spectacular series has been living rent-free in my head since I watched the first four episodes earlier this week.

Kongming is on death’s door, losing to his mysterious illness, while his kingdom is under siege. He wishes to reincarnate into a world of peace and tranquility in his next life. Coincidentally enough, he does. 

He awakens as a younger version of himself, but it’s never brought up if he took the place of a crazy cosplayer or is an actual replica of himself brought into existence by whatever being reincarnated him. He is, of course, dressed in his famous regalia and feather fan, while bewildered at the bright lights and crowds of strangely dressed people around him. Somehow, the great Kongming ended up in Shibuya, Japan during Halloween. For someone from a time far removed from the present, his mind drifted to one particular idea. “So, this is Hell.” He parties a bit before finding his way towards a bar. Taking center stage is a blond “demoness” or “songstress,” as he calls her. She sings an English song, pouring her heart and soul into it, and somehow reaching the great Kongming’s heart. He is entranced. He is enthralled. He wants more. The great Kongming, Hidden Dragon of the three kingdoms, has become smitten by a 19-year old girl in a demon outfit.

Screengrab from "Ya Boy Kongming"

He praises her, still convinced he is in Hell, before later passing out outside of the establishment. She takes pity on him and brings her into her humble abode. Once they both stir, he learns this isn’t Hell, but modern Japan. 

Eiko Tsukime is an amateur singer and couldn’t get the compliments that he gave her out of her head, just like he couldn’t remove her voice from his mind. She tells him about the modern world: the phones, the internet, etc, which proves to be a big mistake. He questions her on modern technology until she has to go back to work. Kongming is a man of knowledge, using anything and everything to his advantage. He scores a job at the bar after successfully convincing the intimidating manager, who happens to be a big Three Kingdoms nerd, that he is Kongming or at least a fantastic impersonator of him. He also takes the role of Eiko’s personal manager and “strategist.” The great Kongming’s next big task is to bring Eiko up in the entertainment industry. 

Screengrab from "Ya Boy Kongming"

The essence of Kongming can be compared in the strangest of ways to one of the biggest movies in the past few years. It’s like “A Star Is Born,” but instead of Bradley Cooper as a well-known artist taking Lady Gaga’s nobody character under his wing, it’s Albert Einstein. It sounds very strange, but having a genius in a different field from the music industry propelling a talent-filled girl from nothing to stardom is the best parallel to Kongming that I can give.

That plot isn’t the only aspect you have to look forward to. The opening song is a banger. Shockingly, it’s a cover; the original was created by an alternative rock band from New York named Jolly. Oh, how far it has come since it made its Japanese debut. The ending song goes just as hard, but that’s a treat for when you finish it. 

Screengrab from "Ya Boy Kongming"

Why is it so intriguing? What’s so great about it? Well, for one thing, watching famous Chinese strategists use his knowledge and stratagems of the past to help an ambitious, yet unconfident singer like Eiko is both heartwarming and entertaining. He uses the Stone Sentinel Maze, a military tactic used to confuse the enemy army, by instead causing music goers and a big venue to become trapped in a room where only Eiko performs. Of course it’s all done with smoke and well-placed attendants to convince the fans that there is no way out, when in fact, they have been walking in a large circle. And like a gravitational pull, they are attracted to Eiko’s beautiful and enchanting voice. 

Lord Josh Allen reads a passage of the Stone Sentinel Maze, painting a picture on just how impressive his scheme was: “There are openings capable of infinite mutations, and would be equal to a hundred thousand soldiers. Planner of Three kingdoms, no small praise is his inventor of the 8 arrays. And for that famous boulders on the river’s brim. This Zhuge Liang is well named the Sleeping Dragon. I am not his equal. It is not the rocks that scare me, but I think he might use this opportunity to attack, and attack he did.”

Screengrab from "Ya Boy Kongming"

He continues to apply his ancient ideas to the modern world, controlling the narrative and timing of situations to make it the best for Eiko, and slowly gaining her more and more fans. The great Kongming was no match back in the day, and he is still unmatched now.

The premise of this show is so unique and different. You don’t have to be a fan of Japanese anime to enjoy a show like this. It’s funny, it’s charming, and shows Kongming doing Kongming things. The chemistry between Kongming and Eiko is fantastic and mystifying, and you can’t help wanting more and more of it. Ya Boy Kongming has an opening song that slaps, a story that is both ridiculous and masterful—just like our boy Kongming in this show. Don’t sleep on this series. If the premise sounds strange or boring, just give it a watch. Greatness awaits.