For anyone who doesn’t really understand what the title means I’m sure that you’ve heard of the idea of set up’s and pay off’s. Something that is made for use in the future is a set-up and a reward / fun moment later is a payoff due to the set up. Payoffs don’t always occur because of a set up and set up’s don’t always have payoff’s. Depending on the show this can be a good or bad thing.
In my opinion comedy at its best is when the payoffs are also set up’s but you don’t even realise it. My favourite example is from prison school and konosuba season 1. Each one executes ideas in this way and I’ll explain how each anime does this and why it’s a good thing. This might accidently take several posts (like the first impressions series) as it’s a concept worth explaining fully so I’m sorry if it takes you longer to read because of this. I don’t like writing longer posts because people don’t read them in their entirety so that’s the reason why I split up some of my posts. This will contain spoilers for Konosuba season 1 so watch that first – it’s great.
The first thing that comes to mind is the toad episode which is where both Megumin and Darkness join the party. From the previous episode you can tell that Kazuma and Aqua won’t be able to handle any quest whatsoever never mind giant toads (Setup – will be writing set up and payoff to explain how the comedy feeds into each other) and they get completely destroyed in a hilarious way and get covered in toad slime (payoff) but then megumin shows up who claims that she can take out giant toads with her powerful explosion magic. At this point you have to question how the writers can make this funny, especially when this character can wipe out the toads instantly, but the payoff comes when you realise the floors of her magic and when you see her being covered in slime which is also a payoff.
So we’ve had all of these funny pay offs from this show (who doesn’t find giant toads funny) but these we’re all set ups in the end. This is because darkness joins the party because as a masochist, she heard about the evil leader Kazuma covering his female friends with toad slime and wanted to get in on the action. The entire episode was a series of payoffs that we’re actually setups leading to a brilliant outcome in the end.
This is a good thing as it allows for a brilliant time whilst still giving you a fun story. It gives a fun sense of everything coming together to give you the faith that all of the dumb comedy things won’t end up useless in the end.
This seemingly minor set of payoffs and setups is made more abundant in the later half. As Megumin can only use explosion magic every day (setup from a comedic payoff) they attack a castle. This part of the anime following the evil henchmen narrative consists of nothing but payoffs and a combination of both from here on out. The curse being removed is hilarious and the threat of the devil king’s henchmen feels very real. The party then presume to beat him up using their skills that they acquired in comedic ways to deliver a satisfyingly fun ending.
This was grossly summarising the set ups and payoffs that occurred in this show, skipping details like the steal ability that is used frequently for comedic effect.
In the next post I’ll talk about how prison school does this as well and why I like that type of comedy far more than any other.