Ya Boy Kongming: A Love Letter to Creatives

Kongming and Eiko dancing in front of BB Lounge

Ya Boy Kongming transports a celebrated third-century Chinese tactician from his deathbed to modern-day Japan, where he meets amateur singer Eiko and pledges his intellect to propel her career.

On the surface, it’s a nice enough isekai-ish story: historical figure in the contemporary world. Each character has to grapple with this fish-out-of-water in odd clothes (cosplayer!) claiming to be a long-dead famous dude. Cute. Required by the premise. On its own, kind of tired, and it’s allocated screen time accordingly.

But the first episode does a great job establishing dynamics between the two main characters and the first side character. Kongming sees in Eiko a continuation of his long-pursued struggle for world peace. Eiko finds someone who believes in her music when she’s teetering on the edge of giving up. Eiko’s employer (and found-family father) finds Kongming is one more person who believes in her and, just as importantly, either another in-depth fan of the Three Kingdoms Era of history or the real deal himself. The story pits their wits against each other both in testing Kongming’s veracity and in a game of Go. Owner pulls through as a tentative believer, ready to bring down the smack if anything Kongming does hurts Eiko.

As the series develops and Kongming adapts his most famous strategems to Eiko’s benefit in the modern music scene, Eiko learns to trust Kongming’s competence (despite having no clue who he was), Owner plays Watson to Kongming’s Sherlock and learns to trust Kongming’s intentions for Eiko (despite Kongming’s apparent coldness at times), and Kongming learns to appreciate life’s joys and connections through Eiko’s music (despite his single-minded pursuit of strategy in his previous life.)

Along the way, the series introduces two more band members, whose struggles Kongming arranges to use to Eiko’s benefit.

The series compares strategy in war to strategy in a creative career. Its foundation on the premise that the arc of the world has gotten more peaceful in contemporary times can be a balm to Americans in the 2020s and a reminder that art—music in this series but also poetry, visual art, and storytelling—is a lifeline for many and a very special way for individuals to improve the lives of many. Even as a commercial venture. It promises creators that artistic vision, commercial success, and both overall strategies and event-level tactics don’t have to operate independently and are, in fact, strongest when all aligned.

I recommend this series for musicians, of course, but also freelance artists and independent authors.

Know why you do what you do.

Know who you’re trying to reach.

And don’t forget to use every ounce of tactics to not only bolster your own commercial success but also the lives of those you encounter along the way.

9.8/10 recommend.

Kongming driving a car with Eiko on top

(Addendum: Kongming is completely unflappable, and I’m dying to see him lose control of something just once.)

(Added addendum: Would make excellent crossover fanfic with just about anything.)

(Extra added addendum: Refreshing lack of overt romance.)

(One more thing: some racist elements that were very cringy in one episode)