Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid- Making Anime Fun Again
Remember when anime was pure, unadulterated fun? Racing home as if on a quest to save a dying loved one, plopping your giddy ass on the sofa and turning on your favorite after-school cartoon? Nowadays, myself included, people get ignorantly pretentious and critical when it comes to anime… most likely due to the accessibility of other’s opinions on the internet (you’re guilty MAL!). But what happened to the days when you could share a bond with another over some good, old fashioned Chinese cartoons? God forbid you meet some dragon t-shirted, fedora wearing pleb that only cares for mainstream shounen... whilst peddling Magic Cards out of his mom's basement. Sometimes even I fall into an over-analytical stupor and forget what makes anime so damn entrancing and fun to watch.
The undeniably successful Studio KyoAni’s 2017 release of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a breath of fresh air in a barrage of unoriginality and criticality. It’s endearing, cute, charming and hilarious, and most of all is that it doesn’t rely on “2deep4u” plot lines or edgy characters to become a hit. It’s an anime that breathes nostalgia for me, crafting a diverse, likable cast that has one character for everyone to enjoy and although ramps down, never gets stale. Of course Kobayashi isn’t perfect, but moreso perfectly imperfect. Accompanied by an outstanding script and stunning, extravagant visuals, KyoAni smashes the target of a true feel-good anime, leaving self-proclaimed pundits with little ground left to criticize.
When it comes to story, sometimes simple is best. Nothing in Dragon Maid seems contrived, but moreso plays out like a situational comedy. The story is straightforward:
-A shut-in girl (Kobayashi) gets drunk and accidentally makes a deal with a dragon concealing herself under the masquerade of graciously endowed maid. (Tohru)
-Tohru and Kobayashi take in an adorable loli dragon, Kanna.
-The three of them (and some of Tohru’s mythical adversaries) live out the seasons in an episodic, heartwarming anime that’ll be sure to make you smile.
The writing in Dragon Maid is the pillar of the entire anime. As previously mentioned, the simple structure of everything helps add to the endearing, carefree atmosphere that the show contains. Whether it’s a scene about cooking or a candid beach/Christmas episode, the script is constructed in the most efficient manner possible. There is an array of characters from Tohru’s mysterious homeland deriving from mythology. There’s Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of learning and self-reflection, as well as the Norse referenced Fafnir, who was cursed and turned into a dragon. Seeing these fictional personalities personified and placed into ordinary scenarios like playing video games… most specifically the scene where Fafnir was playing the Dark Souls-esque dungeon crawler.
The comedy is often slapstick or quick-witted, emphasizing the quirky nature of Tohru and her friends. Jokes are subtly slipped into scenes without being corny or abundant, and there more than a few historical and pop culture references thrown in to liven things up as well. It reminds me of a less overblown version of Nichijou (thank you KyoAni!). Above all other aspects of the writing, Dragon Maid has a unique tendency to make me feel just, comfortable. Whether it was the family bond that Kobayashi, Tohru and Kanna emulated or the cozy scenes where they just wanted to sit around and watch tv, I truly felt at home with these “peculiar” characters. I certainly didn’t expect such a simple show to hit my nostalgia buttons.
As with any show, there were some aspects I didn’t care for, or that could’ve been done better. There was a lingering yuri theme present between Kobayashi and Tohru that acrobatically teetered between friendship and something more. I’m not sure if I’m the only one that noticed this, but I can’t say it was entirely necessary. Echoing this opinion was the relationship between Quetzalcoatl and her “master”. Fanservice is one thing, but her intrusive nature and suggestive sexuality was starkly convergent to the atmosphere present in the rest of the show. Lastly, the charm of Dragon Maid can tend to wear off over the length of the show, so I’d recommend watching the anime in stages to prevent this.
Kobayashi is a 9-5’er; a twenty-something introvert who takes out her aggressions from her job over a beer or twelve at night. She’s what most of us in that age bracket don’t care to admit that we are. Tohru is a self-proclaimed servant, attempting to erase her past and start a more peaceful life on Earth. Tohru and Kobayashi both developed significantly throughout the series, and played off each other very well. Most importantly is that the writers did this without making it the focus of the anime. Kanna is truly the cutest thing in existence, and everyone knows it… and Fafnir’s deep hatred for the human race slowly dissolved the more time he spent around them. The slow addition of side characters, and their mythological influence was reminiscent of The Devil is a Part Timer, only done significantly better.
KyoAni nailed it again when it came to animation. Colors are vibrant and lively, with Tohru’s eyes set ablaze with a mix of red and orange hues. Although not “technically” superior to shows like Hyouka, Dragon Maid’s art style takes on a life of its own. The character models are all so original and inviting, and the action scenes were a joy to watch. More similarities were present with Nichijou, especially Kobayashi’s “dead fish” eyes, and the sporadic expressions on various character’s faces. Beautiful work for sure.
The OP is one of the most jolly, alluring OPs I’ve ever come across, both due to the upbeat music and flawless animation. It tells its own story, one of innocent fun and excitement. I definitely put it on my phone already :P The ED is just as good, and acts as the punctuation at the end of each episode. I don’t always listen to the ED all the way through, but I made an exception for this anime. I also enjoyed hearing the variety of tracks in the OST… with its overall cheeky tones and beats. The voice acting is superb, especially considering most of the cast is relatively unknown. Some of the better performances coming from Kobayashi and Tohru themselves.
I enjoyed the hell out of this anime. The simplicity, coupled with the characters and overall coziness make a show I won't soon forget. I prefaced my review with a paragraph discounting criticality for a reason. Go into Dragon Maid to relax and have fun, nothing else. It's not intellectually stimulating, there's no abstract symbolism and there's no unnecessary ecchi moments. Enjoy it for what it is. I'd recommend this to fans of other heartwarming shows like Barakamon or Usagi drop, or fellow KyoAni-ites. They really surprised a lot of people with this show, and I'm certainly happy that I watched it. Thanks for reading!