It’s hard to be everywhere at once this season – so Mithrandiel has tasked me with spotlighting a couple shows that have slipped under his radar! Today I’ll be taking a closer look at Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.
Our story begins with protagonist and office drone Miss Kobayashi waking up hungover and late for work. As she prepares to run out the door, she comes body to face with a giant green dragon. Confused and horrified, these feelings are increased when the dragon transforms into a busty young woman in a maid costume. We are officially introduced to Tohru, an Armageddon-causing dragon who – after being proffered residence – has come to stay with Miss Kobayashi and vows to be her maid.
Cue flashback to the evening before and we are treated to a scene of Miss Kobayashi stumbling around and incredibly intoxicated. She comes upon a large green dragon with a sword sticking out of its side and offers it a place to stay with her. Back in present day, Miss Kobayashi is feeling less generous, and is ready to rescind her offer until she realizes just how late she is for work. Eager to help, Tohru offers to fly her to work. On the ride, Miss Kobayashi reconsiders her offer and agrees to let Tohru stay…as long as Tohru promises to not fly her anywhere again.
Miss Kobayashi begins to teach Tohru how to be a proper maid and behave like a human in our world, with some slight hiccups along the way. From “holding down the fort” to washing laundry by mouth (to savor Kobayashi’s flavor), Tohru experiences some difficulties assimilating to human maid tasks. But where she fails in domesticity, Tohru succeeds in socialization. Tohru is often seen getting along animatedly with shopkeepers and strangers alike, much to the bemusement of Miss Kobayashi.
Aside from strangers on the street, we are introduced to other recurring characters, both human and dragon. Showing up full of kawaii and accusations, a young dragon named Kanna Kamui also ends up moving in with Miss Kobayashi. She accuses Miss Kobayashi of being a seductress, with Tohru insisting that she loves Miss Kobayashi of her own free will. After Tohru makes it clear that she is not leaving, Kanna also reveals that she can’t either as she used all her power to get to our world. Miss Kobayashi offers Kanna the opportunity to live with them, which Kanna accepts.
There are other dragons that choose to visit rather than live with Miss Kobayashi, such as Fafnir and Quetzalcoatl (aka Lucoa). Fafnir, known for his distrust of humans and apparent love of videogames, is heard early on encouraging Tohru to kill all humans when she calls to ask him for advice. Lucoa is a much more benign dragon and seems to enjoy checking in on Tohru and Kanna and socializing with Miss Kobayashi.
In regards to humans, there’s Makoto Takiya who works with Miss Kobayashi. Initially, Tohru is jealous of their friendship and views Takiya as a competitor for Miss Kobayashi’s affection. As it turns out, he and Miss Kobayashi are just big fans of maid culture. Tohru learns this after going out drinking with them as they suddenly start rapidly critiquing Tohru’s outfit, calling her a bad cosplayer that likes maid culture. Their criticisms pour out in a stream-of-conscious dialogue, leaving Tohru incredibly confused.
Although an extremely silly show, it does its best to humanize the characters, regardless of their humanity. There are several scenes where Tohru tells Miss Kobayashi of hardships she faced as a dragon, followed by scenes of Miss Kobayashi trying to accommodate Tohru’s needs. She also moves into a larger apartment so the three of them can comfortably live together and have their own space. When Kanna shows an interest in going to school, Miss Kobayashi enrolls her under her surname and takes her shopping to get the best and cutest supplies. The trio also goes to the park to play and plays word games while cloud watching. For a show that often borders on crude, it has some seriously heartwarming moments.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is an intelligent anime that it is self-aware of how ridiculous and cliché some of the scenes are (ex: Tohru’s bra size is D for Dragon). It also has no problem self-referencing anime and pop culture in Japan and how the rest of the world fetishizes it (ex: maid fashion is cultural appropriation without the culture). The art style is incredibly reminiscent of anime from my childhood. Detailed and matte watercolor backgrounds contract bright and dynamic foreground animations. It feels akin to watching old Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon episodes, but without the lag in animation. The pacing is good, but without an established plot it’s hard to determine where we are in the series. It feels more like a connection of vignettes like Azumanga Daioh, which definitely works with the story established.
Overall, I would say I’m excited to continue watching this series. I’m hoping to see a little more depth in the characters, or an established plot, but I will be content if it continues along vignette-style as well.