Granted, I’m a little late to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Though, I’m finally catching up on some of Winter’s best, so bear with me! I’ll get to them… I’ll get to them… Some of them…
This show has received a respectable amount of attention, and for good reason too! Because it is truly a great show, in fact, I would go as far to say it easily finds itself a place in my top ten. Something which I think rings true for many other people also.
So, let’s get into it: My review of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Here’s the synopsis: (From My Anime List – I did not write it) So, by all means skip over it.
As Kobayashi sets off for another day at work, she opens her apartment door only to be met by an unusually frightening sight—the head of a dragon, staring at her from across the balcony. The dragon immediately transforms into a cute, busty, and energetic young girl dressed in a maid outfit, introducing herself as Tohru.
It turns out that the stoic programmer had come across the dragon the previous night on a drunken excursion to the mountains, and since the mythical beast had nowhere else to go, she had offered the creature a place to stay in her home. Thus, Tohru had arrived to cash in on the offer, ready to repay her savior’s kindness by working as her personal maidservant. Though deeply regretful of her words and hesitant to follow through on her promise, a mix of guilt and Tohru’s incredible dragon abilities convinces Kobayashi to take the girl in.
Despite being extremely efficient at her job, the maid’s unorthodox methods of housekeeping often end up horrifying Kobayashi and at times bring more trouble than help. Furthermore, the circumstances behind the dragon’s arrival on Earth seem to be much more complicated than at first glance, as Tohru bears some heavy emotions and painful memories. To top it all off, Tohru’s presence ends up attracting several other mythical beings to her new home, bringing in a host of eccentric personalities. Although Kobayashi makes her best effort to handle the crazy situation that she has found herself in, nothing has prepared her for this new life with a dragon maid.
Based on the manga written and illustrated by Coolkyoushinja, from the animation studio, Kyoto Animation, (the best… shh!) and directed by Yasuhiro Takemoto we are brought a heartfelt Slice of Life, imbued with comedy and fantastical elements. One that lives up to often ill-placed hype, one that – given time – will no doubt go down in anime history as an impeccably brilliant classic.
Characters, Plot, and Themes
At first our MC, Kobayashi, appears to live with many nihilistic tendencies, even going as far as to avoid meaningful social interaction. Her job is dead-end, and the last thing it is, is fulfilling. As with most Slice of Life, there is no truly deep story-telling going on, neither is there an multi-layered narratives of note, because, it is the characters that matter, they are number one here.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a fun, feel-good show. There are times when it is more, when the things it explores carry especially meaningful overtones. What I find spectacular is the frequent use of metaphor – how it drives home the very things the show stands for; At the very core Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid deals with the issues of being an outsider, both in familiar places, and those that are completely alien. Kobayashi, and Tohru being the most forward examples. It deals with acceptance, and what it means to be in a… frankly hostile world, yet at the same time, being surrounded by friends and those that you are able to count on. In this sense Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid explores this matter in great depth. (I plan to do a write-up/analysis of these themes at a later date. Keep your eyes peeled for it!)
What would this review be without mentioning Kanna; the sweet, impossibly cute young dragon! For myself, she is without a doubt the highlight of the show. Her character is constructed impeccably, and with such detailed attention. Backed up by some great voice acting, I doubt there’s anyone who cannot smile at every line she speaks. One of the most notable episodes being The Sports Festival, (ep.9) in which there were many touching moments, Kanna being the catalyst for all of them. In particular, it is her innocence I am drawn to, her ability to see past the facades that people coat themselves with, and yet, all whilst retaining that child-like fascination with everything the world has to offer.
Another thing that draws me in are the character dynamics. Kanna sandwiched between Kobayashi and Tohru, whilst Lucoa, Fafnir and Elma stir on the sidelines, adding depth to the relationships, and giving us context from the world in which the dragons come from, and the ways in which they operate. It’s these interactions from the two opposing forces that give the narrative warmth and undeniable feeling; as the conflicts turn into friendship, as the dragons build their lives in Kobayashi’s world of humans.
I find, one of the most endearing episodes to be, Troupe Dragon, On Stage! (ep.10) It reveals the ‘humanity’ in all the characters, and it becomes especially apparent in how the new additions are changing Kobayashi’s life drastically for the better. It’s the developments like these that really tug at my heart-strings, that truly forge my love towards the cast.
Another mighty set of themes in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, are family values, and how such relationships are constructed throughout a relatively short period of time, between people who were previously complete strangers – worlds apart. It is in this we see Kobayashi develop into a ‘mother figure’ for Kanna, the kind that she has never had, the kind that she dreamt of and comes to treasure. Kobayashi herself, is mostly oblivious of this development, being somewhat delusional regarding her own life, and what those that populate it mean. It is this relationship especially where I feel genuine investment into the show, as it genuinely affects me.
Elsewhere, Tohru is evidently the binding personality, and in many respects, Kobayashi’s other half – the kind of person, and the kind of company she hadn’t realised she might need. It’s only when Tohru momentarily departs that this understanding hits her the hardest. Because if the show is about anything, it’s about learning to rely on people, learning to trust in their abilities, and see past their weaknesses. It’s about having friends, and being able to acknowledge that fact. It’s about realising who you are, and accepting that notion.
Style and Animation
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is somewhat unique in this regard. We’re presented with pastel backgrounds – yet, ones that are diverse in their use of colour. It’s a complimentary style that accentuates the chilled-out demeanour of the show as a whole. Instead of striking cell shading, a ‘watercolour’ effect is used to subtlety blend the majority of backgrounds, creating that laid back aesthetic that is always pleasing to lay eyes upon.
The animation itself is flawless, smooth and sparkling clean. Its proficiency becomes apparent when the ‘dragons’ decide to get a little rough with each other. In which the action sequences are precisely choreographed; breaking up the regular pacing of an otherwise entirely Slice of Life anime, which seem to surpass the quality of many other shows which are solely focused on action and fast-paced visual changes. It is in this we are able to see the true craftmanship backing up Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and understand that not one aspect – even those antonymous with such genres – have been overlooked.
Another beautiful element of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the very apparent use of visual comedy. There are moments when humour jumps from the screen, punching out, grabbing the comedic parts of my brain, twisting and wrenching them from side to side. From one scene to the next, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, stylistically switches itself around, flipping from serious moments which are conveyed through the simplicity of its facial animations, and grounded actions. Then, being imbued with electricity, as we’re plunged into montages of hilarious absurdity, displayed through eccentric animations and chibi-style character renditions.
The opening, and ending of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid are some of the best I have had the pleasure to hear. Sung by the Japanese voice cast, both scores delve into the quirkiness of the show, and the unapologetic fun that it stands for.
Great OPs and EDs are things many anime fail to master; Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid doesn’t fall under this curse, it plows through expectations. Where I might usually skip the OP and ED, I sit through them, enjoying every moment of the catchy scores until the next episode plays and it starts all over again!
Beyond those, the OST is chirpy and perfectly fitting for the often ridiculous statements and visuals. Honestly, it’s nothing too out of this world, and neither is it truly memorable in any sense. Though, it doesn’t need to be, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid isn’t the type of show that relies on a great soundtrack to create atmosphere and/or tension. It’s just there to compliment, and it does a very good job at doing so.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: it’s one of those shows that only come about once in a blue moon. By no way is it implicitly original, by no way does it tackle matters seriously – and yet, it hints at them, making such social issues accessible to a wide audience, without creating constructs that are impossible to grasp. It’s feel good. It’s humour goes levels deep, though, it it’s never reliant on cheap laughs, and nor do they develop from clichés that are so widely used.
If I had anything negative to say? Well, maybe I would’ve liked a little more screen time for Kanna. Yet, maybe I only have that thought because of how enamoured I was by her. And maybe I would’ve liked the director to hint at a possible romantic side to some relationships – though, I understand Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is not that type of show, and therefore I cannot detract anything from it for that reason. Instead, I find myself trying to find something wrong with it… but nothing substantial stands out. And, why should it? Because Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is truly wonderful.
It is – unequivocally – one of the best anime to have been released in recent years – or, at least I feel like it is – with my endearment towards Slice of Life and robust, well-developed characters. I’d easily recommend it to any person looking for something light-hearted, yet something which is often truly touching, something which I found to be the catalyst for some long hours of self-reflection – in a good way!
So, get watching Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid!! You won’t regret it!
How did you personally find Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid?
Thanks for reading, as always!
-Chris (Follow me on Twitter and consider supporting Peach’s Almanac on Patreon!)