An Anime Review by BHS
(Originally posted on DA: http://tasakeru828.deviantart.com/journal/Miss-Kobayashi-s-Dragon-Maid-My-Review-673175012)
The surprise isn't that the show is good. You can make even the most outlandish premise into a good show with talented writers.
The surprise isn't that the show is great, either.
What's a surprise is that the series that many people wrote off based on its title and trailer alone is an early contender for the best anime of 2017.
So let's start at the beginning, or just prior to it: last fall, when the first previews for Dragon Maid came out, there was an exasperated groan heard throughout the anime fandom. I myself thought "Great, another sleazy monster-girl harem series" upon seeing promos for it. Not to say that sleazy monster-girl harem series are inherently a bad thing, but ever since My Daily Life with Monster Girl hit it big, there's been no end of variations on it. You know what I'm talking about, it's the classic "My girlfriend is a [X] and she and all her friends want to ride my bones but I can't favor just one of them or they'll kill me" thing, with X being your preferred monster. It's been done ad nauseum with normal humans, superhumans, moe-anthrofied animals, objects, and battleships, Norse goddesses, Lovecraftian horrors, etc. etc. etc. Monster-girls is just the latest popular twist to the formula.
Well, first of all, Dragon Maid stands out by virtue of the X-girl's obligatory love interest, the titular Miss Kobayashi, being a woman. And not just any woman, but a single, completely unsexualized, actual adult woman, and one with a completely ordinary job, at that. She's a code jockey at an office firm. She wakes up one morning after the mother of all hangovers, heads out to work, and finds a sixty-foot dragon waiting for her outside her apartment. Said dragon turns into an energetic blonde in a maid costume, introduces herself as Tohru, and says she's ready to begin work as Miss Kobayashi's maid... which leads to Miss Kobayashi understandably wondering "Just how drunk was I last night?!"
So, about Miss Kobayashi, you have to do quite some digging to find anime or manga about anyone over the age of 21, but when it comes to anime or manga starring adult women that fit into the categories above... well, Miss Kobayashi (we never do learn what her first name is, which is part of the charm) is practically in a class by herself.
So the series draws people in with the twist that the monster-girl's love interest is another girl. Gotta appeal to those yuri fans, right? But then the second twist becomes apparent after an episode or two: this isn't a harem show. As I've been patiently explaining to anyone who will listen for the past thirteen weeks: it's a slice-of-life comedy. A warm, fuzzy, riotously funny slice-of-life comedy that just happens to have dragon girls in it.
Soon after the second dragon, the diminutive and lethally adorable Kanna, appears and is adopted by Miss Kobayashi, the crass sexual humor that one would reasonably expect from a series centered around a combination of monster girls and maid outfits disappears almost entirely. Yes, there's still large, jiggling busoms aplenty, and yes, there is one overly sexual element that people do have a right to complain about (more on that later), but it plays a very, very small part of the series's humor. Most of the humor comes from the formula "dragons + human culture - understanding of said culture = hilarity", and my God, 95% of the time that formula delivers. I've gotten more belly laughs from Dragon Maid than anything else I've watched this year. Anything else, and that includes Western animation, live-action TV, and movies as well.
It gets laughs from a unique combination of culture clash, failure of communication, some truly inspired sight gags, and boatloads of genuine, unironic cuteness. It gets laughs from the outstanding performances of the voice cast, including Maria Naganawa in a star-making turn as Kanna. It gets laughs from the running gag of Tohru trying to feed Miss Kobayashi meat made from her own tail, which is a gag that absolutely should not work, and yet it had me in stitches every time. (You see, Tohru has incredible regenerative powers, so her tail always grows back in seconds whenever she... oh, never mind.) It gets laughs from Tohru's very Hobbes-like barely concealed pride in not being human, and her corresponding unshakeable belief that dragons are the superior species, but her racism (speciesism?) never feels mean-spirited or misplaced... it's always done with a gentle poke of the ribs. It gets laughs from viewing a very ordinary modern human world with dragon eyes. And then, when you're least expecting it... Dragon Maid will often pull away from the comedy for a few minutes to deliver an astonishingly deep, thought-provoking point about how the very concept of what a family is is changing.
If there's one thing that pushes this show from "great" to "genius", it's this: it's a refutation of all those old, emotionally constipated white guys who like to rant about "supporting traditional family values". "Supporting traditional family values" is thinly-veiled code for "any family that's not a white Christian heterosexual cisgendered man, a white Christian heterosexual cisgendered woman to whom he is legally married, and 2.5 white Christian heterosexual cisgendered children is blasphemy and must be shunned, then destroyed." There's hints throughout the series that neither Tohru's parents nor Miss Kobayashi's would approve of their new living arrangement, hints which culminate with an intensely dramatic visit from Tohru's very traditionalist father in the final episode. It's so immensely satisfying to see both Tohru and Miss Kobayashi decide that no matter what their parents think of it, their relationship is more important than any social or familial stigma it may carry. In fact, the series ends with the whole weird little family going to meet Miss Kobayashi's parents for the first time, with a pan up to a beautiful blue sky and Miss Kobayashi's voice saying the final line of the series: "I'm home."
If Dragon Maid indulged itself with the kind of fanservice and eroticism that Daily Life with Monster Girl did, it would have shot itself in the foot. Yes, Tohru is in love with Miss Kobayashi, and by her own admission, her feelings are not strictly romantic or platonic. The beauty of the show is that they move past that. Apart from the tail-eating running gag, which is played for humor rather than titillation, Tohru doesn't push Miss Kobayashi into a romantic/sexual relationship, despite how much she might want it. Once sex is off the table, the two of them develop a genuine, mutually fulfilling relationship, and in the end, that's far more satisfying than them simply hitting the sheets could ever be. Some series can get by on teasing whether or not the leads will have sex, and some can do it well... but it's so, so rare to find one that gets the teasing out of the way early, answers the question with a definitive "no", and goes on to ask, "Well, what happens next?"
That's not to say the more puerile content is done away with entirely, and that brings me to the one element that keeps me from giving Dragon Maid a universal recommendation. That element would be Lucoa, a fellow dragon and friend of Tohru's who sports an absurd bustline and typically wears very, very little. Lucoa's bountiful assets are one thing, but what sticks in people's craws is her relationship with her human. Said human is a third-grader from a family of mages, who accidentally summoned Lucoa through a magical ritual intended to prove his worth to his family tradition. Lucoa popped out of his cauldron completely nude, and because she keeps trying to "offer him her body" as payment and he keeps declining, they're stuck together for the foreseeable future. Now, yes, on its surface level, this is a very adult woman/dragon with enormous breasts trying to seduce an underage boy. People have every right to be creeped out about that. The fact that the boy's name is "Shota" does it no favors, though I'm positive that he was named that way as part of the joke. However, and this is a big "however"... putting the usual "Oh, Japan", cultural differences defense aside, over the course of the series that relationship stabilizes in much the same way that Tohru's and Miss Kobayashi's does. To the show's credit, Shota categorically refuses Lucoa's advances from the get go, and treats her as more of an extremely embarrassing older sister than any kind of love interest. And to Lucoa's credit, the writing is solid enough that it makes her seem like she genuinely doesn't see anything inappropriate about what she's doing, but she does eventually cut it out nevertheless. Yet again, it's culture clash at work. The obvious p*do jokes are headed off at the pass before anything seriously offensive can happen. I put this whole element into the same category as all the cousin incest jokes in Arrested Development: it's not funny because something untoward is going on, it's funny because the show realizes that it's inappropriate, and that's where the humor comes from. Still, given the explosive nature of the subject, I won't press it further. Would Dragon Maid be better without Lucoa and/or Shota? Maybe, maybe not, but it is what it is. If you're mature enough to not fly off the handle when encountering something that might be considered p*do, you can handle this.
No, Dragon Maid is not perfect, and because of the Lucoa/Shota stuff I can't recommend it 100%. There are other flaws, because of course there are flaws; no series is perfect. Elma, the last of the five primary dragons, is introduced too late in the series to have much impact, and receives too little character development. There's almost no plot until the final episode, where it takes a hard dramatic turn. The aforementioned Lucoa issues. And one could complain about the lack of depth for the (few) male characters, or the more unsavory parts of moe-anthropomorphism in general. However... considering what Dragon Maid is versus what people thought it would be, it's a goddamn masterpiece. It's charming, frequently touching, not overly sexualized, cute as a whole barrel of buttons, superbly well-acted and well-animated, masterfully written, and most important of all, it's FUNNY. Really, really, really howlingly funny. Putting all its elements together, I have to say that it's hands-down my favorite anime of the season, and my favorite of the year so far. For the past thirteen weeks, the second I saw "Oh hey, there's a new Dragon Maid episode out!", no matter what my mood was before, it was immediately improved. This is a feel-good show, dammit. I'm of the opinion that we need more feel-good stuff these days, especially feel-good stuff that you can enjoy sans irony. If that's what you want in your anime, for my money you can't do much better right now than Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Don't let the title or the premise fool you, it's so much more than it looks at first glance.
It was a great anime until the paedophilic parts. Very sweet and cute slice of life that is adorable. Granted I never saw any sexually explicit scenes but it's bluntly stated. There's a scene about six episodes in where a kindergartener is in love with one of the characters and gets absolutely flustered when she touches her. Then the little girl pins the other one down and says she wants to "take it to the next level" before she gets interrupted and it's really odd man. The little girl later says she was going to do "dragon style" with her. I thought I was reading in to it but later in the same episode a grown woman literally offers her body to another child. I don't know man, I enjoy innuendo and fan service as much as anyone but kids being involved is too much. It's really infuriating because this was so cute at first and the paedophilia is just sort of thrown at you from left field.
The plot wasn't so bad in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid but my issue with it is the fact the author is a lolicon and knowing that just makes kanna and riko's relationship even weirder, not to mention Lucoa is a pedophile and it was even implied that she sexually assaulted her own sister.
TW: PEDOPHILIA AND SEXUAL ASSAULT
This anime was doing really well, until around episode 5 and 6. And that's when I dropped it because it was getting out of hand. There were so many sexual innuendos, and not the funny sort. There were these 2 little girls, who one of them would furiously blush when the other touched her or expressed affection towards her. One time one of them pinned the other to the floor and said she wanted to "take it to the next level". There was also this extremely big chested lady, not for the purpose of representation of different body types, but for the purpose of sexualizing her. Believe me they too big, even for an anime. It appears she might have SA'd her little sister. She also offered her body to a 6y.o boy, who's name Shouta, if you know what I mean. It was then that I immediately dropped it.
This anime had so much potential. The art was so good, and the characters were so unique and beautiful. I enjoyed it up to the moment where it started getting sexual and I was getting weary and couldn't enjoy it. Truly a shame.
This was honestly so much more adorable than I was expecting. The characters were great, the animation incredible and the whole thing was really sweet.
Office worker Kobayashi saves a dragon's life, and the next day she shows up and says she wants to be her maid! The story shows their life as they slowly get used to living together, and the dragon gets used to the human world. It's pretty much episodic, although the story still feels like it has really progressed by the end of it.
The characters in Kobayashi-san are great, and get quite a bit of development along the way. Kobayashi is seeminly pretty emotionless, but still cares about her friends a lot. Tohru is a bit over the top, and a lot of fun to watch. The other dragons are all fairly eccentric as well, but are really interesting and lovable characters. I got attached to pretty much all of them, for one reason or another, and by the end I was completely invested in them.
I feel like there is a definite need to mention the art. It is gorgeous. Everything's very fluid, pretty to look at, and dear god the dragons are beautiful.
If you like adorable slice of lifes, dragons, or just great characters generally, you'd definitley enjoy this.
ALG Winter 2017 review