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.
Some anime are so fun that anything that hurts them makes me mad. That is what happened with Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid.
The premise is simple, the characters are expressive, the comedy is funny and the theme song is addicting!
What could possibly ruin this good anime?
Sexual assault on a child.
Yes, that happens.
Twice, I have had that happen this year. Even one of the voice actors voiced two of the characters, and both were similar.
I looked at Lucoa, the over breasted and tight shorted dragon and knew that she would be trouble. With young characters AND her in the same show, I knew something bad was going to happen. I was right, because both Lucoa AND a child were involved in a disgusting scene.
I can't stand sexual assault, please be aware of that while watching this anime.
KyoAni has dazzled me with riveting character dramas but I've found some of their comedies hit-or-miss. Last winter gave us Myriad Colors Phantom World (Musaigen no Phantom World) which quickly devolved into cheap erotica with a couple of clever fourth-wall-breaking jokes, and this winter they deliver us Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid a quirky story of a over worked and alcoholic office lady known only as Kobayashi who for some odd reason invited a dragon to come live with her.
What will evolve from here is hopefully a quirky fun buddy comedy to fill a seaon with and so far it hasn't disappointed. The dragon girl named Toru has taken on a human form, only with conspicuous horns and a tail sticking out and has decided to become her maid for the fact she loves Kobayashi. Much of the humor is situational hijinx and there isn't much connection from scene to scene beyond a simple narrative flow to glue the show together but the situations all show to be amusing. There are a few squiky jokes that don't quite land because of the sheer creepy and awkwardness behind them but the show overall is tame and pretty amusing.
A good first episode makes me think this will be a fun buddy comedy overall with some off color jokes that will hopefully be more clever and less repulsive. Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid rather reminds me of Pita-Ten thanks to a similar premise of a fantastical girl coming to live and help someone who really needs it.
Story: Nothing to special, but it's fun and done oke.
Animation: The style and animation is good, nothing to fancy.
Sound: Sounds like sounds, what else can I say?
Characters: The characters are cute and fun. Kanna especially!
Overall: This anime is a fun anime to watch, whether you watch it alone or with someone.
I recommend you watch this anime if you want something fun, cute and with boobies.
The most painful part of this is the fact that up until episode 12 this was one of my favorite anime in a long time but that final episode was so abysmal and utterly cringy it ruined the entire anime. I loved this anime so much that when my schedule got so bogged down and I could only keep up with a few anime this was the one for winter 2017 I chose. And as a side note I tried both subbed and dubbed and I'd stay way from the dubbed on this one. The English studio forced a bunch of SJW type of propaganda into their dubb and it really Broke the emersion.
Iv kinda already touched on this. It's a slice of life anime but is one that is totally unique and amazing. With just the right amount of corky comedy, engaging/relatable struggles, and action. But then... this story was tragically rapped up with the absolute worst ending I've ever seen in a anime. It goes beyond being lazy or even just being bad. It was so sudden, so awkward, so cheesy, so just out of place it feels like the entire studio took the day off and the one intern everyone hated took this as their chance to prove themselves and made and published that heep of garbage before they got back... even when I tried we watching the series it was haunted by that god aweful ending...
One of this anime's saving graces. The animation team for this anime was amazing even when they utilized cgi it flowed and looked amazing! The action flowed. The everyday interactions where natural and seemed right. And over all it was a beautiful anime to watch.
It did was it was supposed to. Nothing more or less. It set the mood and kept me engaged.
Given this is excluding that garbage final episode. The character development although rushed was very natural and engaging. I enjoyed seeing how each relationship would grow with every episode. On top of that every character was deep, well thought out and lovable! I love anime with characters like this in anime!