We all like a cute anime, but who would have thought that one of the cutest from 2017 so far included dragons?
I certainly didn’t expect it to. But, Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon (or Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid) came onto the scene and changed that.
It follows the story of how Kobayashi meets a dragon as she sets off for work one day. Her initial frightened state, however, is not really necessary as the dragon then transforms into an energetic young girl – Tohru – dressed in a maid outfit. Tohru wishes to repay Kobayashi after she gave a generous offer during a previous encounter and wishes to repay her by working as her personal maidservant. Although she has unorthodox methods of working, Tohru is surprisingly efficient at her job, despite often horrifying Kobayashi in the process. The circumstances surrounding Tohru’s arrival on Earth appear to be much more complicated than implied and, to top things off, her presence on Earth attracts several other mythical beings to Kobayashi’s home, introducing a host of eccentric personalities. The question is – how will Kobayashi cope with her new life with a dragon maid?
Now, I will admit – when I first heard of this show, I wasn’t sold. That explains why it doesn’t feature in my 10 Anime To Look Out For In Winter 2017 post. When I started watching the show, I wasn’t completely sold either. The show was missing from my First Impressions of Winter 2017 post as well, for I had only watched a single episode of the show by then. This show is definitely one that some people will have to be patient with. Even if you don’t like the first few episodes, you have to keep watching it, for you will find something that you find absolutely charming about the show that makes you want to watch more and more.
What I like about the show is that it’s quite episodic. Although some episodes include some backstory, it’s possible for you to watch an episode in the middle of the series and that’s it. I know of some fans who first watched an episode in the middle of the series and went back to the start of the show to start it properly due to their piqued interest. The episodic nature of the show also means that character development is done really well. Each character has, at some point, an episode that explains their personalities and their backstories and I really liked this aspect of the show. It definitely could have been done a lot worse. And that brings me onto my next point.
Some people would argue that this series was full of tropes. As much as I can see where they’re coming from, what with the many different types of personalities showcased in the show, I have to disagree. Sure, there’s personality types in Kobayashi-san that are featured in literally every type of slice-of-life anime, but the way that the characters in Kobayashi-san are portrayed just makes it feel less cliche than other shows. Despite its simplicity, the charm of the show just made me dismiss any hatred for the tropes and I just focused on how wholesome the actual show is. Speaking of personality types, however, I will have to comment on how annoying some personalities are. Firstly, I have to mention how irritating Shouta’s personality is. His constant frightened state when communicating with Quetzalcoatl (Lucoa) simply grinds on me. I understand that he reckons Lucoa is a demon and not a dragon and is also scared of her due to her ‘seduction’ techniques but his reactions just aren’t as cute as I assume they’re meant to be. And something else that isn’t cute is Saikawa’s personality as a whole. Sure, she can be sweet, especially towards Kanna, but her almost-orgasmic reactions to often the simplest of things irritated the life out of me and I know I’m not alone on that front.
Mentioning Lucoa briefly above, I do have to point out that the poor girl gets way too much negative attention. I’m not necessarily one to talk about anime characters from a arguably somewhat feminist point of view, but it seems that Lucoa is just loved for her well-endowed body. Sure, her breasts are big and she’s (disproportionately, may I add) skinny too, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to her character. Lucoa is honestly a little cutie in her own right and I’m a little mad that this isn’t the main point that people pick up on. She’s constantly smiling and she’s a optimistic little soul with a cute personality that deserves more attention for who she is as a character and not just her boobs. *sigh*
I do have to give credit where credit is due, though. I do believe that Kanna, as a character, was conveyed really well. Maria Naganawa, her Japanese voice actress, did a really good job at voicing Kanna, giving the curious tone that any shy eight or nine year old would have. Her mannerisms have been animated to a great standard and, mixing with the voice and script, that honestly makes Kanna one of the most well-conveyed and cutest characters that I’ve seen in anime thus far.
Despite a lot of the fans of the show extrapolating more of a romantic relationship between Tohru and Kobayashi, I would argue otherwise. Sure, it’s clear that the two have a close bond and there is definitely potential for a same-sex relationship to bloom there, especially considering the amount of emotions they both passionately show within the final episode, but despite Tohru being quite explicit in her feelings, Kobayashi definitely still leaves it as something that is clearly one-sided. To me, it’s certainly more of a housemate or family setting within Kobayashi’s home, particularly when Kanna is introduced, and I wouldn’t particularly argue it was as yuri as many make it out to be. Perhaps this is just my opinion, and perhaps it’s an unpopular one, but this is just focusing on the anime. The manga is very likely to be different hence the popular yuri outlook on the show, especially when the show was just starting, but for me this is simply a “cute girls doing cute things”-esque show and not really one to be tagged yuri, even with the undertones the show provides.
I realise that I’ve spoken about the characters an awful lot and not really anything else thus far, so let me make a point about the OST. Admittedly, this was only something I picked up on during the final episode, but the music that is used in Kobayashi-san always tends to fit the scenarios incredibly well. The OP is a really happy-go-lucky piece of music and makes it so you’re always excited to start an episode and anticipate what antics the dragons will get up to. The ED is also a cute, happy piece that brings a smile onto your face, with meaning a little more due to it being sang by the voice actors of all the female dragons in the show. The background music is always quite jolly and there are sometimes pieces I could see being used in slapstick comedy. Some also give a nostalgic vibe and remind me of the music used The Sims franchise. Without giving too much away, however, I need to comment on the music that made me realise how great the OST is – the darker-sounding tracks that play in the final episode when Tohru’s father is properly introduced. The violins and loud drums used in these tracks (tracks 15 and 16 especially on the OST CD, I believe*) are incredible and definitely contrast the rest of the OST to the point where these tracks could definitely fit in a horror anime particularly well.
But, apart from the characters and the music, as well as how easy it is to watch, what I like about Kobayashi-san is the morals behind the entire series. It’s basically just about accepting differences – not just in other people (e.g. Kobayashi accepting Tohru and Kanna) but also accepting differences in yourself (e.g. Tohru experiencing a different culture and trying to fit in). Although not exactly made excessively explicit, the message behind the series is extremely easy to pick up on and it’s also what makes the show so charming. Sure, it has the same message as other shows – take Demi-chan wa Kataritai from the same season, for example – but there’s something about the way Kobayashi-san deals with it that’s slightly different and yet… I can’t quite put it into words.
Admittedly, the pacing within the series concerning the final episode seems a little rushed. I do feel as if they could have incorporated this plot a lot more than they actually did, but instead we just get greeted with a tense final episode with hardly any warning. It just seems that Kyoto Animation panicked slightly and thought “oh no, we need to get this episode out and finish the storyline”. As much as I dislike this, it doesn’t exactly take much away from my final rating.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-watch show, whether you’re a fan of slice-of-life anime or not, I recommend Kobayashi-san. It’s by far one of my favourites of this year so far. It’s cute, it’s funny and it’s wholesome. Sure, it lewds its own characters from time-to-time, but that’s honestly something you can learn to cope with once you know what’s what. Kobayashi-san is simply a show that doesn’t require much attention to be paid and so I would recommend it to, perhaps not absolute newbies, but those relatively new to the anime scene as well as those who have been around years and just want to take a break from the usual hectic-ness that is commonly found in anime.
* Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!