Kyoto Animation, or KyoAni, has always been on the ball with their shows. As pioneers of the moe genre that helped flourish it into its own set of tropes and tiresome cliche writing, one has to wonder what theme hasn’t had its box ticked off yet, or gimmicks that haven’t been utilized yet. Well, what about dragons?
Our story beings with Kobayashi. Kobayashi is your typical white collar worker who travels to work, sits at her desk, maybe goes out to drink with a friend, then goes home. She’s welcomed to an unusual sight one day upon leaving for work, where instead of the bright blue sky that she’s used to seeing, she comes face to face with a giant dragon that morphs into a girl in a maid outfit with churros attached to her head. As it turns out, Kobayashi met this dragon, named Tohru, in a drunken stupor, and did something to that now the dragon is indebted to her. Lovely.
Based around something of a 4-koma manga, Kobayashi’s maid dragon is in simple terms, an everyday comedy featuring dragons. The intrigue of this slice of life comedy comes from the fact that the majority of the cast are dragons that go around adapting to human life (specifically Japanese life) in various ways: NEET behavior, going to school, completing the housework, etc. The comedy stems from actively meshing the dragons unfamiliar to human life with a variety of common situations, creating a multitude of snappy jokes that never get heavily reused. Sure there’re quite a number of gags that do get reused, but they’re never done so heavily that they get tiresome or lazy.
While indeed the show is a comedy, what separates Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid from most slice of life comedies is the profoundness with what it does. The gimmick of the dragons extend further beyond just “Oh, we don’t know human society herp skerp” comedy and becomes a message about coexistence, and how beings can grow closer to one another when differences are set aside and understanding can be accomplished. It’s a strange yet comforting aspect of the show that’s used a fair amount and definitely is given the attention it deserves. My only gripe is how the show flip flops between comedy and insight so rapidly. One cutaway later, and everything is wiped clean. I honestly wish that the show handled the sudden changes of tone much better, because the show really does have a good message that it delivers on fairly well.
+ Little reusing of comedic gags
+ Meshes its message fairly well
+/- Everyday comedy (comedy is subjective)
– Some hard tone shifts.
As mentioned before, the show revolves around dragons. While the cast is more or less split half and half with dragons and humans, the majority of who’s showcased leans more towards the reptiles of the cast.
Kobayashi, as the main human character of the show, acts mainly as a counterbalance to the dragon shenanigans of the show. As the main human representative, Kobayashi’s character revolves around her obsession of maids, to the slow and gradual change from her monotonous life to one surrounded with draconic creatures from another world. The inviting aspect of her character comes from how transparent her relationship with the main dragon, Tohru, is. You see genuine change, you see something actually form and develop with her, and what this ends up creating is a likable character that slowly feeds the audience information about who she is and what her beliefs are.
Then there’s, as mentioned before, Tohru. The main dragon of the show and Kobayashi’s maid, Tohru’s main trait is the fact that she love Kobayashi. Acting as her personal maid, Tohru’s main goal in the series is to gain Kobayashi’s affection while spiting the rest of humanity because…humanity sucks. Similar to Kobayashi, Tohru’s character is a malleable personality that morphs and shifts with each passing episode. You see her settle in and understand humanity more, ultimately achieving growth that is both noticeable and comforting to see.
The rest of the cast comprises of various other dragons like Kanna, Lucoa, Fafnir, and Elma which all adapt and meld into human society in their own ways, and various human characters that similarly, act as different pillars in (Japanese) society. When compared to Tohru, the rest of the dragons don’t really have too much of an arc or a large amount of change to them. If anything, they get a short little arc to show us how they’ve changed, then their time in the spotlight is over. My main complaint comes with how most of the dragons (especially in Elma’s case) feel so underutilized. I feel like the show could’ve done more with some of them rather than let them be another gag for comedy.
+ Noticeable character development
– Some characters in the side cast feel underutilized
Produced by KyoAni, the art for Kobayashi is crisp, bright, and all around, good quality. Compared to some of KyoAni’s previous works, Maiddragon just doesn’t feel like it has the same quality. True the company didn’t slack, as even compared to ‘standard fare’ the show looks great, but when compared to previous works like Euphonium, Chuunibyou, and hell, even Phantom World, the art for Maiddragon is average in comparison.
However what really makes Maiddragon different comes from the dragons. Tohru is a dragon. Dragons have teeth, claws, and have magical powers. There’re a number of times when the comedic visuals of the series turn into this ravagefest where Tohru bears her true colors as a dragon and displays some quite unsettling imagery for a joke. It’s a small detail, but one I appreciated because the character, is a dragon. If a creature mythically known for death and destruction didn’t have some kind of portrayal to showcase its ravenous behavior, I’d be a bit disappointed.
+ Good, clean art
– Not as good looking as previous works
Made by fhana, the OP for Maiddragon has a unique, upbeat tone that’s actually very catchy. At first, it doesn’t feel like it fits the show, but then you get used to it, and it becomes actually quite fun to watch and listen to. It has a clear beat that you can bob your head or clap along to, so it’s definitely a song made to get stuck in your head. The ED on the other hand is a more casual song sung by the seiyuus of the four female dragons in the series. Compared to its OP sibling, I wouldn’t say it’s as catchy, but it’s actually quite memorable and cheerful.
Despite my initial wariness with Maiddragon, as its original manga didn’t really pique my interest all that much, I have to safely say that the show was quite enjoyable. Its character growth and the discussion of coexistence between two or more different parties was not only something I wouldn’t have expected from a series about a woman and her housemaid who’s also a dragon, but was a part of the show that was prominent and something that I really enjoyed. Even more than the random antics.
What did I like about this anime?
Favorite dragon: Elma. All you Kanna fans out there, deal with it. The loli is second rate to the glutton and you know it!
What didn’t I like about this anime?
Aside from the faulty transitions of the show being too abrupt with changing from profoundness back to comedy, another thing I found trouble with was how little the serious aspects of the show came to light. Honestly, the show could’ve done more, and I would’ve liked more of that aspect instead of more Tohru antics. Cause if you asked me, it meshed in a lot better than what was probably anticipated.
Would I recommend this anime?
In the spectrum of comedic slice of life, Kobayashi’s Maiddragon to me, rates pretty high. I think above all, the show is enjoyable and has aspects of it that you’re not really going to find anywhere else. Sure it may be another piece of moe waifu bait hung in front of you, but in my opinion, Maiddragon has much more to offer than just that.