I’m in a slump. These past couple of weeks, I’ve been avoiding anime so that I could at least try to be a responsible adult, only to fail at that, too. I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels, trying to get a change of pace, yet still get none of the results I’m looking for. Current events don’t help, and after a very long period of reflection, I’ve come to realize that my friends are getting further and further away from me.
Yet recently, I asked some friends about what I should review next, and of the few responses I got, this was their collective choice. Now normally I would look at this series for its hilarity, maybe add one deep thought about it that some of you may not have noticed, and end with a favorite waifu bit; and I will. But perhaps, I’m reading into this request too much, because I want to go a little further than that. Try to win my readers’ affection again (heh… I wish).
For this review, I am going to present an interpretation that helped me realize that this anime is… actually OK. That’s the least I can do for a show that at first glance I reluctantly invested in, simply for the fact that everyone else was watching it.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon) stars the titular character Kobayashi, a no-nonsense office worker who’s too busy to enjoy her life. One day, a dragon from another world named Tohru comes to see her. Showing little to no interest, Kobayashi is more annoyed than frightened by Tohru, putting them both in an awkward position on their first encounter.
But as luck would have it, Tohru vows to be Kobayashi’s servant and takes the form of a maid, and the rest is a situational comedy where things go totally bonkers, with the occasional mildly explicit ecchi moment, and implied innuendos galore!
Joining Tohru are a cast of several more dragons who are literally out of this world, who have descended upon our mundane world for various reasons. Whether they’re here to observe humans of this world, bring destruction upon it, or simply just want to be with the fun-loving Tohru, these humanoid dragons have infiltrated our world successfully, and Kobayashi is not pleased!
I will admit that a lot of the jokes in this series are genuinely funny, but all of them are short spurts of laughter for each individual gag. That level of humor works if you’re simply watching to be entertained, and granted, I think that’s what kept fans interested throughout the series.
Uhm… I’m not even going to ask, Lucoa.
Oh, Kanna. Nothing will ever satisfy your hunger and curiosity, which I’m starting to think are the same thing.
And if you’re wondering which of these lovely dragon ladies are my favorite, I’d have to go with Fafnir. He may be the destroyer of worlds that would like to see everyone in this world die, but at least he can be swayed by video games! Praise the Sun, he has a weakness to counterbalance whatever nasty powers he has to wreck upon this world! Not to mention he’s got that curiously masochist vibe to him.
But underneath all the completely bonkers humor in this anime, the best part in my opinion is the bond that Kobayashi has with Tohru.
Tohru’s side of the story seems a little more obvious. As a dragon, she has learned to despise humans who have only come to slay her kind in her world. Where humans might see dragons as monsters to be slain, Tohru feels defenseless and weak. But after seeing the kindness of a peasant in her realm and Kobayashi in ours, she comes to the realization that not all humans are bad, and even tries to imitate them in our world. Granted of course, that she still playfully uses her magic to just make things a little crazier for the rest of us.
Not to mention, she has a thing for Kobayashi, for some reason.
That’s a cute story and all, and it gives us the impression that dragons like Tohru might be a little more human or whatever, but that side of the story didn’t interest me that much. I thought that Tohru was rather annoying on the whole, and I honestly wouldn’t have given her the time of day if I ever met her in real life (so… uhm… don’t go looking for all the cosplay pictures I’ve taken of Tohru at Anime Expo 2017. It was a popular cosplay, okay?)
You know who else seems to agree with me about Tohru? Miss Kobayashi herself!
Of all the unique and colorful characters of this series, Kobayashi stands out as the most interesting character to me, but I seem to be in the minority for saying that. Of all the dragons, cute kids, and nut job coworkers, who would ever give someone as normal and mediocre as Kobayashi a chance? Well given that she’s been placed at the center of this story, seems to hold her own well enough to tame dragons, and overall not much is known about her character other than a pair of glasses, she represents a group that doesn’t stand out very much in anime communities: the burned-out otaku.
I get it, guys. Miss Kobayashi is me.
We know this about her based on how she appears, versus how she interacts with Tohru and her friends. Her apartment seems rather pristine, with little to no paraphernalia of niche collectors’ items to be had. She has a mundane day job that gives her a hard time everyday, but she does it anyway because it pays. She associates most with the token otaku of the company, and seeing any of the dragons in this show doesn’t even faze her! She seems to be awfully familiar with pop culture tropes, but distances herself from them with her no-nonsense attitude.
Kobayashi has probably seen lots of anime, read lots of manga and light novels, or played lots of video games in her prime, and she wanted out. So when Tohru came into her life, she couldn’t help but feel that she’s been sucked right back in.
Deep down, Kobayashi wants to enjoy her past life again, but with so much more responsibilities, she can’t enjoy it the same way. She’s an adult now, and a rather boring one at that.
The over-the-top antics of five cute and sometimes sexy humanoid dragons aren’t going to entertain her the same way they would any other otaku. Her reactions toward them are more “been there, done that” than “this is too weird,” and strange as it sounds, I totally get it. Kobayashi would be more annoyed by this monotonous humor that she thought was fascinating at one point, and she’s definitely seen enough maids to know that one more couldn’t satisfy her.
But this is why I think Tohru was ultimately meant to be with Kobayashi and vice versa. Kobayashi didn’t need a maid. She needed a friend.
By no means is Tohru ever going to be the perfect dragon or maid. But the day Kobayashi met her brought something that she had been missing in her mundane life: utter chaos. All the funnies, the mildly sexual humor, the crazy things that dragons do in this show were there for Kobayashi to lighten up, and more often than not, she did. And who better to help her realize that than an imperfect dragon maid with a soft spot for humans?
I’ve been doing anime criticism for close to 5 years on this blog now, and as my life has changed drastically in that time, so has my perspective and taste in anime. It’s harder for me to enjoy things I used to in the same way, or have conversations with other fans in a way that’s meaningful for both of us. Lately there has been a stronger disconnect between me and others whom I have met through this medium, but I don’t think it’s possible for me to ever go back to the way I used to be, nor do I think that I should.
I didn’t want to give Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid a chance at first, because I felt like I have seen so many other comedies like it; and to be honest, I was not surprised at all. But what it did give me was some humorous perspective on my own life right now, and how much I have missed being able to enjoy anime just for fun, and connect with friends because of that. It’s scary to think that despite my lack of direction right now, I really have become that old-timer that I was so afraid of.
But maybe, just maybe, I can be that old-timer who likes anime, if not for a different reason other than that of its significantly younger audience. Kobayashi found her own comfort in a dragon maid and her friends that is rather unique compared to others who might be obsessed with maids or dragons. And perhaps, I found my own unique way to enjoy this anime, too.
Just… let’s not push it too hard on me, shall we?
I know a lot of you have probably already heard of this or have watched it, but if you are that former otaku out there that is only quasi-curious about anime today, I genuinely suggest giving Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid a watch. You might be surprised what you think about it.
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