Life can be pretty crazy sometimes.
Maybe you win the lottery, quit your job and renovate a boat in Zihuatanejo.
Maybe it snows and you get the day off work.
Maybe a dragon appears on your doorstep and becomes your housemaid.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the latest in Kyoto Animation’s long and storied history of anime production. Through KyoAni we’ve had such masterpieces as Clannad, Nichijou, K-On! and Sound! Euphonium. But does this new effort stand up to their usual gold standard?
Well, in short, yes it does. But let’s take a look anyway.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is the story of the titular Miss Kobayashi, whose first name is never revealed and isn’t really that important anyway. She’s your average worker drone: wake up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, sit in a cubicle for hours, get drunk, go home, go to sleep.
But one night, she adds “take a trip into the mountains” to her itinerary and happens upon Tohru, a wounded dragon from an alternate fantasy realm. After Kobayashi helps her out in a drunken stupor, Tohru swears a life debt to forever be her humble servant, and to that end gives herself the appearance of a maid cafe employee. Kobayashi, being a maid otaku, is both appalled and inspired, and decides to teach Tohru the ways of proper maidery.
Now, what follows could have been a standard slice-of-life comedy with the addition of wacky dragons (of which there is a sizeable cast). It would have been fun, but not particularly stand-out. But that would be underestimating the source material and KyoAni’s effortless professionalism.
Rather than focusing solely on the comedic aspects of the series (which are still there, and hilarious), Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid instead attempts to deep-dive the subject matter, giving equal parts laughs with musings on the human condition – episodes often touch on familial relationships, loneliness, isolation and feeling out of place in a big world.
Kobayashi, though a relatively demure character, for the most part, is genuinely likeable, and has an interesting personality. She’s not particularly pretty, wears glasses and is content to enjoy a drink and sleep after a long day at work, which contrasts nicely with Tohru’s energetic need to please her.
Later, when other dragons enter the picture, the ideas at play become even deeper. Kanna, the tiny “child” dragon allows Kobayashi the chance to try out a sort of motherhood, while Fafnir and Lucoa, well…
I rather enjoyed that most of the dragons are based on actual mythological figures – Fafnir is based on a dwarf by the same name who fell victim to his own greed, represented in the series by an unavoidable urge to open chests in video games. Lucoa is based on Quetzalcoatl, who was coerced by Tezcatlipoca to drink a bunch of liquor and “cavort” with his (or in this case her) sister – and Lucoa is always extremely embarrassed whenever anyone brings up her… indiscretions.
The only real weak point in the cast for me is Elma. She’s introduced as a dragon from a rival faction to Tohru, and they have a short, humorous rivalry… and then she just makes cameo appearances in other episodes. She ends up working at Kobayashi’s company (despite not knowing how to use computers) and that’s touched on almost never. Maybe she had extra scenes in the original manga and they thought they weren’t important enough to include. Gotta make room for more Kanna, right?!
Voice acting is solid all-around in the original Japanese, and from what little I’ve seen the English dub seems pretty decent (Garret Storms’ Fafnir is particularly impressive). Many of the cast are what I would call “B-list” Funimation – veterans of the company that just haven’t quite got their chance to shine brightly, but are definitely getting there. Jad Saxton, Felicia Angelle and Jamie Marchi are in supporting roles, keeping the newer talent in line, but the most interesting choice is Sarah Wiedenheft as Tohru. Wiedenheft is currently most famous for Huniepop and Love Live! Sunshine!!, and it’s nice to see someone getting what could be their big break so early in their professional career.
All in all, there’s not much to complain about here – KyoAni once again provides the viewer with a solid, funny and even a little thought-provoking series that’s absolutely perfect to watch on a lazy afternoon.
Despite some characters not having much to do and a final episode that comes mostly out of nowhere, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a sweet, funny series that’ll make you smile from ear to ear.
Oh yeah, and the opening and ending themes are just awesome.