Did you ever think you would see an anime where an enormous, powerful dragon would transform into a human girl, to service a woman she’s fallen in love with? To be honest…the answer probably is yes (anime can be pretty weird), and that’s the exact premise of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. It’s predominantly a slice-of-life story, although it mixes in elements of quite a few other genres to create a fairly unique experience.
Focused on the eponymous and mononymous Kobayashi, a somewhat aloof and apathetic office worker. The show wastes no time whatsoever with any kind of exposition; instead, it opts to dive straight into its bizarre premise and fill in the blanks later – as anime writers are wont to do. Minutes into the first episode and Tohru, the dragon maid in question, has already arrived at Kobayashi’s apartment in dragon form, transformed into a maid and explained that Kobayashi had previously met her and offered to let her stay at her apartment. The entire set-up amounts to a short flashback of a drunken Kobayashi stumbling across Tohru in a forest and, in her drunken stupor, asking her, “Want to come to my place?” That’s it. In a sense, that’s what you want from a show like this. The show seeks to entertain and be as cute and quirky as possible; an elaborate, three-episode arc that details a prophecy stating that Kobayashi is the chosen one would get in the way of that goal and be incredibly out-of-place. Occasionally, we might be treated to a small hint of back-story through a vague flashback to a time when Tohru was the enemy of humans, but nothing substantial. Either the writers are using these sections to allude to the possibility of some actual drama taking place later on in the series, when we finally discover more about Tohru’s past, or they’ll amount to nothing more than a missed opportunity.
Slice-of-life shows often receive a lot of criticism for their character development, or supposed lack thereof, but saying that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid doesn’t have any would be a mistake. It’s not that it doesn’t have any, it’s that – much like the setup – it does it early. Within the first episode, Tohru has already declared her love for Kobayashi, who herself has already begun to warm to Tohru’s presence. Who knows, maybe in this world, dragons are known for falling in love easily, but I was mildly taken aback by such an early revelation of something I would’ve otherwise assumed would be revealed later into the show’s run. On the other hand, I can actually understand Kobayashi’s similarly hasty warming to Tohru, as she’s painted as a very deadpan and indifferent character whose life isn’t so much turned upside down by the appearance of a few dragons, as it is just changed a little bit. Frankly, this is a welcome deviation from the classic anime formula of turning everything up to eleven and never looking back. That’s not to say the show doesn’t have its fair share of madcap moments. There’s still plenty of dodgeball matches between dragons (that’s a common thing in anime, right?).
Enough beating around the bush, let’s talk about Kanna. Cuteness has a name and its name is Kanna Kamui. Much like Tohru previously, Kanna just kind of shows up and then proceeds to join the main cast. I was mildly sceptical about the idea of another dragon being brought into the mix, because Kobayashi and Tohru seemed to have an interesting relationship developing, but my doubts were promptly swept away. Even during her Dragon Ball Z-esque play fight with Tohru in episode two, she still remains one of the cutest things to ever grace this thing we call anime. Her appearances are so heart-warming and adorable that I often found myself wondering whether I’d enjoy the show half as much as I do if she wasn’t in it. Not since Himouto! Umaru-chan have I caught myself smiling so much throughout an entire episode of a show like I did watching episode four, in which Kanna decides she wants to go to school. You could argue that Kanna as a character exists solely to give the show that cute factor, and that this episode exemplifies that more than any previous episode in the show – and you’d probably be right. This episode sees her indulge in all manner of cute activities back-to-back with no mercy. However, to criticise the show for this would be to make the mistake of taking it too seriously. Plus, once you see Kanna wearing one of those Japanese preschool helmets, you won’t be able to argue against it.
Fafnir and Quetzalcoatl (Lucoa for short), two of Tohru’s other dragon friends, make an appearance in episode three. Fafnir is the moody, silent type and Lucoa is the voluptuous blonde that all anime must apparently include (at least she’s not a clumsy airhead, so that’s something). Although they haven’t really done a huge amount at this point in the show, there’s definitely some promise for them to act as interesting supporting characters that reveal a different side to Tohru, and they’ll no doubt have some sort of part to play in the more dramatic moments towards the end of the series. Assuming those dramatic moments happen, of course.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid succeeds at exactly what it wants to do: beam a strange, fun and cute ray of sunshine into our lives. As a slice-of-life, it contains just the right amount of plot to keep interested people who perhaps found shows like Lucky Star or K-On! that little bit too uneventful. If you can’t get on board the cute train, you might not find as much to enjoy as some other people, but it’s by no means a bad show.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is currently being simulcast by Crunchyroll, with a new episode available to stream each week, shortly after the Japanese broadcast.