At the back end of 2016, I caught wind of this anime, Miss Kobayashi Dragon Maid, and the preview was a dragon becomes a maid/slave to a salary woman. It was pretty tame compared to the bizarre real life of 2016 but we suspected it would be meme bait anime of the winter season. It didn’t fail to deliver in that respect. Dragon maid was full of the trope-filled extravaganza of the 2017 winter season for many, however, for me it wasn’t all fantastic gifs and over the top fan service.
It began well the premise of a dragon being indebted to an ordinary Japanese salary woman being a fun idea on paper. I expected a comedy/ slice of life combination, instead I got a cookie cutter harem fan service like we don’t already have enough of those. Controversial, I know, but Miss Kobayashi didn’t bring much of what we haven’t seen from this genre. It had the usual harem, fan service packed tropes and loosely attempted to fit them together with wafer thin reasoning and by the time they set everything up and introduce us to all the characters in episode 8. That then leaves us with 6 episodes to hastily put some kind of plot together and if you look at more successful anime, you will see they start with plot from episode one. When the plot finally kicks off, there’s nothing beyond a harem of dragons doing mundane, everyday things. There was hints of the story heading to the dragons original home and even getting to meet the dragons parents but nothing materializes until right at the end.
That’s not to say it was all bad. The characters are well drawn and have decent development. Animation standards are high and the characters recieved a real upgrade in quality in comparison to that of the manga. I was also a huge fan of the voice work both subbed and dubbed. In the English dubbed it was a refreshing change of roster with the usual names you’d expect making way for new talent. A huge sign that thanks to simulcasts and the current changes in the industry, doors have now opened with more work for voice actors and actresses as companies start to take on a greater volume of titles from Japan. Other areas for praise have to be the accurate depiction of Comiket with the stalls, crowds and how photographers act with the cosplayers.
The majority of work in the show has been put into these characters, after all, the first two-thirds are introducing them one by one which gave a stronger sense of character development even if it detracted from the overall plot. Quirky at times, but for me, the attempts at comedy were lacking. The reoccurring eat my tail joke wore thin towards the end. They did play on Tohru being a bombastic, overpowered character and Miss Kobayashi being the hard working ‘straight woman’ character which went well as a slapstick odd couple. But bringing in so many other dragons with little to no explanation apart from a weak ‘I was just in the neighborhood’ excuse, doesn’t really do the series any favours. Other pairings aren’t as successful, just like Kanna and Riko, two junior school students who strangely had a weird romantic thing which did go down well with the loli fans but as a respectable human was kind of awkward to watch.
Don’t get me wrong, I know loli is a divisive talking point among the anime community and enough to outrage BBC 3 documentarians – I feel they went a bit too far with this pairing at times especially the ‘almost’ kiss scene. This one scene was an uncomfortable experience and something you wouldn’t like having to explain to a relative walking in on you watching it. Another pairing is Quetzalcoatl and Shota, a young boy and a large breasted exhibitionist. Once again really risky territory with Shota being a minor. I understand they are drawn characters with no age but anime has a negative reputation with this kind of thing and Miss Kobayashi Dragon Maid doesn’t help that reputation one bit. The anime has established a foundation for furthering the storyline but I feel that the plot could have progressed further, like in the manga, at a faster pace which would have given a richer plot rather than a slow drawn out first series. If they stay true to the manga then I hope to see more from the play of chaos dragons vs order dragons which was the biggest disappointment of this season, that they instead opted for a long build-up of filler nonsense as the first season finally finishes with the introduction of Tohru’s father in the closing moments.
Despite my opinion, this anime cannot be classed as anything but a roaring success as there’s no avoiding its popularity and there will definitely be a second season in the future. My hopes are they give the manga a shot because this is one of those series where the anime is being stretched out to acommodate more merch and there is loads of room for improvement come the inevitable second season .