(The original Tumblr post with video clips can be found here)
How do we start with this one?
The Slice of Life genre is one of the stranger ones in the Anime and Manga world because it is either played completely straight or often mixed up with other genres to varying degrees of success. Sometimes you have fantasy slice of life, or ecchi slice of life, or even something like a Shonen slice of life. Taking just one part of someone’s world, be it there time growing up as a teenager, working a dead end job and combining it with something else has worked wonders for the industry.
The Devil Works Part-Time, another show we will be talking about soon, uses this to great effect. By combining the Isekai (the reverse in this case) with the mundane reality of working a job lead to one of the best shows in the last few years. Period. The show we will be talking about today also follows this strategy and became in mind, an absolute sleeper hit that I never saw coming. After the cut let’s talk about Coolkyoushinja’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.
I’m going, to be honest. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid should not have worked.
The fact that this show is a good as it is (and it is fucking AMAZING) is either a testament to the writing, animation, characters, and sheer uniqueness of it. Or some combination of all of the above. Yet for some reason it just does, and Dragon Maid ranks right next to Cardcaptor Sakura as one of the best “comfort food” anime I’ve seen.
It honestly doesn’t even feel like an anime, and instead more like a series of short animated comic strips (oh my god it was a manga before, wtf). In a sense, this show felt like I was watching an anime version of those old For Better or For Worse comic strips that were in Western newspapers for decades. We are simply watching these characters in their lives, the ups and downs, regardless of the fact that some of them are magical dragons.
Kobayashi herself is a fresh and interesting take in a genre that already has several well-established tropes and archetypes. She’s dull, sarcastic, a hard worker, and a harder drinker. Her life before Tohru and Kanna enter it is one of peaceful boredom. She is content with her life, and with her few friendships, in fact, her friendship with coworker Makoto Takiya is a rare case in anime where a male and female friendship is 100% platonic. They are co-workers who trust each other, help each other out and enjoy drinking together. That’s it, and there is never once a moment of sexual desire or hint of romantic infatuation in the entire story. It is refreshing to see, especially in an industry where that remains a cornerstone of success.
Tohru and Kanna’s entry in Kobayashi’s life also helps establish the theme of the show: family. Tohrus absolute devotion to Kobayashi and her love of simply being a maid, coupled with Kanna’s youth and desire to go to school give Kobayashi the ideal “nuclear family” setup she herself was probably never going to get or had any real desire to try and get. So much so that when it is suddenly taken away from her briefly in the finale, we see how much it has changed Kobayashi, and how her life beforehand, while peaceful and productive was also hollow and just a little bit depressing.
The idea of family is also important, because like Cardcaptor Sakura before it, Dragon Maid also walks that fine line of “soft” support of an LGBTQ relationship. While Kobayashi outright states she has no sexual attraction to Tohru, their daily lives and family make up (Kobayashi’s the main breadwinner, Tohru the stay at home mom, and Kanna the daughter) is very much showing what a lesbian marriage would look like: just like every other traditional marriage. And while like Sakura it never takes a position or stance on the matter of LGBTQ rights, Dragon Maid can be read as a pro-LGBTQ piece of work.
Dragon Maid is also funny, and absolutely too cute for its own good. The supporting cast range from the grumpy Fafnir, the adorably pitiful Elma, and the bubbly airhead Lucoa, along with a handful of colorful human characters that lead to a cute moment after cute moment, and one laugh out loud scene to the next. Special mention, however, should be made to Kanna whose sheer existence is almost so cute it can’t be put into words. I mean LOOK AT THIS.
And also this.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid would have been radically different if had opted to go for a male lead instead, and honestly, there are times when I feel just a few changes would have turned this into a reverse harem show. Instead, though, we get another rare anime that wants to just wrap you up in a blanket, hand you some hot chocolate and let you ride a cloud of relaxation and peace. This show is comfort food made manifest, a warm fire on a rainy cold day, cuddling up to your significant other, or just lazing around on a sunny afternoon. If you are ever feeling down, or need a break from the high-speed thrill ride that is most anime, then this is the show for you. I assure you that you’ll walk away feeling you’ve just seen something special. And if you don’t, well then I guess you just don’t have a soul.