The Anime Annex: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Most of the comics I read and shows I watch focus on protagonists who encounter dire circumstances. The X-Men face extinction, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles face hostile aliens, and Rick and his friends face Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s sexy swag. Every once in a while, however, it’s nice to relax and view something lighthearted without such serious conflict. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is that kind of relaxing show, but beware, there are mild spoilers ahead.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid initially focuses on the lonely life of a young office worker, Kobayashi, who saves an injured dragon that inadvertently crosses from her own magical world to Japan. The dragon, Tohru, feels indebted to Kobayashi, so she morphs into a humanoid form and pledges to serve Kobayashi as a maid (thanks to the evils of capitalism, even dragons need work). Tohru, a bubbly, young, attractive woman in this form, cooks, cleans, and brings friendship into the lonely human’s life. In order to blend in, she typically keeps her small horns and tail hidden when in her human form.
This show is aptly described as a slice-of-life, because Dragon Maid’s conflict really stems from Tohru learning how to live life like humans do, but often misunderstanding how humans behave. She stops a pickpocket from fleeing by flying after him and slamming him into the ground, much to the surprise of bystanders (dragon, maid, superhero – she has quite the resume). Tohru constructs a bento box incorrectly and injures Kobayashi’s boss after the man yells at her. If these don’t sound like the most compelling conflicts in a story, it’s because they aren’t – and they’re still perfectly fitting for this show. Hostility and action rarely occur throughout Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid except at the end of the first season. While it may sound as though the writers don’t know how to effectively tell a compelling story, that couldn’t be further from the truth – the most compelling aspect of this show is watching this humanoid dragon trying to fit into the world around her, and Kobayashi’s begrudging acceptance of Tohru’s friendship.
Tohru isn’t the only dragon who crosses from the magical world into this one, but each dragon has the power to transform into a humanoid form, and of course, each has his or her own unique personality. Kanna, a young dragon, and therefore, a young girl in humanoid form, is initially suspect of Kobayashi, but grows to accept her, moves in with her and Tohru, and eventually views Kobayshi as a mother figure. The rest of the dragons, Elma, Lucoa, and Fafnir, while certainly characteristically unique, are not utilized much throughout the show. The only other human who gets much focus throughout Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is Kobayashi’s friend and co-worker, Makoto. While all of these characters have distinct personalities, the blossoming relationship between Kobayashi and Tohru is the primary focus.
When Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid begins, Kobayashi is a largely isolated character, with a somewhat superficial friendship with Makoto, and barely any mention of a family. Unless she has a few drinks, Kobayashi is very serious and tense (it’s ok, plenty of people replace family and friends with booze). However, by the end of the first season, Kobayashi’s personality blossoms into a relaxed, caring, and welcoming person, solely due to the presence of Tohru and Kanna. It is wonderful to watch her experience the fantastical beings and situations that cause her growth, because I can understand and appreciate the very mechanical nature of Kobayashi’s existence until she meets Tohru. Many people can likely relate to the sometimes-monotonous nature of employment and daily life (so a hobby isn’t the answer – a dragon is). However, beyond the light-hearted situations and wonderful relationships between characters, there is a deeper meaning to this show, and I will warn of deeper spoilers.
Throughout the entire season, there are overt sexual advances and sexual tension between Kobayashi and Tohru. Although Tohru is very forward in her desires, Kobayashi constantly rejects her propositions. Tohru frequently tries to get Kobayashi to eat pieces of her tail, which is apparently a romantic gesture (insert your own innuendo about “eating tail”). However, when Kobayashi is drunk, the human seems to show more romantic affection towards Tohru, and it is very likely that Kobayashi is a closeted homosexual. When Tohru’s father arrives near the end of the season and commands Tohru to return home, Kobayashi stands up to the elder dragon and defends Tohru’s wishes to stay in the human world. While this could be viewed as simply a platonic friendship, Kobayashi holds Tohru’s hand as she yells at the father, indicating potentially deeper feelings. As the first season ends, Kobayashi even takes Tohru to meet her parents. While the underlying sexual nature of their relationship is often a topic, there is a complex metaphor for homosexuality present in this show.
I believe that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is about someone different assimilating with the world around her in order to hide who she truly is; the fact that Tohru is a dragon, a “monster,” is a metaphor for homosexuality. Although she does her best to act like “normal humans,” she frequently fails. Unfortunately, much of the world still views homosexuality as “wrong,” and there are still countries where it is criminalized. That Tohru is a monster truly captures how some of the world in which we live still views homosexuals. However, it is clear that Tohru and Kobayashi ultimately love each other and are happy together, even if their relationship isn’t sexual (much to the dismay of lonely anime fans everywhere). While that may sound cliché and corny, this show was truly a heartwarming viewing experience.
Season one of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was a very pleasant surprise. Sure, the premise is ridiculous, but after a few episodes, I found myself rooting for the relationship between Tohru and Kobayashi to grow, and eventually, all of the secondary characters became welcomed additions to Kobayashi’s extended family. Episodes are filled with whimsical situations that simply feel good to witness. My only complaint is that a few of the secondary characters were seemingly useless afterthoughts, and more time could have been directed to developing them. However, season 2 is allegedly premiering this year, although no exact date has been given. There is plenty of material to utilize, considering the manga’s 6th volume is about to be released in English, so hopefully the few shortcomings of the show are rectified. Still, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a fun, cute show for anyone who wants to relax from busy demands of daily life and non-stop action.