Kyoto Animation has never been shy to adapting bizarre comedy series over the last decade or so- finding great success in the likes of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! and Nichijou- My Ordinary Life. Perhaps that is why many were anticipating a dream matchup for the veteran studio in the popular comedy manga Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, written by Coolkyoushinja (I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying). Beginning its run in Winter 2017, Dragon Maid tells an interesting story of a normal office worker who befriends a dragon named Tohru, and as a result, helps her and her acquaintances adjust to everyday life in the human world.
Just how well do the laughs hold up? Let’s take a look!
One of the things that is always a quick indicator for how effective a comedy can be is how well the audience can identify the humor and if the style is delivered comfortably. Regardless of format or scope, it is impossible to escape from the unbearable stiffness in a poorly written comedy. Sometimes the work might try to be a little too ambitious, or it may stick to a one-liner way too heavily. Such issues are nowhere to be found in Dragon Maid. Almost immediately, it is obvious that the show is very aware of what is going for and exactly what the comedy style is calling for. There is almost never any dead air time or slow build for a joke, letting the shots fly smoothly and effectively.
This is not to say that things move at breakneck speeds, however, as no matter how little time is spent on delivery, everything has an incredibly natural feeling flow and goes to an oddly deliberate cadence. This allows for several moments of comedy genius per week, compared to a good laugh or two in an above-average show of a similar kind. In a way, one of the funniest parts about the theming of Dragon Maid is just how organic the comedy style of mythical creatures doing normal things like school shopping can feel.
Great Family Dynamic
While the laughs are plentiful and the differences between the dragon’s original realms and normal world are a wild time to see, there are moments in Miss Kobayashi that really capture exactly what it means to live in society happily. More than the winged crew, this can be seen well in the titular character herself. Originally stoic and living in a small apartment on her own, Kobayashi starts off disinterested in doing much more than working (and entertaining an obsession in maids). With taking in Tohru and a young dragon named Kanna, the workaholic suddenly starts transitioning into a head of household figure.
What helps make this show work so well has to be how altruistic the members of the Kobayashi household become for one another. Tohru is always trying her hardest for the one she loves, Kanna wants to share experiences with her guardian, and Kobayashi compromises a lot of things unlike her character to ensure her new family is happy. When her maid is disgruntled with adjusting to their new life or her ward longs for the same things that an ordinary child would, the depth in seeing Kobayashi dig in deep to figure out how exactly to make things right is just subtle enough to not be melodramatic but extremely effective. The real magic happens in these heartwarming moments, and the feeling almost outshines the already dominating comedy.
Handles the Material Tactfully
This one goes a little outside the box, but there is something true to the source material of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid that doesn’t take long to see- the manga is very uncomfortable with how questionable it gets often. It is unapologetic with a lot of the situations and (depending on your opinion on fanservice) eclipses the same comedy that is enjoyed through the anime. Where the show gets it right is how it takes these jokes and plotlines to the very minimum that it can get away with. Most of the time, if a scene is off the wall or sticks out as odd in the anime, it was a million times more uncontrollable in the manga. Such rule of thumb is essential in appreciating the effort that went into combing through an already popular manga and cleaning up the content without changing the nucleus.
About That Fan Service Though...
Most of the time, fan service would be seen as a normal part of anime. Almost like a rite of passage, the audience sometimes has to endure (or, depending on what you’re into, enjoy) some moments that cash in on the characters and hype. For everything that is done to work the manga into a tamer anime, there are still obvious signs of this insanity. They are there just enough to remind you that they are there and that there is a ceiling placed on the heights the show can go when it comes to speeding up the tempo. A majority of these situations happen when the Kobayashi household is out doing something new or if new characters are introduced.
This point has to be brought up because from a bulk of the feedback viewers have been giving on the series, it would appear that this element is the biggest deterrent for an otherwise good time. Without really spoiling anything, there are two big points that are pretty tough to overlook (each spawning from the two examples listed above) in how much the show likes to play on a certain relationship and just how much one of the dragons likes to shake for another character. Ultimately, I believe that Kyoto Animation learned their lesson with fan service from Myriad Colors Phantom World last year and cleaned things up well, but things of that nature will certainly push groups of audiences away.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a brilliant comedy slice-of-life anime that is bound to leave a lasting legacy. The characters are really well developed and there is an abundance of humor found in interpreting every day norms and occurrences. Potentially most important, it is almost impossible to walk away from an episode without feeling good from the heartwarming moments and good spirited hijinks. Even for viewers who are hesitant to give it a shot from what they’re seeing online, it is absolutely worth giving a chance for the experience. Undoubtedly an instant classic, Kyoto Animation has constructed their best slice-of-life series since Nichijou - My Ordinary Life.
You’re reading Ani-TAY, the anime-focused portion of Kotaku’s community-run blog, Talk Amongst Yourselves. Ani-TAY is a non-professional blog whose writers love everything anime related. Click here to check us out.
This article was written by AniTAY rookie DilKokoro, connoisseur of coffee and friend of bears. You can check out his work here.