You can’t really go wrong with a Slice of Life series by Kyoto Animation, can you? Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a strong contender for best anime of the Winter Season 2017.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid tells the story of Kobayashi, a programmer who lives on her own. One day after work, she meets a dragon, and drunkenly invites it to live with her. The dragon, named Tooru, can transform into a female human. From that day on, she becomes Kobayashi’s maid, and soon enough more dragons start appearing in the city, forming quite the peculiar gang.
As a Slice of Life/Comedy, the series mainly focuses on the daily lives of its characters and their relationships, especially the final dynamic between Kobayashi, Tooru, and Kanna. That’s not to say there’s not an on-going storyline, though. The plot is all about the dragon world, how it works, and why are all these dragons suddenly appearing in the human world. However, the plot often takes a back seat and is only used to play with the overall theme of acceptance between species. This is seen on several occasions, like when Tooru talks to Fafnir about the good in humanity, or in a bigger scale when Tooru’s father appears to take her back to the world where she belongs.
As a matter of fact, the season finale would almost need its own separate review. It’s entirely possible to make a Slice of Life show about dragons without having to expand on the world building. However, if the series starts bringing up the inner workings of that dragon world, it’s to be expected that it will maintain a minimum of coherence. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid manages to do that quite well, but it stumbles a bit in its final episode. After 12 episodes of fun shenanigans, the seriousness and drama of the finale comes off as jarring and out of place. Maybe it would have worked better if the series had started building up the conflict in the previous episode by having Tooru disappear as a cliffhanger.
Having all the cast be there to convince Tooru’s father would have been another way to make a more well-rounded ending, especially since they are also dragons choosing to live in the human world. In fact, Tooru’s father makes a fair point: if dragons start getting comfortable with the idea of living in the human world, chances are someday a mean-spirited dragon might try to take over humanity. It’s an interesting threat, but one that is completely abandoned right after Kobayashi gives her speech. Don’t get me wrong – seeing a tiny, ordinary human like Kobayashi talking back to such a huge, menacing creature was badass. However, it also takes away from the seriousness that had been built up and closes the door on more potential interesting conflicts in the future.
Regardless, the best part of Kobayashi’s is its characters. Aside from having memorable character designs (so much cosplay already!), all the characters have their own quirky, unique personalities, and seeing them interact never gets old. Kanna is already considered the cutest little kid of the season, Kobayashi is as relatable as they come, and seeing Fafnir falling for the otaku culture after being skeptical of humanity is plain hilarious. The only characters that don’t quite fit are Lucoa (she’s just fanservice to the dismay of poor Shouta), and Elma (who seems completely disconnected from the rest of the cast). The friendship between Kanna and Saikawa (and the latter’s crush) is cute, but the slight sexualization of their relationship in certain scenes is disturbing and unnecessary.
Speaking of relationships, Tooru and Kobayashi are one of the most loved anime couples of the season, and it’s no wonder. Aside from sharing a beautiful friendship and living under the same roof, the show blatantly tells us that Tooru is romantically and sexually attracted to Kobayashi. Unfortunately, as it often happens with Kyoto Animation series (*cough* Sound!Euphonium *cough*), their relationship is never made canon.
Kyoto Animation is also known for producing beautiful-looking, heartwarming series with the most moe characters. And while Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid resembles more the art style of Nichijou rather than Hyouka‘s, it sill has a visually pleasing, polished look to it. The studio also doesn’t hesitate to feature some superb animation in the few dragon fight scenes it has (and it’s a shame they didn’t feature more of that in the finale). The OST by Masumi Itou accompanies the series perfectly, and the opening and ending are among the catchiest tunes of the seasons.
So what’s next for the series? There are still many questions to be answered, especially after that plot-heavy season finale: Who is Tooru’s father? Are there other dragons living in the human world? And what was with Shouta mentioning his family being exorcists? Is there magic in the human world too?
Even if the series never gets a sequel, at least we know that Tooru is safely reunited with the family she loves, Kobayashi and Kanna and that no matter their different lifespans, she intends to treasure the time they share together.