Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid does exactly what it says on the tin.
A dragon takes the form of a maid to work for a woman called, yep, you've guessed it, Miss Kobayashi. It all starts when an office worker (she appears to be a programmer) named Kobayashi – or, as we shall refer to her when she has been drinking, Drunkyashi – finds an injured dragon on her way home from an after-work sesh.
Kobayashi invites this large, terrifying magical reptile to live with her – only to be surprised next morning when the dragon shows up on her doorstep in the shape of a girl, albeit one with a dragon tail and the capacity to breath fire. The girl with the dragon tail's name is Tohru, and she offers to live with Kobayashi as her maid in order to repay her kindness.
Tohru moves in with Miss Kobayashi, and unsurprisingly, it’s not long before other magical creatures come knocking at the door. Naturally, crazy hijinks ensue as Tohru becomes the source of countless shenanigans, such as trying to wash Kobayashi’s underwear with her special dragon saliva and and cooking her own naturally re-growing tail (like some species of lizard) for dinner.
Based on the 2013 Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Coolkyoushinja, the Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid anime began airing at the beginning of this year. Despite the fantastical premise, it’s very much a slice-of-life show, showing the growing understanding and friendship between Kobayashi and Tohru, and the issues the come with inter-species living as Tohru learns to adjust to the human world.
By having Tohru move in with a grown woman instead of a hormonal boy, and by making the relationship between the two characters feel very real and genuine, Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid manages to distinguish itself from others in the ‘adorably inept monster girl in the real world’ stories.
Tohru states from the beginning of the series that she’s in love with Kobayashi, and there’s really never any question about whether or not Tohru understands the distinction between platonic and romantic love in the human world - the bottom line is that she’s in love.
As for Kobayashi herself, she feels like a fresh female character into the crowded anime world. She’s sensible and reserved while still having a great emotional capacity for empathy, not to mention that she’s a working woman in a male-dominated industry who kicks ass at her job. Kobayashi also isn’t a typically feminine dresser, and at no point is she drawn in an overly sexualised way (although the same can’t be said for some of the other dragon cameos). She’s not cute, or sexy, or there to act as eye candy – she’s a very normal, working adult woman.
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid also managed to avoid stagnating or becoming repetitive by introducing other dragon characters early on, all of whom become permanent fixtures in Kobayashi’s life – and house.
There’s Kanna, the childlike dragon who is primary-school-aged by dragon standards, and ends up attending the local school. There’s Tohru’s friend, Quetzalcoatl, or Lucoa – whose representation I found the most difficult to get on board with, as I can’t quite tell if the character design is making fun of "monster girl" tropes or wholeheartedly on board with the whole "gainaxing" thing. And then there’s Fafnir, the refined, dapper, vaguely threatening male dragon with a deep distrust of humans.
In episode eight, which at the time of writing has been released on Crunchyroll, a new dragon – a female belonging to the Order faction and rival to Tohru's Chaos faction in the magical world – has been introduced and it’ll be interesting to see what role her character plays going forward.
The animation style for Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid is colourful and clean, and the fun reaches a peak when the dragons let some of their inner reptile characteristics bleed through to their human form, or when they engage in a little roughhousing that has the ability to level cities and destroy mountains.
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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