Welcome, all, again. I’ve been catching up on episodes and even whole series which I missed because of my trip back in January. And while one or two proved to be false starts (down paths which I simply did not want to travel), I have been mainly pleased. One show in particular has won my heart despite what I considered a rather anemic beginning: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. The advertising blurbs did not impress me, nor did peeks at the artwork. Indeed, when I watched the first episode, I was wavering at midpoint as to whether or not to continue. It so happens, however, that as a rule I generally tend to watch a series’ first two episodes. And that rule has stood me in good stead, allowing me to discover greatness where I at first saw, well, squat; The Asterisk War [http://918thefan.com/2015/the-wandering-witch-goes-to-war/ ] springs immediately to mind. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has proven to be another series that rewards viewers for the time they invest.
We first meet Kobayashi: she has a job that pays the bills but doesn’t seem to impress or excite her; she has her one-bedroom apartment; and she has a distinct like of alcohol. (In truth, she sounds like the majority of young singles whom I know.) If there is anything that sticks out about her, it is her tendency to wear slacks, shirt, and tie to work, dressing more like a salaryman than office lady. But for all we know, her work group might have a specific dress code–I’m not reading anything into her clothing choices. (After all, at neither of my jobs do I even get a choice.) She’s just your average workaday stiff. . .who one evening, too plastered to be cautious, helps save the life of a wounded dragon she encounters. But it was all in the drink, right?
Wrong. Tohru is quite real, a dragon who was grievously wounded in her own world during a battle with humans, but somehow managed to escape to ours. Too weak to resist Kobayashi and probably expecting her death blow, Tohru is instead smitten by the kindness shown her. She falls in love with her rescuer and vows to stay with her, to that end offering herself as Kobayashi’s maid. Tohru’s sudden appearance, however, is a surprise to Kobayashi, whose memories of the night before are at best hazy. Having a dragon at her door seems something of a terrifying inconvenience, and having that dragon transform into a busty blonde girl with horns and tail doesn’t do much to alleviate things. Kobayashi immediately declines Tohru’s offer, and it is from this point that the show begins to quietly reveal its greatness.
Because this is more than a show about dragons, or even about dragons interacting with humans. Like both Usagi Drop and Sweetness and Lightning before it, this is a show exploring and celebrating the malleable nature of family. And while it takes a more comedic approach to the subject than did its predecessors, the emotional resonance is real. In a searing moment crystallized by the tears forming in Tohru’s eyes, Kobayashi feels her loneliness, her despair, and now a sudden sense of abandonment and rejection. And Kobayashi realizes that she has a choice: protect herself or protect this stranger who has nothing but her. More importantly, Kobayashi acts. Tohru, it seems, has a new home.
But not just Tohru–birds of a feather, after all. Exiled from their world for what is described as a prank, Kanna is a very young dragon (in human form, she is of grade-school age) who seeks the familiar comfort of Tohru’s company. She strongly disapproves of Tohru living with a human and initially attacks Kobayashi, but has lost all her power in traveling between worlds. And it is only after attacking her hostess that Kanna realizes she has nowhere to stay. Seeing Tohru’s agony–and completely unwilling to abandon a child–Kobayashi invites Kanna to move in, prompting their move to a larger apartment. Because, honestly, Kobayashi is liking the changes in her life. Tohru’s love is making her a happier person, and Kanna’s presence (and changed attitude) only increases the love all around. In fact, Kobayashi plainly sees them as a family, finding humor in her own role as “father,” although Kanna seems to view her more as a mother figure while seeing Tohru as an older sister. But no matter; roles don’t make a family, love does.
Honestly, with this series offering such an underwhelming start, I came in cold and expecting very little. I was wrong. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has proven an emotionally uplifting show that I now eagerly anticipate each week! It is, like the family it follows, so much more than the sum of its parts. We’ve been given here a thing of rare beauty, and I encourage you to watch.
[Parental Note: Here be fan service! But it’s done tongue-in-cheek, and even the characters recognize and occasionally skewer it.]