Review: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon-Maid (Funimation February!)

I’ve already talked about the unique position that Kyoto Animation stands in right now as a truly independent anime studio; if you want more details about that, though, check Ultimatemegax’s post talking about KyoAni’s transition over the years.

Anyway, today’s show is Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, which I shared my first impressions of back when it began airing. At first, I didn’t actually know it was a KyoAni-animated show; I didn’t think they were animating anything that season, but obviously, I was mistaken. It makes me happy to see how popular the show has become since its airing as well. KyoAni has certainly made a lot of hits, even after becoming producers, but I somehow felt that this show wouldn’t become as popular as it did. I like seeing other people enjoy the same shows I do.

An Introduction

After a night of drinking, our protagonist Miss Kobayashi wanders into a forest and stumbles across a dragon. (Yes, a dragon, from an alternate dimension.) She sits and talks with it for a while, and offers for it to stay at her place.

Thus, the next morning, she opens up the door to her apartment to make her way to work, and is greeted by a giant dragon’s eye right outside. Almost immediately, she transforms into a maid girl (to be more approachable to the lowly human, I’m sure) and introduces herself as Tohru. Tohru’s all prepared to move in and be a maid for Kobayashi… who, unfortunately, doesn’t remember anything from her drunken escapade the night before.

However, we can’t have a plot if the main character says ‘no’, so she lets Tohru in as her maid! Kobayashi learns pretty quickly though that Tohru doesn’t really know much about human society… at all. And so the comedy begins! … With even more dragons quickly being dragged in as well.

The Plot and Characters

This show is a comedy/slice-of-life anime, with the biggest focus on Kobayashi, Tohru, and another young-girl dragon named Kanna. Tohru and Kanna (along with some side characters who get a surprising amount of screen time, I’ll talk more about them later on) are dragons transformed into human girls, living with Miss Kobayashi (or one of her friends). And these dragons are what sets this show apart. These dragons’ differences from humans, especially in culture and perceptions, are used primarily for comedy’s sake, although Dragon Maid isn’t afraid to show us glimpses into their full potential: powerful, godlike beings capable of wiping out an entire city in minutes.

The first episode in particular really strikes this well, I think. After setting up Tohru as Kobayashi’s maid, we see the two of them start to go through what being a maid means to both of them. There are some really funny moments in here, including Tohru calling her friends Quetzalcoatl and Fafnir to ask their opinions, both leading to… unhelpful results. It’s a great and really funny start to the series.

Later episodes see these characters in a variety of settings, scenarios, and situations, usually one per episode – whether it’s celebrating Christmas, moving to another apartment, or the school’s athletic festival – with some extra little scenes in the middle or end of the episode. Due to the end of the episode usually containing an extra scene or two without a “to be continued” or anything, the ending of each episode always comes as a surprise to me… and it saddens me a bit too, since that means the episode’s over.

For most of these later episodes, though, there wasn’t a lot of outright laughing at the funny moments, nor a lot of emotions during the more heartfelt moments. I saw them more as quirky and endearing, respectively, but it was still enjoyable to watch and at the right times, brought a smile to my face. Despite not being the funniest comedy or slice-of-life-iest slice-of-life, this show’s still able to move you, even if it’s just the slightest amount. My favorite episode is episode 11, where we have a lot of quiet moments with the main three for the first 2/3rds of the episode.

The pacing of the show is pretty good as well. Scenes move along at a good enough pace so that nothing feels like it’s lingering, but not too fast where it becomes a bit hard to swallow. There are slower, quieter moments too (such as episode 11) that really allow you to reflect with the characters on their adventures so far, and I definitely appreciate them a lot. However, despite all I just said, episode 13, the final episode, does move a bit fast. I kind of wish it was split into two episodes (either make it a 14-episode series, or drop parts of episode 12), rather than trying to do the entire dramatic ending all in one 24-minute segment. (There is a 14th episode, but it’s an OVA that takes place at a later time.)

Anyway, let’s not ahead of ourselves. We begin the story with only Kobayashi and Tohru, the titular human and her dragon maid.

Tohru is really fun; she’s energetic and hard-working, and she throws herself fully into her new role as a maid for Kobayashi. She can be the source of a lot of funny moments and a couple heartfelt ones too; however, she becomes a bit stilted and plain when she’s delegated to the background for a scene. Throughout Dragon Maid, we see Tohru develop feelings for Kobayashi, although that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Kobayashi fills the “only sane one” role, acting as a voice of reason and the straightman throughout the series. Personality-wise, she seems to be quiet, keeping-to-self, and work-focused; she does seem to have a thing for maids, but this weird gimmick only appears a few times throughout the series. It’s funny to see how she copes with these major changes in her life situation, especially with the energetic Tohru. We see her awkwardly transition into being the caretaker of Kanna (the next character I’ll discuss) as well, which I really enjoyed. With perhaps the exception of the heightened drama of the final episode, she’s the ground for this series and its cast, and it’s hard not to relate to her. Being a programmer myself, I personally also definitely relate to her in her troubles with her profession.

As for Kanna, she quickly becomes the third main character after being introduced in the second episode. She’s a weird 3rd-grade kid-dragon, basically becoming the adorable little kid doing adorable little kid things. Although she certainly has some really cute and funny moments (including some gags that play out in the background), I could honestly take her and leave her. I became invested in this show for the relationship between Kobayashi and Tohru, but Kanna’s addition isn’t much a hindrance. There is a lot of attention on her throughout the series, perhaps a bit more than is really needed.

Speaking of Kanna, though, I should mention another character… one that rather bothers me: another 3rd grader named Saikawa. She originally starts off as bossy and mean towards Kanna, but quickly becomes infatuated with her and falls over backwards at even the slightest touch. I more liked Saikawa’s original bossy self, rather than acting romantically attracted to Kanna when she’s at an age that really doesn’t understand romance and love. I don’t get anything out of the interactions between Kanna and Saikawa; it’s the same joke over and over, honestly. One time they did extra for the joke, though, was in episode 6, where the show implied that Kanna and Saikawa were quite nearly about to have sex. This was not a scene I enjoyed watching. I honestly think the show would’ve been better off without Saikawa.

I’ll finally somewhat-quickly mention the other major characters:

Quetzalcoatl (often called Lucoa) seemed interesting at first, but she can be easily summed up in four words: “spacecase with big boobs”. Her chest is basically the only source of comedy from her, with jokes that range from unfunny at best to  tasteless at worst. Elma is the 4th dragon in the opening and ending animations, but she doesn’t appear until episode 8; she’s okay. Finally, there’s the two male characters: Makoto and Fafnir. Fafnir, a male dragon, also starts off interesting, but after associating with Makoto, the two turn into otaku nerds; they’re both not bad, but they’re usually pushed aside to focus on the mostly-female cast.

Dragon Maid is a number of things, but “a waste of time” isn’t one of them. Despite some jokes that got no (positive) reaction out of me, there were a lot of good moments in this show – especially with the main three. There’s emotion and enjoyment to find here, the show does not fail to deliver in this regard. I definitely walk away from each episode feeling more positive than I was going into it.

The Atmosphere

Kyoto Animation has definitely been known for its quality over the years, and although I wouldn’t say this show is pushing the envelope of what the studio can do, it’s still definitely good.

Unlike a number of their previous works, their lines in Dragon Maid seemed softer, characters seemed flatter (no shine), and the backgrounds looked very much watercolored. It’s a visual presentation that strays a bit from Kyoto Animation’s standard appearance, and a bit closer towards your standard slice-of-life, but their quality of work still shows through in how they were actually animated. The animation was fluid the entire time, with there never being a noticeable drop of quality in any of the episodes. (This being said, the first and last episode definitely did have some quality bumps.)

I mentioned in the previous section about Dragon Maid really being able to show the dragons as feared godlike creatures, and this is shown in no better way than through the animation and visual effects. Tohru and Kanna play around in a field in episode 2, and their play battle with its giant energy beams and whatnot were glorious and terrifying. How they draw Tohru as a dragon looks realistic and is also animated well (something I feel another studio may not do as well), and they even made a chibi dragon-form Tohru for later episodes as well.

The colors for this show were always bright, all of the time – from the brightly colored characters to the brightly colored backgrounds to the bright yellow transition screen for scene changes. Each of the characters in this show, excepting Elma and Fafnir, have weirdly-colored hair (an anime staple), but their hair (although still bright) is muted to not draw attention to itself – especially in combination with the flatness that is this show’s art style.

All in all, the character designs were good, and embrace KyoAni’s affinity to make everything cute, but are otherwise not too noteworthy… excepting these notes: there are times where Tohru’s tail just looks way too large for her human body… unless she just simply doesn’t have a butt. Lucoa’s design seems like it was made solely for her recurring gag, and I wish we got to see her differently colored eyes more often. Makoto’s design looked very plain, though, almost boringly so, and Fafnir looks like an attempt at making Sebastian from Black Butler.

Music-wise, Dragon Maid tends to rely a lot on the same handful of themes episode after episode… either that, or the various themes just sound so similar. Since most of the focus is on the dialogue and the situations, though, the music repetition doesn’t really become noticeable. The tracks of this show are certainly identifiable (if only because of their instrumentation choices), and they are definitely good background tracks, but only a few of the few, I would actually want to listen on their own (such as the track with a-cappella and strings for more thoughtful scenes).

The opening theme, Aozora no Rhapsody, is very high-energy and cheerful, and I do enjoy it (although Towana’s singing wouldn’t be my first choice for my music listening tastes), and the opening animation is high-energy to match. It’s a flurry and fun to watch… and although Dragon Maid itself certainly has some high-energy moments, part of me wonders if perhaps this isn’t the most fitting opening theme. Perhaps if I looked up the lyrics to it though… The ending theme, Ishukan Communication, is really cute, though, and the animation is just as cute. I have nothing but positive things to say about the ending theme and animation.

I watched the show on Crunchyroll, meaning it was subtitles the entire way. I give props to the main three – Mutsumi Tamura, Yuki Kuwahara, and Maria Naganawa (as Kobayashi, Tohru, and Kanna respectively) – for their acting, and Daisuke Ono as Fafnir was also good. I’ll be curious to see how the show is with Funimation’s English dub, but I don’t know when I’ll have the chance to experience it.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is one part comedy, one part slice-of-life, and one part unfunny-recurring-gags. Some characters and their gags never got a positive reaction out of me, but that’s not all this show has to offer. I really don’t want to underplay all the enjoyment I got out of this series, especially alongside its high quality visual production work by Kyoto Animation.

Some of the friends I showed this series to weren’t that interested… but a lot of them, when I recommended it, told me they’d already seen it! And for good reason. If you’re in the mood for something silly, soulful, and colorful, Dragon Maid has you covered. It won’t be the most hilarious or slice-of-life-iest out there, but there’s still a lot to enjoy here. If for no other reason, you should consider it if you just want something fun.

Rating: Good
Recommendation: Watch It
+++ Tohru, great animation and visual effects, really fun time
— Saikawa (especially in episode 6), Lucoa’s repetitive gag, I can take or leave Kanna

My Look at the Winter 2017 Season

So 2016 was a busy year for me, especially the latter third of it. This means that, unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to actually focus on watching anime and staying up to date with the new and current shows. This is probably pretty apparent since a number of my first reviews of this year were from shows two seasons ago, having finally gotten a chance to finish them.

This season, though, is different. I finally have the time to actually watch more anime shows again, so that’s what I’m gonna do! The Winter 2017 season started at the beginning of this month, so now that we’re a few episodes in and have a better idea of how these shows are kind of going, now’s a good time to talk about them and see which ones are worth our time!

Special note: I will only be talking about shows that began airing this season. I didn’t watch a single show from last season, and there’s enough I’ve seen that started this season that I don’t feel a need to go back and give them a try.

So, let’s begin!

Akiba’s Trip The Animation

akibaThis show, I found because Funimation announced they were simuldubbing it. Although that alone shouldn’t be reason enough to start watching a show, I still decided “ehh, what the heck, I’ll give it a try”.

The story is about Tamotsu, an otaku who suddenly finds himself a superpowered semi-human being, who is tasked to protect the Akihabara strip, along with a small team of new friends, from evil creatures called Bugged Ones who want to take over the city. This team consists of him, a girl named Matome (who turned him into this superpowered state), and another girl named Arisu (who’s human, but seems to be along for the ride).

Akiba’s Trip honestly don’t sit completely right with me. I think it is mainly because I don’t exactly like Tamotsu, the main character. I don’t totally hate him either, but still, he’s selfish and doesn’t seem to know how to be serious. Arisu is probably one of my most favorite things in this show for me. Her bubbliness and that weird spinning thing she does to exit a scene is really fun.

Beyond that, the action is interesting enough, although the action scenes could perhaps go on for a bit longer. Everyone on the team is competent, but Tamotsu seems to get a bit more attention than everyone else. It also knows how to do non-action scenes fairly well, too, though. Bubbly Arisu tends to be the comic relief. In the non-action scenes, though, is where Tamotsu’s selfishness and other flaws really show themselves, and irk me.

It isn’t on the top of my “must see shows of this season”, but I’ll keep watching it for now. If you’d like to check it out, I suggest watching 2 episodes before rendering your opinion.

Fuuka

Fuuka animeThis is probably one of the shows I’ve been hearing the most about this season.

Looking at it myself, it seems obvious pretty quickly that this is a drama/romance show, revolving around male lead Yuu, and two girls: random new friend Fuuka, and childhood friend-turned-superstar idol Koyuki.

Of the two, the anime formally introduces Fuuka first. However, she really rubbed me the wrong way in the first episode; although Fuuka hasn’t been quite as abrasive since then, she still annoys me. Based upon first impressions, I like Koyuki a lot more, but she still comes off as a bit odd to me too.

I’ve gotten used to fanservice existing in shows, for the most part. When it gets really up there in your face, it’s a bit annoying, but all in all, I tolerate it. However, the whole “girl getting mad at the guy when she ends up in a questionable situation” is a joke in anime that I’ve really never gotten any enjoyment out of; the fact that this anime pulls this 3 times in two episodes… ehh…

All in all, though, this doesn’t seem to be that bad of a show. Bad introductions aside, Fuuka has made me curious to see what will happen with the main characters in the future; I can see myself getting swept up in whatever ends up happening next. However, I think I’ll put off watching this until after it finishes, to see if other people say it goes downhill or anything.

Gabriel DropOut

gabriel-dropoutThe angel Gabriel, after graduating school in heaven, moves on to the next step in her education: learning how humans act at an actual human high school. After arriving in the human world, though, Gabriel finds herself sucked into an MMORPG, believing that healing other characters is the right thing to do as an angel. Years pass, and Gabriel has become so irresponsible, she risks becoming a “fallen angel”. Her friend Vignette, actually a demon, convinces her to return to school though and try to get back on the right path.

Gabriel DropOut is a comedy series, and honestly, it’s like any other comedy anime you’ve seen before. Another demon appears, named Satania, and declares Gabriel to be her rival, despite being totally incompetent. Gabriel is an otaku slob, wanting to take the easiest way out of everything. The fact that the main characters are either demons or angels is the gimmick of this series. It’s not terrible, but it’s jokes aren’t that new when you get down to it, and I feel more bored watching it than entertained.

I’m not going to be continuing this one. It’s not something to avoid, but I don’t see it as anything special either.

I’ll admit the opening song and animation are pretty cool though.

Interviews With Monster Girls

interviews with monster girlsThis was actually not going to be a show I was going to pick up by myself, because I thought it was related to the Monster Musume anime series a few seasons ago; a friend told me I should check this out, though, and so, here we are.

In an alternate world, where certain people can be born with some supernatural characteristics, such as those of vampires, dullahans, or succubi, we meet Mr. Takahashi. He’s a biology teacher in a high school, and he’s had an interest in these “demi-humans”, and has wanted to be able to sit down and talk with them. However, since he never met any, he never really got the chance.

Now, all of a sudden, after meeting a new teacher who turns out to be a succubus, he also runs into students who are a vampire, a dullahan, and a “snow woman”. The coincidences of this first episode are beyond the range of believability, but I’ll let it slide. Mr. Takahashi gets a chance to sit down with the vampire student, after a random run-in with her one night, and he proceeds to interview her about how her life as a vampire is.

This is a pretty cute show, honestly. Even after one episode, I felt myself really enjoying it and wanting to watch more. I really like the interactions these various characters have; the unique situations these “demi-humans” have lead to some interesting dialogue and funny moments; this show doesn’t squander the potential it has here. I honestly think it’s pretty well-written, and I’m looking forward to continuing this throughout the season.

If I have any concerns, it’s what will happen later on down the line – after Mr. Takahashi sits down with the four girls we’ve met so far, where will the anime go from here? I’m hoping that we don’t end up with lazy, contrived situations that are written in just for cheap jokes or development.

If you’re looking for another show to add to your watching list for this season, and you haven’t given this one a look, I suggest you try it. I bet the first episode will get you hooked.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Miss Kobayashi DragonMaid

The newest show to be animated to by Kyoto Animation, this series’s colors and designs are more flat and a bit simplified, rather than the shaded, super-realistic visuals of KyoAni’s past works.

A female dragon-turned-maid named Tohru falls in love with a programmer named Kobayashi, after the latter drunkenly stumbles into a forest and comes across Tohru, telling her that she can stay in the latter’s home. The next morning, she doesn’t remember a thing, but now she has a new roommate. Pretty quickly, they’re also joined by a younger dragon named Kanna, and Kobayashi now has to get adjusted to the new hectic life she finds herself in.

This show is a comedy series, and like Gabriel DropOut above, also works on a gimmick: the fact that most of the main cast are dragons. However, I feel this show really takes more advantage of the whole “dragons” thing, and its jokes get to me more and overall, this show feels more clever. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t strike it with every joke; I don’t think I like Kanna all that much, and Kobayashi and her coworker going into full otaku mode when they get drunk also has already gotten old to me, 3 episodes in.

Kyoto Animation’s visual quality is still on display here; Tohru as a dragon in the first episode looked really well animated and drawn. And, as a programmer myself, I find myself a bit impressed: the dialogue of Kobayashi and her coworker in the first few episodes sound like things in the same vein of what actual programmers would complain about.

In the end, even if it doesn’t hit it out of the park with every joke, this show’s probably one of the most entertaining things I’m watching this season. I won’t say everyone will fall in love with it, but if there’s one current show I would suggest people to check out, this one would be it.

OneRoom

one-roomMade by the team that created the “Makuro no Danshi” short-length series, they’re back with a similar premise. This time, the story revolves around the male protagonist being you, the viewer. The characters (well, character) talk to you, and pauses as if you were to actually respond to the conversation. It’s like a reader insert fan-fiction or something, except in a video form.

It’s a pretty okay show, and for being 4 minutes long, one can’t really expect something very deep or anything anyway. It’s rather simple, and it’s kind of cute.

I must say it does have some really pretty backgrounds at times (although the inside of the protagonist’s room in episode 2 looks very plain and subpar). I personally like realistic-looking backgrounds, so this show doing that is pretty nice.

If it’s something that seems interesting to you, give it a shot. I’ll probably keep at it simply because it’s 4 minutes per episode.

Piacevole

Another short-length anime series that I randomly stumbled across, this show revolves around Naruse, a girl who accepts a job at a nearby Italian restaurant, Trattoria Festa, because she needs some extra money. It’s here that she runs into a series of wacky characters and situations.

587670a1df64bIt’s what you should come to expect from a short-length comedy series: over-the-top wacky characters, everything going at a super-fast pace, animation and art that looks weird and inconsistent, and it’s all over in just a handful of minutes.

There really isn’t much to say about Piacevole, honestly; it’s a pretty alright show, and its jokes are also pretty alright. The animation and art is one thing, but it’s not really that glaring or out-of-place for a short-length show. All in all, it’s just pretty alright.

If you’re looking for something quick and funny, you can give this a shot. You may enjoy it, you may not. But with it only being a few minutes long, there’s no harm in trying. I enjoy it personally, so I’ll be continuing to watch it.

Seiren

Seiren got me with a PV that I watched about a month or two ago by this point; it positioned itself as a romance anime where people are truthful with each other and themselves. This is the one show I was excited about going into this season.

So, after 3 episodes, this show didn’t exactly meet my expectations.

seirenSeiren puts you into the perspective of high school boy Shouichi, who finds himself to be the butt end of Hikari’s teasing. The first episode awkwardly flounders around a little bit, but eventually gets across the point that Shouichi goes to a summer retreat camp with his best friend Ikuo to study for the upcoming university entrance exams, where Hikari also shows up out of the blue. There, the beginnings of a friendship blossoms between the two.

At times, I see this show falling into clichéd romance anime trappings. The animation quality is only okay at best, and there are specific lines of dialogue that don’t really make much sense. That being said, the moments where the characters are honest and straightforward with each other really make this show for me. I really enjoy seeing Shouichi and Hikari together. Looking past its surface issues, I am finding myself enjoying this show a decent amount.

I’ll be continuing to watch this through the season; it probably won’t result in anything that amazing or great, but I’m interested enough to keep going. I wouldn’t not suggest others to give it a try either, but I’d say to give it at least 2 episodes before deciding what to do. Honestly, though, I won’t be surprised if you decide this show isn’t for you, it does have some glaring problems.

Wrap-Up

There are some seasons where there’s just a whole slew of shows I want to watch, and I don’t want to give up on any of them because they’re all so good. That isn’t the same situation here, unfortunately; most of the shows I’ve tried are pretty much “okay” to “pretty good”. Not every anime season is going to be absolutely spectacular though, and honestly, it works better for my busy schedule to not pay attention to too many shows at once.

Hopefully through this post or in other places, you’ve found a few shows this season that interests you. If there’s any that I haven’t tried, or if you have another opinion on the shows I’ve talked about here, let me know in the comments!