Monday, April 15, 2019

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid was pleasantly low-fanservice (except the boobs - what's up with those anyway?) (Anime Review)

Season 1 - 7.5/10

From the title alone, I was not going to watch Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, assuming it to be a stupid shonen or seinen anime. But a good friend on twitter thought I might like it, and so I trusted her. Turns out, it's actually a very simple and sweet show. With gigantically unnecessary boobs. But sweet and worth watching none-the-less.

Based on a seinen manga, Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid is the story of Kobayashi - described as a typical office worker (she seems to be involved in software coding) - and a female dragon, Tohru, who becomes her live-in-maid. One night, Kobayashi had been out drinking and stumbled on Tohru who had escaped from her dimension to the human one after being mortally wounded with a giant sword. Instead of fearing her, Kobayashi drunkenly removes the sword from Tohru and invites her to move in as her maid. Why a maid? Apparently Kobayashi, and her office mate Takiya, have quite the thing for maids of all kinds (one of several commentaries on otaku/fandom).

When Kobayashi wakes the next morning in her apartment, quite hung over, there is Tohru at the door requesting to come in. Reluctantly, Kobayashi allows it to happen (Tohru by this point is now in human form) and the show follows their growing bond and the cast of characters that surround them.

Here's the two coolest things about this show: 1) Kobayashi is presented as a pretty gender-neutral female. She doesn't do much with her hair, is flat chested, and wears a man's suit or a hoodie most of the time. She's as not stereotypical as they get for female leads in anime. 2) There is very slight, mostly implicit, yuri in this series - Tohru seems to be romantically interested in Kobayashi, and slowly, we get glimpses that maybe Kobayashi would be interested in her too.

Each show is just a comedy slice of life type thing, no big major plot, no worry or anxiety, which I like. This is a feel-good type show. Some shows are about office work, others about family, some about various holidays, or cooking dragon tail meat (a funny recurring joke). Just the ways that dragons sometimes uncomfortably fit in the real world but are slowly coming to comfortably fit into Kobayashi's.

The side characters are mostly interesting and fun. Kanna, a child dragon who moves in with them after being kicked out of home, is presented as a slightly chubby-legged loli-goth, and is probably meant to be fetishized by a certain subset of the audience, however, they never put her in adult situations, her youth and vulnerability are never taken for granted, and so other than her appearance, she's treated and respected like a child by the series rather than as fanservice. Sadly, Kanna isn't actually that interesting (it takes work to make a young child interesting in manga/anime - see Bunny Drop [Usagi Drop] for a great example - watch the anime or read the first-half of manga series only, the second half f's it up.)

But while Kanna, herself, isn't very interesting, I LOVED her friend from school, Saikawa. She is the bratty, perfect, do-gooder that everyone is afraid of, but Kanna's complete innocence wins her over and Saikawa spends the entire series mooning out in "romantic love" over every cute thing Kanna does. It's way over the top and way beyond what a child would do in real life, but it's hysterical, and also presented sweetly, not in any perverted way. Outside the main couple of Tohru and Kobayashi, Saikawa is my favorite.

There is another female dragon that is mistaken for a demon and uses that to taunt the young boy who summoned her. We'll come back to big breasts in a moment, but let's just say that this dragon, Lucoa would not actually be able to stand upright with the way she's drawn. Her breasts are used to taunt this poor innocent young boy, but the effects, as initially distasteful as her proportions are, are actually used to highlight the male fear of strong and powerful women through the eyes of this young naive boy. There is some surprising depth given to his reactions and the way Lucoa teases him. This isn't really fan service as much as perhaps commentary on those that fanservice is designed for.

There are two other main dragons as well, but all you need to know, is that the three female adult dragons all have enormous breasts. I get how the writers used Lucoa's as discussed above, but I can see no meaningful reason why Tohru and Elma had to have them and have them constantly bouncing. It's wonderful to depict women of all body types and shapes, it's not okay to make them have big bouncy breasts all the time. This was the part that feels like fanservice, in a show otherwise devoid of it. Too bad, this is really the only blight (other than Kanna's outfit) on the series. Thankfully it's a relatively minor one for me, but in the broader scheme it does perpetuate the skewed female proportions common in male-centric media. That's too bad.

The fourteen episodes are all relatively equal in quality. The animation is fine and appropriate for the series, if nothing special. It really was just a sweet simple show about two people each growing, and each growing towards each other: Kobayashi becoming more sociable and learning what it means to be a family, and Tohru learning what it means to be accepted and kind to others (even if they are lowly humans). I recommend this to anyone who likes silly but sweet shows with no real plot but won't be completely turned away by the unfortunate breast sizes given to the dragons. I'm giving this show a strong and surprising 7.5/10.


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