Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (2017) Subtitles
Disclaimer: This review covers 13 episodes of "Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid" and a 14th OVA episode, titled "Valentines and Hot Springs! (Please Don't Get Your Hopes Up)".If you were to ask me for a recommendation of a good comedy anime, I would be quick to recommend 2011's "Nichijou" by Kyoto Animation. It's a visual feast from an animation perspective, and it's humor is relatable in the way most newspaper comics are (albiet with exaggerated reaction shots). Kyoto Animation has proven themselves to be versatile across different genres, but comedy in its purest form is rare from them (they typically focus on romance or high-school drama). I figured we would never get another show to compare to "Nichijou," and I accepted that.But in 2017, a show named "Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid" came along. It isn't quite as universally appealing as "Nichijou" was, but its strengths may help it appeal more strongly to a modern audience.The title of the show speaks for itself. Kobayashi is a standard adult woman, an office worker writing code in Japan. She's a refreshing change from most high-school anime protagonists: she's meek but not shy, not overtly cute or attractive, just living a normal lifestyle alone in her apartment, working hard at her job, and letting loose with her co-workers at the bar. One night, in a druken stupor, she comes across a large dragon in a nearby forest, and without thinking, offers it to live with her. The next morning, the dragon shows up at her apartment door, transforming into human form, and introducing herself as Tohru, Kobayashi's new live-in maid. Kobayashi isn't certain how to handle the situation, but goes along with it, letting Tohru stay and helping her get accustomed to the human way of life. Oh, and Tohru "loves" Kobayashi, stating this directly in the first episode. "You... want to eat me?" Kobayashi asks. "No! I mean sexually!" Tohru states. This is the first nitpick I have of the show. I don't mean I have a problem with Tohru being gay; while a dragon maid might seem a strange choice for LGBTQ representation, it works to the show's favor. I have a problem with Funimation's English translation, which was done almost in real-time as part of their "simuldub" online broadcast of the show. The scene I just mentioned would have translated better if the word "want" was used instead of "love": Tohru explains the dangers of wanting treasure, but exclaims "I... I want you, Miss Kobayashi!" "You... want to eat me?" "No! I mean sexually!" You see? It flows better. But both the English dub and the subtitles use the inferior translation, even on the home video release. This type of issue happens a few times throughout the show, especially noticable in comedy, when jokes fly fast and need to make sense to the native audience. This is the main reason why the English dub suffers, even though the actors otherwise provide a good performance despite script problems. Anyway, that's mostly all there is to the story. It's a slice-of-life adventure with vignettes ranging from half an episode to a few seconds, representing jokes from the original manga the show is based on. Kobayashi either doesn't understand that Tohru is in love with her, or perhaps just doesn't care... or maybe she doesn't mind? Either way, they get along, and soon, a few other dragon characters also follow after Tohru, and decide to settle down in the area with human hosts of their own. One dragon is an adorable child named Kanna, another is a woman with massive breasts, another is a gothic man who finds passion in video games, etc. A comedy like this doesn't really need a strong story, and the theme of acceptance is well played. I don't know that I would be able to watch much more beyond the 13 episodes (plus one subtitled-only OVA), but the time spend with the first season felt just right.Truely, the anime is simply sweet, and its hard not to love these characters. And family-friendly too... wait, scratch that. There isn't much fanservice in the show (and the character designs don't explicitly push that aspect), but there are a handful of jokes that are surprisingly sexual. Perhaps it might fly over the head of a child, but an adult would be concerned sharing this with their family. It limits the audience, but so does having a gay dragon with a big fat tail. And it was these jokes more than anything that made me fall to the floor laughing. If a show is able to do that at least once, then it did something right as a comedy.Visually, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the look of "Miss Kobayashi." The character designs are a bit more plump than the original slender manga designs, but it works for their personalities. None of the characters are necessarily attractive, but they are cute to varying degrees. The dragon elements are unique, giving their human forms antleer-like horns, and rendering their full dragon forms as massive round figures. It isn't super detailed, but it is pleasant, colorful, and distinctive enough to be immediately recognizable, the type of art I would be happy to buy a lunchbox of. And the animation is a treat, like most of Kyoto Animation's shows. In this case, it comes in the form of human-dragons letting loose by blasting fireballs in the sky, or wrestling each other in the local park playground. During these scenes, the action is fluid, but even during regular moments, the production team clearly spent a lot of time and care even in the regular moments. It's because of that relative consistency that I consider the animation as a whole to be strong here. Aside from the English dub (good, but not great), the music is enjoyably catchy, thanks to a great opening and ending theme, and otherwise has upbeat and peppy background music to set the right tone.It's harder for me to whole-heartedly recommend "Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid" to literally anyone in the street: it features gay dragons, maid otaku, and some questionable sex jokes with a dragon five-year-old. But I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't fall in love with the show either. I guess when you get to know them, most things aren't as strange as they seem, or are sometimes better for those differences. Only Funimation's handling of the release (substandard English script, undubbed OVA) puts me in a bad mood, otherwise this is a great way to brighten up the day.
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (2017) subtitles
Kobayashi was just a hard-working, otaku software programmer living in Tokyo until one night she got drunk. In her drunken stupor, she climbed a mountain, came across a wounded dragon named Tohru, and pulled a giant, divine sword out of her, saving her life. Before going home, Kobayashi told Tohru she could come live with her if she wanted. When she wakes up the next day, remembering nothing, she rushes off to work and runs into Tohru outside her apartment door. Having heard Kobayashi's drunken rants about maids, Tohru magically transforms into a mostly-human maid and devotes her life to being Kobayashi's maid. Knowing nothing about maids or human society, of course.
Tropes E-F E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: According to Shouta's father, wizards gave us Python.
Eiffel Tower Effect: When Kanna flies to New York City in chapter 62, she lands at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Elemental Absorption: Dragons can regain mana by absorbing their respective elements. This can lead to cute moments like Kanna having her own personal outlet so she can plug in her tail or Ilulu carrying around a lighter for snacks while at work. They can also use the ambient mana that Tohru produces, but Ilulu claims that it tastes awful.
Emotional Maturity Is Physical Maturity: Each of the dragons seen through the series that transform into humans have made it clear that their human appearances are tied less to their actual equivalent dragon age and more to their mental age, as even taking Proportional Aging into account, Lucoa (one of the oldest beings in the series) is quite youthful due to her motherly-yet-childish mindset and Damocles (who while decently old compared to his daughter Tohru and other young adult dragons is actually a lot younger than Lucoa and her peers) is rather elderly due to his stern yet somewhat reasonable aura of authority. This is especially prominent with Ilulu, who while very clearly is not a child and is outright stated to be around Tohru's age, is so mentally and emotionally stunted due to losing her parents and lacking Parental Substitutes to fill the void, she has such poor shapeshifting skill that her child-like looks perfectly represent her womanchild personality.
Entertainingly Wrong: Saikawa and some others outside of the main cast are under the impression that Kobayashi is Kanna's mother. This is not an unreasonable assumption. Kanna lives in Kobayashi's home, goes by "Kanna Kobayashi" at school, and Kobayashi is a Parental Substitute to Kanna. Further, Kobayashi doesn't really argue against the description, even as she's shown to dislike it, and she herself notes she's old enough that some of her classmates have children of their own. Saikawa does note some inconsistencies in that, such as Kanna calling her mom "Kobayashi" and referring to their maid as "Lady" Tohru, but is so overwhelmed by Kanna's cuteness that she never pursues this line of thought.
Everyone Can See It: Most people wonder if Ilulu and Taketo are a couple when they see them together. Taketo does the whole She Is Not My Girlfriend routine, while Ilulu has no idea what they're talking about due to not understanding what dating is. In the second OVA Chloe remarks that Taketo obviously likes Ilulu, causing him to do the routine while Ilulu plays along with their joking, saying that it's not her Taketo likes but her huge boobs.
Eyes Are Mental: The dragons keep their reptilian pupils when they take on human form, though the distribution of color on the iris changes (instead of a darker color outlining the pupil it becomes a gradient from top to bottom). Lucoa is an exception to the rule, though that's probably because she was originally a goddess.
Fake-Out Fade-Out: Chapter 53 of the main manga, has a section where Georgie tells Kobayashi what wearing a maid outfit really means. They then shake hands, while "The End" appears. Then Tohru says that they're missing the point, then finally Elma appears and asks her (Tohru) what she drew for Kobayashi's maid outfit, and the chapter continues for a few more pages, before finally ending.
Fake Wizardry: Played for Laughs when Tohru and Kanna mistake a spoon bending illusion on the TV for actual magic. They spend the rest of the chapter trying to learn how to do it (with a stereotypical martial arts training montage). It's not that it's more powerful than their own magic (Tohru is practically a full blown Reality Warper), but their pride as dragons doesn't let them accept that humans can do something that they can't.
False Camera Effects: From the OP: We watch a countdown featuring each of the dragons, followed by false film damage such as vertical lines and dirt on the projector lens. As if we were watching a documentary rather than an anime!
Family Business: Ilulu gets a job at the Aida family's candy store in chapter 51. Taketo is set to inherit it, but he's mentioned to not really be interested (though given all the Ship Tease he has with Ilulu, it probably will end up staying in the family anyways).
Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: During the cooking contest with Kobayashi, Tohru brings back something from her world that looks fruit-like, but which has teeth and bites like an animal.
Tohru goes back to her dimension to get some ingredients for an omurice meal Kobayashi asked for earlier. Some of the items she retrieves include fruits from that region.
Fantastic Medicinal Bodily Product: If Tohru is to be believed, dragon saliva has healing properties (on top of being able to wash delicate clothing), but Ilulu says that she's just looking for an excuse to lick Kobayashi.
Fantastic Racism: Tohru's less than stellar view of humans (Kobayashi being the exception, of course) comes up multiple times, but it slowly dies down as she adjusts to living on Earth. Other dragons also show signs of this, but it only really gets focus in Ilulu's character arc.
Interestingly, Lucoa never shows any signs of racism (most likely due to the fact that she has spent the most time directly interacting with humans and advancing their development).
Fantastic Romance: Every dragon/human relationship is this by default.
"Fantastic Voyage" Plot: Takiya suggests that Tohru could do this to cure Kobayashi's fever in chapter 42. Tohru shoots down the idea, saying that Kobayashi's body wouldn't be able to handle it.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The "Other World" that the dragons hail from is a Medieval European Fantasy world with aspects of various mythologies and folklores.
Feather Boa Constrictor: Emily is introduced with her snake familiar wrapped around her neck as if it was a scarf.
Fire, Ice, Lightning: The relationship between Tohru, Kanna & Elma is set up this way, with Tohru being fire, Kanna being lightning and Elma being ice.
First Day of School Episode: Chapter 13 focused on Kanna's first day of school and her first meeting with Saikawa. The anime (episode 4) also had a section where she, Kobayashi, and Tohru go shopping for school supplies.
Fish out of Water: Due to a combination of dragons having a heavy case of Proud Warrior Race culture, along with humanity in their world being exactly like what you'd expect from a Fantasy Kitchen Sink modelled after a Medieval European Fantasy, most of the dragons, particularly Tohru, Kanna, and Elma, who come to the "main" Earth experience some difficulties adjusting to modern human life since it's completely different from everything they know. That said, there are a rare few that instead are Like a Duck Takes to Water, such as Lucoa and Telne, who despite some draconic eccentricities fit in perfectly. Though regardless of how much time each of the dragons took to comprehend this version of humanity, them spending enough time interacting with it has consistently resulted in them Going Native, feeling stronger connections to Earthly humans than they had even with other dragons back home.
Flashback Nightmare: The first episode ends with Tohru having one of her battle against the gods, followed Kobayashi's detached attempt to comfort her.
Flower Motif: Episode 13 is centered around one. First it's discussed when Saikawa gives Kanna a Shepherd's Pursenote Capsella bursa-pastoris after finding out that it means "I offer you my all". After Tohru is abducted by her father, the camera shows the flower many times. It is finally echoed by Tohru after the Final Battle, where she tells Kobayashi she can have her all.
Flowers of Romance: Saikawa gives Kanna a Shepherd's Purse in episode 13 after finding out that it means "I offer you my all".
Food as Bribe: Kobayashi convinces Elma to help Tohru fight against Ilulu by offering her sweets. Early as Elma's debut, Tohru got her to forget about their duel and go away by offering her a whole bag of cream bread.
For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Several of the cosplayers at Comiket are actually creatures from Tohru's world.
The Force Is Strong with This One: Several wizards try to sense Kobayashi's magic powers after she got first place on a mage exam. They end up sensing Tohru instead (who was sitting next to her), which causes Kobayashi to be Mistaken for Badass. All of the dragons can also be seen reacting when Tohru's father shows up in the anime.
Foreign Cuss Word: Tohru calls Takiya, Kobayashi's work colleague and target of her hate for purportedly trying to seduce Kobayashi (only in Tohru's love-addled mind), "stultus", which is Latin for foolish, stupid and so on.
Foreshadowing: Elma's true reason for following Tohru to Earth (reigniting their friendship) was hinted at way back in her first appearance when she said she was going to bring her back to the other world. Not kill, not defeat; bring back.
During the anime verion of Elma and Tohru's falling out, the final clash makes it look like they're kissing.
Elma comments that the programming language their company uses was easy to learn despite having not even known what a computer was when she started learning hints at the reveal that it's actually modeled after the series' magic system, since she would already have a familiarity with it.
In yet another hint towards the magic=programming language reveal, the words "Hello, World" flash across Kanna's eye when she learns English.
When Ilulu goes into heat, Tohru gives Kobayashi examples of the various ways that dragons reproduce. One of them is the only fashioned way of two dragons coming across each other in the wild and breeding. The two dragons shown there look like stylized versions of Tohru and Elma, setting up the eventual reveal that Elma is in love with Torhu.
The holy sword that initially stabbed Tohru gaining sentience is briefly hinted at in chapters 85 and 88 before they're actually introduced.
Formulaic Magic: Magic is akin to that of a programming language, and is similar enough that wizards who immigrated from the other world were actually able to convert it into one.
Fountain of Youth: Chapter 41 of Elma's Office Lady Diary, Lucoa grows a Dragon World mushroom on Earth that can revert whoever eats it into a baby in hopes of seeing Shota as an infant, with Elma noticing it and proceeding to eat it. Lucoa's plan to have Shouta eat it eventually happens in Chapter 34 of Lucoa is my xx.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: The butterfly seen in episode 2 is an owl butterfly, which would place the field somewhere in Central or South America (which is roughly the opposite side of the planet from Japan).
Played with in Episode 10 of the second season. The second segment has Tohru showing that she was watching over Kanna the entire time the latter had run away to New York, highlighting scenes where she was in the background. Going back to these specific scenes in the episode will reveal that Tohru was there. This expands on the similar occurence in chapter 62 of the manga, which the episode is based on: there the chapter bonus pointed out a single panel with Tohru in the background, and going back to the page the panel is from shows Tohru is indeed there.
The Friends Who Never Hang: The dragon characters frequently interact as a group but, on their own, usually only socialize with Tohru or the humans of their acquaintance. Chapter 61, however, has the normally very anti-social Fafnir seek out Lucoa, who's typically only seen with either Tohru or Shouta, for help as a model for the manga he wants to draw.
The Kanna's Daily Life spinoff rectifies this with Kanna. In the main series, she interacts primarily with the others in the Kobayashi household and her classmates. The spinoff features chapters such as she and Saikawa finding Fafnir's secret arcade and bribing Lucoa for help. The main series also has a chapter of Elma taking Kanna, Saikawa, and Shouta fishing and one where Kanna asks her fellow dragons for their opinions when figuring out which dragon faction she should side with.
Chapter 6 of Elma's spinoff opens with her hanging out with Lucoa at a festival, but it becomes more about her babysitting Kanna and Ilulu.
Friendly Enemy: Tohru and Elma were like this in the backstory, having