The Gist: It’s the Christmas episode and Tohru is asked to put on a holiday play for seniors by the shopping arcade association. Everyone but Kobayashi is involved and, after some foreshadowingly unproductive discussion, they agree to put on a version of ‘The Match Stick Girl.”
Of course the Dragons don’t really understand human culture, and everything they plan is overly specific to their own hobbies or just straight up weird. It’s wonderfully bizarre when it comes together, with an Anxious Kobayashi providing commentary and watching from the back of the room ready to spring in and stop things if they get out of control.
And even though things do get out of control, the seniors are happy and everyone has fun. So much so that Kobayashi settles down a bit and her love and appreciation for Tohru grows ever so slightly larger.
This applies to everyone else too. Lucoa and Shouta interact more naturally (read: less rapey), Riko’s lust for Kana is a little less frequent, and even Elma gets acceptance among the group.
After the after party, Tohru and Kobayashi share a snow filled dragon ride through the sky and exchange gifts.
The Verdict: Dragon Maid owes much of its success and limitations to its reliable comedic formula. That formula was a bit more obvious than usual, as several jokes used the same setup “Oh, dragon misunderstands the point” but they were still well timed. The creativity is in how weird the jokes get, and the general strength of the episode depends on how much charm and warmth the cast can generate around those odd jokes.
This week checked off the warmth marks, obviously, and the weirdness stayed creative too. I wish there was a stronger narrative thrust or purpose to all of it, but the show still deserves your attention without that.