Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 10

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.

16rating_8

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 09

The Gist: Kana’s school is hosting a field-sports episode and it takes a few quiet but thoughtful character developments for Kobayashi to choose to attend. The day itself sees Shouta consistently win because of Boob-dragon-chan, Riko orgasm at almost every moment of contact with Kana, and Kana’s team ultimately wins through group spirit.

Meanwhile, Elma can’t decide which food/drink she wants in three short segments and Lord Fafnir isn’t even in the episode.

The Verdict: Dragon Maid lands another successful slice of life outing framed loosely by the trappings of the school-sports-day/fair cliche. The fact that it teases out some emotional growth from Kobayashi in the process, while keeping Kana both childlike and understated, was pretty impressive.

On the Downside? It’s also pretty good for a late pre-final conflict arc filler episode… but it’s still a pre-final conflict fill episode. There’s no indication that we will learn anything about Tohru’s grim-dark backstory, nor is any conflict set up to be resolved.

Still, subtle feel good vibes go a long way in it’s favor.

16rating_8

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 08

dragonmaid8c

The Gist: Kana is going on a field trip and needs someone to make her a lunch… so Kobayashi and Tohru have a food wars style kitchen battle to see who is a better lunch preparer. After three rounds, Tohru is effectively disqualified for using food from the other world (like the kissing fruit monster thing pictured above) but it’s all good: Kobayashi feels they can fight so seriously because they’ve become such close friends.

Shortly after that, Elma slips through the gate Tohru used to reach the other world… and proceeds to be the shortest lived rival in anime history. Not because she is killed — Dragon Maid is not that kind of show! Rather, after two very short encounters, Elma joins the ranks of human society and moves on. She even strikes up an office friendship with Kobayashi, though that has as much to do with needing help with the computer and Koba being a softie as giving up her grudge on Tohru…

dragonmaid8b

In a reversal of roles, Tohru becomes envious of Elma for her casual relationship with Koba, but even this doesn’t last so long. Tohru and Koba simply have a heart felt conversation and get over it.

Meanwhile, Lucoa continues to child-molest Shouta in his sleep. Fortunately, these scenes are incredibly short and couched in Shouta’s dreams. Still… wtf Dragon Maid?

dragonmaid8a

The Verdict: Dragon Maid finally lands a solid slice of life episode. A lot of this has to do with Elma being part of Koba’s work, and functions more like a human than the other dragons, which lets us actually experience their interactions in a less narrative way.

Overall, Dragon Maid has a great flow to its scenes. They come in varying lengths, which gives each episode the flavor of several mini-episodes bundled at the edges of two half-length episodes. While other shows like Konosuba are also experimenting with multiple hard transitions within each episode, each of their segments tend to be more consistent in length. This gives Dragon Maid a unique feel and, when the episode is actually good (read: not RAPEY) that uniqueness elevates the quirky flavor.

16rating_8

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 07

dragon7a

The Gist: Kobayashi, Tohru, Kana, Lucoa and Shouta go to the beach. While the dragons are gung-ho about having fun, showing skin, and working out, the Humans are fairly restrained. Slapstick, incomplete tangents about Koba’s past, and some melancholy ensue.

Until Koba asks to ride Tohru, that is. With everyone relaxing on their yacht-sized friend (and Koba fishing) the mood lightens. And even though everyone is close by, Koba and Tohru have a chance to talk to each other more directly. Tohru is homesick, a little, and wants to introduce Koba to her parents, but that can’t happen because they would kill a human on sight. Then we transition to Comiket

dragon7b

Unsurprisingly, Takiya is has his own manga for sale and Koba and Tohru are right there to help him manage lines and take payment. As the line stretches on, Tohru realizes other creatures from another world are in attendance and, when talking to them, learns that events like this are their rare chances to be normal amidst humans.

It is all quite touching, really, with Tohru getting a sense of belonging. Or, at the very least, a sense of enjoyment from being a part of a specific and special time and place.

Meanwhile, poor Fafnir’s book of curses doesn’t sell well. Although, that’s probably for the best…

dragon7cSPOILER! Kana eats the crab.

The Verdict: If you ignore the running gag that Lucoa has giant breasts and likes to flaunt them, this week was a return to Dragon Maid’s standard form. That is to say, it was harmless, populated by charming characters, with a bit of well-timed surprise humor sprinkled on top.

It’s nothing remarkable, but special credit is due for the beach episode actually developing the core characters (and for spending a surprisingly short amount of screen time at the actual beach).

Bonus Bonus points for Kana eating many things throughout the episode, including the bugs she was supposed to collect for her summer homework.

16rating_7

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 06

dragonmaid6_2

The Gist: Amidst the Spring rain, four dragon x human couplings blossom. Riko, whose older sister is also a maid-otaku, invites Kana and company over for a playdate. While Kobayashi and Riko’s sister bond over maids (and Tohru feels left out), Riko introduces Kana to Twister and, as their loli bodies entwine, Kana introduces Riko to lust.

Kana’s objectives are a little vague here. She knows her strengths make her popular in class, but it doesn’t feel like the friendship she see’s between Kobayashi and Tohru. However, she doesn’t seem entirely invested in Riko, dspite Riko offhandedly saying she would gladly marry Kana, and despite Kana mounting Riko and pinning her to the floor…

dragonmaid6_4Ah Twister, the loli’s gateway into awkward Yuri action…

The entire Kana x Riko section is played for laughs, which is a little creepy considering the laughs are about proto-sexual interactions between elementary school-age children, but not nearly as creepy as Lucoa’s relationship with Magatsuchi Shouta

Shouta is the descendant of mages and about Riko’s age. While trying to summon a demon, he ended up summoning Lucoa, who is now living at his house, taking baths with him, and sleeping with him clutched in her arms. How his parents are not involved in this is unclear and beside the point. What is clear is that Lucoa’s only value to him is her physical body, and no matter how much she rubs her breasts in his face, he doesn’t even want that.

Like Kana x Riko, this section is played for laughs. We’re supposed to find it funny that Lucoa, who is the level-headed dragon, is flustered by her lack of value to her partner. We’re also supposed to find it funny that a mature woman is making sexual advances on a young boy, who is obviously aroused by it but has no tools to cope except to call her names and shout objections. In short, we’re supposed to find child molestation acceptable, if not funny, because of the gender norms in play. Nice!

dragonmaid6_1Lolz a clueless sexual predator won’t leave this little boy alone lolz / wtf?!

The final section is devoted to Fafnir and Takiya, which is book-ended by KanaKobayashi and Tohru enjoying the rain. While Fafnir and Takiya are naturally awkward characters, this section is anything but.

They have a routine, if sorts, with the day starting and ending with Takiya making meals for them to share, and lots of online gaming in between. I love that Fafnir always asks if the flavor is ‘mild,’ no matter what type of dish is served. I love that they are making a game together and are planning to sell it at Comiket. I love that their relationship is almost completely inverse of Tohru x Kobayashi.

But what really sells it as a complete and interesting set of scenes is the tiny amount of time we actually spend in Fafnir’s head. He sees humans as hit or miss and finds the amount of effort to decide if a person is a hit too much. He’d rather limit his exposure to the easy misses—the humans who raid his lair for gold—than put himself out there. Except, without explaining what he means, he tells Takiya a hit and lets Tikiya call him Faf-kun.

That added a charming layer to what would otherwise be disposable side-character antics.

dragonmaid6_3

The Verdict: Episode 6 presents a significant challenge in the ratings department. While Fafnir x Takiya’s story provided an unusually thoughtful, well paced experience, and Tohru x Kobayashi’s time watching the rain had a similar effect, the overall experience was just ‘watchable.’

Additionally, I respond poorly to the use of sexualization for exploitation’s sake, and this week’s Kana x Riko and Lucoa x Shouta used it for even less. Introducing Shouta this late in the season with no clear purpose doesn’t help things either.

In the grand scheme of things, those scenes didn’t make the episode hard to watch, though I would argue it did make it worse. Worse and I suspect they will become a recurring theme for some reason, which greatly reduces my interest in reviewing it.

16rating_6

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 05

dm5_1

The Gist: Tohru follows Kobayashi to work and gains a better appreciation for Kobayashi’s reliable nature and indifference to pressure. (Even so, Tohru dispenses some righteous justice on Kobayashi’s abusive boss)

For her own part, Kobayashi comes to realize that she’s changed a bit over the past few months. She’s happier and more relaxed and knows she owes it to Kobayashi. She can barely remember what she was like before they started living together. Strangely, she never expresses this point to Tohru

Meanwhile, Kana and Riko have a few short and utterly forgetable scenes at school, each of which ends with Riko climaxing at Kana’s touch. (though the climax is trimmed shorter and shorter each time)

Finally, Fafnir tries to get an apartment but, after failing some basic aspects of being human, moves in with Kobayashi’s coworker.

dm5_2

The Verdict: If Little Witch hadn’t just zapped me with a methodically uneventful episode, I may have enjoyed this this week’s Dragon Maid a bit more. Unfortunately, the uneventfulness of the plot barely held my attention.

Sure, Tohru’s surprising appearance on the TV magic show as a payoff to the not-learning-magic plot was expert level joke-craft, and it’s somewhat funny to see Fafnir crop up in two unrelated animes this week, but the sum total of events this week equal: Fafnir moving to the human world more permanently and Tohru telling him she is in the human world to stay.

Sprinkle in some longing looks and the as-yet-unrevealed why Tohru is obsessed with Kobayashi and that’s neither character growth or eventful plot developments to cling to.

Ultimately? It’s watchable, pleasant, and a bit more engaging than this week’s Demi-chans, but not as visually striking as Little Witch, nor as frenetic as its own previous outings. Hopefully, something more will develop soon…

16rating_7

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 04

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-5-50-36-pmCome on baby, brand me one more time…

The Gist: Kana watches human children go to school and feels left out. Seeing no harm in integrating her into human society, Kobayashi files the appropriate paperwork off camera and, along with Tohru, the three go shopping for school supplies. Wacky antics ensue.

Kana’s friendly-shy personality and physical abilities quickly earn her friends at school. Additionally, Saikawa Riko, the class’ unpopular princess with a shiny forehead, becomes her rival and comic relief. Antics involving older boys and domination of the dodgeball court ensue.

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-6-11-33-pm

The Verdict: As a reviewer, I regularly ask myself “is this an original concept or a gimmicky re-skin of a conventional story?” Dragon Maid feels like it is trying to be the former, with its andro asexual professional single female protagonist, but the simple fact is Kobayashi is just a male archetype with a female voice. Similarly, the misfit dragons are like any other alien/demon/magic user/foreigner/outsiders trope about fitting in (or not, wackily) with Japanese culture + harem elements.

This doesn’t mean Dragon Maid isn’t funny, nor made poorly. While mid-shelf in quality, the action sequences are engaging. This week’s volleyball sequence was especially dynamic. Similarly, the writing is often funny and each character’s kindness is appealing in a harmless sort of way. This week’s trip to buy supplies, where the dragons don’t know how things work, but everyone acts like a family and has fun, provides a solid example of that comfort-food enjoyability.

What puzzles me is when Dragon Maid appears to be trying to make larger social commentary. Take the value Kobayashi puts on uniforms and uniformity, as a way to reduce Japanese peoples’ natural fear of differences OR her shock at the cost of basic school supplies (Kana’s standard book bag was $100) OR the group’s response to the supplies available for purchase at the local shopping arcade, which were drab and unappealing to children, yet surrounded by elderly shop owners and signs appealing to shop-local. Tohru is even afraid of the mall, because it reminds her of a castle, which is a dangerous place for a dragon to land.

The entire shopping sequence is littered with commentary about consumerism and community, and it’s interesting…but, given Dragon Maid’s scene structure, which flows more like a sequence of short self-contained gags, this commentary feels out of place. Perhaps it actually makes the scenes without commentary feel lacking by comparison? Either way, puzzling pros and cons.

16rating_7

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 03

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-12-32-28-pm

The Gist: this week features another string of vignettes, anchored by a longer telling of the team moving into a larger apartment. We get glimpses of Kobayashi’s childhood as they pack, information about dragon bathing habits, the frustration of commuting back to the wrong apartment after a move, we meet three new neighbors, and, finally, a party where we meet two more dragons.

Throughout all of this, Tohru and Koby’s relationship becomes more comfortable. They play and tease more honestly, and manipulate each other more openly too. (Koby to avoid house cleaning and Tohru to get a thorough washing)

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-12-51-10-pmThe new dragon’s boobs are absurdly huge…

The Verdict: The strength of this show is its casual nature. We met a ton of characters this week, which culminated in a dinner party where people didn’t entirely get along but there was no crucial narrative turning point here, no confrontation either. Just weirdos hanging out, eating food and playing games.

That lack of purpose would irritate me in most shows. However, Liking this show doesn’t hinge on that mystery and liking its characters doesn’t hinge on them doing anything. Dragon-maid’s choice to push the mystery plot back and just let the characters interact just works.

Call me confounded. Pleased and confounded!

16rating_8

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 02

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-1-28-13-pm

The Gist: Kanna-chan, a blue bird-like Dragon Gothic Lolita with a tribal theme, quickly moves in with Kobayashi and Tohru this week. She’s recently been kicked out of the dragon world for pulling a prank but she’s also here because she was worried about Tohru, who she’d heard was killed.

Much of the episode is spent with her and Tohru wandering around the human world, misunderstanding how things work, but generally being close and enjoying each other’s company. Many little moments, like thinking a see-saw is for catapult training, are framed inside yellow and black segment cards, which gives the entire adventure a vignette feel.

Over all, we learn less about plot and more about how characters interact, and it’s all delightfully shown and not told. And as for showing, there’s plenty of action too! Tohru beats down a purse snatcher, Kanna and Tohru rough-house in an epic magic battle, and the girls launch each other into the stratosphere with the before mentioned see-saw.

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-1-14-18-pm

The Verdict: what an odd little episode? Like Flying Witch, this was very pleasant, despite having no stakes at all. Characters just have fun taking in the world and trying to tease out a little more about each other’s circumstances. If it were not for all the magic and epic action shots, you could even call it… naturalistic in feel.

As with last week, Kobayashi feels like a gender swapped male. In fact, I’m certain this is a harem show with a andro-female protagonist, who’s not really interested in the harem. Coupled with the magic, dragons and everything else, and you’ve got one weird little world. Weird and lovely!

16rating_8

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 01 (First Impressions)

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-2-56-43-pm

The Gist: while drunk in the mountains, Kobayashi invites a dragon to live in her apartment as a maid. Tohru, the dragon in question, happily agrees for reasons not entire clear to the hung-over Kobayashi the following morning. This agreement, including Tohru’s apparent sexual love for her, may stem from a life debt. More on that later…

In the meantime, Kobayashi has to go to work and Tohru, who knows very little about the human world, has to get by with internet searches and calling other dragons on a magic phone. As you would imagine, Tohru doesn’t totally get it right…

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-2-58-15-pm

You’ll probably like Dragon Maid if you enjoy peppy humor, with the hints of a darker story beneath the surface. (Tohru’s nightmares, whatever Kobayashi did to save her, etc.) The visuals are average but pop pleasantly. The dialogue has strong comedic timing and the situational surprises are nice and quirky. (Kobayashi and Takiya being opinionated maid-otaku when drunk was hilarious, Tohru washing Kobayashi’s laundry in her mouth was gross but fun, etc.)

You may not care about Dragon Maid if the whole ‘pretty girl with animal parts’ genre is played out for you. While her ability to fly, breathe fire, and turn into a giant, not-at-all-human looking creature separates Tohru from the average Cat-Girl, the humor structured around her is effectively the same: She doesn’t understand our world and makes odd choices while trying to please her new master.

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-3-05-51-pm

The Verdict: I was pleasantly surprised by Tohru’s nightmares, which bumped the show above pleasant but forgettable comedy. Making Kobayashi female is also a nice twist on the convention. Even though she’s somewhat andro, and her coworkers tend to think of her as one of the guys, she is not homosexual, which gives the showrunners more to work with regarding Tohru’s advances.

Go on, you know you want to give this one a watch!

16rating_8