Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a truly delightful experience rich with interesting and humorous characterization and thoughtful theming that doesn’t feel out of place in a mostly comedy-centric storyline. It is full of interesting rich characters that are much more fleshed out than many other series’ in its genre category. All of its moving parts tie together and intersect to give each element more value than it would have on its own. I know this is easy to say about many stories, but I feel it is particularly emphatic and well-presented in this series. It is also genuinely heartwarming and touching, and focuses on many issues which are near and dear to my own thoughts on the world and topics that I find myself pondering frequently. This is a series which centrally focuses on relationships of many types, from pure platonic friendship to friendship bordering on romance, and how different kinds of people can complete each other and make each other’s lives better.
Kobayashi herself is not an overly interesting character on her own, but like many other characters I am drawn to and have discussed on this site, her best traits and depth of personality are emphasized through her interactions with the other members of the cast. And her personality is best brought out through her interactions with Tooru, the bouncy and light-hearted dragon that Kobayashi meets while drunkenly wandering through a forest. Like many couples and best friend duos in fictional (and non-fictional) storytelling, they bring out the best in each other. Kobayashi is portrayed as being quite thoughtful but quite low-energy and, while not exactly depressed, certainly not the happiest individual either, especially when compared to the rest of the cast. Tooru is by contrast, quite high energy, and is bubbly and fun when compared to Kobayashi’s usually sullen mood and introspective attitude. But Tooru is also quite impulsive and doesn’t put a lot of thought into her actions beyond the raw emotions she is feeling in a momentary sense. When working together, Kobayashi is made to be a little more open, happy, and is able to relax more. By contrast, Tooru is made to be more down-to-earth and realistic in her thought processes, and is able to more pragmatically make decisions and reduce her impulsivity. Like many power couples, they bring out the best in each other and cover up for each other’s weaknesses. Through their emotionally intimate bond, they also expose some of each other’s internal struggles and emotional turmoil within, which they can help resolve for each other. For example, while Tooru appears very happy on the surface she has a lot of regret and insecurity about her relationship with her father and how she appears to him and other dragons. As shown at the end of the series, Kobayashi is able to help her overcome this and express her true emotional desires to her father. Much in the same vein, Tooru is able to help Kobayashi establish the friend circle and social confidence she never had but always wanted.
Similarly, other character duos are formed as the series goes on, all of whom have the commonality of the duo benefiting each other and covering each other’s weaknesses and emotional difficulties. From Kanna and her friend Riko, to Fafnir and Takiya, to Kanna and Kobayashi, to Kobayashi and Takiya, to Quetzalcoatl and Shouta, the list goes on. The part about this that I find so fascinating and fulfilling is the number of commonalities, parallels, and connections that are drawn between the different characters in this social circle. While many series focus on the journeys of characters and them finding solace in their relationships with one another one on one, Dragon Maid is interesting because of how it draws parallels throughout the social circle in a realistic manner which demonstrates the internal politics of a dynamic friend circle instead of segregating friend/romantic pairings to sticking with each other. I know this might sound like something every series does, and that is true to an extent. But I want to emphasize the true aptitude of Dragon Maid’s creators in creating what I would undoubtedly label one of the best executions of this concept that I have ever seen. And this being presented in such a realistic manner that is genuinely reflective of the social bonds formed in a real-life friend and/or social group. This is but one central theme of the series.
Another is the social dichotomy between the lives and experiences between dragons and humans. The series extensively explores the relationship between these very different groups and subtly touches on and returns to the question of ‘how can these groups live together harmoniously?’ And while this story explores that theme in many different ways and with many different examples, the conclusion that it ultimately arrives at is that in order to get along these groups merely need to understand each other as well as possible and be willing to make compromises. Because every relationship is a compromise to some extent, and people have to make emotional concessions to each other in order to get along. Luckily for this particular social group, and more broadly for the society of dragons and humans as a whole. Kobayashi is the prime example of a skilled negotiator who can understand different sides of an issue. She shows this when she moves into a new larger apartment that can better accommodate her now larger ‘familial’ grouping of Tooru, Kanna, and herself. Immediately upon moving into this apartment she is faced with the problem that she has many noisy neighbors with different interests that require them to make noise sometimes, whether that is loud music, drilling, etc. Being the calm, lexical, and logically driven thinker that she is, Kobayashi is able to easily and effectively work out compromises for other people to get along. Although this example is quite insignificant in the wider theme of dragons and humans getting along through societal concessions and understanding, it does display her talent as a negotiator. Kobayashi is also an excellent thinker and arbitrator between humans (and herself) to the dragons in the series, and is able to resolve the problems between them. And more to the point, it highlights the necessity of people like Kobayashi to solving disputes between individuals in order to get along with each other. With people like Kobayashi, a societal harmony between dragons and humans does not seem out of reach. And of course to some extent this is a parable between real individual and group conflicts in the world today, from race to gender to religion to nationality to personal interests to sexuality etc. But what it shows is that in order for people to get along they need to understand each other, be willing to make concessions in order to get along, and have the goal of accepting each other’s differences in order to build a world which can accommodate everybody.
Yet another (though less significant) thematic idea of this series is that of uncontrollable/extremely dangerous power. The extraordinary power of dragons is shown from time to time, most memorably in the play-fighting between Kanna and Tooru. It is implied directly and indirectly that dragons could very easily destroy the world should they want to. With characters like Fafnir seeming at times to be just teetering on the edge of destroying everything, that fear is not unrealistic. And the method that is used by the characters in this series to prevent or coerce the dragons not to do this is through emotional intimacy and showing them the value of each other’s existence. Someone who values something in the world isn’t likely to destroy that world. And Fafnir finds this value through his interest/addiction to video games and his friendly relationship with Takiya. The other dragons similarly find this value in their social connections with each other and the human characters. This theme isn’t explored in as much depth as the others, but it is very interesting to think about and see thought about in the series.
And this has gone without mentioning the interesting, charming, and memorable characterization shown with all the characters in the series. All of them are genuinely fun and likeable characters with enough depth all around to make them believable, with some like Kobayashi, Tooru, and Kanna being significantly fleshed out and interesting as individuals.
Kobayashi is a delightful main character in her own right, with plenty of interesting antics and personality quirks for the viewer/reader to pick up on as they get to know her better. I am sure a wide portion of the audience will relate to her highly lexical modus operandi, interest in programming, and her secretive otaku interests and maid obsession. She is a very believable and intimately likable character at that. Although this might sound insignificant, it is rather refreshing to have this kind of adult main character with her own struggles and relationship woes when compared to the thousands of highschool-aged protagonists in anime these days.
Tooru is also wonderful to proverbially spend time with. She is exactly the kind of person Kobayashi needed in her life, and is easily the driving force behind the show’s energetic tone and atmosphere. She is also made to be interesting through the times she departs from her usual energetic persona and starts thinking more deeply about her father or Kobayashi or the human world she inhabits. Her rare but insightful philosophical anecdotes are particularly interesting to me and make her that much more likeable and believable as a character/person.
Kanna is a particular high-point of the series to me because of her realistically tenacious attitude towards new things, as any explorative young child would be when learning about the world. Her charming attitude of fascination with everything with simultaneous nonchalance and blankness makes her instantly likeable. Top that with her adorable character design and memorably and hilarious antics and I find myself wishing she was in other series and thinking of her quite frequently.
And overall this series makes fantastic use of its medium as most of Kyoani’s work tends to do. There are subtle shifts in artstyle and character design to accentuate comedic and serious moments, there are truly mind-blowing action sequences every once in a while, every setting detail is charming and visually appealing. It’s just an all-round great-looking show with splendid direction by the late Yasuhiro Takemoto. May he and the others killed in the tragic events at Kyoani last year rest in peace.
Music and other stylistic flair combined with spot-on key animation and comedic timing, character designs, impeccable voice acting, and thoughtful storytelling make this series an absolute joy to experience, and I could not recommend it more to nearly anyone. You will almost certainly find something to connect with in this series, whether it is some of the themes, characters, etc. if not many things as I did. I know a part of me is still hoping for a second season, though due to the Kyoani arson attacks and the death of Takemoto I am not pinning my hopes on it, and am certainly empathetic and understanding if Kyoani chooses not to make one. And perhaps that is for the better.
Thank you for reading. What did you think of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid? Do you want a second season? Did I miss any major themes or important points that stood out to you? Do you have any constructive criticism of my writing? Let me know in the comments!