Happy winter solstice! I absolutely love snow (I’ve been taking at least two walks a day outside), but it sure is dreadfully cold here in Vancouver. But fear not, because nothing fights the cold like a good, heartwarming anime series. I present to you Kobayashi-san chi no Maid Dragon and ten wholesome things about it to battle this flu season.
10. Episode Titles
Maid Dragon knows all too well that it’s a slice-of-life featuring stuff like moe characters and family drama. Its half-sarcastic titles show an awareness of all the cliches the show pays dues to (e.g. beach episode, sports day, showdown with the big enemy). What makes it work is that the audience would recognize the formulas (which are usually popular for good reason) and begin to form predictions on the episode, all the while anticipating the changes the anime is going to bring to the equation with its lively cast.
9. Drunk Characters
The drunk sides of anime characters tend to be underappreciated. The only types of drunk characters we see are either people who have given up on life or people who look cool and activate special abilities after drinking. Here, booze is a lot more like what it is in reality – a temporary escape from stressful times that can be full of fun. It is how Kobayashi first bonds with Tohru, and possibly how she bonded with Takiya as well. I kind of love the dominating side of Kobayashi when she’s drunk, and drunk Tohru is just too adorable.
8. Character Designs
Kyaaa…why’s everyone so adorable?? The pastels, the blush, the rounded angles of their faces… In an age of pretty moe characters, why does Maid Dragon‘s cast stand out? I think that aside from designs that suit their personalities well, it has to do with the use of soft colours and lighter outlines. The characters blend in with the equally soft style of the background to give the anime a warm and gentle feel. Oh, and I just adore everybody’s horns and tails, especially during the moments in which they come out with a pop!
*From here on this post contains certain spoilers
7. Kobayashi Standing up to Tohru’s Dad
Because of how defenseless Tohru is in this scene, it’s kind of expected that Kobayashi would stand up for her. What I didn’t expect was the shock the characters go through when Tohru’s father threatens them by shattering Kobayashi’s glasses with a flick. Kobayashi has to recover from this death threat, and when she does, she says some pretty remarkable things. She slips into drunk Kobayashi mode without realizing, and this is the point in which we clearly witness her evolution into someone who can be fierce and speak her true feelings without relying on alcohol.
6. Casual Yuri
Tohru’s feelings for Kobayashi are obviously romantic, and so are Saikawa’s for Kanna. Kobayashi is hesitant about accepting Tohru’s love only because she is awkward about communicating emotions, and Kanna makes oblivious advances on Saikawa because she is too pure of a soul. Kobayashi and Kanna both accept the love from their admirers through their subtle ways of showing affection. No ugly drama ever arises – no second-guessing or struggling with society’s judgment or any of that. The only conflict that exists is “how do I make sure this person feels my love?” Here we have a truly wholesome anime.
5. Fafnir (and Takiya)
You’d call him a chuunibyou, except this wouldn’t actually apply because he is indeed a being with magical powers. Fafnir’s was the character entrance I looked forward to the most since hearing him pronounce “kill them all” without humour when Tohru first consults her friends over the phone on how to live in the human world. And then – plot twist, the most nefarious dragon of curses becomes the roommate of a closeted (?) otaku, and begins to use his lack of need for sleep for hardcore gaming and sell his anthologies of curses at comic cons. And it was really sweet when Takiya rushes home wet from the rain and Fafnir already has towels prepared for him (just so they can get to gaming ASAP).
4. Natural Family Dynamics
In a show in which one character submits herself as a maid devoted solely to her master’s happiness, you wouldn’t expect there to be healthy family dynamics. But yet, the addition of Kanna to the apartment is all it takes to perfect the feel. I think the reason the characters interact without having issues of power imbalance that make audiences uncomfortable is that they each have their specialized functions within the family and accept each other’s roles naturally. Kobayashi is the breadwinner and reliable decision-maker, Tohru is the mom figure who takes care of necessities, Kanna is the adorable fluffball of a child. With the exception of Kobayashi also being a female, their roles are fairly traditional here. But equality is key here, and the characters achieve it by each contributing their natural attributes to the family and accepting the contributions made by others.
3. The After-Tohru-Left Montage
The anime’s way of depicting loss is subtle and significant. We see Kobayashi cope in her usual ways without Tohru – feigning indifference, buying booze, leaving the house disorganized. Her lifestyle was originally messy but fairly functional. What makes it impactful is the fact that Kanna goes through all this with her as well. She’s a silently observant character who takes in Kobayashi’s gloominess but is unable to help her due to her role as the dependent. During this mostly wordless sequence showing how Kobayashi and Kanna cope, we get some memorable Kanna moments. My favourite ones include Kanna saying “it’s okay” with ever-so-slightly downcast eyes when Kobayashi accidentally drops her microwaved milk, and when she looks in awe into the rice cooker and proceeds to have a solitary dinner of a mountain of white rice. You get the sense that Kobayashi and Kanna can survive fine, but there’s always something missing. And that provides the perfect atmosphere for Tohru to re-enter Kobayashi’s life later that episode.
2. Enthusiasm for Daily Life
What makes Maid Dragon such a masterful slice-of-life is that despite our characters being dragons, there is realism in every small moment. Every single detail is there to remind you that their lives are no different from ours, from Kobayashi hitting Tohru when closing a door due to the place being too small to Kobayashi’s attempts at throwing mandarin peels into the garbage can from the warmth of a kotatsu. But one doesn’t watch a slice-of-life show just to see characters re-enact reality. Maid Dragon‘s dragons have inexhaustible enthusiasm for the littlest of things. Just look at all of Elma’s very difficult food decisions, Tohru’s love for grocery-shopping, and Kanna’s investment in school activities. Enthusiastic characters are a must for slice-of-life, but many of them just end up feeling forced. Here, the setting of characters being from another world justifies their passion for what we see as normality, which allows the magic from their world to flow into ours and make ours feel like the more mystical one.
1. The Maid Fetish
It must be kind of shocking that this rather questionable aspect of the show is my number one. But Kobayashi-san chi no Maid Dragon is the ultimate show for people who wish for a maid and also people who dream of becoming one. You’d be amazed by how many of such people there are.
Here’s a little story that you didn’t ask for: in high school I really wanted to become a housewife. I was super invested in kitchen work, grocery-shopping, and coupon-clipping (during class). I felt cut-out to be domestic, and despite awareness of feminist values, wanted badly to devote myself to the traditional art of nurturing a family while not having to be the one in control. The first anime convention that I went to, my cosplayer cousin sold me her cheap maid outfit and I went to the con just like that, with twin tails & nekomimi and no make-up (such an amateur). I felt oddly free that day, and went around socializing with people and feeling more sincere than I’ve been in ages. Somehow, I was really popular with photographers in that convention, and my logical-minded friend said that it was because I carried a “submissive aura” that was very appropriate for a maid. I was torn between feeling like a liberated version of myself and a sexist meme.
Only somebody who lacks confidence and will can possibly yearn for domesticity in this day and age, you might think, and I don’t deny that to a good extent it was true for me. But here’s Tohru, suggesting that becoming a maid can be a free choice. A powerful dragon consciously chooses to pour her passions toward a human recipient, and to give up the convenience of magic for the fun of scrubbing a whole house clean. To me, there’s something inspiring about that – savouring every aspect of our mundane life with love as the fuel, all the while knowing that you do so not because you’re subjected to another authority, but because you have such a charming desire. Maybe for introverts like myself, there’s something attractive about contributing your skills and acting on your interest in others under the legitimized justification that you’re a maid.
So that was my list! I don’t know if that last part made enough sense to you, but surely, it’s not that unrelatable to everyone else if the show managed to be so popular? Well, definitely drop a comment below to share any thoughts you have on the show!