ANN Riff: The Hidden Depths of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid May17

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ANN Riff: The Hidden Depths of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

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The Hidden Depths of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

by Gabriel Peralta, Mar 17th 2017

 

And this is the text-based whooping of it done by Bonglorio

That’s me, I’m Bonglorio. I’m named after my grandpa, he was a circus clown. My commentary is going to be in sexy italics.

Headcanons and theories in fiction are fan pastimes I’ve never fully understood. Yes, there’s a certain allure in believing that Aladdin takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, or the Rugrats babies are figments of Angelica’s imagination, or Super Saiyans are an allegory for whitewashing.

Or that people who write these theories need to just go to Taco Bell after smoking that much weed like the rest of us. Also, the Saiyans are not white. They’re part monkey for god’s sake. (source: Stormfront)

But at the end of the day, I just can’t get behind these theories outside of a simple “huh, how ’bout that” and moving on. Most of the time, these theories try so hard to shoehorn an outsider’s opinion into pre-existing lore rather than making an inference that springs naturally from what’s already been established about the story.

This is such a reasonable take on headcanons and fan theories that I’m convinced this was not written by anyone on ANN. Hey, can anyone google search this text to see where they got it from? There’s only two things I hate: plagiarists and the Polish.

So when I say that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid does an excellent job of exploring modern relationships, family dynamics, and even the immigrant’s strife in a foreign world, I’m not just trying to spin a hot take. I think the story supports these ideas on more than a shallow, accidental level.

And normally I trust an ANN writer’s grasp of relationships and family about as much as I’d trust Armin Meiwes’ vegan recipes. Zac Bertschy’s girlfriend looks like a Keebler Elf with a Hitler Youth haircut. And I don’t know about other places, but in my town if you became an anime reviewer, your family gave you up to an orphanage, and then you’d be required by law to sit at the back of the bus with the Polish.

 

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Starting with our titular character, Miss Kobayashi spends her workdays as a computer programmer. Her after-hours are spent drinking with co-workers, while time in her apartment is spent reading or playing videogames. Though somewhat odd, she’s a relatively normal office worker, setting a firm foundation for the nonsense that the rest of the series delves into.

Also oddly is that she is a woman in Japan who has not yet been fondled by squids on the subway. But there’ll be plenty of time for that after she’s married. It’s pretty cool that she’s a programmer, though. Did you know that PCs in Japan have sideways disc drives?

Once dragons Tohru and Kanna are introduced, we’re given a new dynamic of Kobayashi, the one “normal” person, reacting to the oddities surrounding her. It’s in this odd-couple relationship that the premise for the series is established—the trio’s differing personalities in a shared space drive the core entertainment. Yes, it’s a family sitcom format that has been repeated numerous times throughout various mediums, but it’s the slight tweaks to formula that make this series feel fresh and fun to watch.

Sadly they’re not regular dragons but anime girls who have dragon parts on them. If it was a bigass Smaug-type dragon in a maid outfit, I’d actually be able to masturbate to this show. If you’re going to make a show about dragons, give me big scaly dragons and make those dragons destroy or fuck half of Tokyo.

As can be inferred by the series title, Tohru serves as Kobayashi’s maid. While Kobayashi works at her job, Tohru does the laundry, groceries, dinner, cleans—all the tasks associated with being a maid. Had the dynamic between the two stopped there, it would have made for a fairly standard moe show, but the series pushes further by delving into the relationship between Kobayashi and Tohru without coming off as pandering too directly or winking at the audience. They’re a lesbian couple in the most mundane manner, but that’s what makes it work.

I’m not a licensed lesbian technician myself but I feel like this dude’s knowledge of gay couples consists mostly of redtube and his right hand. It’s not hard to come across as good LGBT writing in anime when the bar has been set by works such as Enzai and that anime where gay boys take swim lessons. The bar has already been set so low you have to dig for it. Also this anime has the usual awkward casual boob touching precisely no real women do outside of prison.

It could have been so easy for Dragon Maid to treat Kobayashi and Tohru’s relationship as a fanservice-laden romp with minimal plot and character progression. And yet with each new episode, we see Tohru’s one-sided adoration of Kobayashi evolve into something that, while Kobayashi doesn’t explicitly accept as romantic, is still incredibly reminiscent of a parenting dynamic over their new dragon daughter, Kanna.

This is called ‘character development’ and it’s sort of what all stories are supposed to have by default. You might as well praise the show for not transforming into a swarm of asian hornets the instant you open the DVD case. Also, did they legally adopt the dragon kid or did they commit dragon kidnapping? Dragon kidnapping is a serious Dragon crime and is punishable by 25 years minimum in Dragon jail.

(Note: Please, somebody make Dragon Jail a real show.)

 

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Kobayashi herself acknowledges that she’s become the husband to Tohru’s wife, and it’s when the two fall into these “ordinary” roles that the series begins to shine. The snippy back and forth between characters makes them feel not like fantastical creatures imposing on a computer programmer, but a family unit we can relate to and laugh alongside with. Kobayashi and Tohru acting like a married couple is treated so matter-of-factly because their relationship isn’t the entire point of the show.

But the entire point of the show is the relationship after all. It’s not like Metal Gear Solid where Snake and Otacon’s gay relationship is set against a sinister conspiracy masterminded by a Russian cowboy with a haunted arm. There really isn’t much here aside from the relationships to build on. Dragon Jail, however…

Unlike other anime that either pin a romantic or sexual relationship as their central conflict or one-note gag, Dragon Maid treats this like every other mundane aspect that makes up its slice-of-life style. The show’s strength comes from how it normalizes relationships and finds humor in their mundanity, especially considering that dragons are involved.

And nothing awesome happens despite the involvement of dragons. If you’re going to do a fanservice anime on dragons, go fucking ham with it at least. Make the maid one of those scalie-bait dragon babes and also make her do all her chores in the most violent way possible. Also, she needs to be a spy working for the Dragon CIA.

In this way, the series takes fantastical beings and immediately brings them down to Earth (literally and figuratively). You would initially think that Kanna serves as a foil to Kobayashi—her first scene involves her flat-out stating that Tohru has been swayed by Kobayashi’s feminine wiles into staying on Earth. However, within that same episode, Kanna ends up falling into the role of resident child, as Kobayashi and Tohru take care of the younger dragon, going as far as enrolling her in school.

And this is going to lead into a high school spinoff series because anime hates us. School is to anime what mechanically seperated meat is to canned food, it’s fucking everywhere, it’s usually awful, and it leaves a metallic taste in your mouth like you’ve just finished giving Iron Man a blowjob.

Scenes of Kanna pining over bedazzled school supplies and the adults playing slave to her childish needs endear us to her character in a way that pages of fictional lore about the world Kanna and Tohru come from would be unable to do. This immediate breaking of expectations not only adds to the series’ humor, but better fleshes out its cast as well.

Or it could be because this stuff is easier to animate. This dude is reaching so much, he should try out for the NBA. The Dragon NBA.

 

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On the topic of where the dragons hail from, early episodes do little to explain that world at all. This lack of backstory adds to the humor of the dragons coming and going between worlds in later episodes; the fact that the dragons are strangers to Earth and its customs add yet another layer to the series besides its familial slice-of-life moments, exploring the strife of an immigrant in a foreign land.

And unless one episode involves Dragon Donald Trump, (Note: Somebody draw Trump as a dragon right the fuck now) I’m not buying that. Do the humans build a wall and make the Dragons pay for it? Do the dragons face discrimination? Probably not, because Japan saves their racial hatred for Koreans these days.

This is different from something like the “country girl in the big city” or “fish out of water” concepts, because the dragons have greater disadvantages. Tohru is so committed to Kobayashi now that she can’t just return home if things get too tough for her. She has no home besides Kobayashi’s now, so she must learn to integrate if she’s to survive.

This dude is doing so much to elevate his fap fodder to high art it’s almost impressive. I should do the same for those crime scene photos I beat it to, maybe then I’ll finally get off that police watch list.

As early as episode 2, we begin to see Tohru interact with the world outside of Kobayashi’s apartment. Regardless of her (apparent) cosplay, she demonstrates that she’s learned how to fit into society through gradually learning small-talk. Even with some slight hiccups in how she speaks, the locals brush it off as a simple quirk about her—a commonplace occurrence in conversations between foreigners and locals.

And sadly, the foreigners in question are not Ukrainian. That’d be pretty awesome, if dragon maid was instead a bandit from STALKER. That’d be the kind of anime to really cheeki my breeki.

 

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This brings up the concept of the “melting pot” versus the “salad bowl.”

The “melting pot” theory describes how people from different cultures come together and blend into a single society. The issue with this theory is that it suggests one must relinquish their roots to fit in. Furthermore, integration is not as simple as picking up on colloquialisms and attire—outward appearances will still remain.

I can’t wait for the episode where dragon maid gets lectured on how she should be more woke by a white dude in dreds and a BLM shirt.

Taking this into account, the “salad bowl” theory takes on a more nuanced approach, stating that while society contains people of varying backgrounds, their cultures should remain intact—you can still taste every distinct part of the salad accordingly. Even with this updated theory, however, words like “integration” and “assimilation” are still used when discussing the topic of immigration for simplicity’s sake, resulting in the topic becoming that much more difficult to pick apart.

And if you’re using this kind of anime to thinkpiece about multiculturalism you should consider getting a job that your parents won’t be ashamed of. If I want a Japanese cartoon to get into racial issues, I’ll stick with Terra For Mars, thank you.

 

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Bringing this back to Dragon Maid, the concepts of “melting pot” versus “salad bowl” remain at odds with one another. While Tohru’s human form does allow her to fit into society on Earth, aspects like her tail and horns cannot be hidden so easily.

Bitch, we all want horns and a tail. This is like those nerd-bait movies where the conventionally pretty woman turns out to have laser eyes and she’s all angsty about it. If I were a babe with dragon parts, I’d be fucking jazzed about it. The tail could be my excuse to never wear pants and the horns could gore hundreds of Polacks without losing their sharpness.

While most outsiders pay no heed to these minor changes, it’s clear that Tohru herself is at least conscious of these unchangeable aspects of her appearance. In a later scene at the shopping district, Tohru ends up stopping a petty thief with ease thanks to her dragon abilities, but immediately reacts with fear that exposing her supernatural powers to mere mortals will result in her being shunned from society. Thankfully, the shopping denizens are appreciative of her heroic act, but this fear still remains close to Tohru’s heart.

Again, the woman has DRAGON POWERS. Is there a single thing in life not easily and awesomely solved by dragon powers? Fuck no! Tohru has no reason not to fuck all of the shit up and make all of the money.

In a later episode, when Kobayashi and Tohru take Kanna shopping for school supplies, the topic comes up again when Tohru asks about school uniforms. At first, Kobayashi takes the question lightly, saying that homogenization in school and the work force promotes equality.

The idea that the Japanese work force promotes equality and tolerance is so laughable I think my sides have entered orbit. That kid is going to be so full of middle-aged man fingers that she’s going to be mistaken for a puppet.

 

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But as Tohru presses the issue further, it’s clear that the school itself isn’t her main concern. As Kobayashi delves deeper into how those who are different “are eliminated,” they conclude by stating how irrational human behavior can be, with Tohru seeking solace in their agreement on this point. By the conversation’s end, Kanna is the one left feeling worried.

It’s not a Japanese cartoon without a little girl fearing for her life.

She doesn’t say anything within the scene itself, but the body language she emits—silently tugging at Kobayashi’s sweater—is enough to get the message across. As touching and heavy as the scene is, it’s interesting to note that the series’ lighthearted background music still persists throughout.

Or maybe their budget only allowed them to have that one song. If this dude reaches any more, he’ll grope God’s dick by accident.

Nonetheless, the selection of tune actually allows the scene to breathe a lot better by normalizing subject matter that is usually either marginalized or spotlighted ad nauseum in anime.

Were we watching the same anime? I looked this mess up on Youtube and there were so many boob touching scenes that my internet history thought it was an instructional video on detecting breast cancer. If anime websites were video game magazines, ANN would be the fake review on Bubsy 3D’s cover.

Its consistent normalization allows Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon to successfully address topics like the modern family and immigration not with a laser focus, but in an approachable and casual manner that anyone can appreciate easily.

This entire thing was typed with one hand and a thesaurus. Not only do I know less about this Dragon Maid show than ever, I feel like this dude overselled it on the wrong qualities. Watching Dragon Maid for topical themes regarding family and culture is like watching Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure for heterosexuality. I give this fanfic of an article two sexy dragons out of a possible five.

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It’s still very “anime” though, so think twice about watching it with your parents.

That’s a good way to make Doc Brown to show up in your Dad’s past and give him a condom.