Why Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is Fucking Incredible, Especially in Comparison to NEW GAME!
The first thing that really annoyed me about NEW GAME! was that it chose a unique setting and utterly squandered it. Unlike the fantastic anime about creating anime, Shirobako, NEW GAME! really had no impressive industry insights to give, nor a worthwhile perspective inside an entertainment studio. So of course it made me question why it bothered having that setting at all. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid on the other hand, avoids misusing a setting by having one that’s completely normal. Dragon Maid takes place in a simple, grounded, residential area. There’s nothing particularly standout about the location the story takes place in, so it’s pretty much up to the characters to make the show something thrilling and original.
Luckily in that aspect, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is no slouch. The characters are all unique and feel like they don’t exist just to service the narrative. No, these characters create the narrative with their personal ambitions and refreshingly inhuman attitude toward life. There are multiple branches and layers to this initially uncomplicated story, and it all starts with Tohru. Because Tohru becomes smitten with Miss Kobayashi, she delves into the human world and tries to learn how to be a part of it, which shows her outsider perspective of society. Paired with the fact that she’s a dragon gives her some pretty intriguing and often hilarious views on life. On the other side of this situation is Kobayashi, who has to now figure out how to adapt to living with dragon girls. They end up having quite the serendipitous effect on her once fairly quiet, solitary life, and she learns that these walking, talking, disasters-waiting-to-happen make her far happier than she’s ever been.
Then there’s the rest of the cast. Fafnir and Makoto have an interesting thing going on where Makoto takes in the human-despising dragon to play Dark Souls in his apartment. Meanwhile, Fafnir decides to stay in the human world that he despises so much, to (for the most part) watch over Tohru. Aside from them is Kanna, the dragon loli to end all dragon lolis. She needs a place to live as well, so Kobayashi takes her in and Kanna decides to go to school during the day, simply because she can. It’s there that she meets Saikawa, a bratty little princess that tries to oppose her but ends up falling in love like everyone else that meets Kanna. Together they form a hilarious duo, Kanna being the soft spoken and kinda aloof one, and Saikawa being the one that can’t contain herself whenever she gets the tiniest amount of affection from her. It’s really funny seeing their cute little relationship develop.
There’s still more cool characters to go over, but for the sake of time I’m going to move on to the comedy of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. The humor of the show is mostly derived from the introduction of dragon girls to a human world. Whether it be from the perspective of dragons on humanity or a human view point of the actions of these crazy dragon girls, there’s always some fun to be had. Magic isn’t overdone in the show, and instead offers fantastical mishaps and great opportunities for jaw-dropping-ly well animated action spectacles. Totally unnecessary, but when KyoAni decides it’s time for a super destructive game of dragon girl volleyball, who am I to deny their will? During the less bombastic points of the show, Dragon Maid still manages to be entertaining with subtle humorous remarks such as Tohru telling Kanna that she would’ve just blown a bunch of children away rather than diffuse a situation by crying.
Not only does the dragon’s perspective offer up potential for a whole new brand of one-liners, it also makes for some refreshing “misunderstanding” comedy. Usually when there’s a “misunderstanding” in anime, it ends up being an unfunny, means-to-an-end slog. Here however, Tohru’s misunderstanding of human culture is often diffused quickly and only leads to endearing and entertaining results. The show clearly is aware of comedic tropes, and works very hard to subvert them.
And aside from all that, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid still manages to be more than just a comedy series. Pretty consistently, the show will inject surprisingly sharp themes into its otherwise screwball comedy plot, like when Tohru, Kanna, and Kobayashi go out to buy a school uniform. Some notably poignant dialogue comes out from that scene, as they discuss the need for uniforms and why society is so afraid of things that are different. Later on, Tohru spies on Kanna during her first day of school and provides a little more commentary on society and the school system (that time being bit more for a comical effect). Still, this shows that there’s more to take away from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid than just a bunch of smiles and laughs, and to me that’s truly what makes a show great.
But as a quick note before wrapping up: the animation is superb. Not only in the intense bursts of action, but even during the more laidback moments of the show (which is a majority of the time). The most basic reaction shots have more than a few working parts to ensure that every moment is dynamic and entertaining. There are also a number of other ways Dragon Maid gets creative, like having the super powered dragon girls play on a seesaw.
As for why Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is better than NEW GAME! in terms of moe, it just plain does more with it. NEW GAME! is very basic when it comes to its themes and emotions: There’s the feelings of embarrassment and accomplishment…and that’s it. A show can’t typically thrive on two emotions, as it’ll become dull and repetitive after a couple of episodes. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid offers a wide variety of emotions, from love to hate, apathy and misery, loneliness, happiness, and so on. From writing to animation, there’s just more creativity (and probably more effort) put into Dragon Maid, and that’s why it comes off as such an endearing and worthwhile show to me.