Thursday, February 2, 2017

That one anime about the lesbian family — oh, and there are dragons in it too

This season has been a delightful surprise in a number of ways, but last week's episode of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (小林さんちのメイドラゴン) cemented it in my all-time favorite anime list. That was Episode 4 in case you're reading this at a later date by the way.

I'm going to try to do it justice here by talking about what makes it so special to me, but I feel like even if you're not approaching it from the same direction as I am, that the show is special and lovely and enjoyable. If you're approaching it from my direction, it's incredible and magical and heart-breakingly wonderful.

At the surface level, Dragon-chan is moe moe moe. The characters are designed absurdly cute and fit into specific niche archetypes (the maid, the goth lolita, etc). If that's all the show had to offer, I might be considering it a little regressive. Thankfully, that's just the starting point.

The conceit of Dragon-chan is Kobayashi-san gets drunk one night and in her drunken stupor travels to the mountains and somehow saves the life of a dragon by pulling out a sword stuck in her side. The dragon, Tohru (トール Tooru) falls in love with Kobayashi, and is delighted when Kobayashi invites her to come live with her as her maid.

Tohru assumes human form and comes to live with Kobayashi the next day. Right off the bat, Tohru dispels any misunderstandings about the way she feels about Kobayashi ("I love you!" "Not like that, I mean sexually!")

Soon thereafter, Tohru's young dragon friend Kanna comes to stay with them also.

Although nothing is explicitly shown, right away it is clear that what you're watching is a family slice of life show and the only thing that is portrayed as out of the ordinary is the fantastic nature of Tohru and Kanna (and their friends). The feelings Tohru and (the audience assumes) Kobayashi have for each other and the fact that they're raising Kanna together is never questioned and is presented as normal as can be.

Let me repeat that: this show is about two lesbians and their daughter. This fact is about as straight up as can be. The only "odd" thing about the arrangement is that one of the partners and the daughter character are both dragons.

There are some truly amazing moments in the anime showcasing how much love the characters have for each other, but the parts that always touch my heart are when something is presented as perfectly normal with love assumed. "Oh, it's getting cramped in here, let's get a new apartment together." "Your friend can't go home? Let's adopt her."

There's also the fact that both dragon characters don't have a family name, so they use "Kobayashi" as their family name because the three of them are a family.

The love and care is obvious and you can feel it in every action of the characters. Whether it's wanting to spend more time together or noticing an item the other wants and buying it as a gift or holding each other's hand and not wanting to let go. It completely kills me every episode.

Being a KyoAni (Kyoto Animation) production, you know the production quality is through the roof also. The art is an improvement over the original manga, every frame is super clean and vibrant, the voice acting and animation are both top notch. The humor and entertainment are never boring no matter what your preferences, but the heart and soul of this anime are the relationships between Tohru and Kobayashi and Kanna and those relationships will worm their way into your heart right away and warm it more than a roosting dragon.

I have nothing negative to say about this franchise and am only looking forward to more. There's two volumes of the manga currently translated in English, and two more untranslated. The manga is ongoing. I rated the manga at a 9/10 and the anime is BETTER.

Every choice the anime makes to differentiate itself from the manga is one that makes you like it MORE. This is possibly the best adaptation of a manga that I've ever seen. The only thing that could make it any better is if Tohru and Kobayashi's relationship was clearly and explicitly defined so that even the naysayers could see what this show is about.

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