The Summer 2021 Preview Guide
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid S
How would you rate episode 1 of
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid S ?
What is this?
Miss Kobayashi is your average office worker who lives a boring life, alone in her small apartment–until she saves the life of a female dragon in distress. The dragon, named Tohru, has the ability to magically transform into an adorable human girl (albeit with horns and a long tail!), who will do anything to pay off her debt of gratitude, whether Miss Kobayashi likes it or not. With a very persistent and amorous dragon as a roommate, nothing comes easy, and Miss Kobayashi's normal life is about to go off the deep end!
How was the first episode?
I spent a long time thinking about this review. Not just how to approach it, but trying to suss out just what I think of this new episode of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Turns out, there are a lot of feelings there to sort through. The first season had some of the highest highs and lowest lows of any anime I've seen, with loads of charming and hilarious content that I'd recommend without a second thought that at any second could turn into creepy humor about adults making sexual advances toward small children.
This is also Kyoto Animation's first major project since the arson, and while most of the major staff survived and was able to return, the most notable absence is Yasuhiro Takemoto, who tragically perished in the fire. I wish I could celebrate Kyoto Animation's triumphant return to the airwaves unreservedly. The subtle, expressive animation that the company is famous for is back, along with the characters I love. And yet, something about this episode felt a bit… off to me.
After much contemplation, and rewatching the first episode of the first season, I think I've finally put my finger on it: the pace. In the first half of this new episode, the jokes fly by at a mile a minute without slowing down. There's little time for them to really land or breathe, which makes it impossible to settle into the cozy atmosphere that characterized the best parts of the original series. Tohru getting hired at a maid café as the head chef, learning about the service industry, and being dissatisfied at not being praised for the much less prestigious element of her job is a rich vein for comedy and could easily have filled an entire episode. Instead, they cram it all into the first half, and, while there are funny jokes, the rapid pace deadened the impact for me.
But they just had to compress everything together to get to… *sigh* Ilulu. The series' newest dragon and current antagonist is a tiny ball of malice in a cape and thong, who must be about one-third breast tissue by volume. While I haven't read the manga, I've heard whispers of the plot that this episode introduces as peak problematic in a series peppered with sexual humor about minors.
Even if this episode was a bit rough going, I'm at least going to ride out this arc and see if it can settle back into the easy pace I loved about it. It was truly surreal, realizing my favorite joke in the episode was with Lucoa and Shota, the most consistent source of cringe in the original. If this episode is a sign of things to come, I might have to tap out.
With beautiful animation and a big focus on “show, don't tell” storytelling, this first episode is a great reintroduction into the world of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid.
The first of the episode's two major vignettes reminds us about why Tohru acts as Kobayashi's maid—namely Kobayashi's maid fetish for real maids rather than the “moé” variety (though she is more than a little knowledgeable about both). But more than that, through Tohru's little adventure at the maid café, we get a lighthearted reintroduction to the status quo of the series.
The second main vignette, on the other hand, reminds us about the bigger picture. With the arrival of a new dragon we are once again shown that dragons are different from humans on a base level: They are creatures of terrible destruction. Even Tohru, as kind as she can be, does not care about humanity as a whole. It does not matter to her if random humans die—not even if by her own hand. The only human she cares about is Kobayashi, and the only reason she is careful not to harm humans or the city at large is because doing so would make Kobayashi sad. In her battle against Ilulu, she almost decides that the city and its population are acceptable collateral damage as long as she wins and Kobayashi alone doesn't die.
And it's important to remember this is basically the same for all the dragons in the human world. They have one focus—one attachment—that keeps them in check. For Lucoa and Kanna, like with Tohru, it's a human they've come to care about. For Elma and Fafnir, it's sweets and gaming respectively. Each have decided that these things are more important than what their instincts (and their society) tell them to do. They are literally fighting their base nature by living peacefully alongside humans.
So it make sense that Iluru doesn't understand why Tohru is playing around at being human, especially given the long hatred between the two races in Tohru's world. Iluru lacks an attachment like the other dragons have found. This makes her more than a little dangerous, especially as she seems convinced that Tohru and Kobayashi's relationship is based on something shallow and ultimately worthless. All in all, she should make a fine foil for our heroes as the series goes on.
Did you love the first season of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid? Congratulations, you'll probably love the premiere of this new season. The dragons are back, baby!
There, easy-peasy. Easiest preview ever.
Now, if you somehow didn't love the first go-round with Kobayashi and her dragon pals, then I don't know if this new season will do much to change your mind. If you are completely ignorant to the entire Dragon Maid phenomena, though, then this is actually a pretty great primer for the series! If you end up digging it, there's that whole first season you can catch up on while we wait for the next episode of S to arrive.
The first half of this episode, especially, is as ideal a slice of Dragon Maid pie as it comes: Desperate to prove her clout as Kobayashi's #1 Maid-Who-Is-Also-A-For-Reals-Dragon, Tohru gets a job at “Made by a Maid”, a local maid café. There's not much to this sketch outside of some cute character interactions and fun jokes, which mostly revolve around how Tohru does start killing it at her new job…except not as one of the maids. Despite the absurdly dark and questionably colored garnishes of unadulterated black magic that Tohru puts on her omelette-rice dishes, Made by a Maid starts to rake in the 5-star reviews for Tohru's work as the new head chef! Cue the “wah-wah-wah” sound effect.
The second-half is actually the meatier part of the premiere, and its where the episode gets its title, as we meet the nefarious “Ilulu” that the show begs us to be nice to, even though she's come to wreak havoc on the city and do battle with Tohru. Before I say anything else, let me just echo what I'm sure thousands of fans all over the world are saying after watching Tohru and Ilulu do battle: Goddamn, is it good to have Kyoto Animation back. To my knowledge, this is their first major work produced after the terrible arson committed on the studio in 2019, save for the Violet Evergarden movie. The entire episode looks positively fantastic, and it is brimming with the studio's usual charm and energy, but this impromptu dragon fight is what takes the cake. The crew at KyoAni should be commended twice over, and then some.
However, the premiere isn't completely perfect, and this is where I am going to have to defy the wishes
that the show baked right into the episode's title, because even though I loved almost everything about
this premiere, not a fan of ilulu at all. For one, she has what is perhaps the most absurdly proportioned
and overly fetishized design we've seen thus far. and that's saying something given the company she
keeps. Beyond having a look that I simply cannot take seriously, her rapport with Kobayashi is also just
plain weird. She aggressively shoves her breasts into Kobayashi's face after mistaking her for a man, but
when Kobayashi insists otherwise, the cliffhanger implies that Ilulu's reaction is apparently to just…use
her dragon magic to turn Kobayashi's vagina into a penis? Um. Well…huh. I don't think I like that.
I really don't know how to feel about that, and I really don't want to be a downer, especially given how
wonderful the other 80% of this premiere was! It seems like Ilulu is going to be a major part of the
Dragon Maid story going forward, though, and I can't say I'm sold on that idea. Still, the show has built up enough goodwill that I have no problem giving this season a chance. After all, it isn't like this one
character could taint the series for me completely, right?
It feels like far, far too long since we've seen Miss Kobayashi and Tohru in full-length episodes…which may be why I'm not remembering quite so much boobage in the previous season? Did I forget? Or has it really increased? I'm not talking about new dragon Ilulu's excessively large bosom, although that is hard to ignore, given that they really don't fit on her human frame and just look both uncomfortable and ridiculous. Rather, I'm referring to the fact that we just seem to have a lot of animation resources directed towards every bounce, jounce, and flap of every character's breasts. It's a little off-putting.
Mind you, it would be more off-putting if they weren't so well animated. This episode is absolutely gorgeous, from the flow of Tohru's skirts and hair to her fight with Ilulu. The scene where Tohru is working in the kitchen of the maid café Made by Maid is particularly fun, with her mad omelet making action providing the perfect flourish. There are also an impressive amount of completely different body types for the female characters; Ilulu's chest may be her most obvious feature, but her solid legs and little feet provide a nice contrast to the other adult dragon women, and Kanna is absolutely adorable. Of course, Kobayashi's figure provides Ilulu with what she thinks is the perfect chance to get revenge upon Tohru, but that's something that will be dealt with more in episode two.
Ilulu is, of course, the main change for this season, at least thus far. She's another dragon who is very unimpressed with Tohru's attachment to both Kobayashi and the human world, and she aims to do something about it. When “destroy all humans” doesn't prove to be a viable option, many thanks to Elma and her insatiable appetite for sweets, she decides that maybe she can do something about the one human Tohru is fond of, Miss Kobayashi. Except that Ilulu misgenders her and thinks that she's MR. Kobayashi; and when shoving her boobs in Kobayashi's face doesn't work, she decides that's clearly because Kobayashi is the wrong gender for that to work rather than assuming that perhaps Kobayashi just isn't into big breasts. Ilulu's magic clearly goes beyond what the other dragons can do, because she's able to turn Kobayashi into a man; I'm very much hoping that it simply won't make a difference because Kobayashi simply is who she is as a person, gender notwithstanding.
Not that this is a show that wants to make a lot of commentary about gender. In fact, it's much more concerned with the antics of the dragons trying to make a go of it in the human world, and those details are still a lot of fun. Lucoa's almost involuntary dancing when Souta plays his recorder is a good example of it, because if you recall she's really Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, and the implication is that Souta is able to “charm” her snakier tendencies with his instrument. (Yes, totally different cultures with the feathered serpent and snake charming, I know.) Tohru as the master chef of the maid café because of her dragon fire is another good one, but the best dragon moment is by far Fafnir getting his MMO account suspended and Takiya rushing after him to prevent the destruction of the world via pissed off gamer-dragon. This is just as much fun as it ever was, and if I'm not thrilled with the extra fanservice, it's not going to stop me from spending time with my favorite couple.
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