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by Rebecca Silverman,

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

GN 1

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid GN 1
One night when she had too much to drink and somehow ended up on a mountain outside of town, Miss Kobayashi befriended a dragon named Tohru and invited her home. Unfortunately she barely remembers the incident…until Tohru shows up at her door! Able to take human form and very attached to her new human friend, Tohru proclaims herself Kobayashi's maid and is not going anywhere. What's Miss Kobayashi to do, especially when another dragon shows up?

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid may be yet another in the seemingly endless library of monster girl stories, but it distinguishes itself right away by being about a monster girl who moves in with an office worker rather than a young male college student. Kobayashi, the office worker in question, gets very drunk one night and somehow finds herself on a mountain outside of town. There she meets a dragon, and during the course of their conversation, the dragon says that she doesn't have anywhere to go. With the generosity of the severely inebriated, Kobayashi invites the dragon to her house before promptly forgetting all about it. Imagine her surprise when she opens the door to find the enormous beast waiting outside. Fortunately for her, the dragon, named Tohru, can take on human form, and she says that she'll help Kobayashi out by being her maid, even transforming her scales to look like a maid's uniform. Kobayashi isn't sure she's okay with this, but is somewhere between “too lazy” and “too nice” to do anything about it, and so Tohru becomes a permanent fixture of her apartment.

While most monster girl series can be called light, this is one of the most light-hearted, on par with another recent Seven Seas release, My Girlfriend is a T-Rex. Tohru isn't adorably inept like many other monsters who take up housekeeping, however, which allows somewhat unbelievably named author coolkyousinnjya to take different directions with the usual themes. Unlike most manga centaurs, Tohru would love nothing more than to ferry Kobayashi around on her back and isn't averse to transporting others – the problem is that her back is incredibly uncomfortable and Sō Kobayashi would rather take the train. Since Tohru can regrow her tail like some species of lizard, she thinks nothing of chopping it off and flame-broiling it for dinner (with her own flames, naturally), and then can't understand why Kobayashi balks at eating it. She's also quite good at laundry, even if she takes a bit to understand that Kobayashi's clothes aren't part of her body…good, that is, if you don't mind her washing delicates in her mouth with her special dragon saliva. All of this is just enough of a deviation from the monster girl norm that it makes Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid feel like, if not precisely a breath of fresh air, then at least something that we haven't read before.

Not that the story isn't fun on its own. The personality clashes between the characters keep things moving, especially when Kobayashi has to reconcile her experience of Tohru, including knowing her true form, with how people in town see her. Occasionally Tohru will call her other dragon buddies who have relocated to the human world, Fafnir and Quetzalcoatl, for advice, and those exchanges are always entertaining – and when Fafnir shows up for a party, it's one of the best scenes in the book. There's also the fact that this is one of the few cases where the monster girl is in love with a woman – although Kobayashi doesn't return the sentiment, Tohru flat-out says that she's attracted to Kobayashi sexually and isn't shy about telling others that they're “in love.” This alone may be enough to convince some readers to give the volume a try, and while I can't say that it plays a major role in the book apart from that it's a fact Tohru states, it does help to set Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid apart from the crowd.

Coolkyousinnjya writes the manga in short chapters that have a slight four-koma feel to them without actually being done in that style. There is a “bite size” feel to the reading that makes it easy to just keep going even if you'd only planned to read one chapter, and the pages and panels flow very well. Although the art isn't always polished or especially well done in terms of people, there's an aspect of that that feels deliberate, given the care and skill with which the actual dragons are drawn. The mangaka also seems to be alluding to a parallel world that functions more like the standard medieval fantasy, where knights with holy and/or magic swords fight dragons, which accounts for the dim view of humanity that some other dragons take. It seems unlikely that this will be developed a whole lot more than it already has been, but it does the job of providing a reason for Tohru to be homeless on the mountain where Kobayashi found her.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid is just as silly as the title. It's a fun little romp with the unwitting employer of a very special maid and it plays just enough with monster girl conventions to make it worthwhile. In the glut of monster girl stories, this one manages to keep its head above the water and give us something a little different. That it's delightfully goofy just adds to the fun.

Overall : B-
Story : B
Art : C+

+ A lesbian monster living with an office worker is a nice twist, as is Tohru's competent incompetence. Some good gags, both written and visual.
Still a fairly typical monster girl story in many ways, art is better at dragons than people.

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Story & Art: Coolkyoushinja

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Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (manga)

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Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (GN 1)

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