Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
Tohru, Kanna, and Miss Kobayashi have all settled into a regular routine, and Miss Kobayashi is surprised by how much she's come to rely on and care about Tohru. As the three of them do things like go to the beach or help out at Comiket, they talk about their families, dragon hygiene, and Kanna going to elementary school. Who knew life with a dragon could be so sweet?
If the first volume of coolkyousinnjya's Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid established the series as a fun take on the monster girl genre, the second lets us know that it isn't strictly a gag series, and that Tohru's protestations of love for Miss Kobayashi aren't just a tease. This follow-up book does still keep things light and funny for the most part, but there's also an emotional core that's being slowly developed. Not only does this seem to verify the series as a yuri monster girl tale, but it also grounds things, giving the gags a firm base to stand on, which has the effect of making the series more than just another gag manga.
A large part of the emotional weight of the story comes from Kobayashi becoming more interested in Tohru as a person/dragon. As she grows more fond of her companion, she also begins to realize that Tohru clearly has a past of her own and reasons for being in the human world that go along with that. A lot of this comes from simple conversations, such as how difficult it is for Tohru to take a really good bath while in her dragon form – she has to wait for a rainstorm if she wants to get truly clean, although coolkyousinnjya's likening of dragons to domestic animals like dogs and cats continues in that they do occasionally lick each other clean. (That Kobayashi immediately pictures Tohru and Kanna in human /form doing this probably says something about her feelings for Tohru.) This feels like the turning point for Kobayashi to start wanting to do things for Tohru as much as Tohru does things for her – it's as if she suddenly realizes that Tohru really is a person with all the attendant emotions. As readers, we've been aware of this, and it continues to be a topic of conversation between Tohru and other dragons or simply of her thoughts. Fafnir, who decides to come live in Japan in this volume, asks Tohru how she can be so attached to humans when they live such brief lives. Tohru can't quite come up with a definitive answer, but the gist of it seems to be that Kobayashi accepts her more than any of her dragon relatives ever have, and that for the first time in her life, Tohru feels at home.
Of course, this volume isn't all heavy emotional content. Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid is still a genuinely funny series, and this book continues the gags from volume one, including the always funny opening the door to a dragon. (That it's Tohru's dad somehow makes it even better, tying the humorous to the emotional nicely.) Probably the two most entertaining jokes of the volume are Fafnir's decision to live in Japan and the gang's trip to Comiket, both of which are rife with possibilities. Fafnir, as it turns out, really bonded with Takiya (or at least Takiya's games) when they met at Kobayashi and Tohru's party, and he'd like to explore gaming further. Of course, his “kill them all” attitude isn't going to make fitting in as easy for him as it is for Tohru and Kanna, but that doesn't stop the all-powerful gentleman butler dragon, and so Tohru agrees to help him find a place to live. That goes about as well as might be expected, and the conclusion of the search is both expected and amusing, setting the stage for the Comiket story. While it will surprise no one that Takiya is part of a doujin circle, the convention is instead a venue for Tohru to discover the truth about cosplaying – that most of the cosplayers are just denizens of her world who are happy to be able to hang out in their true forms for a few days. Although it goes against stories like Complex Age and the culture behind dressing up, it's also a great idea: what if all of those cosplayers really were who they're dressed as? That adds a whole other layer to conventions…It also gives the author a chance to explain that Tohru can make her horns and tail disappear any time she wants to, as she puts out both tail and wings once she figures out the whole cosplay thing, a bit of world building nicely and organically snuck into the plot.
If you've been watching the anime adaptation of this series, you will notice that the original manga art is far less refined than its animated version, and bodies in particular suffer from being very disproportionate and fluctuating heights and sizes. It does work well for the more humorous parts of the story as well as the cuter ones – Kanna's day at school is adorable in both execution and character designs, particularly the chubby faces of the students. Chapters read a bit less like elongated four-panel stories, which definitely helps with the more emotional sections, such as when Kobayashi asks Tohru to take her for a ride on the water, which in terms of peaceful charm is one of the most memorable chapters.
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid may have made its name by being a funny tale about a dragon moving in with an office worker, but it also has the potential to be a charming love story as well. This second volume allows the characters to develop their emotions as well as their jokes, and the result is a book that's both touching and laugh-out-loud funny at once. If things keep going in this direction, this series stands to appeal to more than just the typical monster girl crowd.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B-
+ Good combination of humor and serious, Fafnir is always a fun addition. Kobayashi is starting to see Tohru as more than just a dragon maid.
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