Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Kyoto Animation, 2017
Anime is typically bullshit, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is no exception. This seemingly inoffensive, slice of life cartoon is made of the same sugar-sweet superficiality that liberals and weebs wrap around themselves as a protective blanket against hurt feelings.
The narrative follows Miss Koyabashi, a software wombat of indeterminate age working in a nondescript company. Her day-to-day life is spent at a keyboard in androgynous office garb, and while seemingly wealthy has no apparent hobbies other than drinking and discussing Otaku culture with her male co-worker, himself an Otaku and videogame dweeb.
The narrative starts when Kobayashi, completely smashed on strong Japanese beer (“Dragonslayer”), stumbles into the woods and encounters a huge, fire-breathing reptile, and with drunken indifference to the fact that the dragon could eat her alive with little trouble, removes a sword which was used to injure her. This gives the fifty-foot-tall female dragon, surprisingly incapable of and emotionally troubled by the prospect of killing people, the opportunity she’s always dreamed of – a pretext to throw herself at an ordinary human (apparently, any will do) and become a “Maid.” Using dragon powers to take on human form, Tohru the Dragon, now a Magical Girl Trope with the addition of strange, trunk-like horns and a huge dragon tail that somehow doesn’t throw her off-balance, continues her descent into becoming a complete emotional basket case, using Miss Kobayashi as a means to escape her dragon nature and becoming the validation of her fantasy “human” life.
Of course, the Western Talmudvision is already full of people who want to bend their inherent nature past the breaking point and live life as an imitation of something they’re not – also known as transsexuals – so what’s wrong with a fifty-foot dragon with a repressed lesbian crush on an unremarkable office worker? Well, it annoys me, that’s what. Anime can be (((Westernised))), and so those on imageboards should take note and hone their instincts for cultural manipulation and anti-racist fables in different filters and guises.
Dragons are different species entirely, and so to write a moeshit show about dragons they have to become humanized, repressed, and compressed into human frames that don’t fit their mythical status. By design, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid takes the heroic and scales it down to the trivial; takes the eternal and legendary and squishes it down into a human shell where it can be micromanaged and subject to office politics. To repurpose a Jack Donovan phrase: what a withering, ignoble end.
As the series progresses, a wider cast of “dragons” are introduced who are mostly female and well-endowed in the breasticle department of their pseudo-human forms. The dragon-ness of their personalities is bleached out to nothing and they fade away into a background hum of ordinariness. Jokes about dragons having no comprehension of how a microwave is operated fade away as the cast become more and more attached to living life small. Like Syrian refugees with huge tits and Kawaii outfits, the dragons attach themselves to humans of no blood relation and become pseudo-families. One Shota character, cannily named Shouta (“shoe-ta”), is described as living at home and belonging to a family of mages, but we never see them. He has a full-time dragon mom now, and his real parents have clearly shrugged and left the poor boy to his own devices.
This dragons-on-vacation type of parasitic self-abasement continues all the way up to the latest episode (thirteen), where the Emperor Dragon, Tohru’s father, makes an appearance to restore the natural order of things and drag his unruly daughter back to the “other world.” Ha! Resistance is futile, old man! Don’t you know that diversity is unquestionably good, and that all you need to overcome racial barriers is a big heart, a lot of tolerance, and a willingness to adopt a cosplaying reptile?
Luckily, the bond Kobayashi and Tohru have built up by leeching off each other for emotional validation is made of feelgood, love, and Full Equality, and is thus impervious to this impetuous patriarch. In a moment I’m not sure is meant to be serious, Kobayashi shouts to Tohru’s father that Tohru is “a great maid” – a perfectly valid reason for allowing dragons to live amongst humans and potentially trigger an interspecies war. Tohru insists she’s “never belonged anywhere before” (until she moved in with Kobayashi). The two turn into dragon form and start to duke it out, and are interrupted by Kobayashi giving the show’s moral exposition:
Kobayashi: You two are literally fighting?! You’ll never get anywhere if you can’t find a way to compromise. I don’t know why it has to come to this.
Tohru’s Father: Of course not. Humans could never understand a dragon!
Kobayashi [describing her relationship with Tohru]: If you accept your differences you’ll be able to get past them and grow even closer. Then you’ll find aspects of those differences you like, which helps build respect.
Tohru’s Father: Respect?!
Kobayashi: Next you bond, and forge trust.
Tohru’s Father: Impossible. Living alongside each other will not work.
Kobayashi: You’re wrong! We’ve been doing this for a long time. You just have to decide if you think it can last! What do you believe? Try having some faith in your daughter!
Tohru’s father grumbles that he does not approve and exits stage left, and the “normality” of Modern Dragon Family is restored. A cast of weirdos, misfortunates, hikkikomoris, and office underlings, held together by one unanimous agreement: to ignore each other’s proclivities and remain non-judgmental. Wrapping oneself in self-deception keeps feelings warm and fuzzy, but in the cold light of day, we’ve been trying to live alongside people a species apart for too long now, and it’s been costing us. Costing us so much of ourselves that the dangerous, fearsome race we used to be is now a dim and distant memory.
The price of non-judgmentalism is being atomized into groups that care nothing for us, and these groups are a lot less pleasant than the pastel fictions of the anime street. By the time Tohru meets her father again, she’s a broken creature; spending nearly all her time as a human serving someone who often complains whenever the magical abilities of her old self shine through. One of her friends, a red-eyed, black-scaled dragon that formerly lived in a volcano, has become a shut-in hooked on staying up and playing videogames all night. Their shapeshifting ability begs the question, were they dragons to start, or did they simply choose to become them? Is this all just a metaphor for choosing to be “nice” over being strong?
Coexistence requires repression, abnegation, and self-loathing. It’s been foisted on us from elsewhere by those scared of our power, who want us neutered and harmless, willing to be “civilized.” We have been manipulated into self-destruction through being told suicidal tolerance is “human decency.” This enfeebling, false morality feeds on self-doubt and existential ennui. It’s time to snap out of our shells of technical tricks and pretending and go back to be being dragons.
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