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Jimmy Gnome (@jimmygnome9)
“Fortunately the ending makes up for most of this episode’s faults.”
Yoshiji Kigami, one of the most esteemed directors at Kyoani, directs this week’s Dragon Maid to new territory outside of the Kobayashi household. Again the episode is split into thirds as we find the focus mostly removed from Tohru and Kobayashi in an attempt to give some fleshing out to the minor cast. While Kigami episodes are often the highlights of their respective series, this one has a few strikes against it.
The first occurs early on and has been the center of some controversy among fans and other bloggers, including my fellow colleagues here at WMC. Riko’s adoration of Kanna has been the subject of one-off punchlines for a little while now, but this episodes takes some time to develop that. It flows like this: two end up playing Twister together and the intimate entanglement that naturally results from the game quickly overloads Riko’s senses, then Kanna plays video games on her lap. They chat for a bit and Riko confesses, “Frankly, I’d love to marry you.” On paper this is a heartwarming scene of a young girl in love, but in execution is undoubtedly questionable.
I’m not a prude; I understand that this anime is explicit with its sexual themes (I have previously praised it for that very reason), but the way relatively normal, childlike activities like playing Twister are depicted here are dubious. The sleazy camera ogles Kanna’s provocative positions with obsessive glee, and though it could be argued that the show depicts her so sexually to reflect Riko’s desires, the choice carries too much baggage. Both of these girls are elementary school students, and Kanna has been characterized to be particularly innocent as the ‘daughter’ of the Kobayashi family. Representing her this way simply feels morally misaligned and out of place in a series that has been so tasteful up to this point.
All that said, the segment is still relatively entertaining and gets its point across, which is more than you can say about the next one: Lucoa has moved in with a shy boy named Shouta, which results in a drawn out session of teasing that borders creepy as the well-endowed goddess makes sexual advances on this kid she barely knows. This is not only painfully unfunny but entirely superficial, which is a shame considering how flat and undeveloped Lucoa is at this point.
Fortunately the ending makes up for most of this episode’s faults. Fafnir was last left to cohabitate with Kobayashi’s coworker, Makoto, and it’s working out well. This last vignette between them brings out the strengths of Kigami as a director with small, subtle embellishments that add up to a remarkably believable atmosphere. As someone who has roomed with a fellow geek in a close-quarters dorm before, the situations shown here are astoundingly relatable, if slightly exaggerated. What makes this relationship even more compelling comes across through Fafnir’s internal monologue, revealing cracks in his harsh demeanor. He’s been changed by his partner. And yes, I’m using “partner” in a romantic sense; as Fafnir and Makoto walk through the rain we see a pair of swallows overhead, birds which are known to exhibit homosexual behavior.
Taken as a whole this might be the weakest episode yet, but the last bit is so wonderful on its own that it might paradoxically be a peak as well. Hopefully at some point all of the relationships in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid receive the same level of attention and care as Fafnir and Makoto’s did here. We can only wait and see.
“The heartwarming scenes aren’t quite as convincing after all the perverted stuff.”
I’ll get the bad stuff out of the way: the first half of this episode largely consists of boob jokes and pedophilic undertones. Sure, it’s drawn really cute, and it’s presumably meant to develop Kanna and Riko’s relationship—but sorry, that’s not enough to justify it. It does a disservice to the show, and undermines the painstaking work the artists put into making the characters believable and likable. KyoAni ought to know better.
The Fafnir and Takiya sequence has some clever gags and dialogue. However, they’re both rather sedentary characters, so there isn’t much room for fun movements or expressions. It also feels kind of hollow in the context of what it comes after. The heartwarming scenes aren’t quite as convincing after all the perverted stuff.
As usual, the visuals are the strongest part of the episode. The background art is still rich and carefully composed. There’s lovely shots of the city at sunset and twilight, and with moody yet peaceful overcast skies. There’s also some beautiful effects animation with raindrops, which realistically drip, splash, and create ripples in little puddles.
The character animation is pretty good, though a bit more restrained than Chiyoko Ueno’s episode. Tohru gets the most broad action and silly faces, of course. We get more stretch-and-squashing doors, windows, boxes, etc., which is always a plus. There’s some very impressive crowd scenes that make the world a bit more lifelike, though I’d personally prefer to see more energy going into the main character performances.
Josh Dunham (@Josh_Dunham)
“ This episode was a misstep, practically devoid of value.”
“Humans are either hits or misses,” Fafnir thinks to himself as he watches the rain in the latest episode of Dragon Maid. “The misses make themselves known quickly, but it takes time to know if you’ve found a hit.” It’s perhaps the sweetest moment of the episode, and it addresses feelings of companionship between two people. I would have much preferred if the tone of episode 6 adhered to this notion over the pedantic attempts at comedic pedophilia. This episode was a misstep, practically devoid of value.
Perhaps the only noteworthy scene is in the very beginning where Kanna and Saikawa are walking home. The animation and physics of the walk cycle are extremely smooth, even in the reflection of the puddle Kanna steps into (which then becomes a subtle showcase of liquid effects). Saikawa has the daintiest way of moving that is cute and endearing, her step to the left before getting in front of Kanna is adorable.
But this is the realm these characters need to stay in, cute and adorable. Episode 6 (and the corresponding source material) have no respect for the integrity of the work, and I find it poor taste that KyoAni decided not to omit this portion of the manga in favor of hastening the arrival of more important, and artistic portions soon to come. Ultimately I would strongly caution you not to watch it, as it detracts from the overall experience that I have learned to expect from Dragon Maid.
CJ Hitchcock (@cjhitchcock)
“That level of acceptance is something you don’t see often enough when you are dealing with characters this young.”
A lot of people are expressing their distaste for this episode because of the Twister scene between Kanna and Riko. As I’m sure a few of my co-writers will go into details about, the scene depicts the two young children in compromising positions playing this game. Even though I totally understand why people would see this as distasteful, I felt like that was the joke. Twister is marketed as a children’s game, even here in the West. The box in the show even has “For Kids” written on it in English. Still, this children’s game is repeatedly used as a device for immature humor all over the globe. Whenever you do see people play this game, it’s typically characters who are of legal age getting into sexually suggestive positions. What this show is saying is, “Ok, let’s actually see what it’s like when two kids actually play this game like it was originally intended.” Surprise! It’s still incredibly awkward. That’s the joke. These two kids are playing a game that’s marketed for children, but was designed for Young Adults to play, and the outcome is kids are awkwardly being put into adult positions. While I do think it’s a funny twist on the Twister joke, it’s not really the moment that sticks out to me personally.
Even so, there’s still some tension between Kanna and Riko after that scene. Again, I didn’t really have much of an issue with these scenes. When it comes to relationships between characters, I typically have one strong ground rule: If the characters are in the same age range, I’m typically fine with the story exploring the relationship in anyway the story sees fit. While you could argue that Kanna is hundreds, if not thousands of years older than Riko because she’s a dragon, Kanna still possesses the mind of a child. Mentally, Kanna and Riko are the same age. Kanna wants to experience a love like the one between Tohru and Kobayashi. Meanwhile, Riko is just happy to have a friend she doesn’t have to boss around. Kanna is the only person who’ll put up with her bossy attitude and she love her for that. Even though Kanna is moving way too quickly for her, Riko still wants to be in a relationship with her. Maybe have a few more play dates before doing anything too crazy though.
Quick aside: I really like how the show doesn’t have any problem with young children being gay. While you have late bloomers, some lucky folks are able to identify themselves at a young age. Here, these kids aren’t shamed for their attraction towards one another. It’s not weird for them to feel this way and nobody in the show is telling them their love is wrong. That level of acceptance is something you don’t see often enough when you are dealing with characters who are still this young. While most might find this scene creepy, I thought it was sweet and well intended.
What actually bothers me is the newly introduced relationship between Shouta and Lucoa. Remember that ground rule I mentioned a paragraph or two ago? Yeah, this totally break that rule like a piece of balsa wood. While Riko and Kanna are the same age mentally and physically, the age-gap here is much larger. Lucoa is a comically well-endowed woman who’s more intelligent and mature than Tohru while Shouta is an Elementary School boy who believes in magic in a world where that’s not a common place thing. Say what you will about the Twister scene, but when you have a grown woman offering her body to a boy who looks about six, you’ve crossed a line. While the purpose of these jokes is get get humorous reaction shots of Shouta, there are many different ways you could of worked those reactions in without the blatant pedophilia. While this relationship is pretty gross, it more of a very bad misstep for me than something that completely ruins the show. Hopefully the moments with Lucoa and Shouta will be few and far between.
“I now actively dread watching this show…”
This week’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is perhaps the most anti-Grant episode of the show up until this point.
The episode opens with Kanna going over to her friend Rika’s house for a play-date with Tohru and Kobayashi tagging along. Kanna and Rika play while Kobayashi and Rika’s older sister, Georgie, talk about maids and leave Tohru feeling like a third wheel. After returning home they are visited by Lucoa and are informed of her new living arrangements with a family of mages. Naturally they go visit the house to find out more about Lucoa’s decision to live in this world. The episode wraps with a look at how Fafnir and Takiya are getting along now that they are living together as well.
It is nearly impossible to talk about this episode without discussing the issues surrounding children. I am not going to get into specific details, but make no mistake – this made me extremely uncomfortable. Nearly two thirds of this episode’s run-time was dedicated to this. While I assume there are those who feel that it was not as insidious as I took it to be, the power dynamics, the camera angles, the long pauses, the suggestive dialogue… I think the intent of these elements was pretty clear.
The show attempted a few moments of connectivity in other areas, but many fell flat. Tohru once again finds herself jealous of Kobayashi’s attention being focused on another, and Fafnir has a long internal monologue about the difficulty finding “hits” amongst all the “misses” of humanity. While these vignettes have an emotional core to them, they are incredibly similar to prior episodes in regards to these characters. We have seen Tohru’s jealousy handled with a bit more nuance during the school episode. Meanwhile, watching animated characters play video games has not dramatically increased in excitement since the last time this happened during the house-warming party. On top of feeling like rehashes of weaker plot threads, this is further compounded by some exposition that is delivered without the panache the show has shown previously. There are some long sequences of characters sitting around Kobayashi talks about historical maids, demons, or the technicalities of dragonhood. I have noted the series’ penchant for weaving exposition in with subtlety in the past, but these conversations display none of that skill and mostly served to make my eyelids heavy.
Thankfully there are some character moments that stick the landing. Takiya sharing his creative endeavor with Fafnir, an arcade-style shooter for Comiket, shows the value that they place in one another, as do the shared tasks surrounding dinner with one another. Tohru insisting on sharing Kobayashi’s umbrella, even though she had one of her own, was a delightful sequence that felt authentic to both characters – Kobayashi’s reluctance to show affection and insistence on practical technicality, as well as Tohru’s joyful emotional buoyancy that steamrolls trivial social etiquette. If only the show had lingered on these moments rather than, well, the aforementioned discomforting scenes.
I now actively dread watching this show, for fear that more episodes will be in this mold. The majority of this episode’s content was deeply unsettling to watch for me, and this was only exacerbated by writing that I did not feel was up to par with what had come before.