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Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | Episode 9Episode 9
“…it’s stupidly adorable to see Kanna in her little red hood…”
It’s Christmastime, and the dragons perform an interpretive stage play of “The Little Match Girl” with additions like samurai warriors, magical girls, and Lucoa in yet another skimpy outfit. The best bits are Tohru’s and Kanna’s antics. Tohru’s morbid assumptions about human culture are always fun, and it’s stupidly adorable to see Kanna in her little red hood, trying to sell matches to imaginary passersby. I also love the subplot where she attempts to entice Santa into the apartment through increasingly absurd means. Unfortunately, the secondary characters drag things down. There’s no variation in Riko’s running gag; she makes the same lovestruck face every single time. Shota is little more than an object of abuse, and Lucoa continues to be a walking boob joke. Elma and Fafnir aren’t as grating, but their one-note personalities quickly wear thin.
The animation is fairly average for the most part. We get a few smears and nice bits of effects and character movement, as per usual in this show. The best stuff happens during the play: there’s one very good cut where Tohru dramatically gesticulates with her arms and spews forth flames, with some broad Nichijou-esque poses and expressions. The background art is still good, with the highlight being the lovely storybook illustration of “The Little Match Girl.” It’s clear that this show is meant to be a lightweight outing, so there’s no point in holding it to KyoAni’s highest artistic standards. It’s good for what it is, but it probably isn’t for me.
Josh Dunham (@Josh_Dunham)
“…perhaps the weakest episode in a show that has come to embody the concept of diminishing returns.”
A Christmas episode, in March? My bank account is still recovering from the Holiday Season, I don’t need to be reminded of it so soon. Cinematically, I find the dependency on Christmas aesthetic weak and the timing of the episode to be heartless and especially unconvincing. Indeed, I found myself wanting to light matches in attempt to find something more comfortable Episode 10 is perhaps the weakest episode in a show that has come to embody the concept of diminishing returns.
The sexualization of youth has become so much of an issue in this show that is has become it’s go-to humor, a fact as problematic as it is lazy. I recall a time when I was wowed and amazed at displays of technical accomplishment, my mouth falling to the floor and eyes the size of saucers, but most importantly I laughed. The biggest issue is not actually the size of Luccoa’s bust, but the lukewarm (by KyoAni standards) visuals. Maid Dragon has become a bore to watch.
Typically a lack of satisfying visuals can be solved by clever visual design or writing. Even if the story isn’t good, just the sense of progression, no matter how shallow, is enough incentive to entice an audience, but this is not a luxury afforded to Maid Dragon‘s narrative structure. Clever visual design seems to have moved out when the lazy humor moved in – or at least it doesn’t hang around for very long. Glimpses and flashes here and there are insufficient in providing a solid, cohesive backbone for the show. Bar these two things, strong characters are the last line of defense, but we are so alienated by them that personal relation has become impossible, let alone actually liking them as people.
But hey, there was this one cool transition:
“Seeing the cast focus on a task… really helps us get a sense for the characters…”
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid episode 10 manages to be an above average outing for me this week. I still would not say I unabashedly enjoyed it, but a few simple tweaks and the show teeters back towards things that I appreciate. The episode greatly benefits my viewing by having the through-line of Christmas to tie the various vignettes together. I have mentioned in prior weeklies how I feel the run-time feels arbitrary given the lack of structure in most weeks. To no one’s surprise, when the show sticks with a plot point for an entire episode I find it more cohesive overall.
The opening segment involving the cast putting on a play for the elderly is mostly unused potential, but saved in its final moments. Much of the humor either physically pushes me away from the screen or feels flat, so much of the setup did nothing for me. However, the final sequence where they actually put on the play for the assisted living center is fun for its brief flares of animation and the reactions from the geriatric crowd. Seeing the cast focus on a task – creating, planning, executing – really helps me get a better sense for the characters, while having the added benefit of being a genuinely nice act for others. The discussions surrounding who would take on which role in the production were great windows into the casts’ views on themselves and others, and I desperately wish these were the norm rather than the exception. There was also some much appreciated “Kobayashi acts maternal” material involving her stealth-mode attempts to bring Kanna presents while retaining the latter’s belief in Santa.
Sadly, a lot of the show’s cracks have began to split even wider as time goes on. Much of the comedy is not even remotely new. Comedy is about taking risks, and it does not always work (story of my life, if I’m being honest), but Dragon Maid has resorted to repeating the same tired jokes ad nauseum. Additionally, while it certainly did not feel as egregious as last episode, there certainly seemed to be a lot of use of still shots in this episode, which means less of the stellar animation sequences that have been a near-universal good for most of the season. I hate harping on it every week, but Lucoa’s “role” in the show continues to unnerve me as a viewer.
Overall it was something of a mixed bag for me, but given how Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has been so consistently been not-made-for-Grant-in-the-slightest, I will take what victories I can.
Jimmy Gnome (@jimmygnome9)
“As it stands now, though, episode 10 is an uninspired waste of potential.”
I’m divided over this episode. It does a really excellent job of representing what I consider to be the worst aspects of the series, but the way it ties everything together in the end still manages to draw out the same quirky homeliness that I’ve been so appreciative of. It’s the most rote-gag-comedy Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has ever been, and a bit of a disappointment.
Christmas episodes are cool. Stage play episodes are very cool. This episode is both of those things, but it doesn’t live up to its potential. Part of this is due to its lackluster direction. Haruka Fujita has done some incredible work on Euphonium but her talent rarely shines through here outside of the storybook-esque Little Match Girl scene and Kobayashi’s dragon ride at the end. The rest of the episode comes off as bored and middling. Characters exist only to execute their expected behaviors: Fafnir says something evil, Elma is hungry, Lucoa’s boobs jiggle, Saikawa makes the same face every time Kanna interacts with her. These aren’t characters, they’re walking gags, and the reduction goes against everything at Dragon Maid’s core. While this has been an issue in previous episodes, never has it been taken to such an extreme. It almost feels like a different show, and it’s not one I particularly enjoy.
It’s worth talking about the play itself, though. In an abstract sense it does well to reestablish the charm of the series. The Little Match Girl ties well to themes that were being hinted at in the beginning concerning the cruelty of humanity, as Tohru’s audition for the lead role makes note of, but the end result foregoes it all to cheerfully embrace all of the weirdness of the cast. This sounds warm and lovely on paper, but the execution isn’t up to par. While there is a nice gap between the flashy effects animation of real magic and the amateur stage directions, the characters just aren’t expressive enough to carry the scene. It comes off as more boring that it should, and while I can understand what the staff was aiming for I never quite felt it.
Honestly, this would have made for a good finale episode if it were handled by Takemoto. It’s conceptually sound and seems like the kind of material that would mesh well with his particular talents. A stronger animation director would have done wonders, too. As it stands now, though, episode 10 is an uninspired waste of potential.
From top to bottom this is a pretty comprehensive display of the ever growing change in attitude towards this work. Episode 10 was an easy platform to air out a few nagging weaknesses that Maid Dragon has had, and I’ve seen more critics in the last week rightfully take advantage of that. I’m happy that WMC also went down this path for the most part.
“I’m divided over this episode.”
I’m still stupidly smiling at my screen at this. Not because I like Jimmy struggling, but more so because I feel that there’s nothing better than seeing a competent critic dealing with fenced feelings. It’s all too easy to lean one way or another, centering your critique ultimately around a positive or negative sentiment. But when you genuinely find yourself in the middle, the way you invest your readers into your thoughts becomes ridiculously important.
When the dust settled, Jimmy handled the situation very well.
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