Anime Watchlist is ComicsVerse’s anime recommendation series, where we spotlight some of the best lesser-known shows out there.

This year started off slow in the anime department. 2016 brought wave after wave of beautifully animated, intense, and funny anime, from DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE to MOB PSYCHO 100. It was unfair to expect 2017 to be amazing from the start, but the year came in like a lamb. Things soon picked up, however, with a bright and funny, yet complex series called MISS KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID!

The anime centers primarily around the relationship between Tohru, a powerful dragon from another world, and Kobayashi, a normal human computer programmer. One day, Kobayashi prepares to go to work as usual and opens the door to the gigantic, terrifying head of a dragon! The dragon then transforms into the energetic, human-looking girl, Tohru, in a maid outfit. Apparently, Kobayashi drunkenly wandered through the mountains the night before and promised Tohru that they could live together.

After some convincing on Tohru’s part, Kobayashi, now sober, decides to let Tohru stay and work for her as a maid. As the story plays out, Tohru’s presence attracts more of her magical companions to the human world and Kobayashi is left to handle all the zany hijinks that ensue! And that’s just one part of what makes this anime so fun to watch.

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Cuteness Through the Roof!

Nowadays, it seems like most anime just have great animation. From new seasons of age-old anime like NARUTO to brand new stories like KONOSUBA, decent animation is a given. Still, KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID’s character designs and overall art style are mega cute!

The show’s opening and ending contain an almost unbearable sequence of adorable scenes paired with irresistibly bubbly music. Plus, the colorful, bouncy designs reflect the anime’s fun magical realism/slice-of-life genre and easily capture the viewer’s attention.

Image source: Crunchyroll

Character Design

In terms of character design, the show will satisfy both those who need a little fanservice and those who are tired of it. Kobayashi’s design is refreshingly plain: she wears appropriate work attire and simple casual clothes. While she isn’t as full-bodied as Tohru, she isn’t drawn unattractively, either. She is a satisfyingly normal woman who isn’t made fun of for being simple (although she is quietly critical of her own assets).

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On the other hand, Tohru’s maid outfit is both flattering and tasteful. With the exception of her first appearance (and a beach episode), her physical attractiveness isn’t overstated. There is also a single, very well-endowed character that appears later in the series, which may make some fans roll their eyes, but even then, the jokes about that character’s boundless chest are relatively minor.

Speaking of sexy assets, the dragons’ true forms thankfully lack them. Tohru’s dragon form is decisively fearsome. She is an enormous, hulking green dragon with piercing red eyes and rows of sharp teeth. Nonetheless, she somehow manages to be very cute at times!

Image source: Crunchyroll

What? There’s a Plot, You Say?

While this anime does capture the comedic life of a woman and her dragon maid, it doesn’t skimp on the complex realities swimming underneath peoples’ daily facades. The first episode reveals to us that Tohru’s presence in the human world isn’t for some vacation. She had to escape to the human world after being attacked by an army back in her realm. Because of this, she has a hard time accepting humans, besides Kobayashi.

Image source: Crunchyroll

In general, this series deals with complicated feelings of culture shock, assimilation, and prejudice alongside its happy storyline. By trying to blend into human society, Tohru discovers the differences between her society and Kobayashi’s. She also finds that humans aren’t all out to get her for being different, despite confirming her ideas that humans will always be shocked by what is different.

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Complex Characters

Back in her old world, Tohru belonged to the “chaos” faction of dragons. Her parents believe that humans must be eradicated; if they don’t kill humans, the humans will kill them. That conflict, however, landed Tohru in the human realm, badly wounded. In her time of need, Kobayashi opened her home to her (albeit while drunk), which made Tohru fall in love. She first reconciles her hate for humanity and love for Kobayashi by placing Kobayashi above other humans but eventually finds that that doesn’t hold up.

Soon, her otherworldly friends begin to question her choices, showing greater disdain for humans than she does. However, they also open up and become “domesticated” themselves. Once the other dragons let their curiosity overpower their prejudice, they open up to what the modern human world has to offer and enjoy it.

For example, a young dragon named Kanna eventually finds Tohru and demands Kobayashi “break up” with her. Kanna is the dragon equivalent of an elementary school student and is incredibly adorable. But while she might seem as normal as any child could be, she also has to deal with the harsh realities of the world she comes from. She has been forced to grow up alone and is very distrustful of others as a result. Eventually, she warms up to Kobayashi, who provides a warmer environment, and soon considers her a second mother.

Kobayashi, meanwhile, is an average working adult. She lives on her own, does well at work, gets drinks with her friend, and goes home. When both Tohru and Kanna come into her life and stay there, however, she can’t remember what it was like without them, only that it must have been much lonelier. Even though she never felt like her life was going wrong, Kobayashi still had more to discover about herself and about intimacy.

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Deep Relationships

These three characters — Kobayashi who works, Tohru who takes care of the house, and Kanna who is looked after by them both — fit the picture of domestic life. Tohru also makes it explicitly clear that she is in love with Kobayashi from the very beginning. We get to see this love develop into a more sincere, genuine affection as Tohru learns more about human life and Kobayashi’s personal life.

Image source: Crunchyroll

In turn, Kobayashi learns what it’s like to have personal connections and responsibilities. While she handles everything as if it’s normal, the presence of both Tohru and Kanna change her perception of intimacy. Even her coworker notices a difference in her expression and motivation at work, as well as impulses of responsibility that Kobayashi hasn’t felt before.

Fun All Around

Overall, MISS KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID is a wonderful, well-rounded anime that will make you laugh and tug at your heartstrings at the same time. It covers everything about interpersonal relationships, from its most lighthearted parts to some of its more complicated aspects. Despite their differences, the main characters of the series grow in the face of new information, forging new bonds with each other. By going through daily life, they learn more about themselves as they let their curiosity direct them. This is the feel-good anime of the year, in all its bubbliness and complexity, so give it a shot! I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

MISS KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID is available on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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