I started Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid on a friend’s recommendation, not knowing what to expect. By the end of the first episode, I was convinced it was going to be a mildly funny queerbaiting fantasy anime where they two tease 2 women being together without ever letting them be together.
I was right and wrong. For one thing, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is more than a little funny. For another, while the ending of the show is left a bit ambiguous, Kobayashi and Tohru are pretty much a couple. The show has its issues with Tohru following the “Obsessive lesbian” trope a bit too closely.
There are also issues with Lucoa and Shouta’s relationship. This sentence in itself is all sorts of red flags considering Shouta is a pre-teen boy and Lucoa is a full-grown woman!
However, the show has its wholesome moments as well. The best part of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has to be the warm and pure relationship between Kobayashi and Tohru.
As Kobayashi, an office worker and programmer gets ready for work, she is greeted by a large dragon right outside her front door. The dragon instantly transforms into a human girl dressed as a maid and introduces herself as Tohru.
It turns out that the night before, during a drunken foray into the mountains, Kobayashi met the dragon, who claimed to be from another world. Tohru had a sword stuck in her back and was on the verge of dying.
Kobayashi took the sword out of Tohru’s back and the two shared drinks for a while. With no place to stay for Tohru, Kobayashi offers to let the dragon stay at her house and serve as her personal maid, to which she agrees after falling in love with Kobayashi.
However, Kobayashi remembered none of it since she was blackout drunk when she made the offer. Kobayashi dismisses her, regretting that she can't keep her drunk promise.
It's not until she sees Tohru out the door that she notices she's late for work, as well as how upset Tohru is. In a moment of panic and visible guilt, Kobayashi grabs Tohru's hand and asks, "Can you fly?!" What follows is Tohru being a dotting, sometimes obsessive caretaker to Kobayashi and Kobayashi being the classic Tsundere to Tohru’s very obvious romantic advances.
Tohru and Kobayashi
One of the first things that stood out to me about Kobayashi and Tohru’s relationship is how normal it was while still being super gay. There are other relationships in the show that could be seen with a queer lens, be it the two quiet otakus or the cute little kindergarten girls with childhood crushes on one another.
While some moments of the show are sexualized for comedic effect, most of the scenes are fun, cute, and wholesome. The show could’ve easily taken the route of blatant fanservice with huge breasts and running gags.
While we do get plenty of fan service and running gags throughout the show, we also get solid character development and plot progression. Tohru starts out as Kobayashi’s maid who is deeply and obsessively infatuated with her Master. As the story progresses, while she continues to obsess and be possessive over Kobayashi, Tohru also comes to see Kobayashi for who she is.
Their relationship changes and matures into a mutually loving and respectful one. However, I doubt Kobayashi would ever admit to it in so many words.
Kobayashi wears a cold exterior that makes her appear distant and unapproachable the majority of the time, but she has a soft side to her as well. Tiny tender moments, such as asking Tohru if she wants to hold hands or sleep with her give us a glimpse of the true nature of her feelings.
If there was any doubt that Miss Kobayashi cares about Tohru, it is removed when Tohru's father tries to take Tohru back and nearly kills Miss Kobayashi in the process of scaring her off, and later the usually quiet and timid Kobayashi grabs her by the hand and drags her back anyway, asserting that she can't be without her maid.
Representation or Erasure?
Kobayashi and Tohru gradually start acting as a married couple and it is treated very matter-of-factly by the people around them and the story itself. Usually, such Animes make the romance between the central characters the entire focal point of the story. treating every single moment between them with utmost tension.
Dragon Maid treats its central romantic couple in a normal, human way. The series takes supernatural Godly beings and immediately brings them down to Earth to give us an imperfect but very endearing slice of life-styled comedy.
The show does a really good job of normalizing Tohru’s and Kobayashi’s relationship while keeping everything over the top through its subtle writing. By the end of the show, Tohru and Kobayashi are a regular couple, with regular experiences and an adopted dragon daughter.
To me, this mundane nature of their relationship was a breath of fresh air. Extraordinary being doing ordinary, everyday things is where the show truly shines.
Some would argue that not focusing too much on the romantic aspect of Tohru and Kobayashi’s relationship or discussing the nature of it could be seen as the erasure of their queerness.
However, to me, the normal, almost boring nature of their day-to-day relationship was one of the best lesbian representations in recent anime albeit with some very apparent issues of its own.
There are certainly some plot points that could have been executed in a better more nuanced way. For instance, we could do without the whole bit about Illulu giving Kobayashi a “penis” to turn her into a “man” that can not control his “urges’.
Anime, like all of the media on the planet, has an LGBTQ+ representation issue. If I have to live on breadcrumbs, I’d rather it be something like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.
Thanks for Reading!!