6/17/2017

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid Vol. 1

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid Vol. 1, By Coolkyousinnjya.
By Coolkyousinnjya

Manga is rife with ordinary people whose lives have been made more complicated by their association with monstrous roommates or supernatural love interests. Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid distinguishes itself from the competition with its ordinary human for once not being a socially awkward single male whose primary character trait is that he functions as a doormat for the more imposing (mostly) female characters. Who needs more of those? Miss Kobayashi is a working adult woman. More importantly, she’s not an office lady working an entry-level position. Kobayashi is a trained professional in the male-dominated field of software development. One night, she wanders up a mountain in a drunken stupor. And at the top she encounters a massive, but wounded dragon named Tohru. They fall into friendly banter, which ends with Kobayashi inviting Tohru to crash at her pad. The next morning, Tohru shows up at Kobayashi’s front door and morphs into a young human girl. Unfortunately, Kobayashi doesn’t remember a thing about last night. But against her better judgement, she lets the errant dragon stay anyway. Mischief ensues.

Kobayashi is more of a deadpan snarker than most protagonists. She mostly comes across as a woman who easily passes for just one of the guys. She dresses in male fashions. Her appearance isn’t particularly immaculate. She walks with a constant stoop. Kobayashi certainly does not read as kawaii. In fact, it turns out that she’s a closeted otaku with a maid fetish. Manga creator Coolkyousinnjya draws her in a minimal style that would seem rather appropriate to yonkoma. Indeed, the slice-of-life focus on Kobayashi’s interactions with Tohru reflects the format’s particular brand of light humor.

By contrast, Tohru in human form is superficially cute. She disguises herself as Kobayashi’s live-in maid. This being Japan, Kobayashi immediately evaluates her performance against Victorian maid ideals. Tohru consistently fails, not because she’s a bumbling fish out of water, but because she’s actually too efficient. Kobayashi refuses to ride Tohru’s back when in dragon form for her daily commute because Tohru flies too fast and her back’s too uncomfortable to sit on. Tohru doesn’t understand why Kobayashi insists on using washing machines to do the laundry when dragon saliva does a better job as a cleaning agent.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid Vol. 1, By Coolkyousinnjya.

Tohru actually has no problem passing for human and truthfully doesn’t think too highly of the species. But thanks to their mountaintop meeting, she’s fallen in love with Kobayashi. And in case anyone mistakes this for innocent puppy love, she clarifies to Kobayashi that her love is sexual in nature. Since this is a manga aimed at an adult audience, the frankness of the exchange is definitely more direct than most manga interactions written for younger readers. But at this point in the series, Kobayashi seems uninterested in reciprocating Tohru’s affections. So the conversation is brushed past pretty quickly.

Whatever goodwill is established between the two (and with the reader) is partially undone in one scene that unfortunately reveals the creepy otaku side of Kobayashi when she goes on a drunken rant about maid tropes that leads to her forcibly stripping Tohru of her clothes even while there’s a another person in the room. It’s a traumatic experience for Tohru, but the scene is mainly played as slapstick. Thankfully, the moment doesn’t linger. That’s the most problematic part in a comic which contains some light fanservice for its adult male demographic. Otherwise, there’s nothing else too egregious.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid Vol. 1, By Coolkyousinnjya.