“Soon Master Elf, you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the Dwarves: roaring fires, malt beer, ripe meat off the bone!” –Gimli
When Chloe visits Kanna in Japan, Tohru and Kobayashi do their best to make sure the pair have a good time. Chloe’s first day in Japan is spent in Tokyo’s Akibahara, where the group are accompanied by Ilulu, Fafnir and Makoto. After stopping by a virtual reality arcade and a capsule store, the group runs into Elma, who takes everyone on a run of several desert shops around Akibahara. The next day, Chloe wonders what an average day for Kanna looks like. When Riko shows up to play with Kanna, the three end up swinging by Kanna and Riko’s elementary school, where Riko teaches Chloe how to swim. The three head on over to Riko’s house, where they play Twister, and end the day after swinging by the candy store where Taketo and Ilulu work. During the evening, Kobayashi invites everyone over to have a party on her apartment complex’s rooftops. While Kobayashi helps her into a yukata, Chloe asks Kobayashi how she came to know so many dragons. Kobayashi remarks that things sort of happened, and that things feel like a homestay, one that she’s come to enjoy very much. After an evening of barbeque and fireworks together, Chloe and Kanna retire for the evening. Chloe remarks that Kobayashi is special for having gotten to know so many dragons, to which Kanna replies that Kobayashi has a soft spot for dragons. In the morning, Chloe prepares for her flight back home to the States, and promises Riko and Kanna she’d like to visit again someday. As Kobayashi and the others watch Chloe’s plane take off, Kobayashi remarks that Chloe had been doing her best to take in everything, leading Tohru to remark that Chloe’s got the heart of a dragon, too. Later, Chloe does a video call with Kanna and Riko and says next time she visits, she’d like to stay for a full month. Kobayashi overhears this and smiles. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S‘ OVA was released back in January as a part of the final BD volume, and during its run, serves as a reminder of the craft that Kyoto Animation excels in presenting to viewers: it is simultaneously heartwarming and thought-provoking, utilising its runtime to reintroduce Chloe, who’d befriended Kanna during Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S‘ main run, and fulfilling her promise of visiting Japan leaves the second season off on a high note.
The Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S OVA is written to illustrate two different facets of travelling: on Chloe’s first day, Tohru and the others bring her to Akihabara, a district in Tokyo long regarded as the otaku centre of Japan for its neon lights, countless gadgets, anime and manga shops, and a dazzling array of eateries, from maid cafés to sweet shops of the sort that Elma ends up recommending to Chloe and Kanna. This first day is marked by visiting Akihabara’s highlights in a manner reminiscent of how tour groups operate; visitors are taken to the top highlights and experience something that is counted as a quintessential part of the experience. On the second day, Chloe travels in a much more personalised, intimate manner – visiting Kanna and Riko’s school, checking out a Japanese candy store and enjoying a quiet barbeque among friends as locals would. The sort of experiences one gains from the latter is counted as being more authentic, giving Chloe a glimpse into what Kanna’s everyday life is like. Both modes of travel have their merits: one hits iconic destinations and has iconic experiences with the tourist-oriented activities, while enjoying things as locals would provides one with unparalleled immersion into a given culture. That Chloe enjoys both to equal extent is something that Tohru and Kobayashi comment on – the inquisitiveness that Chloe brings to the table is reminiscent to that of a dragon, and in this way, Tohru is suggesting that being a dragon isn’t about possessing superhuman capabilities, but rather, possessing an open mind and a willingness to accept others. Kyoto Animation has always found creative, heartfelt ways of expressing simple truths to viewers through their stories and imagery, and this Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S OVA is no different: people are at their happiest when they’re broadminded and willing to embrace the fact that others are different than themselves.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Within the first few seconds of the OVA’s run, the appearance of an aircraft made it abundantly clear that this episode would feature Chloe, whom Kanna had befriended in New York: it turned out that Chloe had run away from home after a disagreement with her family, and since Kanna herself was in New York following a disagreement with Kobayashi, the two found themselves bonding immediately. That episode had been a standout in a season already chock-full of heartwarming moments, so I immediately felt that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S‘ OVA, subtitled “My Attendant is a Dragon”, would be a joy to watch, as well.
- I typically don’t like to judge a book by its cover, but in this case, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S‘ proved me correct out of the gates; I thoroughly enjoyed the OVA, which sees Chloe fly over to Japan to visit Kanna in Koshigaya, Saitama. Koshigaya is actually located only twenty six kilometres away from the heart of Tokyo, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S suggests that Chloe touches down at Haneda Airport, which primarily handles domestic flights. This choice was deliberately made so that the animators could really showcase downtown Tokyo in their work: international flights mostly go through Narita International Airport, but it’s located in the middle of a field some fifty klicks from the heart of Tokyo.
- To ensure that Chloe’s first day in Japan is memorable, Tohru has arranged for her friends to give a tour. It is no surprise that, being otaku to some extent has shaped everyone’s perspectives. Makoto and Fafnir are brought in for the first spot, and they suggest a VR arcade. Akihabara is long counted as the premiere destination for all anime fans and is probably the best place to see what the modern, cutting-edge Japan is like: indeed, if one were in Tokyo and only had a limited timeframe, exploring Akihabara its surroundings would allow one to get a good sense of the nightlife, pop culture and architecture.
- I will note that the VR headsets used in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S are probably last-generation technology: it requires the use of a backpack side console to power its functions, and positional-tracking cameras, and motion-tracker markers (the small balls seen on the characters’ gloves) to operate. The first-generation Oculus Quest is one step more evolved, using special cameras mounted into the headset itself and sophisticated controllers, allowing it to be significantly more portable and easy to set up. However, use of the older technology is chosen for an arcade is because it’s tried-and-true: Kanna, Chloe, Ilulu, Tohru and Fafnir have a great time in the game they play, although as Kobayashi remarks, it does look a little odd to be watching everyone move around without seeing the context.
- Up next is something chosen to be similarly friendly for children: a capsule toy shop known as Gashapon. These are coin-operated machines with opaque capsules that dispense products of varying kinds, and here, there’s something for everyone, from toys that catch Chloe’s eye, to pre-cooked fried insects that Kanna takes an interest in. Ilulu comes across a machine vending models of varying bust sizes and reasons it’s something Taketo might like, although she draws a model with an A-cup. Later, Elma joins the party, having consented to help showcase food places because she herself was interested in checking some of the places out, too.
- The first stop is a cotton candy vendor, and upon their first bite, Kanna characterises it as マジやばくね (Hepburn maji yabakune). It’s a bit of a slang phrase: yabakune is a mispronunciation of yabai (a phrase for expressing surprise at a bad situation, similar to “shit” in English), and maji is a quantifier for “really”. A literal translation doesn’t make much sense, but with a bit of context, the phrase is equivalent to the English expression that something is the shit (which native speakers immediately pick up as “really good” or “awesome”). If memory serves, Kanna picks it up from a TV show, although given that Japanese people use it, the phrase isn’t vulgar at all, unlike the closest English equivalent.
- While Elma takes Chloe and the others to several more food places, several more places that elicit a マジやばくね (including a crepe shop), I enjoyed an Uncle Burger today. from A & W; after watching Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san, I suddenly developed a yearning to eat a fast food burger, and it hit me that I’d never actually tried an Uncle Burger before (I normally go for the Teen Burger since that offers the best value). The difference between the two burgers is simple enough: the patty is ⅔rds bigger than that of a Teen Burger, there’s two kinds of sauce, and red onions are used in placed of regular onions, resulting in a slightly more savoury flavour compared to the Teen Burger. All in all, when paired with A & W’s thick-cut Russet potato fries and root beer made from cane sugar, the Uncle Burger makes for a very satisfying lunch that is, as they say, マジやばくね, one I’m glad to have tried.
- With the day over, Kobayashi prepares to take everyone home, and Tohru mentions that Kobayashi looking after everyone makes them feel like a proper family. When Elma and Tohru have a go at one another, Kobayashi nonchalantly allows them to keep fighting and heads on without them, defusing the fight without even lifting a finger. This impresses Chloe, who begins to see what made Kobayashi special per Kanna’s descriptions of her. While Kobayashi is presented as an everyman in the face of awe-inspiring supernatural phenomenon in the form of dragons, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid shows how open-mindedness is the key to living a fulfilling life and allows one to maturely handle things that might otherwise be unexpected.
- The next morning, Chloe wishes to see what Kanna’s everyday life is about. The previous day had been equivalent to a tour group hitting iconic destinations, much as how Non Non Biyori Vacation had Renge, her family and friends do typical tourist activities before spending a more intimate day with a local. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S follows the same approach by allowing Chloe to see how the Japanese live day-to-day. The morning peace is broken when Riko shows up, but the conflict arising from Riko’s jealousy of anyone who gets close to Kanna is immediately dispelled. After Chloe hugs Riko, the latter takes an immediate liking to her.
- Par the course for an OVA, aspects from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S‘ regular season make a return. Kanna decides to take everyone to her school so they can swim, and on the way, decide to play a game where they can only walk on the white-painted parts of the pavement. When Kanna hops onto an intricately painted manhole cover, leading Riko and Chloe to follow, the amount of contact causes Riko to lose it. Chloe subsequently is made to wear a silly hairdo, and she chases after Kanna and Riko in frustration briefly.
- While Kanna swims like a champion, Chloe has trouble swimming. Riko decides to teach her, and by the end of the day, Chloe is able to swim and really enjoy the pool with her friends. The water effects in these scenes are gorgeous, and I’d hazard a guess that Kyoto Animation animates water by hand. Some anime use computer graphics to render water, or otherwise simplify its effects to reduce the amount of effort in animation, but given Kyoto Animation’s attention to detail, it is not inconceivable that attention was paid to everything in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, including water effects.
- After swimming, Kanna and Riko take Chloe to yet another Japanese experience that only locals would know about: buying dagashi (Japanese candies) from a local candy store. There are specialty candy stores in Canada of this sort, but for the most part, I get most of my candy from the local supermarkets; candy from specialty shops have more variety, but they do require a short drive to reach. While buying their candy, perhaps a consequence of consuming North American television, Chloe is able to spot something that few have spoken up about in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S: that Taketo has the hots for Ilulu. Ilulu herself suggests that he’s not in love with her per se, but rather, her bust, leading to a hilarious outburst from Taketo.
- Kanna and Tohru head on up to the apartment’s roof for a summer party awaiting them, while Kobayashi stays behind to help Chloe into her yukata. During this time, Chloe wonders how Kobayashi ended up with so many dragons in her life, and Kobayashi herself remarks that things just happened. Friendships do indeed develop naturally on their own, and as Bocchi from Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu found, once one figures out how friendship works with that first friend, things cascade from there. Having precedence to go off of always makes things easier, and once one knows how something is done, the process becomes more straightforward. After meeting Tohru, Kobayashi becomes more open-minded such that by the time Kanna, Elma and Lucoa appear, she is able to take things in stride.
- The end result of this is a scene that Kobayashi herself certainly would not have thought possible prior to meeting Tohru: that she’d be able to spend so much time in the company of those she’s come to care greatly about and those she can have a great time with. Now that everyone’s present, the party can begin: Elma immediately begins enjoying the barbeque with Fafnir, Shouta and Lucoa, while Kobayashi and Makoto begin drinking. While drunk, Kobayashi is a lot less reserved, and she presumably gets into a disagreement with Makoto regarding maids, leading her to try and strip Tohru. However, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S is a unique series in that while lewd jokes are made frequently, Kyoto Animation knows exactly where the line is drawn and never crosses it at any point.
- I’d expect that nothing actually happens to Tohru, allowing the younger party-goers to enjoy their fireworks in peace: Chloe, Kanna, Riko, Ilulu and Taketo all marvel at the fireworks, and later, Kanna competes with Chloe and Riko to see who’s senko hanabi lasts the longest. On virtue of her dragon powers, Kanna wins, but when she poses to celebrate, the sparkler goes out, too. All in all, the evening that everyone shares together is evocative of what the summers are for: long, warm days perfect for exploring and having fun without a care in the world.
- Before they sleep, Chloe asks about what Kanna thinks of Kobayashi, and learns from her that Kobayashi has a particular fondness for dragons. While reality offers examples that aren’t quite so dramatic, the lessons from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S are applicable to real life: the entire series is a celebration of diversity and open-mindedness.
- On the morning that Chloe is set to return home to Minnesota (the American state that shares its borders with Manitoba and Ontario, best known for the Minnesota Wild), Riko is barely fighting back tears, while Kanna remains as stoic as ever. To remind one another of their friendship, Kanna gifts to Chloe one half of a matching pair of keychains, and while it looks as though Chloe’s on the verge of tears, she manages to say farewell on a cheerful note, too.
- The moment was reminiscent of the scene from last year’s Non Non Biyori Nonstop, where Renge was able to say goodbye to Honoka after spending some time together. When Renge first met Honoka, she’d been disappointed to tears upon learning Honoka had gone home earlier than expected, and recalling this memory, Renge was proud to have been able to properly say goodbye. Children have always created some of the strongest moments in anime, and it is with some irony that I remark that those who are quickest to reject slice-of-life series that deal in matters of everyday life are perhaps those who would benefit most from these messages. Series like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S and Non Non Biyori are successful not from using obscure philosophical or psychological theories, but from practical, everyday lessons that encourage people to be polite, courteous and ultimately, be their best selves.
- Space and framing is used to convey a sense of melancholy now that Chloe’s headed back home. It is here that Tohru remarks that Chloe also has the heart of a dragon – although dragons in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S refer to supernatural beings of prodigious strength and intellect, Tohru’s living on Earth has led her to understand that there is more to life than merely power from one’s capabilities: it is being able to care for one another and empathise with one another that makes living worthwhile. Messages like these dominate Kyoto Animation’s works, and while I cannot say I am a fan of all of Kyoto Animation’s work, I can say I greatly respect the studio for its portrayal of a wide range of topics.
- Once Chloe returns home, she has a video call with Kanna and Riko – Chloe’s considering a longer stay that leaves both Kanna and Riko excited. While Kanna isn’t the most expressive of the characters in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, longtime viewers have acclimatised to her mannerisms and body language, much as they have with nuances in Renge’s character, to the point where it’s quite easy to spot how everyone is feeling. This is one of the joys of watching anime; learning the characters and empathising with their experiences is one aspect that I find worthwhile. With this post on Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S‘ OVA in the books, I believe that I’ve now completed Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid as far as can be reasonably completed. I hope that folks will have a chance to see this OVA, as it is a worthwhile addition to the series.
Altogether, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S‘ OVA wraps up the second season in an immensely satisfying and conclusive fashion, giving viewers the pleasure of knowing that Chloe was able to fulfil her wish of visiting Japan and seeing what Kanna’s life is like, as well as meeting Kobayashi, who’d come to perceptibly shape Kanna’s world-views and help her mature as a result. Kyoto Animation has always found ways to leave viewers feeling content when their series ended, and this OVA is no exception, speaking to their ability in creating moving, heartwarming stories that have a tangible, positive impact on viewers. With the whole of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S now in the books, one does wonder what directions Kyoto Animation will have in the future: their next major project appears to be an anime adaptation of 20 Seiki Denki Mokuroku, a novel that follows Inako Momokawa, a young woman who lives in Meiji-era Kyoto. Her life is a tricky one, but one day, she encounters Kihachi Sakamoto, a man who promises to do away with the old gods and usher in an era of progress, brought on by the introduction of electricity. Such a story immediately fills the mind with wonder, and Kyoto Animation’s previous record has meant that such stories are brought to life in an incredibly visceral, immersive and vibrant manner. Although 20 Seiki Denki Mokuroku‘s status is unknown as a consequence of the 2019 arson at their main office in Kyoto, Kyoto Animation’s indomitable resolve (and the fact that they were able to see both Violet Evergarden: The Movie and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S successfully to completion) means that I remain confident that whatever they’ve got awaiting viewers will be another top-tier work: Kyoto Animation has never sacrificed quality for speed, and whether or not their next work is 20 Seiki Denki Mokuroku or something else, I remain more than happy to remain patient as they work on their craft. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S was a shining example of the commitment Kyoto Animation’s staff have towards their work, and as their latest OVA shows, the time they spend honing a given work is well worth the wait.