A drunken sysadmin stumbles over a dragon one evening, pulls the sword from her back and gets the shock of her life when the dragon shows up the next morning to become her new maid.
This is the least KyoAni-esque Kyoto Animation series since Nichijou. Kobayashi-san is a working woman, an IT professional who is some years removed from the usual perky, cute KyoAni high school girls, as her complaints about an aching back and upset stomach make emphatically clear. Nor is there the usual romantic pussyfooting here. Tohru loves Kobayashi-san –“I mean sexually” — and is not shy to show it. Kobayashi-san herself is somewhat less enthusiastic about the whole idea, but allows Tohru to stay with her nevertheless.
The first episode then was all about Tohru’s thirst for Kobayashi-san and the latter’s reactions to it. It’s amusing, especially when Kobayashi and a coworker go out for drinks after work, a jealous Tohru joins them which prompts Kobayashi to start ranting about maids and how Tohru is just cosplaying. Which indeed she was, having based her uniform on two girls advertising a maid cafe. There’s also the recurring theme of Tohru wanting Kobayashi-san to eat her tail, which is not symbolic of anything whatsoever.
What’s also fun is seeing small asides from the manga being animated and given life. Like Tohru happily and messily eating her own tail, which is much more scary animated than as one small panel in the manga. Had the second episode followed along the lines of the first however it would’ve been disappointing, as Tohru lusting after Kobayashi-san while the latter remains stoic was wearing thin already.
Luckily the second episode kicked things up a notch. First, there was the scene in which Tohru stops a thief when they went shopping at the local shopping centre, with Kobayashi getting a bit paniced at Tohru perhaps exposing herself as not human, leading her away holding her hand and when Tohru notices, gripping her firmer. Subtly done but such a great way of showing how far their relationship had progressed already. But the heart of the episode is when a second dragon shows up, in the form of a little girl called Kanna, who went looking for Tohru when she went missing and is now stuck on Earth. Kobayashi offers her a place in her home, which Kanna is reluctant to take as she doesn’t trust humans. The way in which she breaks down as Kobayashi tells her she doesn’t have to be friends with her to let her stay and especially that final shot of the three pair of shoes lined up at the front door made me choke up.
The subject matter may be slightly outside KyoAni’s usual range, with the animation style taking its cue from the original manga, but that doesn’t mean the usual care and attention the studio is known for isn’t taken. Most of it is fairly subtle, focusing on characterisation and character interaction, but there are several scenes in the first two episodes like the one above, where the animators get to cut loose. It makes you wonder what a good KyoAni action series would be like (as opposed to tripe like Musaigen no Phantom World).