This season’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid shows there are lots to be gained in an adaptation. There is a widespread belief that the source material is always better, an idea that there is always lots of information lost in an adaptation. This isn’t always the case.

Adaptation in Conversation

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is based on a manga by Coolkyoushinja (I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying). The chapters are quite short, being around 12 pages on average. Each episode of the anime version so far has adapted a few chapters and expanded them greatly. This brings an interesting topic to discuss. Just as people dislike leaving stuff out in adaptations, people dislike when stuff is added in. The “filler vs. anime original” argument, one for another time.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

What Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid about?

Something that needs to be said as a preface is that the manga of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid isn’t without strong moments. The themes of the show are still apparent in the manga, just used in different ways. Both versions of the work delve into the concepts of cultural differences and how they effect relationships. Both have interesting outlooks into families and relationships. What I’m trying to say is Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has a lot to say about relationships in general, but here specifically we’re talking about how it’s expressed in different mediums.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

The people who make the Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid anime shine

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is directed by Yasuhiro Takemoto (Hyouka, Amagi Brilliant Park) and the series composition is handled by Yuka Yamada (Bungaku Shoujo) at Kyoto Animation. Looking closer, episode one was handled by Haruka Fujita, one of KyoAni’s rising stars who did work on Sound Euphonium 2‘s fantastic first episode. The next episode was handled by Shinpei Sawa, his directorial debut, which made it all the more impressive. Episode 3 was done by Noriyuki Kitanohara, whose been working for KyoAni ever since Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. All three of the episodes out so far have had storyboards by Takemoto himself, which gives the anime a very precise and consistent feeling. Takemoto’s vision for the anime version can be seen in how scenes from the manga are transferred to the screen.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

Standout scenes in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

In one scene, a deviation can greatly affect the impact of the content. In episode 3, Tohru asks Kobayashi if she’s too loud. Kobayashi responds by saying that sometimes it’s fine for it not to be quiet. This is how it’s presented in the manga.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

The scene shows Kobayashi alone in her room, which shows her past loneliness before Tohru’s arrival. This is a recurring theme of the series being highlighted. The scene has a dull tone to show the atmosphere in the apartment. In the anime version, the framing is slightly different.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

The dull tone and basic spatial location imply the same. But the framing is changed to show Kobayashi looking at her reflection, highlighting the fact that she is the only one in the apartment. The composition of the shot highlights the aspects of the themes that was already in the manga, but makes them more apparent, and more visually interesting. This occurs multiple times throughout the show. The anime’s staff pays close attention to the details. If the sequences of emotional impact are strong in the manga (which they can be) the full potential is brought out by Takemoto and the rest.

Benefits of adjustment in tone

Just a few minutes later a scene is expanded to give a much more cosier feel. Tohru cuddles up next to Kobayashi and has a sweet panel, and then there’s a gag.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

In the anime, Kanna is included in the scene, and Tohru lies her head on Kobayashi’s back. The scene lacks the more goofy tone the manga version has. It gives off a more serious version of the familial atmosphere that the show gained when Kanna was added to the cast.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

This scene also highlights another strength of anime as a medium. This strength is color design. Most manga is published in black and white. Color is an important tool to develop an atmosphere, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid uses it perfectly. The color pallet for the series is very soft. In this scene, the room feels very warm and cozy, somewhat nostalgic.

Closing on a closing

The last scene of note I’m going to spotlight is the ending of episode one. This scene, where Kobayashi and Tohru go to bed is new, but very powerful. For one thing, the music is fantastic at setting the mood, but that’s a story for another article. Tohru has a nightmare about the circumstances that brought her to Kobayashi’s world. The dream uses the same visual aesthetic as the flashback earlier in the episode but recontextualizes the color pallet to be scary and not just odd. This scene clearly shows why Tohru is so happy with her life as Kobayashi’s maid. Kobayashi making sure she’s ok further shows why Tohru fell for her in the first place.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

This scene doesn’t add any new concepts to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid overall themes, rather it utilizes them to give the first episode a concise tone to end on. Takemoto and the rest understand what makes Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid tick, and weaves it into the narrative. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a show with lots of heart, and talent behind it that cares about it.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid isn’t the greatest thing ever created, but it absolutely deserves to be checked out. Everybody has different experiences on media then others, but if I could get one person to watch this who’ll appreciate it as much as me, then my job here is done.

Posted by Alex Jackson

Avid reader of otokonoko manga and fan of slice of life. Interests include otaku cultural studies and writing fiction. Alex Jackson is a pen name.

One Comment

  1. Could not have said it better myself. While the manga isn’t terrible. KyotoAni’s adaption is far superior to me. The themes of love and family are a lot stronger.

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