I make no secret of the fact on my blog that two of my favourite genres of anime are slice-of-life and comedy, and I tend to like them even better when I get the two together. Everyday occurrences with a dash of humour sprinkled in seems like a surefire way of getting me to enjoy an anime. Except for when they’re not.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (hereafter referred to as Maidragon) seemed like a series that would happily tick all my boxes; a larger-than-life cast, humour around everyday happenings, gorgeous vibrant visuals, which while not a must-have definitely are a bonus for me, but somehow, it seemed like the more that I saw other people losing their minds over how great this series was, the more I just felt rather indifferent.
To be clear, it’s not that I hated Maidragon, it’s merely that I didn’t like it; it never really moved beyond watchable in my eyes. I never received the warmth and joy from it that it was evident that many other people did from their glowing blog posts or sharing on Twitter. This post is going to cover a few reasons why I felt that Maidragon missed the mark for me.
People speak about comedy as being the most subjective genre; what one person finds hysterical may not even appear funny to another one. I love my comedy to be super high-energy (unless it’s just puns and wordplay, which I will accept at any pace). I dream of a world where it would be logical for all comedy series to be delivered at the pace of Teekyuu. I enjoyed the character of Kanna and her strange curiosity about the world (eating things which most of us wouldn’t hit the right note between sweet and funny in my eyes), but many of the other jokes lacked the energy to really hit home for me. While I don’t think Maidragon is primarily a comedy, I do think that the humour is still a key part of the series and having many of the jokes miss the mark for me dulled my enjoyment.
I, and I think most anime viewers, will run into content in series that we don’t agree with. I think that this is almost inevitable both with the wide variety of opinions and values there are out there, and also because we’re watching shows which are made for a different country which has different cultural sensibilities.
There’s a number of possible responses to this; I find that sometimes I disagree with the content but it doesn’t actively bother me and detract from my enjoyment of a series. At times I disagree with the content but I’m prepared to overlook it because of the other positive and enjoyable factors in a series. At times I disagree with content, but the way it is presented is thought-provoking and serves to either reaffirm or cause me to re-evaluate views on certain issues. At times I find the content highly upsetting and cannot overlook it, which may either sour my experience of watching something, or mean that I don’t want to watch it or continue watching it.
This train of thought perhaps has enough to unpack to warrant its own future blog post, but I’ll try to not let this aside get too long. I find that thus far I’ve not really been able to identify any clear indicators as to how I’ll respond to certain types of content; sometimes similar things can feel just fine, and sometimes they can strike a sour note. Some of the sexually-oriented jokes in Maidragon felt really upsetting to me. For example, while Lucoa’s body shape and demeanour is obviously intended to be comic relief and I do think that she perhaps doesn’t have a great grasp on human/Japanese expectations when it comes to appropriate attire for each situation, having characters suggest that she’s wrong and bad for the way she is made me feel really uncomfortable. There are women out there who are very curvaceous with large breasts, and it’s just the way that they are. There’s nothing wrong with having this particular body type. I spoke in my post about Kuma Miko about the gulf between things which are intended to be funny and those which actually are, and a few of the jokes in this series definitely fell into the abyss in my eyes.
It’s interesting, the more that I’ve been writing and interacting with others about anime, the more I’ve learnt about myself. One of the things I’ve come to realise more clearly is that I tend to not really be worried about connecting with media on an emotional level, and that what I connect with emotionally seems to differ from many. It’s not that I don’t ever have an emotional response to anime, it’s just that whether or not I have an emotional response doesn’t play a huge factor in my overall enjoyment of a series. While I could see that the different dragons finding a place to belong and a sense of stability was in theory a heartwarming story, I just didn’t feel any personal warmth. I know that I tend to mainly engage with media on the level of thinking and not feeling (even with comedy, puns and wordplay definitely some of my preferred ways of finding laughter), and it seems that Maidragon was perhaps more of an emotive series.
I think that perhaps engaging in the anime community at large while this was airing (blogs and Twitter) influenced my feelings towards the series. Feeling unable to match the enthusiasm that most other watchers held perhaps influenced my perception of my views as being somewhat cooler as there was such a ‘warm climate’ surrounding the show. It’s the kind of thing which makes me deeply thoughtful and curious and is a major part of why I ended up writing about this. I know people have mentioned interacting with others whilst a series is airing can be a bit of a double-edged sword and I think this may be an example of this situation. It’s very fun to see what people are excited about and share views and information as series airs, but the climate surrounding a series can very much affect your perception, meaning you make assumptions about it from the screencaps, opinions, and fan creations which others share for good or bad. If I think about something differently to another person, I want to take the time to understand why it is happening. This can lead to me being overly introspective, something I’d like to address as it can be a bit paralysing, but something which I know I still feel.
I find myself in a very interesting position. Judging by the general response to the series and the overall themes and events of the show, I’d feel comfortable recommending this show to people I know who enjoy heart-warming anime, but it’s not something I liked myself. At times I recognise that my lack of enjoyment of a series is owing to choosing something as a viewer which doesn’t correlate strongly with my personal likes, either owing to lack of knowledge (going into a show blind because either it is currently airing or merely from lack of research) or from intentionally choosing something which is so well-regarded that I think it may override my general lack of interest in the genre or themes. Maidragon was a strange exception to this rule because I think that even if I had not watched this show as it aired I would still have made time to watch it at some point in the future owing to the positive response and it having genres I like, but probably still would not have cared for. I just couldn’t really connect with the series on the emotive level which would allow for personal enjoyment.