“Summer’s Staples! (The Fanservice Episode, Frankly)”
Kobayashi takes Tohru and Kanna to the beach so they can make the most of the summer season. Tohru considers what a ‘normal’ life is and talks to Kobayashi about her family. Later they cover for Takiya at Comiket when two of his partners fail to show up where Tohru is amazed and inpsired by the huge turnout.
While slice of life series tend to slip in a beach episode mid-season, Dragon Maid does not shy away from the true intention of all ‘summer fun’ scenes – fanservice ah la scantly clad, oiled up characters. The barely-there attire is limited (mostly) to Lucoa; perpetuating the notion that she is still clueless regarding appropriate human behavior. Tohru and Kanna are dressed modestly, in comparison, having conducted an online search to determine their beach day attire beforehand. As usual, opting for comfort over cuteness, Kobayashi dons a t-shirt over her swimsuit.
Despite being titled the ‘fanservice’ episode, it is kept relatively minimal so as not to distract from the more touching scenes. From the start of the series, Dragon’s Maid has perfected this formula of exploring emotion between aptly timed humor and bursts of riveting action sequences meant to keep viewers fully invested from start to finish.
Tohru reveals to Kobayashi that her family will not likely approve of her interaction with the human world. This reminds viewers how much Tohru has sacrificed to remain by Kobayashi’s side – her culture, family, and even part of her identity. When observed in this sense, Dragon’s Maid has all the trappings of a beautiful love story.
The second half of the episode is a shout out to the otaku culture under the guise of a comic convention. In another heartwarming scene, a photographer explains to Tohru why cosplaying individuals are drawn together for these all too brief periods. What Tohru refers to as an ethereal ‘energy’ from the crowd is, in actuality, individuals building a fantasy world where social conformity is replaced with creative freedom. Inspired by this, Tohru temporarily sheds her ‘socially acceptable’ appearance in favor of her dragon tail and horns.
– Heartwarming moments are becoming more frequent.
– This week’s episode was absolutely adorable, no complaints!
With a self proclaimed “fanservice episode,” I braced myself for the series to ease back on its subtle exploration of human experiences in favor of some eye candy. Instead, it features very little (additional) fanservice and instead takes several opportunities to have Tohru and Kobayashi reflect on each others’ lives. In one of the strongest episodes about their relationship thus far, Dragon Maid continues to distinguish itself as a remarkable Slice of Life.
This isn’t to say that the episode steers clear of everything you might expect a beach episode to feature, though for dragons experiencing a lot of these staple activities for the first time it all feels rather fun and no one segment takes up too much screentime. Instead we get more focus on how this exciting but mundane experience is different for Tohru and Kobayashi, thanks to their starkly different upbringings.
The commentary on their family situations drives home the point for Kobayashi as well that they are worlds apart from each other. Though that seems obvious for an outside observer it’s easy for Kobayashi to forget, considering how hard Tohru had been trying to assimilate into the human world. Rather than grow dismayed by this, however, Kobayashi reasons it’s why she wants to cherish the time she has with Tohru now. It’s an all too rare look into Kobayashi’s thoughts on their relationship, but an effective sign of how close the two of them have become.
I was surprised to learn later that the Comiket event that took up the later half of the episode, and the Tokyo International Exhibition Center (Tokyo Big Sight) it’s held at is a real three day event that’s held twice a year. Boasting attendance of about a half million people, it was quite faithfully depicted in this episode. While it featured a lot of individual moments surrounding Tohru’s amazement over its scale, the theme was her lack of understanding of just what kind of power could gather so many people.The answer was tied back to her own experiences beautifully, and I hope a certain someone that may have posted above me here also considers me something that exists only in this time and place.
Notably, the other characters got a lot less focus this episode while still being present. Kanna continued to draw laughs with her silly behavior, Lucoa continued to be Lucoa, and Fafnir faced the harsh reality of being a first time creator. With the remaining dragon promised in the next episode the supporting cast may get some focus again, but whatever the outcome my enjoyment of this series continues to rise.
– Sweet moments between Tohru and Kobayashi popping up more frequently
– Great slice of life vibe as characters ponder the way things are
– I’ve complained about Lucoa enough, but with as much imagination as the series shows elsewhere I’m disappointed they can’t seem to use her in a better way.
This post is part of our seasonal episodic review series. To view all the posts in this series, click the following link: Viewing Party