“Troupe Dragon, On Stage! (They Had A Troupe Name, Huh)”
After being asked to host the annual Christmas show, Tohru and the others decide to put on the play ‘The Little Match Girl’. Feeling the story isn’t interesting enough to stand alone, the dragons take some creative liberties with the script. What results is an over-the-top story involving magical girls and demon lords.
Christmas in March? Way to make sure it doesn’t air during a time over saturated with X-mas episodes. With each episode title never failing to explain what to anticipate, surprisingly this week’s failed to mention anything about Christmas.
It’s all hands on deck as Tohru agrees to take over planning the annual Christmas show for a local retirement home. Riko suggests the popular Christmas story, “The Little Match Girl,” a poignant tale about a young girl who freezes to death while never losing sight of her hopes and dreams. Though the production is initially agreed upon, Fafnir, Elma, and Tohru soon began proposing a few creative changes. The end result is a hodgepodge of several classic tales mixed into one… and yes, it’s absolutely adorable.
Narrated by Riko, the play unfolds with the little match girl (Kanna) and an elderly hat seller (Souta) hocking their wares. Witnessing their plight a wizard (Fafnir) offers to turn them into magical girls but, with only one magic wand available, the pair must fight to the death for it. A scantily clad fairy (Lucoa) arrives to rescue the children from the scheming wizard. Between all this, the duo somehow end up in a scene from 47 Ronin where Elma is attempting to defeat the evil Tohru to avenge her master.
What is most touching about this episode is how supportive Kobayashi is, praising Kanna and enthusiastically promising to attend the play. Not faltering on her commitments, Kobayashi and Takiya rush out from work and arrive just as the curtains begin to raise. Standing in the back of the room, the co-workers watch the play in a mix of shock and confusion; replaced with awe and delight by the end.
Kobayashi has transitioned dramatically since the beginning of the series. While she is still dedicated to her career, her priorities have begun to shift towards that which brings her the most joy in life (Tohru and Kanna). The length Kobayashi goes to, to give Kanna the warm, happy childhood her real parents denied her is truly heartwarming. In a sketch scene near the end of the episode, Kobayashi sneaks into Kanna’s room with a Christmas gift, but has to hide behind the bed when she awakens. As a significant amount of time passes, viewers see Kobayashi still hiding out, refusing to spoil the magic illusion of Santa by alerting Kanna to her presence.
Similarly, Tohru has grown in her role, not just as a maid, but as a significant person in Kobayashi’s life. The end scene shows Tohru cleaning while Kobayashi sleeps off the holiday party they hosted. This is another reminder of just how comfortable the pair have become with each other. Compared to the overly excited dragon eager to show her worth and an overstressed office worker who survives off ramen; these characters are far removed from their former selves.
– Character growth has been well highlighted; slowly building over the course of the series.
– Fafnir has returned!!!!! Also, Lucoa doesn’t attack Shouta with her bosom this episode!
– “Good and Bad are arbitrary words when it comes to character.” – Anson Mount (in this case, characters.) A more fitting quote would be, “Everything is Awesome!”
While the season depicted in the episode seems a little off considering we’re on the verge of Spring, the hefty bit of snow we got around here at the time of its airing made it feel more fitting. And though the invitation for Tohru to take up the Shopping District’s holiday event at the senior center is a little random, any reason to get the dragons together is a good one.
This episode was a great opportunity for the supporting dragons to get some screen time as they each have a go at directing the play that they decide upon. Little Match Girl is a classic Christmas tale, but it’s amusing to see what the non-human characters think of it. Bits of their personality are worked into each of their turns, but the episode unfortunately spends most of the time reinforcing known quirks about the characters. Fafnir is harsh, Elma wants to eat, and Lucoa harasses Shouta. The desire to cross dress him for the lead role was at least a new fetish we learned about for her, but the whole process felt like a waiting game until they went with the obvious choice of Kanna for the lead role.
Deciding on Elma as director was inconsistent in showing how strict she was about how the parts were played (though it seems with Lucoa you always have to do some correcting), only to let the production become a mish-mash of Little Match Girl, 47 Ronin, the folktale Kasajizou, and Fafnir’s pick of ‘Magical Girl.’ The resulting production isn’t recognizable outside of the first few moments, but this wouldn’t be Dragon Maid if they did everything according to convention.
It’s that point that Kobayashi seems to realize as she watches the play delve into stranger and stranger territory, but also delight the elderly audience. Tohru had declined her help at the start of the episode, and consistently said she could handle things. Despite her concerns and the departure from the traditional story, Kobayashi realizes the group’s unique take on it was what made the show special.
This show continues to amaze me with its ability to strike home with some of its themes and situations. As someone who personally struggles to let people go their own way, I was humbled by Kobayashi’s response. Even in the side plot, I can recall coming home from my early school days to a family that didn’t really understand Christmas, and my parents’ effort to provide the smallest semblance of the experience nonetheless.
Slice of life comes in infinitely varied forms, but their common link is in their ability to connect with the viewer in a way that personally resonates. Even with its wackiness, Dragon Maid consistently delivers this point.
– Features an entertaining play that takes advantage of each dragon’s skills/personality
– A heartwarming message about valuing people the way they are
– Except for some very brief moments, the side characters are still quite one note
This post is part of our seasonal episodic review series. To view all the posts in this series, click the following link: Viewing Party