Sometimes you just get what you want.
|We now interrupt your flow of new series to put a wrap on the best one from last season. And now we’re back to the kind of series that you don’t want to ever be over. I wasn’t super sold on Kobayashi-san-chi no Meidoragon at the first episode, but wow did it make up for that ever since.|
All of the Heart
Settling in to an idyllic home life
When I first had heard that Kyoto Animation was going to make an anime of Meidoragon, I thought “Oh, well, they do everything well, that’ll probably be fun to watch.” I had read a few chapters of it, and it seemed nice enough, but like most 4-koma manga, it was fairly lightweight and I wasn’t really in the mood for that at the moment. Plus, they were going to adapt it, so I try to stay away from reading things that are going to get anime adaptations. I figured it was going to be kind of a palate cleanser after the excellence in Hibike! Euphonium, and go for more laughs and fun. And while it definitely had fun throughout the series, it added so much more that was completely unexpected.
The dragon of self-doubt lives in all of us
At its core, Meidoragon is about relationships. You might focus on Kobayashi and Tooru, or Kanna and Saikawa, or even Fafnir and Takiya. But one thing that really came through in the way the show was presented was that it’s also about your relationship with yourself. Who are you, who do you want to be, what do you want to be doing, do you like yourself, do you like the way other people seem to see you? And it was this subject that the introspective parts of the show really focused on. You can have the comedy, you can have the snappy dialogue and the romance-y vibes, but what always underpinned it was how much all the characters liked themselves more when they were finding relationships they liked to be in. Kobayashi changes from a quiet loner, who admits that she didn’t smile much, to someone who enjoys the bustle of a happy home. She even admits that she doesn’t have much experience with being wanted, and has a hard time understanding and acknowledging that fact.
Going back to the way you were is hard
Fafnir has found a compatible person
In the same vein, all of the dragons are searching for that same kind of belonging of self. As I go through the show, I realize that Tooru doesn’t really know who she is or what she is like. She keeps going back to “I’m a dragon”, but we see as it goes that that’s more of a classification, not a description. And her backstory, hinted at by Lucoa and even the times she talks about her past or Kobayashi thinks about meeting Tooru, she’s an outcast. Dragons are loners, and she was more playing the role of a dragon than being a person who is a dragon. And maybe that idea that dragons are loners is more of an externally imposed restriction than an inherent part of their makeup. We see that Tooru’s finding of more of a sense of belonging spurs the other dragons to search for the same thing, which they are finding with varying degrees of success. Lucoa ends up so desperate for it that she stays with Shouta, who has the potential to be a good friend to her, but at the moment isn’t really giving her what she’s looking for besides the potentiality of belonging. Of the rest of the dragons, Fafnir is probably the most successful at finding that person to be with, and even though the show doesn’t go into Takiya’s life much, you get the feeling he was much the same as Kobayashi, and while there isn’t necessarily the obvious physical relationship between Fafnir and Takiya, there’s definitely a connection that they make that is working for the two of them.
Lucoa comes off as the most desperate
Even Kanna wants something that I think Saikawa can’t really give right now
Of the dragons, Kanna is in more of a unique position, in that she willingly takes on that persona of being a child, even though she’s certainly older than Kobayashi. She’s never had that childhood of a doting parent, and there’s a reason that it’s attractive. And even if Kobayashi isn’t really that doting parent, it’s something that she’s learning, as we see from the episode where she makes the decision to make time for Kanna’s school athletics day. And while it can be thought of as “playing at a family”, you could ask the question why is it “playing”? For me, it’s even more important because all of them had a choice and they choose to be together. People frequently have the idea that “family” – parents, brothers, sisters, etc – should be more important than “friends”, but that’s not really been an idea I care for. Why does accident of birth carry more weight than mutual agreement? Why should you accept behaviors from your siblings or parents or children (when they’re old enough to know better) that you wouldn’t accept from a friend or acquaintance? And why should you care more for people you didn’t choose to have a relationship with? This doesn’t come from some place where I’ve divorced my family or anything. They’re fine people, but for the most part, the only common interests we have are getting people to spell our last names correctly. So when Kobayashi tells Takiya that it’s not that she wants to make time for the sports day, but that she feels like she should, that’s indicative to me that she cares a lot about Kanna, especially after Kanna has also allowed Kobayashi to have an excuse to not go.
This is the type of visual metaphor that KyoAni excels at
The other spirit of the show was the idea of compromise, something that was important from the very beginning with two people who hadn’t really lived with anyone else for so long. That they were able to find these areas of compromise with each other was probably due to Kobayashi’s dedication to that very idea. And we see other times throughout the series where Kobayashi is the mediator of a compromise: between the neighbors when they want to be noisy, between the dragons when they have disagreements, with Tooru throughout the series. But something that has to be important when you’re willing to compromise is to know those times when you absolutely will not. As dedicated as Kobayashi is to getting along, there are things she will not allow argument on, such as eating Tooru’s tail meat. But even areas where she’s ardent at the beginning tend to show some relaxing through time, such as letting the dragons be more of themselves in play and spirit.
A kid caught when she snuck out, that’s exactly how Tooru reacts
And there is one more time where she’s not willing to compromise: that Tooru should be the one who decides where she wants to be. The last episode of the show was really wonderful with the conflict between Tooru and her father. Something that seemed to start out as a typical ogre father trying to control his daughter became much more clearly a case of a father worried about his daughter making a decision that she would regret and trying to protect her. But maybe children shouldn’t just be protected. It’s true that Tooru is going to be hurt as Kobayashi ages and eventually dies, and she is left without that person in her life. But she knows that. And she doesn’t seem to be just giving it lip service. It’s something she’s thought about for a while, even back to talking to Fafnir. And it’s still a good choice. As Lucoa says early on: Tooru hasn’t had much to smile about in her life. Why shouldn’t she have this time now? It’s not that she’s trading other smiles for these. But will it hurt even more? Probably, but that’s not necessarily a reason to avoid the smiles now.
Even if he’s not terrible, Tooru will still fight him for her love
The final episode really did have a glut of wonderful moments. The show had spent so much time putting heart in these characters that it let the events of the finale really pull at you. And even when you were thinking that Tooru’s father is terrible and just wants to pull her away, he says the one thing, something that not even Tooru had ever heard, and with so much feeling, that it instantly changed how the whole episode felt. Tooru, thinking that the only thing she wants is being ripped from her, hears from Kobayashi that she’s a good person, and then that her father agrees that she is. They’d made it clear that dragons aren’t very demonstrative in either love or approval, and here’s a situation where Tooru’s feeling completely lost, and to hear that it’s not because she’s just a pawn, but because everyone cares for her, completely changes the mood. And maybe that’s what spurs her to not just go with her father, but actually fight him for the first time. Sometimes parents and children just need to have it out, and sometimes you have to do it just as signaling: “This is the thing that is important enough to fight over.”
And that feeling definitely is worth fighting over
This show wildly exceeded what I thought it could do. Emphasizing the relationships, the caring, and the learning about the other people in your life made this show have so much depth and life that it was surprising. And it all kept adding up more and more, interacting with all the different parts of the show. Perhaps the only part that really didn’t add a lot to the whole series was the introduction of Elma, who was really late in the series, and was more just used for throwaway jokes. But everything else was superlative, even the OP and ED songs and animation. Something that KyoAni doesn’t get enough credit for is making these catchy OP and ED songs and videos, and this one uses perhaps fhana’s best song so far. I don’t know if there will ever be more of this as an anime series, but if there isn’t, then this was enough.
Keep spinning on!