Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid – Production Notes 13 And Final Thoughts

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid – Production Notes 13 And Final Thoughts

Maidragon comes to an end with a spectacular episode, so it’s time to congratulate its director Yasuhiro Takemoto for multiple reasons.

Episode 13

Storyboard: Yasuhiro Takemoto
Episode direction: Yoshiji Kigami, Shinpei Sawa
Animation Direction: Tatsunari Maruko, Kohei Okamura, Shouko Ikeda

Key AnimationHidehiro Asama, Sae Sawada, Aoi Okuno, Chiharu Kuroda, Hiroyuki Takahashi, Tomoko Yoshimura
Yoshinori Urata, Kota Sato, Naoya Nakayama, Ryo Miyaki, Sayaka Watanabe
Seichi Akitake, Hiroshi Karata, Kunihiro Hane, Taira Yamaguchi, Nami Iwasaki, Sana Suzuki, Shiho Morisaki, Kyohei Ando


— Maidragon comes to an end on April 5th, a significant date because it’s also the birthday of series director Yasuhiro Takemoto – please congratulate him so that he isn’t sad anymore. My intention was to briefly cover this episode and focus on the series as a whole, but those plans crumbled under the weight of this incredible episode. The tone was quite unlike anything that preceded it so I can imagine some viewers will suffer a bit of a whiplash, but thematically the progression was perfectly coherent. And beyond how we got to this point, Takemoto’s execution was unbelievable. This is the second time this season after Masayuki’s LWA TV #3 where I’ve felt a storyboard went well beyond what TV anime is supposed to be. A master class in flow and striking framing (oh you, Takemoto), but also in conveying feelings like Kobayashi’s crushing loneliness after Tohru’s departure.

— Takemoto’s boards are so dense I don’t even know where to start dissecting them. Perhaps the smart usage of motifs to portray the passage of time, as well what the characters hold dear. Maybe the increasing disorder in the household once Tohru leaves, which tells us about the events happening beyond the camera’s reach. There’s also the layouts that aren’t only rich, but also allow us to quite literally get into Kobayashi’s shoes to feel her pain and fear. And what about the final confrontation between two individuals who finally look at each other in the eye, both sporting similar wounds. This is the kind of storyboard you have to personally experience, something you have to watch multiple times if you intend to find every near detail. What a tremendous episode.

— The animation was similarly ridiculous. All the dragon action – no wonder an action crew with Kigami and Sawa was put in charge – will catch people’s attention, and perhaps the passionate character acting as well. But what I feel makes this episode special is the lack of restraint when depicting any minor action: no shortcuts for seemingly inconsequential cuts like typing or a water splash. This is of course the kind of animation that some fans deem wasted, which feels like a stubborn refusal to engage with the work. This elaborate sequence of Tohru expertly brewing coffee isn’t pointless, but rather a way to create a contrast between her dexterity and Kobayashi’s failure. And beyond the cuts that have clear narrative significance, it’s the accumulation of their precious daily life moments that made their loss so painful. The fact that the soup is actually animated isn’t important per se, but the care put into the scene is. I usually recommend people to pay attention to how characters interact with the world as a way to gauge the quality of the animation beyond isolated flashy cuts; the way they hold objects, eat food, or physically interact with other people often say a lot about the strength of a production. And in this case, those tell you nothing but good things.

— As I said it would happen, the final list of key animators has more people than usual simply because half the studio had no work to do. Seems like the first two unites animated each half of the episode, while the third group did clean-up work. Certain cuts during the dragon fight have strong traces of Kunihiro Hane’s work though, so perhaps the more action-oriented animators did notorious corrections on those scenes. Either way, it’s always funny to see this show’s busiest staff list be below average for right about every other series.

— Kanna ate natto.


— Takemoto’s ability to adapt existing material is second to none. He engages the works he’s given with respect, keeping their core ideas but unashamedly rearranging events and progression as he sees fit. He doesn’t even need massive narrative changes to create something that feels like a transformative adaptation, yet in the end embodies the messages of the original more effectively than the source material. A show like Maidragon is also a perfect canvas for him, since gradually establishing a sense of familiarity and portraying these warm relationships is very much up his alley. I didn’t expect this show to become such a powerful family series, but I love that it did.

— This was by no means a flawless show. The most glaring problem as far as I’m concerned is an issue the anime has made worse, as an unfortunate consequence of its generally excellent changes: the disconnect between it as a family series and a raunchy comedy. The physicality and explicit sexual desire between Tohru and Kobayashi is great, of course. And I have absolutely nothing against fanservice, but Kanna’s excellent characterization as a child is at odds with the very rare yet annoying instances where her cute relationship with Saikawa has been framed erotically. It’s otherwise a dynamic I’m very fond of, and the source material already exhibited this awkward balance of priorities, but it made me wish Takemoto had gone further and just removed a couple of scenes – or simply shot them in a different way! I have the opposite issue with Shota and Lucoa’s relationship, which I fundamentally don’t like but sort of warmed up to thanks to a couple of moments around the end of the show. Excellent anime as far as I’m concerned, but with some issues that would make me stop and think before recommending it to some people.

— From a production standpoint, Maidragon was the studio’s least impressive offering as of late. The project at the end of their generally 6~9 months production runs tend to fare the worst, and Maidragon was up against titanic animation endeavors, but I feel like it’s worth pointing it out nonetheless. The energy conservation episodes were closer to stiff than I would have liked, and for a series with cartoony sensibilities there was still some restrain. But with the relative issues out of the way: geez, this was still an amazingly crafted series. It got incredible mileage of its large range, so while on an animation level it obviously can’t compare to Nichijou, when it comes to the amount of registers it’s also astounding. About half the episodes would comfortably serve as the directional highlight of a regular show, once again proving that the studio’s current lineup in this regard might be their strongest. Besides Takemoto himself and his delightful take on this weirdly heartfelt series, Taichi Ogawa, Yoshiji Kigami, and Naoko Yamada stood out the most. Shinpei Sawa’s full directional debut was also a clear highlight, showing finesse you wouldn’t expect from a newbie.

— In a pure animation sense, and unlike on a directional and storyboarding level, I feel like KyoAni has seen better days. It mostly comes down to the animation director roster, which is now heavily dominated by young people who still can’t live up to the studio’s stars like Futoshi Nishiya and Chiyoko Ueno. There are some incredibly promising newcomers like Akiko Takase, but that didn’t quite help Maidragon since she mostly had to skip the series. While the show was consistently polished, its animation was by all means uneven; thankfully it didn’t follow the usual TV anime pattern and its U shaped production values curve – rather than just starting and ending strong, it spiked depending on staff and the needs of the show. And even at its worst it maintained a respectable level, to the point I would confidently call it the best animated series of this season by far. Not bad considering it was up against the likes of Little Witch Academia, ahoboy’s Akiba’s Trip, Kikuta’s KonoSuba and even new ufotable and Dogakobo offerings. The delicacy when depicting daily life events didn’t asphyxiate the animation under misguided realism, so the grounded movement coexisted just fine with the bouncy and exaggerated sequences. All in all, definitely not ideal but still quite great. Consider it an A- rather than the A+ I would have loved, if you’re fond of arbitrary scoring.

I couldn’t end without mentioning the backgrounds, of course – the epilogue felt like a personal gift in this regard. KyoAni’s art department keeps on growing, and this show has convinced me that their recent photorealistic endeavors haven’t made them forget how to craft some excellent traditional and stylized work. Yet another reason why I’m glad this series existed.


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Carmichael
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Carmichael

Is there a way to wish happy birthday to Takemoto? This quote is so sad I want to hug him xD

Otherwise a great show indeed, this level of animation on a show many people thought was just a breather project makes me wonder what the studio will achieve with Evergarden. Like you said, this quality shouldn’t be on TV!

Chad
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Chad

I tried my best to spread the word about Takemoto turning 45 today.

CaptnThumbs
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CaptnThumbs

I just have to ask here, kViN, did you watch Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen? Maybe you’ve mentioned having watched it previously, but for the kind of blog this is it’s..odd that the show was mentioned once that I remember, at the start of the winter season. But has remained remiss from the blog since. I really feel like it deserves some of the very analysis given to Maid dragon.

Ex275
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Ex275

The show was pretty consistent animation wise and I’m amazed KyoAni managed to pull it off with the I assume tighter deadline. Too bad I don’t like KyoAni and Ghibli’s anime much to paraphrase Hideaki Anno “They can’t show anything but superficial happiness and a reproduction of reality with all the dirty things omitted.” Still as long as they raise the bar and have others try to reach the bar I can appreciate their existence, even if I find their anime pretty meh. Will Violet Evergarden mark new edgier territory for KyoAni? It seems more like a war story, but… Read more »

Rotarius
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Rotarius

Happy belated birthday, Takemoto. YOU’RE THE BEST DIRECTOR I LOVE YOU.

MarinerBert
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MarinerBert

I really enjoyed this off-kilter, family, slice-of-life series. The anime original content in the latter half of the series was outstanding. KyoAni once again shines in adapting and adding to the source material. Even at its worse, the animation remained consistent. The backgrounds were gorgeous throughout. I know you’ve mentioned some were CG but KyoAni blended it so well that many I couldn’t tell.

dango
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dango

As far as I’m aware Takemoto (and most of the KyoAni staffs) doesn’t use Twitter (at least not professionally)…I’ll just wish him a great birthday! Certainly the staffs considered the finale to be his best birthday gift. In terms the relationship between Saikawa and Kanna…honestly I don’t see traces of sexual implications in there. Yes it’s more intimate than we may expect, but I would say it’s still in the range of adorable childhood relationships. I see what you may be pointing to – the episode where they played the game and body touching, and Kanna was on top of… Read more »

Kora
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Kora

So episode 13 was the last episode, no more episodes? I need some moreee..