12days #8: On Magic Dragons

If you were alive and conscious in the 60’s you may remember one particularly irksome example of public stupidity that surrounded a children’s song. Today, EVERYONE is allowed to be publicly stupid so such egregious displays of blowhard foolishness and simpering followership are less rare or notable. They are almost expected.

Instead of sugar-coated laments regarding the inexorable passage of time, this song, through the pronouncement of fools somehow became something about a secret, coded reference to mary-joo-wanna. Oh frick! Seemingly adult human, please go to your room and reflect upon your public stupidity. Your younger relatives are embarrassed for you and are contemplating institutional care.

No, wait… Puff. Magic! Get it? PUFF?

Back then, idiot blowhards whispering this “secret message” interpretations held privileged public positions with functional monopolies of discourse. Today you can’t swing a cat gif without hitting someone trying to monetize their opinion-leader-ing wannabe-ness. If you have enough weasels in a sack they take care of each other. Thus I refute the Frankfurt School.

Besides, we all know that if the Puff the Magic Dragon song premiered today would obviously, really be about Miss Kobyashi’s Dragon Maid. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Kobayashi%27s_Dragon_Maid]

I had been following the manga since I stumbled upon it years ago. I was delighted to learn of and then to watch it as it became an anime. Good judgement that the anime stopped short before it got to the chapters where one of the more anti-social dragons played a gender-fuck experiment on Miss K. (she pretty well just ignored it until it went away, though she gained a new understanding and appreciation for hormonal effects on the brain and oversized cartoon boobies). That  caused a noticeable amount of fan butt-hurt and would have been a distraction. Meanwhile the number of dragons that continued to clump around manga Miss K grew ever larger.

I acknowledge that one can love Dragon Maid as an Odd Couple exercise or as a fable of loneliness and found queer family – it does these quite well. I will cling to my initial reading of it as a subverted harem tale. Take Nyaruko: Crawling with Love or even the earlier genre-creator; Urusei Yatsura (200+ episodes plus ova’s!!!) and lose the boy.

I had long suspected that many of the male leads in conventional harem grinders would have absolutely no friends or social interaction whatsoever if not for the girls/ ladies/ women who miraculously get interested in them. Sure, it’s good to be king and lets preserve the balance and the friendship but really… Ain’t that poor schlub so damn happy that anyone, let alone a number of interesting, quirky members of the opposite sex want to talk and interact with him, that to consider risking the loss of their company is enough to keep him from pushing for any resolution?

Poor fool! If he wasn’t a he, they could have had an all wimmins revolutionary lesbian dragon family collective!

Don’t even try to figure out what they see in her.

Perhaps she was a monster all along too, just like them.

One particular viciously effective criticism of the tale likened Miss Kobayashi to “Derwood” of Bewitched fame (and inadvertently echoed the complaints of the show’s formidable mother-in-law). The accusation hits home: the dragons are wonderous powerful beings – why put themselves in thrall to the whims of human society, especially such a pinched and neutered human as our grim salaryman woman programmer?

As Amicus Dragonii, I wish to advance a modified Puff defence. (No, the show is NOT a secret allegory about dope smoking: Give it a break! ) Miss K might be a PITA but she is no Derwood. Derwood was a parodic exaggeration of what a 1960’s successful male was supposed to be and the grating “comedy” of the show came from his privileged little ass waddling around and trying to jam a powerful jet-setting magical woman into a suburban wifey role. Ok, we have SOME congruity here, but also a marked difference: Miss K should not be a salaryman. And make no mistake, she is a salaryman. A later dragon interloper might end up mooching around her workplace as an Office Lady but she is there for contrast. The interloper can’t debug, program or even pull her weight doing clerical work. Her colleagues have to take on the load she is expected to do, but cannot manage.

Note how each of them dress. Note the sumptuary code and who has the privilege of casual dress afforded to a L337 code wrangler.. Now look again at the nice OL uniform on the useless one…

THAT was what Japan had in store for Miss K.

Salaried Japanese work is supposed to be a grinding dehumanizing hellscape. That’s why they call it work and pay yen for doing it. If it was in any way, even microscopically enjoyable Japanese people would take it up as an expensive sport and pay to do it. That Miss K can defy Japanese gender role expectations to become an asexual office work drone is heroic in its own right. She is, in the words of her own self-doubt, a functioning, contributing member of society. Unfortunately her self doubts also whisper of the memories of how she repeatedly longed and failed to become her idea of what a woman should have been. Samantha’s Derwood has no self doubts and barely any self-awareness. That is why he is a shit and Miss K is a flawed hero – even when she acts like a jerk.

Tohru is still the magic girlfriend with a crush, willing to put up with a metric shit-ton of stupid and indulge her love, for a tiny while longer until enlightenment hits. Living alone forever is boring and living in alone-forever-land is also full of powerful magical psychopaths with big sharp pointy magic weapons. Have a relax, indulge the cute foolish one. She has no idea how lucky she is. Follow the silly human rules, at least for the small stuff. That way the puny humans will be completely off guard when you get the urge to pull a Gojira. Giant flying lizard? Where?

No one here but us Maidos

What is this thing called love?

The Anime wisely shot past the dragon harem and went straight for the gay moms family vibe. Because it still wanted some Japanese guys to watch it, there are a few too many jiggley anime boobies and underage yuri crush gags but it remains an ingenious, funny, sentimental, even mawkish-ly good-hearted reply to the harem problem.

I love it bunches and feel pained when it is dissed

We never got to see or feel that with Nyaruko-chan or Lum and their feckless intendeds.

The only thing that is really wrong with Dragon Maid is that Miss K needs to smarten up and pledge her troth to Tohru. Face it girl, you like her. Not to impose a sexuality or any sexuality upon a chara but you could at least give cuddling a try. Puzzle it out. You could be Ace or you could have been so far into the closet that you were already half-way to dragon-land.

Tohru has her traumas too. Sometimes she cries in her sleep. Go to her. Give her a hug.

The harsh criticism got one thing right: Cool Kyoushinja! Don’t let Miss Kobayashi become a Derwood!

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