Welcome, one and all, to another thrilling instalment of Matt Doyle Media Dot Com’s yearly tournament, Crunchyroll of the Dice. To clarify how this all began … I messed up. You see, while deciding what to review for the site last year, I meant to tell myself ‘Let’s take a roll of the dice and do something at random.’ Somehow though, I managed to replace the word ‘roll’ with ‘Crunchyroll’. That little internal mix up spawned an idea: tournament style reviews with random shows. I decided to pick two shows at complete random on the site, watch the first episodes and compare them both. The result was a huge sixteen show tournament wherein the first round pairings were compared based on their first episodes. The winners advanced to be compared on episode two, and so on until we had a top four.
So, with that out of the way, the rules are as follows:
- The series must be picked at random
- If it has multiple seasons, I go with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show I get
Last time around, my opening pairing was Love Live: School Idol Project and Sword Art Online. This time … it’s a little different. Let’s begin.
Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid
I’ve seen many an advert for this one. All I really know is that it was written by Cool-Kyou Shinja, who also wrote I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying. That particular show appeared in Crunchyroll of the Dice 2016 and was knocked out in round one by Wanna Be The Strongest In The World. I did enjoy the show though, so let’s see if this effort can go one better and make round two.
We open with a shot of Tohru the dragon’s massive eye opening and looking around. She wakes up, flaps her wings, and starts to fly away from the forest that she’s been sleeping in. By contrast, Miss Koboyashi wakes up in bed, complete with a drink induced headache, blissfully unaware that Tohru appears to be heading right for her. She opens her door to head to work and finds said dragon standing outside her block of flats, her massive head blocking her path. Koboyashi, of course, panics a little as Tohru opens her mouth wide and shows off her impressive teeth … and turns into a maid. Yup, she’s taken the form of a young lady, (albeit one with horns and a tail) and comes complete with a maid uniform and snaggletooth.
The opening theme is very peppy, though it doesn’t really sound like an anime opening song to me for some reason. By the looks of it, there are going to be a load of other dragon maids to come, a lot of which seem to share their design with other famous anime and manga characters. Anyway, back with the titular leads, Miss Koboyashi is rather confused. It transpires that she offered to let Tohru stay at her place when she was stumbling through the mountains in a drunken stupor the previous night. She’s not entirely convinced this isn’t some whacked out dream, and who can blame her, really? I mean, it’s not often that you get so drunk that you invite a building sized fire breathing lizard to stay with you, right? Anyway, Tohru is very happy to have been offered a place to crash and is willing to work for free, even offering to turn the city into a sea of fire and curse people to death if Miss Koboyashi requires it. As to why she’s taken the form of a maid, that’s because the drunken Koboyashi requested it.
Koboyashi is regretting her decision already and tells Tohru that she can’t stay, leading to the poor beasty getting upset. To her credit though, the dragoness does start to leave willingly. Being a kind-hearted soul, Miss Koboyashi starts to feel guilty. That’s suddenly swept aside though when she realises that she’s gonna be late for work, and so she ropes Tohru into flying her to the office. Seeing the usefulness in her new dragon friend, she decides to hire Tohru after all.
Later, the pair discuss what a maid needs to do. Tohru is apparently very good at cleaning. One magical blast makes everything shiny, and she then transports the household wares back into place. Next comes the laundry, a task made easier by the handy stain removal life hack of using dragon saliva. Her manners when answering the door need some work, mind you. Oh, and cooking is an interesting one because Tohru chooses to cook her own tail (it’s OK though because she removed the poison, and the tail grows back nice and quickly). I’ve got to hand it to her, Tohru is eager to learn!
So, there’s a trend right now whereby monster girls and romance are insanely popular. Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid plays into this at this point as Tohru, after giving a brief talk about the death of her comrades, declares that she loves Miss Koboyashi and that she will use her entire being to repay the favour of giving her a place to stay. Koboyashi brushes over this and decides to ask Tohru to hold down the fort rather than act as a home-to-work travel service. Tohru is strong enough to bring about the apocalypse, so burglary has got to be a pretty low risk in this scenario. Unsure what this means, Tohru calls her friend Fafnir after Koboyashi goes to work, and is advised to kill intruders. As luck would have it, two hoodlums decide to break in at that very moment. Luckily for them, they escape.
At work the next day, Koboyashi is invited out for a drink by one of her colleagues, Takiya. He views her as one of the guys, it seems. Koboyashi agrees, but soon finds Tohru blocking the path, giving off some hostility towards Takiya. She decides that he’s trying to seduce Koboyashi so she tags along and starts plotting to defeat him. She almost resorts to violence, but Koboyashi stops her with some harsh words. The work pair start comparing Tohru to a cosplayer rather than a real maid and the whole things ends up with Tohru stripped bare by her drunken employer … right. Well, moving on.
As it transpires, Takiya and Koboyashi often go drinking to talk about maids. Tohru reveals her true self to him while Koboyashi lays unconscious on her back, and Takiya figures out that she likes Koboyashi a fair bit. Anyway, Tohru is enjoying washing Koboyashi’s clothes with her tongue a little too much, and the two end up having to have a conversation about etiquette. Koboyashi, softening a little now that she’s not under the influence of alcohol, thanks Tohru with some spare clothes. Koboyashi heads out, and Tohru rings around for some more advice, which is about as useful as you’d expect, and then we time skip to later in the day where Tohru is worrying about the clothes not drying. She simply gets rid of the clouds, which is a rather handy skill to have. Later on, she climbs into bed to sleep alongside Koboyashi, and we cut to a nightmare about humans attacking our scaly maid. No ending theme this time around, though Koboyashi does comfort Tohru with some kind words. Sort of. Well, that was an entertaining enough little opener.
I know little about this series other than it was made by US company Rooster Teeth and that there have been various wars of words about whether it should be classified as an anime or not. I can’t say I’m too bothered by the classification. As a random side note, the show was made in Smith Micro Software’s Poser Pro 2014. I actually own a copy of one of the Poser packages myself, so I can appreciate the time that that must have taken to make, and can probably put the short running time of twelve minutes down to the this.
Oh, this one’s dubbed. That should have been obvious, but still managed to surprise me, largely because I’m used to subs on Crunchyroll. Anyway, spoken word intro with an interesting looking animation style that reminds me of some old shorts that used to be shown on terrestrial TV over here. It’s almost shadow-puppet styled in nature. It’s nice enough that when the CG kicks in, I can’t help but feel disappointed. The way the series looks kinda makes me think that this is what Legend of Korra would have looked like if they’d gone down this route instead of traditional animation.
We see some gangster types trying to rob a place. One of the goons notices a mysterious girl dressed in red standing at the back of the store and ignoring everything going on. He manages to get her attention away from her headphones and magazines long enough to try to rob her too. The girl sends him flying with a single strike and then dives through the window, drawing a huge scythe. Mr Gangster, slightly confused by now, sends the goons in again and she proceeds to smack them up a bit. Mr Gangster distracts the girl with a gunshot from his cane and she ends up having to give chase, catching up to him just before he jumps into a plane and throws a crystal at her. Another quick gunshot is fired and the crystal explodes, but another lady appears and saves our scythe wielding heroine. The newcomer blasts the plane with some purple energy and Mr Gangster, referring to the woman as huntress, takes over the controls. The previous pilot, a faceless woman, moves to the back of the plane and starts to have a magical duel with the huntress. In the middle of this, the scythe wielder turns her weapon into a gun, but the shots can’t reach the plane thanks to magical blocking skills of Mr Gangster’s comrade.
The bad guys escape, and we cut to the scythe girl being admonished by the huntress (though she does give some praise for her skills). We learn that the scythe girl is called Ruby Rose, and that she learned her weapon skills at a warrior academy. She gets given some cookies by a grey-haired man who says that he’s only ever seen such scythe skills once before, and that was by a ‘dusty old crow’. Ruby says that that was her Uncle Crow from the academy and that he was the one that taught her. The unnamed man asks why she was at a warrior academy, and she confirms that she wants to become a huntress and attend Beacon Academy with her sister. She’s very over-excited.
Mr Grey-Hair asks if she knows who he is and Ruby replies that he’s Professor Ozpin, the headmaster at Beacon. He agrees to let her come, and we cut to Ruby with her sister. Ruby has been moved ahead two years and is worried that people will think that she’s special. She just wants to be a normal girl, you see. Along with the huntress thing, of course. We see a news report that confirms Mr Gangster’s name is Roman Torchwick, and then cuts to a story about a civil rights protest. The report is cut off by a hologram of the huntress from earlier who introduces herself as Glynda Goodwitch. She welcomes everyone to Beacon Academy, then disappears. Ruby wanders over to the glass window (they’re on a plane it seems) and has a look at the scenery. Another student, this one male, vomits and runs off.
The end theme is very rocky and features a mix of the episode animation and some nice filters that make it look a little more artsy than it felt before. It’s not a bad track.
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. The battles will be: Best Opening Episode (in terms of achieving the goal of setting the series up), Best Character, Best Individual Scene, Best Storyline, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.
So, this is a hard one. Both shows have a very different feel to them, and as such, they both had very different goals to set up. For Koboyashi, we got a lot of gags about how Tohru doesn’t really understand the world that she’s landed in, as well as a nod to another character that appears to be looking for said dragon. It makes it clear how the show will proceed and appears to at least have an idea where it’s going next, though I’m not expecting a long and twisty plot to materialise. RWBY introduces Ruby Rose, shows off her current skill level, and tells us where she wants to be. It gives us some backstory and moves things along to the true start of Ruby’s journey. The problem is that the short running time means that things felt a bit rushed to me. Characters not being named until long after they could have been, Ruby getting where she wants based on one short battle, and so on. It all adds up and, while it was enjoyable enough, it means that the episode felt a little less polished than Koboyashi and left me worrying that it would all come across as a speed run. For that, it stumbles. Best Opening Episode: Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid
This is going to sound ridiculous, but I’m not going for one of the leads here. Not only that, but the character I’m going with only appeared in two scenes, and only as a voice on the end of the phone. Yup, I’m going with Fafnir. Of all the things to happen in both episodes, Fafnir’s stock answer of “kill humans” made me giggle for how much of a blanket approach to life it was for the dragon. That stood out to me. Best Character: Fafnir (Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid)
This one is actually pretty easy to judge. While the battles in RWBY were good (and definitely stood out over everything that Koboyashi had to offer), the opening scene was superb. It set the backstory in place, and the vintage style of it really stood out. While that caused problems for the episode as a whole in terms of animation for me, I can’t deny the quality there. Best Individual Scene: An Opening History (RWBY)
Both stories have their positives. Miss Koboyashi has a fun premise that will likely lead to some samey-but-consistent hijinks. There’s a hint of something else going on, but I don’t expect it to lead to much more than an excuse to introduce more dragons disguised as human maids. RWBY has a lot more going on, and while it felt rushed, I suspect that it has a lot more to it overall. Therefore, purely because the long-term plan is probably more interesting, RWBY takes the points. Best Storyline: RWBY
As was mentioned above, the opening to RWBY drew me in, then the jump to CG threw me off again. I’m not entirely adverse to CG animation (I tend to enjoy the more recent entries in Appleseed for example), but this wasn’t consistently strong enough for me. The fast moving scythe swipes by Ruby Rose were cool, but when things slowed down, there were bits that felt off to me. I can appreciate the work that went into it all, but I found myself losing focus on what was going on and drawn into things like questioning if a hand looked too big and so on. On the other hand, Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid had a similar issue in that I was really impressed the animation of Tohru’s eyes when she was in dragon form, but felt that the rest of the episode was fairly standard in quality. The overall quality was a bit higher for Miss Koboyashi though, so it takes the points. Best Animation: Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid
One of the things that I enjoyed in Crunchyroll of the Dice 2016 was discovering shows like Flying Witch and Amanchu that used their soundtracks to enhance each episode. The music stood out but never felt intrusive. Here, neither show managed this. There wasn’t anything jarring, but there wasn’t anything that really stood out either. That makes this one an easy tie. Best Soundtrack: Draw
Final Scores: Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid – 7 points, RWBY – 5 points
And so, Crunchyroll of the Dice 2017 kicks off with an identical score to the 2016 opener. To be fair here, I didn’t dislike RWBY, nor did I love Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid. If I’m being honest, I think that both series have their problems. For RWBY, the short running time meant rushing through things, though I’m unsure if longer episodes would really work for it. Meanwhile, Miss Koboyashi was fun but is certainly skirting the borders of potentially being a one trick pony, and the trick it’s using isn’t one that will get a great deal of mileage out of me if it doesn’t throw in the odd unexpected scene to balance it out. In the end though, the dragon maid edged it, and that guarantees that I’ll see at least one more episode from it. Will I stick with RWBY too? Maybe, but I can’t guarantee it.
Thanks for reading everybody, I’ll catch ya later.