Self-awareness might be the best friend of otherwise average to bad shows. The most recent example of how this works well might be Boku no Hero Academia. It doesn't promise you anything it can't deliver. And you get exactly what you were looking for, nothing more, nothing less. Sounds like a fair deal, right? With that in mind, Dragon Maid tries to do the same - this time among the vast ocean of slice of life mediocrities.
Many comment on the cute girls, casual humor, light fanservice and KyoAni's visuals. But what this show actually revolves around is often missed. Kobayashi is an office lady who used to live alone until Tohru and Kanna formed a family-like setup in her life. And that's it. How much becoming responsible for a family can change an adult? What Kobayashi's experience answers to us is that it won't change people at all. Sure, we do learn new things from raising a child, we do need to concede and make some sacrifices. That's why Kobayashi is the same person from episode one to the last. She's always the same laid-back, hard-working gal who loves a happy hour once in a while, with those dead-fish eyes to die for. And that's good enough.
Unfortunately, the other aspects of this show are almost negligible. Side characters have any but surface-level purposes such as comic relief or fanservice. Also the setting doesn't make any difference. We could not have any dragons and it woudn't touch the purpose of the story. Having only Kanna, Kobayashi and Tohru introduced would not change the theme of the anime. What is redeeming though, is the self-awareness of this show. Whenever it takes a turn on fanservice, comedy or a heart warming moment, Dragon Maid knows what it is doing. And will be honest about it whenever possible. The best example of this is might be the "beach episode". It sure has a dose of fanservice, but soon we get to know a little more about Kobayashi and Tohru. The result is a heartening experience, instead of what a plain showcase of the girls' bodies would provide.
This is far from being a sign of recovery by KyoAni, but it's already a step ahead. As expected from them, audiovisuals are of top-tier quality. Distinctive character designs, fluid animation, gorgeous backgrounds. All in a tradicional cartoonish style, uncommon to see in anime nowadays. OST might sound repetitive many times, but this doesn't bother at all. Also unskippable opening/ending songs make it up for the experience. Voice acting is on point too, with a special spotlight on Kanna and Kobayashi's voices - They stand out above the rest in their characterizations.
Sometimes making it simple is the best. Sometimes we need a more human, light hearted story to sit and relax after a long day. It's time for the industry to try to be more honest, sensitive, and human on anime. Let's hope that KyoAni gets the message. Let's make this the starting point. And one more word: Kobayashi is the best girl.