Let’s do something a little simpler and, well, self-contained. Let’s do a little talk and tarot reading about an anime, how’s that sound? I just finished Kobayashi and the Dragon Maid. I liked it. I was surprised, at first, at how much I liked it. Partly that’s because I watched a season and a bit of Nyarko, the Crawling Chaos and, well, I’m a big Lovecraft fan and just sort of gave up on that show. The two shows are very similar in some respects, so I was glad to find I was really enjoying this one.
Our tarot set up will be nice and simple here. Let’s do the three main characters, some of the aspects of the show, and the two major plots. I’ll use the Alchemical Tarot again, as it has a few dragons in it. Neat, huh?
Ace of Coins
Aces are beginnings, and Coins are earthliness. In a narrative about magical beings from another dimension, it’s cool that we get the foundation of the earth suit for Kobayashi, who’s just a plain old human. Apart from that, she’s also down-to-earth, practical (mostly), and difficult to rile out of her calm demeanor. She’s an interesting version of the “blank slate” anime protagonist that we’re all familiar with. As opposed to the aforementioned Nyarko, this show has a protagonist who’s “plain” but who isn’t pissed about how different things are now. That’s a refreshing change, for me at least.
Nine of Coins
More coins! All right then. It’s true that Tohru is a lot more “earthy” than all the other dragons we come across. She likes washing herself, even though she doesn’t need to. She’s fascinated with food (not as much as her frenemy, but still). The nines are about culmination. In a way they’re the peak of the suit — tens are sort of like the ending and the new beginning, in that way that ten is the last of the first set of numbers and kind of the first of the new numbers. Sort of. So Tohru is seeking this kind of earthly fulfillment, on Earth. Which, you know, is appropriate for the show.
Two of Staffs
Wands are about fire, and so we’re finally getting to the, uh, dragonish part of this story. Kanna appears out of nowhere, apparently the jealous younger magical character. She actually ends up being the child. The two of staffs is about sharing, spreading the fire around. The card has the famous floating hand from the Waite-Smith deck emerging to light another staff on fire. A small lizard lies on the ground and grass grows up around the base of the staff. So the card is about fruitfulness in that magical, creative fire realm. Kanna always wanted some kind of personal connection — we learn that she’s been banished because she plays pranks on people. She does that to try to get some attention from her family. On Earth she finally gets that — and she acts as the catalyst, the fire bringer, who connects Kobayashi and Tohru.
Seven of Swords
The seven is often described as a theft. Here we see a fox stealing a sword. If that fox can carry that sword away, it can have the thing. That’s pretty cool. What the card demonstrates, for us, is a quick-witted grasp at something that we stumble onto. The fox probably wasn’t involved in the sword fight, but he’s taking advantage of it, cleverly. So the card’s about cleverness. And if you think about it, every one of Tohru’s dragon friends takes advantage of her decision to slip away into the human world. They all get something they wanted or needed by cleverly piggybacking on her decision. And that adds something immediately to the plot consideration, which we haven’t gotten to yet. Tohru’s father insists he’s taking her back to the dragon world because she’s interfering where she shouldn’t. But no one seems to care that Fafnir, Lucoa, and even what’sherface, the frenemy who eats a lot, are all there. Hell, they banished Kanna to this world. What was that about, then? That’s not really the reason her father is pissed. But you probably knew that already.
Five of Vessels
Kobayashi is the one with the most obvious job, but Tohru takes on work as well. The fives are usually difficult in each suit, or at least troubling in a small way. Here, one vessel has shattered and others are overturned. But the birds are flying away as though they’ve been freed. So when something goes wrong, it could be allowing us an opportunity to do something else, instead. Kobayashi doesn’t seem to mind her job, but it’s certainly not doing anything for her. Tohru represents a chance to escape it, to have something else to do with her time. And, at the end, we see Kobayashi slip right back into her shitty repetitive life when Tohru disappears. Once that one vessel breaks, you can’t climb back into it, even if the impetus is gone. Kobayashi and Tohru have meddled in each other’s lives. There’s no going back, even if material circumstances seem to “go back to normal.”
The Love Plot
Three of Swords
There’s another extremely relevant card. It’s almost self-explanatory, in a way. Ow, my heart, it is stabbed. In this deck the heart has an eye, and that eye weeps onto a rose. Things aren’t great, are they? Tohru’s original desire for Kobayashi keeps getting put on the back burner. They become a family, but that romantic love is still sort of there. But is it a result of obligation? In that case, the crying is about the romance being a false start, a red herring distracting everyone from the important family life they’re building up. If the love isn’t because of an obligation, then it’s just sort of sublimated and rebuffed. And of course, lastly, the series pulls no punches and reminds us that Tohru will outlive Kobayashi. So like Lafiel and Jinto, Tohru and Kobayashi are in an asymmetrical relationship where one is pretty much guaranteed to die first. It’s the tragedy at the end of every love story: one of them will die and leave the other. That’s enough to cry about.
The Dragon’s Nature Plot
Ten of Swords
Yet another freaky card. Like we saw earlier, talking about a nine, the ten is about the end and a new beginning. This person is dead — hella dead — but the book on the ground implies something could come from this loss. Swords are intellectual, about the swift-moving mind. So everyone in the show are talking themselves into things they don’t need to. Tohru worries about a future that isn’t showing up; her father wants her back and shames her with threats about that future; Kobayashi isn’t used to doing much of anything and, in miniature, does one of those “I guess it’s her decision” moments before finally pulling her shit together. The card is about rejection, one of the strongest pains we can feel that’s intellectual. We construct a relationship, which is, after all, just an idea. There’s no rope that connects two people. When we’re rejected, one person reveals the illusion of the idea to the other. We rely on these ideas as though they’re solid, but they’re not. We have to keep initiating them. We have to push against the decay of the idea by remaking it all the time. That’s true of any relationship. Kobayashi get struck by the ten of swords, and realizes she has to put in the effort. Tohru had been, but Kobayashi — she realizes — had been coasting. Happily, there’s no more of that.