The Loneliness of Miss Kobayashi’s Apartment

What continues to surprise me, when I walk down a street at night and catch the corner of a bedroom beyond a window’s curtain, or someone flipping through TV channels from the couch, is the longing I feel for these homes I’ll never be invited into—or, maybe more accurately, for the lives I’ll never live. — Kristen Radtke1

Kobayashi Dragon Maid Tohru

More than the zany antics of Tohru or the endearing naïveté of Kanna, it is Kobayashi’s insights into the aloneness of her apartment that left the deepest impression. After she yields to Tohru’s maid offer, she realizes just how long she had been alone. However, this sentiment is not accompanied by sadness, but pragmatism: she needs a caretaker and a larger space.

Kobayashi Dragon Maid Tohru shower

✤ ✤ ✤

Several years ago, I was living alone in Berkeley. When a new semester arrived, I desperately needed a sublessee to split the rent, and so I found Louise on Craigslist. She was a sociology graduate student with a love for bread machines and climbing; I was an overachieving pre-med busy with academics. Though we had little in common, we would one night bond over a loaf of her moist pot bread. Eventually, we would become great friends, graduate, leave the place, and drift apart.

✿ ✿ ✿

Kobayashi Dragon Maid Tohru doubt
“I’m the doubt within you.”

Kobayashi Dragon Maid Tohru leaves
“I don’t think she’ll come to this world anymore.” […] “I see.”
When Tohru leaves for the other world—after being confronted with the idea that Kobayashi will die eons before her—Kobayashi’s reaction to the dragon maid’s absence is surprisingly muted. Perhaps she has met the change with incredulity and resignation. Or maybe, her blank acceptance is a sign of someone who has seemingly always been aloof, and who is so comfortable by herself, with a loneliness so deeply integrated into her being. A few scenes portray hints of regret, but none is enough to warrant more emotions. With few adjustments, life simply goes on without Tohru.

❁ ❁ ❁

I had been living by myself in Thailand, a country whose culture and language are entirely foreign to me. I would often go through days without any conversation. At nights, I would take strolls and bus rides through this new city. When I returned to my empty apartment, I found comfort in the silence and in owning the space. I loved the solitude.

Still, when my partner finally joined me in Thailand, I missed our intimacy. I missed her.

❀ ❀ ❀

Kobayashi Dragon Maid Emperor Demise
“I won’t approve. Not of something like a human who doesn’t even have the lifespan to live alongside her.”

Of course, though fine without Tohru, Kobayashi is still delighted to see Tohru return to the human world. Together, they somewhat convince Emperor of Demise that their sense of belonging can last despite some fundamental differences—especially in lifespan—between dragons and humans. In the ending sequence, Tohru acknowledges the inevitability of parting, and is content with simply treasuring what they have now.

Kobayashi Dragon Maid Kobayashi Tohru Kanna in apartment

For the most part, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is about two loners who find each other and build a life together. But it is also about appreciating the vast, profound loneliness that separates our more intimate moments.

1. Kristen Radtke, Kristen. “The Loneliness of Longing for Other People’s Apartments.” The New Yorker. 14 February, 2017.

10 thoughts on “The Loneliness of Miss Kobayashi’s Apartment

  1. That’s an interesting way of looking at the series. I didn’t get very far into it but I’ve read a lot of reviews about it and most of them focus on the cute or fun aspects. Thanks for sharing a different point of view.

    1. I think it’s worth just watching the last episode if you don’t particularly feel like grinding through the more episodic middle.

  2. Yeah the last episode cemented it for me as a Good Anime. Kobayashi is not one to show affection, but the directing perfectly conveys her loneliness even if she doesn’t show it herself (or may not realize it)

    1. Yea, definitely. There are two scenes I absolutely adore and both are shown in the post. The first is when Kobayashi washes Tohru on the rooftop. The second shows Kobayashi just sitting there—trying to make sense of things—after Tohru leaves. Her gestures and words are beautifully crafted for exactly the reason you mentioned.

  3. I loved how that episode went. I found it very realistic. The world doesn’t end. When things like that happen, people generally just get on with things no matter how much they’re affected emotionally. Can’t wait for season 2!

    1. I’ve had many people whom I was once close to simply kind of just drop out of my life, especially after I left the US 6-7 years ago. Indeed, life goes on.

      Season 2 will come too, and I can’t wait!

  4. Loneliness is such a strange concept…it’s something we all feel is such different ways at such different moments. I’m a loner, too, and am thus usually satisfied and “at home” being by myself. I find that I experience loneliness, then, after spending time with someone with whom I’m intimate, longing for that person’s company just after they’ve gone away.

    1. I think I feel similarly sometimes—often switching constantly between wanting to be feel alone and longing intimacy. I’ve recently moved twice more: once for a near-month long stint at a regional hospital in another city, and then again to a room closer to the medical center I’m interning at in the urban sprawl. The instability has given me a chance to feel just the right amount of fleeting loneliness.

  5. Tokyo is a lonely city. I think it helps to add a lot of context if you were to visit it and live there by yourself a few days.

  6. “Or maybe, her blank acceptance is a sign of someone who has seemingly always been aloof, and who is so comfortable by herself, with a loneliness so deeply integrated into her being. A few scenes portray hints of regret, but none is enough to warrant more emotions. With few adjustments, life simply goes on without Tohru.”

    This is pretty much it. I’m a loner myself too, and sometimes, when you get too used to the loneliness (just as Kobayashi had), you don’t really react as much as you should, although there’s definitely tinge of sadness inside — it’s just generally harder to express.

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