The importance of Kanna in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
(There are spoilers here, if you care.)
I'm not generally one for child characters. It's all too easy for a show to make them either grating or too sugar-sweet (and sometimes both at once), and if we're being honest most children are not infrequently brats. So when MaiDragon (to use its common abbreviation) introduced Kanna, I didn't initially think very much of her, especially since she was presented as sort of a joke. By the end of the show, my view had shifted and I now think that in many ways Kanna is the emotional lynchpin of the show, the point and character around which the central issues of the show revolve.
Kanna did not make Kobayashi and Tohru a couple, or even perhaps a family; they would have gotten there in the end even without her presence. But Kanna was the catalyst that crystallized the family into existence earlier than it might otherwise have formed and then made it obvious to us. Kanna was the force that pushed Kobayashi to make significant moves to recognize that family; the move to a larger apartment, the move to leave work earlier and to make time in her life for Tohru and Kanna (as exemplified especially in episode 9, the school sports festival episode). And in the final (TV) episode, it's my view that Kanna is a major force that pushes Kobayashi to recognize how much she misses Tohru. Without Kanna there to put burdens on Kobayashi that constantly remind her of Tohru's absence, I think Kobayashi might have quietly slid back into her pre-Tohru life; not because she really liked it, but just because it was the path of least resistance.
All of this leads to the emotional resolution of the series, where Kobayashi takes Kanna and Tohru to meet her parents. This is the point where Kobayashi implicitly takes into her heart that she's part of a family, even if it's an unusual one. The family may have formed quietly, but this is where it's officially acknowledged, even if no one says it out loud, and Kanna is at the heart of it.
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid is one of two shows I watched this year that are clearly in large part about family (Alice & Zoroku is the other). It's about the accommodations you make to be in a family, and the changes that happen to you and others. More than its comedy, more than its amusing characters, more than its fun animation, this is why it's very likely to stick in my mind, and Kanna with it.
(This is part of the 12 Days of Anime for 2017.)