Thoughts on Asobi Asobase

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This series really climbed up. I’m proud of its commitment to excellence. For those unaware, as this series was airing, its place on the MAL forums put it right around the top-thousand in terms of average rating. As of now, it’s nearing the top-three-hundred. That’s quite the jump from currently airing to finished airing.

Alas, the series will likely go down gradually in score as time goes on, when the hoards of eager fanatics rating it with tens have been waded through and the people not so absorbed in its insanity begin to rate it without such fervor. Even so, top-three-hundred is pretty good, especially for a comedy series. Is it worth the watch? Depends on your type of humor.

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What makes this series fairly distinguishable from others is that it’s like a twisted mix of a number of other comedy series: NichijouD-Frag!Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan, and others. Its spirited excessiveness is reminiscent of the first, the way it categorizes characters by archetype is like the second, and its incredibly vulgar and amoral approach matches the third. This third aspect is what I enjoyed most about the series, as I tend to be a fan of dark comedies/humor. Many characters are self-serving, willing to manipulate/threaten others, and are constantly tolerating everyone else rather than enjoying their participation. It’s a very complex situation of relationships predicated by many different factors, factors that are, on occasion, dropped from existence.

For example, the entire point of this series is that one character, who is awful at English, wants to befriend another who is “from America” (she isn’t) so that she can be good at English. This plays out as one would expect for the first few episodes, where she’s constantly badgering her about it and the faker keeps making excuses. Eventually, however, the “friendship” (loose term) ends up overriding the central point, transforming it into an aloof “Living everyday life” type set-up that further encourages the abnormal occurrences that make this series shine. Whether or not this is a problem depends on whether or not one expects any serious development from this series, which they shouldn’t. It’s essentially dumb fun; dumb fun done right, from my perspective, though my tastes can differ somewhat from the norm. This also isn’t to say Asobi Asobase is constantly hitting the right spots.

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Something that is to be splendidly applauded, though, is the vocal performances of those behind the characters. Extra props to Hina Kino as Hanako, the absolute MVP of any character for her immensely over-the-top shrieks that fit her character perfectly. There was a great variety of back-and-forth between characters that were aided by lifelike (in this reality) responses that ruminate in the comedic exaggeration of the situation, though there were times where I felt it did try a tad too hard. Particularly in the first few episodes, wacky, creepy faces tended to be the only answer to anything. Thankfully, that ended after the first few episodes.

Animation was also fairly good, with a nice display of different art styles that aided in the comedic fuckery that constantly made me question what was coming next. While I wouldn’t call this series “pretty,” the animation quality for various jokes were typically expressive and in some instances impressive. Could’ve done without the sexualization of fourteen-year-olds, but that’s Japan for you.

What surprised me the most about this series is that it had some wholesome tricks up its sleeve, particularly early on. The three main girls who make up the Pastimers’ Club have a really strong bond by the end of the series (though noted within the series as as fragile as a stick). One can simply tell by the body language of the girls, they way they interact with one another, and the chemistry they have in peril or in each other’s ineptitude that speaks volumes to me. Even the Occult Club member, who is painted as a freak, gets a little development and has a recurring and good relationship with the three main girls. Some of the humor here is rather dark, but it’s not so cruel that these characters are openly evil by nature; they’re still essentially kids. Kids do dumb shit, say dumb shit, think dumb shit, but are normally good when it counts. Normally. Right?

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But it is the comedy that is the make-or-break factor of this series. For me, all I can say is that I laughed at the series. A few occasions, but it was enough to say that when I didn’t laugh, I was amused by a number of situations that occurred. I laughed when a baby groped Hanako’s chest and, with an adult male voice, stated, “Flat.” I laughed when Olivia’s butler(?) got down on all-fours and begged the vice principal to allow the club’s inappropriate video to be aired at the school’s cultural festival, only to have a laser shoot from his ass, making a hole in the door to the room. I laughed when Hanako provided instructions as to how to approach a threat, advising them all to approach in different directions; when they all went straight for it, Olivia simply commented “I wasn’t paying attention.” Bizarre, unexpected, though not totally coocoo. Asobi Asobase occasionally escapes reality for some very odd possibilities, but for the most part its grounded by the more natural attempts at aloof, amoral comedy. Those who don’t care for that need not apply.

A negative review initially turned me off from watching this series immediately. After a slight boost from a friend, I decided to give this show a go, and I definitely don’t regret it. It isn’t my favorite comedy and I don’t think it’s anywhere close to the anime that had a strong impact on me, but Asobi Asobase is funnier than most, when it actually decides to be funny. Add to it great vocal performances, eccentric animation tactics, and a (small) dose of wholesomeness, and one has a surprisingly endearing, if not entertaining show about cute girls doing very strange things.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

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