Asobi Asobase -workshop of fun-
Episode 4

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Asobi Asobase -workshop of fun- ?

Only four episodes in, we might have already found the best episode of Asobi Asobase. At least, that's what I think as someone with a 12-year-old's sense of humor. Then again, these characters are in middle school, so maybe that's what you need to make it through this show. Asobi Asobase takes its butt jokes as far as they can possibly go this week—into the realm of art.

But let's deal with the two middle installments first before we dig into the meat of the episode. The wrestling-focused "Illegal Occupation" didn't work so well for me, so it's a good thing it was brief. That said, it did involve the hilarious revelation that Olivia once wanted to be a sumo wrestler. "Pots and Kettles" was still pretty funny, with its focus on Hanako's insecurities. (She really was the star this week.) Chisato reveals that her friend works at a school where she teaches one of the "Four Lords of Pastimers." This girl turns out to be named after the other meaning of the word, "Pleasure-Seeking," since it has more to do with how much sex she has with students from the boys' school. Hanako is all ready to put this rich ganguro girl into her "dumb sl*t" category until she reveals that not only is she smarter than all of them, she's also better at their pastime games. In spite of all this resentment from the Pastimers Club, she's pretty nice to them and seems to get along well enough that they remark on her candor after she leaves. I hope we see more of her, because I found myself taking a shine to her too. She could really liven up the dynamic among our leads.

Still, it was the outer two mini-episodes, "Lower Body Lasers" and "Butt Play," that made episode 4 legendary. First of all, I love the way that Asobi Asobase creates continuity between its gags—in this case, creating a whole episode around the idea that Hanako thinks shogi is a sport played with butt lasers. It helps to justify the full-length episode format. I'm not sure this week's craziness would have worked as well if we'd had to wait a few weeks in between these two parts. This episode perfectly sets up its already-insane joke in the first few minutes and then just keeps pushing the envelope further and further as we go forward. It's hilarious enough on its own that Hanako thinks shogi is about butt lasers, but it's even funnier when we get the full explanation of why she thinks this. And then on top of that, we hear Maeda's story of why he can do this absurd thing. Asobi Asobase can't just let a weird thing be weird; it has to build it up into a much bigger joke.

I also love the way that these girls' "shitposter" personalities keep developing. Now we've learn just how deep Kasumi's nerdiness goes: she writes Harry Potter slash fiction in her spare time. It looks like Harry with another Hogwarts student that's some kind of cross between Draco and Neville, probably an OC to keep the shot from looking too familiar. There are a few more cultural references here that might fly over the heads of American viewers. Chisato's mention of "Big Sight" is the convention center where Comiket takes place, reinforcing that she's a closet otaku herself; as Michelle of This Week in Anime put it on Twitter, she's basically the "mythical Tumblr teacher who ships Johnlock." Then there's the title that Hanako proposes for Kasumi's fic. Crunchyroll's subs translate this as "Anal Bum Cover" but it's closer to "Please Save My Butt," a reference to the anime Please Save My Earth, and Chisato's horrified reaction is due to her love for that series. Lastly, you can probably figure this one out from context clues, but the place Maeda suggests going to with Vaseline is the Shinjuku gayborhood, Nichome, which boasts the highest concentration of gay bars in the world.

Maeda is key to this episode's success, standing out in this group of shitposting teens with his good-natured sincerity. And yet he manages to be the most ridiculous character, and not just because of his laser butt. He is so slavishly devoted to Hanako that he'll do whatever she asks, joining in on her games no matter how little he understands them. Even when Asobi Asobase brings in a contrasting character type, he has to stretch his unique appeal as far as possible. I doubt this is the last we'll see of him or his magic butt, if Asobi Asobase knows what's good for it.

At some point, I just want to stop analyzing this episode and let it take me for a ride. I want to be best friends with whoever thought up the idea of a laser cannon butt, not to mention Maeda's complicated backstory behind it. (His tale also draws on preexisting stories—about aliens "anally probing" abductees—but takes the pitch to its stupidly logical conclusion.) Taking things to a level where he destroys toilets with every bowel movement is some real dedication to your butt jokes. If Asobi Asobase can keep up this momentum, it could stand as one of the classic anime comedies. Episode 4 is one of the funniest and strangest things I've ever seen. My brain, and Maeda's butt, may never recover.

Rating: A+

Asobi Asobase -workshop of fun- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a Ph.D. student in musicology, who recently released a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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