Asobi Asobase -workshop of fun-
Episode 7

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Asobi Asobase -workshop of fun- ?

One of the things I love about Asobi Asobase is the staying power of its jokes. It would be easy for the show—like so many gag anime before it—to just forget about what happened in the previous episode. (And there are certainly elements like that, such as Olivia's bangs having grown back to normal. Maybe they just grew really fast.) But overall, Asobi Asobase makes it clear that even its most outrageous jokes continue to have consequences in its world, and it's funnier for that commitment.

At the same time, it can also make some running gags feel more lazy. I love references to Kasumi's slash-fiction-writing, but this week's installment based on it, "Weirdo GO," didn't really add much that we haven't already seen, except that Kasumi is a little kinkier than we might have thought. Or Hanako is, depending on how you view her reading of that scene. A guy getting his tongue stuck on duct tape? What?) What elevated this gag was showing how Kasumi's learned her lesson from last week after bursting in on Hanako destroying her robo-boyfriend. Asobi Asobase builds on its past jokes in a way that reveals new funnier edges to them.

Asobi Asobase also lets some of its gags flow right into each other. The main example this time is the case of the "Banana Papers," which sounds like this show's version of the Burn Book. What seems like a straightforward operation—sneak into the Student Council room when no one is around, find the book, and leave—is of course taken to the most ridiculous lengths by the Pastimers. And it's not Hanako's fault this time, though it's not like she doesn't have her own silly contribution: training a stag beetle named Fantômas to pick locks. (The beetle even gets his own training montage, complete with suspiciously familiar music.) Kasumi adds her own goofiness too, insisting on dressing up as a "Phantom Thief." Their plan is so elaborate that it has to stretch across two installments: one for the set-up, one for the aftermath. What makes this so much funnier is how anticlimactic their heist turns out; the book is hiding in plain sight on the shelves. As Fantômas flies over to get it, they realize that they could've just picked it up themselves.

I hope the "Banana Papers" come back, because the book really puts a twist on the story's insanity. Until this point, I thought the Student Council President wasn't aware of how sadistic she comes off, or that she just had a vendetta against the Pastimers Club. But the book of her compiling every student's minor crimes alongside petty gossip paints her in a new light. The scene where the Pastimers leaf through the book gets some good laughs too, like how Hanako turns out too be behind basically every single thing they've been written up for. (Of course.) There's also another crack about Olivia's B.O.—a pretty stale joke at this point—that turns into another one of the show's ironic "heartwarming" scenes. It plays out completely sincere, but ends with the girls being stupid enough to leave the book behind while running off to get ice cream. For Aozora's part, I'm guessing she didn't expect the Pastimers to be so stupid as to just leave it sitting out, so I wonder what she would have done if they had gotten to her entries. Fortunately, their carelessness lets her remove the pages on herself and confiscate the book for future blackmail material. (And at this point, it's no mystery what secrets she removed about herself.)

The best segment is easily the portion titled "Boobie Tragedy." Finally, a boob joke that seems aimed at people who actually have boobs. If you're a well-endowed girl, you're familiar with the dilemma of shirts that feel like they fit everywhere except in the chest area. The best part is when Kasumi describes logos cracking under the boob pressure as hearing them scream "NO MORE!" Of course, putting the cherry on top of all this fun is Hanako's reaction, writhing in jealousy and even responding to the logo remark with how she "longs to hear those death throes." It's to the point that I almost wonder if Hanako's disastrous attempt to "save" her shirt was intentional, since how her screw-ups keep drawing more attention to Kasumi's boobs. With any luck, Kasumi got her chance to enact her revenge on Hanako's yukata.

Even in possibly the most "down-to-earth" of its segments, Asobi Asobase still stretches its characters' cluelessness to the limit. Olivia suggests that Kasumi wear the shirt "as a skirt," with her visualizing a method all teenage girls are familiar with: tying the sleeves around your waist as a belt, and letting the rest of the shirt hang down. It's not meant to be a substitute for a skirt, but of course the other girls in the room take it that way, finagling it into a kind of diaper that's just humiliating to wear. Whatever Asobi Asobase does, it can't let its heroines triumph over their circumstances. Everything has to be as cringe-inducing as possible.

Asobi Asobase is in kind of a middle-ground between slice-and-life and gag-based comedies. It revolves around short silly scenarios that are largely self-contained, but there's just enough continuity to occasionally create larger stories, and so many of the stories are rooted enough in real-life high school woes to give it a slightly more "grounded" feeling than other gag shows, even though it's always at risk of launching into the stratosphere instead. That aspect is part of what makes the show so fun. You never know where it will fall on the scale of "relatable" to "mind-bendingly ridiculous," but wherever it lands, it will surely be funny.

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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