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Asobi Asobase -workshop of fun-
Episode 8

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Asobi Asobase -workshop of fun- ?

Hanako continues to be the heart and soul of Asobi Asobase. This is nothing new, but for all three of this week's installments, her ridiculous attitudes and overreactions to everything were the driving force behind the series' drama and humor. It's really hard to pick which of these installments were the best, as they were all hilarious in their own way. And for the first time in a while, they mostly drew on the internal craziness of the Pastimers Club, not involving as many outside characters.

I have a soft spot for the first installment, "Gotta 'Catch' 'em All!", because I've recently jumped back into playing Pokémon Go. Hanako thinks Olivia's playing Pokémon Go too, before she reveals it's instead some strange game based on collecting kawaii bacteria. As weird of a concept as this is, we live in a world where you can buy cutesy plush versions of toxic microbes like black mold, so I guess Olivia's game isn't that far off. Still, the way that Olivia takes such glee in finding all the gross stuff on others—mainly Hanako—is lots of fun. In Pokémon Go, the game can respond to local biomes and weather conditions, but otherwise the spawns are fairly arbitrary. With "Bacteri Go", Olivia's phone has special sensors to pick up on real bacteria in the space around her.

As you know if you paid attention in biology class, we have bacteria everywhere on us, not just where we haven't washed in a while—or in Hanako's case, where our cats decided to rub their butts. There are lots of different kinds of bacteria in our microbiome, both helpful and harmful. Olivia's game seems determined to specifically point out the gross stuff though, allowing her to shame Hanako—but also setting up another "Olivia has B.O." joke once her friends get a hold of her phone. Kasumi, as the most sensible member of the group, actually cleans her stuff, so she's untouchable. I love how in some ways, these girls do fit their own stereotypes—Kasumi is the "smart one" until you remember that she actually has the worst grades. Hanako, the biggest weirdo with no common sense otherwise, inexplicably has the best grades. But at least Kasumi has the common sense to disinfect her desk and probably recognize a cat scratching its butthole when she sees it.

"Divine Revelation" draws on an old joke, which is Hanako's bizarre taste in fashion. Of course, it manages to take this to the nth degree, as Hanako once again overreactions to everything. As ridiculous as Hanako's behavior becomes over this segment, the weird spiraling of her thoughts does reflect how many actual conspiracies are born. It's just funnier, and more revealing, when this happens over something as innocuous as a misinterpretation of Olivia's "virgin killer" description of her outfit. Her absurd literalism allows her to imagine a whole secret war against virgins. I also appreciated the pop culture references to Mad Max and Lupin III (in the form of Not-Zenigata). The very basis of this joke is that Hanako thinks her friends' attempts to say nice things about how she dresses is some sinister cruelty, to force her into buying unflattering clothes. So when you think about it, even before she created a secret anti-virgin conspiracy in her mind, Hanako was already in pretty strange territory.

"The Evil Sugoroku" revolves another pastime game turned ridiculous by Hanako. There are basically two types of sugoroku, but the one that the Pastimers Club plays is similar to the board game Chutes and Ladders. If you didn't grow up playing this like I did, it's a purely luck-based game where the object is to get to the end of the board, but depending on where you land, a ladder could propel you up several levels or a chute could send you sliding back down. (It could be a real rollercoaster ride if you tended to get competitive about board games as a kid.) Their version seems to involve real-life rewards and penalties. Of course, Hanako being the way she is, her "evil" version of the game is all penalties, so we get to see things like Kasumi pretending to pee like a dog, or Olivia scuttling down the hall like a cockroach. It also gives us great lines like "Let's do her the kindness of watching her spirited peeing performance."

This all began in an attempt to test if Olivia is inherently lucky, because she won a game of Memory without ever having to look at the cards more than once. It turns out it's because she used magic trick cards, but Olivia being Olivia, she doesn't reveal that until the end of the episode. It would spare us the hilarious humiliation, after all. This is also the only segment that involves interactions with characters outside the club, including the sadistic Student Council President and the weird over-serious male teacher. He gets to witness the episode's best of its many pop-culture references, as Hanako and Kasumi reenact Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z in their characteristically over-zealous manner. The specter of Maeda also hangs over the edge of a few jokes, with Hanako naming the black mold in "Bacteri Go" after him, not to mention his additions to the sugoroku board. Asobi Asobase knows he's everyone's favorite character, so he'll be there even if he's not physically present.

This is the first episode of Asobi Asobase where it feels like all of its installments are equally solid. I really can't choose between them. I also appreciated that after some mean-spirited jokes in recent episodes at the expense of side characters (like Aozora), they keep things simple, focused, and relatively clean. Of course, there are still plenty of great one-liners about pee, poop, and butts. I guess that's Asobi Asobase's version of "good clean fun." I wouldn't have it any other way.

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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