Clean Freak! Aoyama kun
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Clean Freak! Aoyama kun ?
And just like that, Clean Freak! Aoyama kun is done and dusted, if you'll pardon the pun. In the end, it proved to be a middling show, neither rising to the top nor sinking to the bottom of what the summer season had to offer. It was a quirky school sitcom that parodied others of its genre without ever fully finding its own voice. That's my impression, and even the final episode's last-ditch effort to turn on the waterworks isn't going to sway it.
Much like with the final episode of Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, there's a threat that our protagonist, who has always seemed too fantastic and talented to fit in, is leaving forever. This episode is told mainly from Zaizen's perspective, as he reminisces about his long-gone mother. “There's no guarantee he'll be with us to the end,” he reflects, recalling that he could never really comprehend what his mother was thinking either. The fact that Aoyama is even on this no-name soccer team is unlikely, a mere sitcom premise for an okay-ish comedy. It's logical not only to Zaizen, but the viewer, that Aoyama will move on to something better.
Zaizen's worries about both Aoyama and his mom come to a head during an especially challenging soccer game, the preliminary qualifier. The opposition is characterized by two big dudes who specialize in defense. This is one of those subplots in which Clean Freak! Aoyama kun achieves an almost-but-not-quite sports anime vibe. In a typical sports show, we'd hear all about how these two opponents perfected their technique, their relationship to one another, and why they have as much incentive to win as our protagonists, making our heroes' inevitable triumph that much more bittersweet. But these two aren't characters; I don't even remember their names. They're a plot device, an obstacle for Zaizen and his team to overcome, and that's all we have time for even with the intro song cut out. It works, but it's yet another reminder that this isn't the sports show I originally thought it was going to be.
After the obvious win, where are we now? There's a twist at the end designed with too-obvious intent to tug at your heartstrings. Aoyama makes a decision about whether to stay or go with his typical deadpan delivery—perhaps this show's one consistency throughout a cache of episodes that ran wildly different gamuts of cast, plot, and setting. It feels like we're back where we started, and even though I've spent 12 episodes with these characters, I still don't know them beyond their most superficial, if occasionally hilarious, personality traits. Clean Freak! Aoyama kun has its high points—when it's finding tasteful humor in the quirks (germophobia, OCD) that make us human or when it's parodying another genre we're probably familiar with (even if the original always did it better). But it also has its low points—characters and settings that are far too boilerplate to be memorable, and for roughly each zinger we get a joke that falls flat. It had its funny moments, but in the end, Clean Freak! Aoyama kun never fully figured out what it wanted to be.
Clean Freak! Aoyama kun is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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