Clean Freak! Aoyama kun
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Clean Freak! Aoyama kun ?
Previously, I thought Clean Freak! Aoyama kun was like Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto combined with a sports anime. This week, we ditch the sports entirely and add elements of Food Wars! and Detective Conan, with a bit of fantasy for good measure. While these moments are quirky and interesting, there are no real laugh-out-loud moments this week. I blame this undercurrent of anxiety on a show that doesn't quite know what it wants to be.
Episode four introduces us to Aoyama's classmate Narita, whose whole shtick is that he's also a germophobe but unlike Aoyama, he doesn't want anyone to know—the better to keep them from using it against him. It's a bit of a shallow premise, considering that Aoyama's classmates are very respectful of his germophobia, making Aoyama exempt from things that they know would bother him, like suspecting him of stealing filthy gym clothes for instance. Instead, Narita gets the worst of both worlds, coping with his germophobia while receiving zero support from others. This episode gives us a pretty good handle on Narita as a character, but it still doesn't make him very compelling. For a guy so smart that his gaming handle is “Smart” (ugh), he makes decisions that feel stupid and convoluted, almost as if they're just there to drive the plot.
While Aoyama and Narita engage in clean freak activities like (allegedly) competitive cooking and solving mysteries in the real world, they're also elite gamers in a fantasy fictional one. I don't know how Aoyama organizes his schedule so he can be a top-notch soccer player, clean the entire school, and still have the leisure time to become a dedicated hardcore gamer. Clearly there was no time for soccer today—minus one joke in the gaming sequence and a brief after-credit scene, the sports element of this sports anime was fully eradicated. Even stranger, Aoyama has an alternate personality in the gaming world that's the exact opposite of who he is in real life. While I love the constant shifting between goofy chibi selves and realized character forms, this personality shift is jarring and underexplored. After four episodes, I wanted to feel like I knew Aoyama, but the show is throwing new hobbies, talents, and even behaviors at me without much explanation.
In conclusion, what is Clean Freak! Aoyama kun really about? Is it about a talented soccer player who struggles with germophobia, a top-tier gamer who struggles with germophobia, or even a master chef who struggles with germophobia? Or is this show not about Aoyama at all, but various classmates who use him as a sounding board to reflect on their own issues? This show has demonstrated that it can do a lot of things decently—from cooking jokes to gaming jokes—but with such a weak foundation that veers so quickly from topic to topic, it doesn't become either gut-bustingly funny or sweetly sincere. When the entire show is finished, I look forward to reflecting on what I actually ended up watching. Was it mostly sports, school life, hobbies, psychological compulsions, or something else? It's too soon to tell.
Clean Freak! Aoyama kun is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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