Clean Freak! Aoyama kun
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Clean Freak! Aoyama kun ?
Even before it became clear this was going to be an episode about bullying, I knew where it was going. The moment bespectacled Tsukamoto stopped acting like himself, I could sympathetically feel the cold knot in the pit of his stomach. Clean Freak! Aoyama kun is a goofy show, but this week's storyline had some heart behind it. This plotline of friendship and support really tore into the gooey center of what shonen sports anime is all about. Even so, its cheesy comic culmination was lacking in depth and sincerity, so you still can't expect too much from this silly show.
Tsukamoto is your average glasses-wearing goofball. He's voiced by Daisuke Sakaguchi, who you may know as the voice actor for another goofy glasses guy, Shinpachi from Gintama. He's best known for the soccer skills he shows off with his dexterous posterior, but until this week, we didn't know that his callipygian humor is a holdover from the days when he always found himself to be the butt of the joke, pun intended. Back in middle school, he was tormented mercilessly by one ringleader, Kadomatsu, who just so happens to be the captain of the soccer team Kojimi is playing against this episode. Kadomatsu's cocky smirk instantly shows you just how accustomed he is to the unjustly powerful role of bully.
Kadomatsu calls Tsukamoto “statue,” and it makes sense when we see the normally silly “good vibes officer” freeze up every time the opposing captain is near. But rather than coddling Tsukamoto, the team decides to help him face his fear head-on with their support. What finally turns his thinking around is when Sakai observes, “Don't you realize you're turning into a total bore?” and it's like a switch has flipped. Tsukamoto will even stand up to his most fearsome opponent if he can defend his role as the goofiest guy on the team. The triumph is clinched by Aoyama, who tosses Tsukamoto a perfect, goal-earning, butt-level pass. Let's just say that the ladies of Keijo!!!!!!!! would be proud.
“I'm not the old me anymore,” Tsukamoto asserts, but in a way he is. When he joined the middle school team, he was obsessed with butt-related humor, and he still is—the only difference is that he's not going to let anyone keep him from expressing himself. Even when tackling a serious issue like bullying, Clean Freak! Aoyama kun can't help but wink to the audience. This is about helping a friend face his fears, but it's more about maintaining the team's status quo. I loved the way the team came together to support one of their own, but when it was over, Tsukamoto was still a one-joke character, and this development hasn't made him any deeper.
Be sure not to skip the ending theme, which Tsukamoto sings as a solo this time around. The post-credits scene indicates that we're leaving the world of soccer behind next episode in exchange for a manga storyline. Despite its lack of depth, I did enjoy this week's return to the sports anime dynamic, focusing on team rapport and athletic feats. But Clean Freak! Aoyama kun is not really a sports show, and next week's episode could go either way.
Clean Freak! Aoyama kun is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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