Clean Freak! Aoyama kun
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Clean Freak! Aoyama kun ?
I guess it's time to stop describing this oddball comedy as a soccer anime. This time on Clean Freak! Aoyama kun, our hero tried his (carefully gloved) hand at basketball. Unfortunately, much like the titular character in “Odagiri-san Can't Get It In,” the humor often misses its mark. In an episode that takes the form of one big knock-knock joke with no punchline, the pacing is quick, but it just couldn't stick the landing. Stay for some much-needed Aoyama character development, but be prepared for it all to be one big misunderstanding.
Meet Odagiri Mio, the latest of Aoyama's classmates to get her own episode. A beautiful and popular girl in the freshman class, Odagiri has the charisma to easily approach Aoyama and ask him to be her shooting coach. With a few vague pieces of advice from Aoyama (who is also a basketball whiz of course), Odagiri solves the problem in the episode's title pretty quickly. Even so, Odagiri credits Aoyama with solving her scoring problem and pats him on the shoulder in gratitude. The only difference between this interaction and literally every other in the series is that Aoyama doesn't seem to mind at all.
For the rest of the episode, Aoyama makes an effort to do things like high five Odagiri, eat food she's prepared for him, and even arm wrestle. It's the most agency we've seen from Aoyama in the anime so far—usually, he merely reacts to people who want something from him. And even though rumors (propagated by one bespectacled gentleman) are swirling that Aoyama and Odagiri are an item, Odagiri remains blissfully ignorant, simply happy to spend more time with her coach. Perhaps since every single guy on the basketball team has a crush on her and treats her nicely nonstop, she's immune to thinking there's anything unusual about gestures that other people would consider uncommonly romantic.
As Aoyama initiated one type of physical touch after another, the episode seemed to take the traditional form of a joke, in which three similar events pile up before the reveal of how they all fit together in a punchline. However, that punchline never arrived. There's no explanation for why Aoyama can touch Odagiri and nobody else. I kept picking up on what I thought were hints (like when the basketball guys mentioned Odagiri wears a very distinctly-scented shampoo), but it never came to fruition. And even as Aoyama's own fanclub practically disbanded on a rumor, it was clear to the audience what was going on. Just in case though, Aoyama's gamer alter-ego San-chan came out to loudly vocalize his thoughts. It felt like dumbing down the storyline for an audience that didn't need it spelled out so plainly.
In the end, Aoyama's number one stalker Moca falls even deeper in love with him after coming to the conclusion that “Aoyama-kun has always wanted to do these things” and with Odagiri, he finally can. I don't know how she's thrilled instead of disheartened considering there's clearly a special bond between Aoyama and Odagiri that nobody else has—even if it's something platonic, this still elevates Odagiri to the role of his closest friend instead of Moca. In some ways, the rumor that Aoyama and Odagiri were getting close was not a big misunderstanding, because they do have this unexplained bond through physical touch. Odagiri's a good sport about it, but she's the only person whose motives don't seem skewed to force a conclusion. The silver lining is that this is the most significant character development Aoyama has had, both through his deliberate agency and his effort to overcome his phobia just a little bit. This comedy has a lot more to work with than just poking fun at severe germaphobia. If Aoyama loses his “clean freak” tendencies gradually with the help of his friends and classmates, I won't feel like I've wasted my time.
Clean Freak! Aoyama kun is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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