Clean Freak! Aoyama kun
Episodes 1-3

by Lauren Orsini,

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Clean Freak! Aoyama kun ?

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Clean Freak! Aoyama kun ?

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Clean Freak! Aoyama kun ?

Soccer (or football) is one of anime's most enduring topics. Ever since Akaichi no Eleven, which aired in 1970—and whose art style Clean Freak! Aoyama kun pays tribute to in its ED—stories of determined young soccer athletes have captured anime fans' imaginations. That means any new entry in the genre needs to uniquely stand out to survive. Aoyama kun, which deftly dribbles between situational comedy and play-by-play sports, certainly has that potential.

In its first three episodes, Clean Freak! Aoyama kun has already differentiated itself from contemporaries like Giant Killing and DAYS. Each episode consists of two loosely-connected halves, with one being the “soccer part” and the other the “sitcom part,” though the order in which they occur is negligible. On the comedy side, we're seeing a mix between the silly and shocking perfectionism of Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto and the personality-driven comedy of Tanaka-kun is Always Listless. As with Tanaka, main character Aoyama generates the bulk of the comedy through his personality quirk: extreme germophobia. As a coping mechanism, he's developed a uniquely skillful soccer strategy to avoid touching other players, and this makes him the single most valuable player on the Fujimi soccer team. The physical comedy generated by his style is where the Sakamoto comparison comes in.

But Aoyama can't carry the anime by himself. As we saw with Tsukushi in DAYS, one dynamic player isn't enough to make a show worth watching. However, Aoyama's colorful cast of teammates and admirers have already shown a lot of potential. Aoyama's protective and volatile childhood friend Moka, armed with a sticker-and-nail-emblazoned baseball bat, makes a dynamite team manager in more ways than one. Takechi, a rival team's captain who is forever attempting to recruit Aoyama while taking any opportunity to show off his six-pack, is a perfect storm of gag and sports show elements. This came to a head most recently when he reflected meaningfully on his middle school DAYS playing soccer with Aoyama—while in the midst of an eating contest food coma. To top it off, he shares a voice actor (Takehito Koyasu) with Dio Brando for an added comedy element. Aoyama's goofball teammates haven't been deeply explored yet, but I have high hopes from reading their brief biographies in an earlier ANN article on the show.

On the soccer side of things, I'm relieved to see that the referee actually issues cards for foul play—something I've seen overlooked in some sports shows. I like my anime sports larger than life but with an element of believability, so even though Aoyama has some serious moves, and even though everyone transforms into chibi form at a moment's notice, it's nice to see that the show actually abides by the rules of the game. Game time is short to make room for all the comedy, but it still comes off as exciting enough to illustrate why Aoyama loves the sport even more than he loves seeing his reflection in a well-polished school desk.

As the show continues, I'll be hoping for more character exploration (everyone we've met so far has been worthy of a recurring role, and I hope this continues), and more juxtaposition of these two warring parts of Aoyama's personality. This is certainly an unusual entry in the soccer anime genre and, thanks to its comedy-sports combo, a memorable one too.

Rating: B+

Clean Freak! Aoyama kun is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.

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