Asobi Asobase seemed like just another slice-of-life series on the surface, but there's something strange going on under its pastel facade. This week, Nick and Micchy share their appreciation for this oddly hilarious gem.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.
You can read our weekly coverage of Asobi Asobase here!
Sup Nick, it's summer, which means hot boiling satanic weather, ice cream out of the tub, and most importantly, relaxing anime about cute girls doing cute things.
And by "cute girls" I mean "horrible gremlins" and by "cute things" I mean pee jokes.
Nonsense, these girls are nothing but pure, nonthreatening, totally family-friendly middle schoolers.
Just look at this moeblob! Okay, maybe just a regular blob. (Tho if you ask me, this face is the height of moe.)
So yeah, Asobi Asobase is the latest in the burgeoning trend of Anime Girls Acting Like Total Piles Of Shit, and it's perhaps the most intense and ambitious entry yet.
And by "ambitious", I mean it's on a mission to destroy the very definition of what constitutes a human face.
It comes in the wake of that other anime comedy about girls being utter pieces of shit, Pop Team Epic
, which also laid waste to the concept of faces.
But where Pop Team Epic was transgressive down to its format, Asobi Asobase just goes for as out-there gags as possible. Rather than absurdity, this show specializes in dumb toilet humor, where nothing is too absurd or crass, and it's great.
Its modus operandi is to take what seems like your average cute girls in a school club show and layer on as many mean, filthy, and absurd twists until the entire premise breaks in half.
The result is more often than not a goddamn riot.
It's not nearly as subversive as PTE, but it has its own charm in just how singlemindedly it pursues the dumbest and weirdest punchlines possible, dedicating a staggering amount of artistry to crafting some of the ugliest imagery.
Going into the show, all the promo artwork made it appear to be Every Cute Girl Thing Ever. Which I sometimes like! But what we got was so much better. At its core is the cast of oddballs: Hanako, the ojou-sama character who's a juvenile memelord; Kasumi, who in every other anime would be the straight-laced glasses character but is actually a fujoshi
weirdo; and Olivia, the foreign transfer student who isn't so foreign and only pretends to be for shits and giggles. Throw in a few equally weird supporting characters and you have all the ingredients for a hella good time.
My favorite is definitely Maeda-san. Not only can he fire lazers out of his butt thanks to a random alien abduction (just roll with it), but he's also the most loyal and dedicated person in the whole show.
Having been to the Nichome district of Shinjuku myself, I can tell you that this is no small task he has given himself. The best thing about Maeda is that it's not totally clear what he's even doing there. Supposedly he works for Hanako's family, but rather than being the suave butler character who shows up at convenient moments, his one real talent is being able to shoot a laser out of his butt.
Not the crotch mind you, this is an important distinction.
He's a total non-sequitur of a character, which makes the comedy surrounding him work really well. There have been hyper-competent butler jokes in anime for ages, but Maeda somehow tops them all just by being Brown Eye Cyclops.
On the flip side though, there are some less-than-great elements in Asobi too. Each episode is divided into multiple short segments, and while there's always at least one killer bit in there, there are also vignettes where things can get shitty.
Middle schoolers can be dumb and insensitive, and while the shitlord girls mostly stick to gross-out poop jokes, there are definitely times when their taboo humor slips into outright meanness. Case in point, the skit where the girls badger one of their classmates to find out if she's got a penis, based on an overheard conversation about her junk. And that's super not-cool, even putting aside the implicit transphobia, because you don't just ask people what's in their pants, that's rude. Asobi Asobase generally gets its depiction of middle school girls as horrible shitlords right; it's just especially unfortunate that their insensitivity wasn't challenged in this case, as it is in some episodes.
It's a shitty segment that couldn't end fast enough, and while I guess it's a result of Asobi's dedication to crossing every line it can, it still feeds into stereotypes of trans women being deceitful infiltrators. Between that and another uncomfortable ganguro character in a previous episode, I'm hesitant to give the show a full recommendation. Like there's some absolutely golden comedy here too, but if it's gonna keep dipping into that well...
There are ways to be transgressive without shitting on marginalized groups. Hell, almost every other segment gets that right. For instance, the one where Hanako and Olivia turn out to have no idea how babies are made.
You mean this isn't accurate?
It's actually more like a super robot docking sequence.
But yeah, that's actually a great bit because it pits the trio's jaded asshole natures against their overwhelming naivety, while also taking a jab at poorly-taught health classes and adults who are too skittish to be frank about sex with teenagers.
That sequence is already great, with Kasumi slowly dying inside as everyone else, including the teacher, gets everything blatantly wrong. And then it caps off with that line.
It's a perfect little punchline that shows there's craft in Asobi's construction. Plenty of shows can just hurl toilet humor at the wall to see what sticks, but a good comedian can build up to a gag you didn't even see coming.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't give a shoutout to the translation team working on this show's subtitles because they consistently knock it out of the park.
The localization is GREAT; I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of its weirder turns of phrase.
It's Grade A work that really sells the dialogue at every opportunity, and it's part of why, glaring issues aside, Asobi is easily the funniest show of the season. That's saying something in a season stacked with gag shows, but there's nothing else quite like this experience.
Despite its flaws, I'm glad Asobi Asobase
exists if only for its endless screencappability.
So yeah, while I can't wholeheartedly recommend the show right now, if you enjoy blue humor, ungodly distorted drawings, and can stomach the warts, give Asobi Asobase a try.
Would these faces steer you wrong?