3 Reasons To Watch: Asobi Asobase

#1 Vulgar comedy done well

Asobi Asobase is one of those anime with a deceptive marketing campaign attached to them. Spoiling that naturally ruins part of the fun, but there really is no other way to talk about the show without crossing that hurdle. On the outside, the show presents itself as a saccharine, emotional story. Its all pastel colors and tender-looking characters. In reality, Asobi Asobase is a loud, vulgar, and often surreal comedy series.

PHOTO: Hanako being dragged off into the darkness by a dark specter, reaching out to an unseen person. She pleads "Why have you betrayed me?"

The charade only barely makes it past the intro song. Seconds into the first episode, it already begins to throw around weird slapstick sequences and raunchy jokes. Even once you start adapting your expectations, Asobi Asobase keeps finding new ways to keep hitting you out of the left field. Nothing is too awkward, too weird, or too inappropriate.

Usually, I am not a big fan of this kind of humor. However, like Panty & Stocking before it, Asobi Asobase succeeds in shaping the kind of atmosphere where stupid jokes just work perfectly. It also has to be said that the anime always puts in a lot of effort to present its jokes well. Even something as low-brow as a fart gag is here turned into an elaborate—borderline iconic—scene. I still see segments of Asobi Asobase make the rounds online, years after the show concluded.

#2 Unusual characters

Besides being as crass and weird as possible, Asobi Asobase also acts as a parody on the typical slice-of-life series. It follows high school girls Kasumi Nomura, Hanako Honda, and Olivia. The three of them stumble their way into an unusual friendship, which they decide to cement by starting a club together. A club literally about wasting time.

PHOTO: Kasumi and Hanako pleading Olivia to kill them.

All the girls appear to follow well-known tropes on the outset, but these are given so many twists that they become hardly recognizable. Olivia is a blonde-haired foreign exchange student, but it quickly turns out that she’s half-Japanese and has never spent a day outside Japan. Her Engrish is all an act and her pretty looks obfuscate a deadly BO issue and rotten personality. This lands her in trouble when she’s coerced into teaching Kasumi some English, who turns out to be quite intimidating and fiercely competitive in spite of her unassuming, geeky appearance.

Honoka brings the group together. She is a wealthy heiress to a major Japanese family, which you wouldn’t guess considering how plain-looking she is. While she doesn’t have the regal presence of an ojou-sama, Honoka is no less vain. She tries incredibly hard to be special and draw attention, while at the same time being deeply envious of those who get the attention she craves in more natural ways. A girl who simultaneously talks down to frivolous girls who mess around with boys, only to descend into a fantasy about married life at the slightest hint of male attention directed at her.

All together they make for a curious bunch. A club where the usual tales of charming, adolescent friendship are occasionally replaced with cruel betrayals, borderline-criminal “accidents”, and painful awkwardness.

#3 Phenomenal voice-acting

A final point of praise has to go the quality of the voice-acting. A point that is hammered all the way home by the anime’s fantastic ending song. The OP might keep up the façade of a pleasantly-mellow SOL anime, but the ED “Inkya Impulse” is a VA song consisting of booming, grunge metal from start to end.

PHOTO: Everybody screams in panic as Olivia tries to cut her own hair.

Kasumi, Honoka, and Olivia are voiced respectively by Konomi Kohara, Hina Kino, and Rika Nagae, who all put on stellar performances. Outside of pure quality, what astounded me in the voice work is the range of the actresses. Asobi Asobase is an anime that jumps from one extreme to the next. Any moment a normal conversation might turn into frantic screaming, yet the actresses make it all seem effortless.

Hanako especially knocks it out of the park. As my friend put it “Hina Kino can spin her entire tone and volume around on a dime”. I only knew Kino from a few minor roles before this. Most notably Tiki from the latter seasons of Symphogear and Misato from ERASED. I hope to see more of her in the future, because her work on this anime is nothing short of astounding.

More anime & manga like this

Panty & Stocking: Crass comedy series with frequent surprises.

Nichijou: Surreal high school comedy.

Teekyu: Wildly dysfunctional school club.