When I think sports anime, I picture heavy action on the field of battle. I think of strong-willed and well-built anime boys running head first into each other and making amazing shots into goals. In this week’s review of Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun, we’re going to talk about the most amazing episode of soccer anime in history. There’s sports everywhere! Or maybe there’s not, but you’ll have to read on to find out.
Japanese Original Episode Title: 成田くんは秘密にしている
There’s no sports action this week. But this episode is still really great. While normally we follow Aoyama’s escapades, this week’s episode follows Shion Narita, an outwardly agreeable and kind, albeit quiet, classmate of Aoyama. While Aoyama is outwardly a ‘clean freak,’ he is not hiding it from his peers, and for some reason they really like him for it. Narita has a secret. He’s also a ‘clean freak’. However, he believes that the only way to live life is to hide the disorder. He just wants to live a peaceful school life and to seem normal. This parallel reminded me a lot of Kira from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, though Narita is nowhere near as nefarious. He’s actually a really nice guy!
The conflict of the episode revolves around Narita’s struggle to keep his germaphobia a secret from his classmates. This proves to be especially difficult, since everyone seems determined to make Narita’s life miserable. Since he’s so accommodating and afraid of revealing his secret, he goes out of his way to keep it as such, making things more difficult for himself in order to appease his classmates.
There’s a subplot that takes place inside an MMORPG that Narita plays. He’s the leader of a high level guild. His guild-mates invite a new player to join their guild. The new player is a strong hunter and reminds Narita of someone at school, but who?
Episode Highlights & Trivia
Aoyama-kun is turning out to be a very character-driven series. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but there’s a lot of similarities to Haven’t You Heard, I’m Sakamoto. Aoyama isn’t necessarily the main point to follow and each episode seems to focus on a different side character. Aoyama is the catalyst for that character’s own development and it’s less about soccer than about the journey those characters take. Aoyama’s germaphobia is seen as a super power that allows him to succeed in many areas, such as soccer, cooking, cleaning, and more. However, it’s an interesting juxtaposition because it also makes him reserved and seemingly cold (while appearing to be cool). Episode 4 follows Narita, but through his story, we see some of the sad parts of Aoyama’s own life.
The first highlight this week was the cooking contest. Aoyama seems to cause people’s competitive spirit to shine. Narita and Aoyama are both excellent cooks because their germaphobia forces them to only eat what they cook. In their Home Economics period, Aoyama and Narita are assigned to groups and told to cook the menu for the class. This situation grows out of control as the dishes they both cook interrupt classes and bring hungry stomachs from throughout the school to the class. The poor teacher can’t control the hype, and Narita and Aoyama end up cooking pretty much all of the ingredients found at the school. While Narita is disappointed because he thinks Aoyama beat him in a challenge, Aoyama comforts him with a fancy cup of coffee, forcing Narita’s respect.
The second highlight is found within the MMORPG scenes. Narita’s character is popular and powerful; he is leading one of the best guilds in the game. His character’s house is clean, potentially because it reflects how Narita is in real life. The mysterious hunter that joins Narita’s guild, is the opposite of Narita. He’s a loud, emotional, and an incredibly messy guy, but also extremely powerful in the game. Throughout the episode Narita tries to solve the mystery of this player’s identity and the reveal is probably one of the saddest and most interesting things to happen in the series so far.
I really enjoyed this episode. So far, everything had been typical of the sports series, with less of an emphasis on the competition of soccer. This episode made me realize that soccer isn’t even the point of the series. It’s an exploration of characters, utilizing soccer as a plot device. The characters that I found frustrating in the series will most definitely have episodes coming up. Each character’s episode will undoubtedly change my view of that character. There’s a lot of humor in Aoyama-kun, but as the series is progressing, I’m seeing a lot of sadness. Characters put on acts to be who they think they should be, but Aoyama’s teaching them to be themselves at the cost of his own happiness.
Good stuff, friends!
Narita may not end up learning that lesson. His life would be easier if he’d just tell people he was a germaphobe, but pride is a powerful thing. Hopefully, he’ll have a new friend in Aoyama and if that’s any consolation, it may help his stressful life. How did this episode make you feel? Were you disappointed there wasn’t any sports? Do you feel like Narita is justified? Am I overthinking all of this and it’s actually just fun? Let me know below or hit me up on the MANGA.TOKYO forums. – I love talking about this stuff!