And that’s another category officially added…
It’s not necessarily a great season for anime comedy. In fact it’s pretty much an awful one, with only the carryover Kyoukai np Rinne among the top series really qualifying as a comedy first. Fortunately we have Keppeki! Danshi! Aoyma-kun, which was always enjoyable but has proved itself to be considerably more complex and innovative than it first appeared. This show is both a slow-builder and one that requires considerable attention to uncover its full charms, and that makes it easy to overlook. I largely did, for a while at least.
As you stay with Aoyama-kun, you really come to appreciate the little extra touches it brings to the party – the subtle tweaking to the OP every week, the marvelously clever ED, the use of the epilogue to introduce the next showcase character, the clever meta-humor. Most of all, I think, you come to appreciate how well the unusual narrative structure turns what could have been a one-joke series into something considerably more interesting. Rather than focus on the titular character, the show is built around those in his orbit and how his presence impact them. That’s not to say Aoyama himself isn’t quite an interesting guy (he’s quite a thoughtful take on neuroses, in fact) but this approach gives Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun that much more staying power. Sakamoto desu ga? did this to an extent as well, but I think this series executes it more effectively.
The spotlight this time is on Ozaki Asumu (Morikubo Shoutaro), who we’ve of course seen in the OP and ED (and the end of last week’s episode). He’s a high-school mangaka, author of the bestselling “Save the World” (published in “Gonz”), about a somewhat Gon-looking youth named Matsu Suguru who basically goes around doing what the title says in the company of a magical dog named Darbobble. By all accounts this looks like a pretty boilerplate WSJ series, and it’s doing very well – the three stooges certainly like it, and it’s even been greenlit for an anime adaptation.
Ozaki-kun actually comes off looking pretty good here, at least at first. He’s hard-working and talented, and when a surly teacher draws Moka’s wrath for calling the pound on the stray cats she’s been feeding, it’s Ozaki who both averts disaster for her and saves the cats. But he (like most of the cast) has an unhealthy fascination with Aoyama-kun – in this case it’s his Svengali-like control over his admirers – and decides to write him into “Save the World” as a villain character, “Blue Wizard“. Unfortunately for Asumu-kun this works all too well, and Blue Wizard almost immediately becomes the breakout character (he wins the popularity poll by 4-1 over Suguru).
This is a pretext for some very savvy inside the beltway comedy here, as Ozaki-sensei desperately tries to sabotage Wizard’s popularity, with each effort only making him that much more popular with the fans. When he finally succeeds – by turning him into a cynical playboy – his editor comes down on Ozaki like a ton of bricks, and now the young mangaka must just as desperately try and restore the character to favor. Again, each effort fails miserably with both his focus group (Aoyama’s homeroom class) and the general public, most memorably when he tries to have Wizard team up with the protagonist. Finally he becomes so desperate that he actually tries to ask Aoyama-kun for advice – but it turns out Aoyama doesn’t read “Save the World” (he doesn’t like the artwork).
None of this is Citizen Kane or anything, but it’s clever and dumb in that way really good anime comedies often are. This is another one of those series that really seems built to work better in anime than manga form, a common syndrome with comedies. The writing is smart to begin with, and director Ichikawa Kazuya and Studio Hibari take advantage of the possibilities of the medium to really elevate the material. What seemed like a one-joke premise at first turns out to be a series that employs a different comic style nearly every week, and most of them to good effect. Every anime seasons needs shows like Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun, and I’m sure glad Summer 2017 has at least one.