Home > Asobi ni Iku Yo!, Episode Reviews > Asobi ni Iku Yo! Episode 7 – Hollow Men

Asobi ni Iku Yo! Episode 7 – Hollow Men

So, Asobi ni Iku Yo! had a good episode last week; not a great one, but free of most of the things that have made it annoying of late. The eccentric teenage orphan otaku millionaire heiress wasn’t in it, there wasn’t a whole lot of fan service, and it actually advanced what passes for a story in this show.

Given this show’s habit of changing pace and tone at the drop of a hat, I’m not sure it will stay on this same tone for long, but I have hopes that we’ll at least get one more episode without the gratuitous nudity, cliched characters and oh no beach episode.

Beach episodes are anime shorthand for 'I just don't care anymore'

Rewind, first: the second semester has started, and Eris and the eccentric teenage orphan otaku millionaire heiress have enrolled in Kio’s school, which is odd, because neither of them are the right age, but since when has not making any sense at all stopped this show from doing anything?

Anyway, since Eris wants to be near Kio and the eccentric teenage orphan otaku millionaire heiress wants to be near Eris, they both join his club, the film club. Not wanting to be left out of the running in the usual harem anime race for Kio’s heart, Manami and Aoi also join. Aoi, being a film geek, would seem to be the most likely to actually join such a club, but she’s the most reluctant, apparently only so that Manami can explain that she’ll get to be near Kio more that way.

There's a subplot about the dog counterpart to the Assistroids stealing electronics and causing havoc, which is good for some film homages, if nothing else

This show, for all its flaws, has generally done a good job of letting its characters be themselves (however shallow that may be) and not try to ram jokes down their throats. This episode, for some reason, steps all over its characters to get cheap jokes.

We get eccentric teenage orphan otaku millionaire heiress girl, claiming to be ignorant of Japanese culture for a really bad joke about her taking her social cues from girls’ manga. Now, maybe the people making this show aren’t familiar with actual American manga-obsessed girls, but I can assure you: even if they didn’t know enough about Japanese culture to make such a weird mistake, they would never admit it, because they consider themselves experts on all things Japan.

I hate this so much

So, Kio’s entire harem joins the club, much to the delight of the only two other girls in the club, although they seem interested in Kio themselves. In fact, as they explain, he’s popular with the ladies, because he’s clean, nice and has plenty of potential to be trained to be a decent boyfriend. The fact that he’s an otaku film nerd with no social skills and the tact of a bat to the face is just a delightful quirk, not a deal breaker.

If either of these girls looked more than a few rungs above the bottom of the high school social ladder themselves, I might believe them. This is a harem anime, after all. But still, they raise a huge problem with harem shows in general: there’s no plausible way to make their blandly unattractive, mildly nerdy everyman protagonist someone girls would actually fight over.

On the other hand, this douchy American guy seriously calls his car 'RICEROCKET'. How awesome is that? Too bad RICEROCKET gets destroyed by robot dogs

So we end up with this lame laundry list of desirable characteristics. Nice is the genre standard: the one weak compliment every harem protagonist can get. You know you’re watching a poor series if all the girls can give by way of explanation for their attraction is that he’s ‘nice’. I know anime is wish fulfillment for otaku, but if all teenage girls were looking for in a guy was someone nice and nonthreatening, every computer club member and bandie in school would have girls falling all over him. Football team members would be beating the crap out of them for taking all the hot girls.

And clean? Is that really all they could come up with? I guess they could mean “not perverted”, in which case, Kio’s no prize pick, either. But then again, I guess the girls at school didn’t see all the accidental Eris groping and naked girl sightings he’s been privy to so far.

Here are the two girls from Kio's film club. I can't even remember their names. The one on the right looks like an aficionado of chewing tobacco, though. I didn't think that was allowed in Japanese high schools

I’m going to ignore the fact that girls think they can change a guy, because I think it’s basically a truism that you can’t, and just skip ahead to the thing that bothers me the most: the idea that being a tactless geek is just a quirk, something that’s not really an issue. For one thing, there’s a counterexample to that in this very episode.

Kio tells Aoi he has something important to tell her, and they go out to the beach. Aoi, of course, is anticipating a declaration of his love, but what he wants is to learn how to fight. Being sensitive about the fact that she is a hollow, shallow girl whose only talent is killing, Aoi is mortified, and immediately runs off. This does spark an excellent confrontation between Eris and Aoi, who snaps at the catgirl for being everything she isn’t, but that isn’t what I want to talk about here.

The censoring is really bad in this episode. Can you even tell what this is in such low resolution?

Kio, of course, doesn’t even know what he did wrong. He’s puzzled as to why that would even be something bad to say. And this is someone every girl in the show (except eccentric teenage orphan otaku millionaire heiress girl) wants to be with. It’s either a high school version of the the ‘sitcom dads are all insensitive louts with inexplicably hot wives’ trope, or it’s the show subverting its own message for a quick joke.

Because this is an intentional message of Asobi: it’s trying to normalize otaku behavior. At every opportunity, the show attempts to make being an otaku seem like something normal and socially acceptable, even when this is pointedly not the case.

The girls all borrow swimsuits from eccentric teenage orphan otaku millionaire heiress girl, which turn out to have tail holes cut for Eris in them. This show is classy!

I clearly love anime, or I wouldn’t spend hours every week writing about it. But I can acknowledge that the people who are attracted to it often have a certain mindset. They’re dissatisfied with some aspect of their life, and seek to ignore that dissatisfaction by filling their lives with something else.

Now, that probably describes a majority of the world’s population. But people who love anime (and, I should stress, this includes me) are drawn to it by the opportunity to escape, to turn away from this reality and into a new one, where the rules are different.

That ability to be alien and foreign is one of the powers of animation: it can make the unreal seem plausible. By giving us something familiar enough to be recognizable, but still different enough to not be normal, most animation avoids the frightening anxiety we get from the truly alien. In other words, it’s just different enough to be strange and inviting.

The animators did a really good job of animating the blood droplets from the boys' nosebleeds (nosebleeds being anime shorthand for sexual arousal)

It’s easy to get caught up in these worlds to the exclusion of everything else. It’s easy to forget that there’s another world out there, one that may not be interested in your hobbies, but one you have to live in nonetheless.

So, knowing this, how much more dangerous is it to create a world that doesn’t just embody values otaku are predisposed to like, but explicitly make these values the norm in that world?

Most people who watch anime are aware that it’s not something most people enjoy, or find socially worthy. It’s a tension that anyone who watches anime and is convinced of its value has to live with and find their own way to resolve. But what if there was a world where it was normal, where everyone wanted the otaku?

I’m not saying people are actually watching Asobi and forming a belief that the world really is this way. But I am concerned that, by creating worlds where this tension doesn’t exist, they’re encouraging the people who watch it to not even try to interact with the world hostile to their tastes.

For such a nerdy show, there's not nearly enough attention paid to the film club's gear. I guess the show's creators aren't that interested in live action filmmaking

The majority of anime is wish fulfillment for otaku. I hope everything I’ve written on this site up to this point has made this perfectly clear. But should the people who are making these shows, who cater to the escapist fantasies of people unable to deal with the real world as such (and very often suffer from the same problems themselves), be glamorizing that lifestyle?

Do they bear some responsibility for giving otaku what they want: an insular world free of the trials and pain of everyday life, where everyone loves them despite, or because of, their flaws? Because the people making these shows know what otaku want: they want escapism, happiness, freedom from the hardships and struggles of everyday life. They want to be lost and devoted to a world of fluffy cuteness. And they’re willing to pay for that privilege.

Oh, and there's a fight scene

You can watch this episode here. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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