When this season started out, Clean Freak! Aoyama kun had a huge uphill battle to win my respect. I can count the number of sports anime that have really grabbed me on one hand, and even if that weren’t the case… well, look at the title.
While admittedly that “Clean Freak” is more of a poor translation choice than authorial intent (the Japanese title, 潔癖男子, is more literally “Cleanliness Boy,” as seen on-screen during the opening theme, and can directly refer to the more clinical germaphobia), a series that chooses to focus on a germaphobic prodigy is still a gimmick that practically screams future exploitation. But, as I said when I reviewed the premiere, it won me over. Aoyama-kun is good. And it’s stayed good, mostly due to the compassion it shows for its ever-expanding ensemble cast.
Fujimi High’s soccer team is a tight-knit bunch of weirdos, each with their own quirks and conflicts, and the show works to endear us to them by showing how those oddities bring happiness to others (in the case of class clown Tsukamoto) or by validating a character’s emotional wants rather than mocking them (as with sweet yandere manager Moka). As successive episodes turn the spotlight to different members of the cast, it proves its determination to laugh with rather than at its characters. But nothing surprised me more than ”Narita-kun Keeps It a Secret,” which shines a light on both a new character and Aoyama himself.