Goodness me, can we really be on series review posts already? We begin the end with one of the better shows of the season, Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun – and it’s certainly the series that lifted itself in my esteem the most between the premiere and the finale. I enjoyed the first couple of episodes but judged this book by its cover a little too much, I think. There was more to Aoyama-kun thatn met the eye in every sense, and those depths continued to reveal themselves over the course of its 12 episodes.
As if often the case with this sort of wistful and absurdist comedy, the final episode is the most serious of the run. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t – if awkwardly executed these kind of eps can feel out of character for the series in question. I don’t think that was the case here, especially given the third act of the episode. And of course closing with a Zaizen-centric episode is a positive in my book, as he was one of my favorite characters in the cast (and a great cast it is).
Closing with a Zaizen ep is also right in character for Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun, because despite its title (and in contrast to Sakamoto desu ga!, as an example), this series was more about the supporting cast than about Aoyma-kun himself. He was important, certainly, and not only for the way his GAR peculiarity impacted everyone else. But when one looks back on this series, there were very few episodes in which Aoyama-kun was actually the main character – in fact I can think of only one or two off the top of my head.
The MacGuffin for the finale is in fact Zaizen’s mother, whose absence is weighing heavily on Kaocchi as Fujimi prepares for a crucial qualifier against Kuraishi High and its kyoujin-led defensive wall. The misdirection the ep pulls off would do Aoyama-kun on a box-to-box run proud – I had only a tiny nagging in the farthest corners of the mind that something with amiss with this setup until deep into the episode. There’s a clever nod at anime cliche in all this of course, with the strategic beams of light always hiding Zaizen-mama’s face.
We also have the drama of Aoyama being recruited by a professional youth club going on – another element which is contributing to Kaoru’s general state of distraction. In reality of course a player of Aoyama’s caliber – good enough to start on the national U-16 team – would be doing himself a huge disservice staying at a backwater high school like Fujimi, but this is a comedy series after all. Put everything together and Fujimi is off to a terrible start against Kuraishi High – Zaizen’s normal air supremacy is neutralized by Kuraishi’s titanic central defenders (and his own sluggishness) and after Aoyama is forced to save a ball off the line and dirties his uniform too early in the game, he too is sluggish and off his game.
I always felt like there was something of substance between Aoyama-kun and Kaoru – that the unflappable ace had a respect for Zaizen that extended beyond what he felt for his other teammates. It seems fitting that these two should be the spur to drive each other forward in the closing minutes – especially when Kaoru’s mom miraculously turns up in the audience to give him inspiration. It turns out that the “faraway place” she went to was Africa, and the visit Kaoru and Daddy made to the cemetery was to honor their general ancestors. Never mind that volunteer work or no, Zaizen’s mom is kind of terrible at being a mom – she abandoned her son when he was 11, and has only a few moments for him here before flitting off to Brazil, leaving him calling out to her in tears…
As for the “real reason” Aoyama-kun chose Fujimi high, well – maybe it really was the white uniforms. But let’s be honest – lots of schools wear white, and even the Japanese national team “Samurai Blue” has a set of white kit they wear on the road. No, I think it goes deeper than that – I think Aoyama might have chosen Fujimi for the shirts and the toilets, but he stayed because he grew to love his team. Zaizen wears his heart on his sleeve – he’s a big, fragile puppy dog. Aoyama-kun is more inscrutable of course, but there’s a sentimentalist in there somewhere – and we’ve seen hints of his presence off and on all through the series.
This was such a clever, subtle and deceptively warm series right up to the end, and I really grew to love it. Even the way the ED (one of the cleverest around, generally) showcased the supporting players in its final incarnation is emblematic of how smart and creative Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun is. Comedy and sports are two of my favorite genres, and both are chronically underrepresented in a typical season – to see them both shine so beautifully in one series is a rare pleasure indeed. I don’t know where Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun is going to wind up in my year-end ramblings – the last three months of 2017 will determine that, I suppose – but it’s definitely going to be in there somewhere. And I certainly wouldn’t have believed that after the first couple of episodes.