Asobi Asobase: Workshop of Fun is a shoujo middle-school comedy that portrays girls at their most goofiest, grossest, and cringiest when they are allowed to express themselves – uncensored and unfiltered. Author and artist Rin Suzukawa captures the awkward middle-school experience of young girls growing up and becoming friends within a structured social environment where grades, popularity, social acceptance, and who you’re dating define who you are or aren’t.
Olivia, Hanako, and Kasumi become involved in eachothers lives after a brief misunderstanding that entangles them together creating all kinds of chaos with their antics at school. Each with their own motives, secrets, flaws, and insecurities, they start a club together called the Passtime (or Pastimers) Club where they get to know each other (probably too well) by playing different kinds of games together.
Full of absolute nonsense and mayhem, Asobi Asobase meticulously uses comedy and satire to undermine the ways in which young girls are supposed to enjoy specific activities, hobbies, or types of work as a result of gender expectations. Riffing off of the pressure young girls are put under, whether it’s body image, exploiting or suppressing sexuality, or controlling interactions with the opposite sex, Suzukawa capitalizes off those spontaneous moments of fun and play that erupt when all three personalities clash.
By subverting the male fantasy of young girls and women, we see the trio act out against these constraints, critiquing the sexualization of young girls that plays off these well-known tropes, and grow more into themselves. Looking through a nostalgic lens, this series took me back to my own childhood where I struggled to understand these expectations but found solace in finding friends, siblings, and role models who felt similarly and resisted in their own ways while having a bit of cheeky fun too.
Asobi Asobase offers a more genuine portrayal of young girls learning to make connections with one another while parodying how their relationships are shaped by the challenges and limitations that gender norms create.
Nostalgia and how I’m looking back on this particular time in my life and challenges of gender norms and how they shape our interactions/encounters with the worlds we occupy.
Keeping an appearance to gain/achieve what you think you’ll get from acting a certain way (trying to get along and have fun too)
I think it would be nice to talk about the pressure young girls are forced to put on themselves (acting “right” or behaved, being more responsible than boys)
Also goes into the sexualization of young girls shown in anime as well (but this is a very lengthy conversation)
Plays on well known tropes that men fantasize of young women/girls thinking they know what being an adult is or what adults want in a woman or what woman is supposed to be.
The stark difference between the opening and the ending theme of the show also captures the difference in how girls are shown and how they could be if they were allowed to express themselves fully.
I think the show Aggretsuko also has a similar feeling of young women fighting against the patriarchal machine and expectation.
unavoidable awkwardness that comes with growing up
we caused the people around us with our antics I had with
After a nervous Olivia transfers schools and flubs her introduction to the class, everyone assumes, because of her “foreign” appearance, that she does not speak Japanese. In order to keep the peace and save embarrassment, Olivia doesn’t say anything and goes along with what she thinks people expect of her. Having sat by Hanako, her desk mate assigned to show her around school, Olivia spends time with her when they strike up a game of "look-the-other-way" during a break period. Kasumi, sitting nearby is subjected, to her disdain, to the extreme no holds barred approach that the game has escalated to as Olivia and Hanako get more rowdy.