I am a huge fan of schoolgirl anime comedies, but man, there are too many of them. The market has become over-saturated with anime comedies that are just girls in high-school or middle-school being like, “uwu, we’re being clumsy,” or “uwu, we’re eating pastries.” Stuff like that can be entertaining, but a lot of these series, especially short form ones like Wakaba Girl, are largely forgettable. If you’ve seen one, you get the gist of about twenty other ones.
Damn. I sound like one of those crotchety old anime fans, don’t I? I promise I’m not one of those anti-slice-of-lifers or moe haters…it’s just that, well, it’s the tropes of the genre can get real tired, real fast. A lot of these comedies are hell-bent on playing it safe and don’t provide any real laughs. But there are still shows out there getting it right.
Like, take this summer’s Asobi Asobase. The opening sequence, promotional artwork and, okay, yeah, even the summary makes it look like just another basic cute girls doing cute things show – it’s a story about three girls who get bored and start the Past-timers’ Club where they hang out and play games. It takes this basic, seemingly done-to-death plot and injects it with enough energy and ridiculous humor to make it work again.
With its fast-paced jokes and over-the-top voice acting, the comedy here really packs a punch. Not only does this show not rely on those saccharine feel-good comedy tropes I mentioned before, but it thankfully omits all those cringe-worthy fanservice/groping jokes, as well, giving its viewers a unique and highly enjoyable slice of life experience.
The storybook color palettes and soft character designs contrast sharply with the ridiculous facial expressions the girls make. The music switches from your typical slice-of-life fare to grimy heavy metal – just compare the relaxing opening “Suripisu” to the shrieking ending theme, “Inkya Impulse” to see what I mean. Incidentally, both the opening and ending are sung by the seiyuus of the main characters, which is a good showcase for how excellent the voice acting is – the seiyuus can pull off both the cutesy stuff and the evil scream-y stuff to really drive the comedy home. Kino Hina does an especially stand-out job as the frequently shrieking Hanako. The over-the-top voice acting coupled with the goofy faces really elevate the comedy, and it makes me wish that more people appreciated the value of voice acting in comedies instead of just the voice acting in dramas.
In addition to Asobi Asobase bringing something more unique to the schoolgirl comedy table, it also feels more true to schoolgirl life. I remember adolescence, and let me tell you, high-school girls can be just as obnoxious and crass as high-school boys. As soft and fuzzy as stuff like K-On! or Yuru Camp can make you feel, series like Asobi Asobase are more accurate to my highschool experiences. Me and my friends were immature, obnoxious, hollered all the time, and actually downright bullied each other sometimes. If you made an anime about us, it would be much more like Asobi Asobase than it would be any of those moe slice-of-life entries.
But this isn’t to say that Asobi Asobase is the only series out here pushing the envelope on schoolgirl comedy. I mean, hell, this year’s anime season kicked off with the batshit insane Pop Team Epic. Though not really a slice-of-life, it was a comedy series surrounding two girls in school uniforms, Popuko and Pipimi, that dared to do things no other schoolgirl comedy dared to do. For starters, the character design was far from being the stereotypical moe style. During the “Bob Team Epic” skits, it damn near looked like their faces were melting off.
In fact, the design and animation of the show in general was largely experimental. It had more of an [adult swim] brand of anti-comedy feel to it than anything else. Though the series may have been a bit polarizing (you either loved it and embraced its weirdness fully or you turned it off halfway into episode one), it can’t be denied that this brought a whole new brand of schoolgirl comedy to the table that no one had ever even considered before.
Let’s bring the batshit down a notch and give a shout-out to the excellent Yuru Yuri next. Sure, this one’s got the look of your average slice-of-life and doesn’t break the mold much in terms of looks, but its humor goes far beyond that of your average schoolgirl comedy. Instead of just having the girls look cute and blush, you get wacky shit like Toshino Kyouko dressed up as a tomato, Chinatsu’s buns eating objects like an all-consuming blackhole, and ridiculous parodies of macho action series like this. Yeah, it gives you some cutesy feel-good stuff, but it doesn’t rely on warm fuzzies the whole series. It’s the perfect balance!
I also have to give it a shout-out for taking the “slice of life yuri subtext” and turning it into straight-up Yuri Text. Instead of just, like, girls blushing at each other or having deep “””friendships,”””” we have Chitose getting so horny her nose bleeds over these girls and Chinatsu being ready to kill for her crush, Yui. It’s overt, it’s ridiculous, and it’s actually funny. If you’re gonna do the lesbian schoolgirl trope, you might as well commit to it all the way, and Yuru Yuri obviously does.
Now I’m gonna amp the batshit right back up and close out with my absolute favorite slice-of-life, Nichijou. Has there ever been a greater schoolgirl comedy than that of Kyoto Animation’s Nichijou? This series has better animation than most action series, so it shoots the cliche that all these schoolgirl comedies are just boring “moeblob.” Truth be told, this show’s probably one of my favorite comedies of all time, not just my favorite comedy anime.
The kind of absurdist humor present in this series just can’t be replicated. It’s unique, original, and innovative. If Pop Team Epic is too much for you, don’t worry – you can get your experimental schoolgirl comedy on right here. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite scenes from the series, in pitifully low quality:
Okay, actually, I’ll give you two scenes, because this episode changed my life:
Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t the only greats. Lucky Star is a classic with the way it lampshades moe-type anime while still leaning into the same tropes itself. Please Tell Me! Galko-chan turns the “innocent schoolgirl” anime trope right on its head, and Seitokai Yakuindomo‘s crass humor works in much the same way. And, of course, there are still more “traditional” schoolgirl comedies that I enjoy the hell out of…I’m a moe apologist at the end of the day, after all…
Even though there is a lot of cookie-cutter stuff out there, it’s naive to think that slice-of-life and schoolgirl comedies are all the same, and I’m glad shows like Asobi Asobase (and Chio’s School Road, too, to be fair) pop up each year to remind any naysayers how great and unique the genre can be. These series show just how incredibly entertaining a good school comedy can be if it doesn’t just play it safe with the same old “cute girls being innocent and cute” gags. There’s a lot of potential in the comedic world of high-school girls, and I hope to see more things in the vein of Asobi Asobase and the other shows I mentioned in the coming years.