Hello again from J-List. I’m currently relaxing in San Diego with my family visiting from Japan, recuperating from the hard convention season and doing lots of California-ey stuff like visiting Disneyland, going to the beach and eating Mexican food.
One thing I like about anime is the way it crosses generations, bringing entertainment and appreciation of good characters and storytelling to us all, whether we’re fifteen or fifty. As a guy who’s been around the solar system more than a few times, you’d think it’d be difficult for me to find topics in common with anime fans who are half, or even (yikes) a third my age, but I’ve enjoyed many interesting conversations with younger fans at anime conventions, discussing topics like frustration with censorship or thoughts on the future of the anime industry. I’ve used anime to form a strong bond with my kids, too, geeking out over Mobile Suit Gundam and Steins;Gate with my son and following whatever magical girl series was on Sunday mornings with my daughter. So when my daughter told me I just had to watch the currently airing Asobi Asobase (English title: Workshop of Fun), I knew I couldn’t refuse a chance to connect with her.
Asobi Asobase is the story of three high school girls, each carrying some interesting baggage with her. There’s Hanako, a genki girl who always drags the other girls into strange situations, and who’s desperate to hang out in Shibuya like all the cool girls do; Olivia, an American girl raised in Japan who’s full of anxiety because she can’t actually speak English; and Kasumi, a deadpan girl who wants to become friends with the other two girls, mostly so she can learn English from Olivia. Eventually, the girls agree to make a club called the Pastime Club, where they’ll explore different kinds of asobi (play), a word which comes to mean different things to each girl.
For me and my daughter, the most interesting character is Olivia, the American who can’t speak Engish. From the average Japanese point of view, the irony of a “foreigner” (one who possesses Western appearance) not being able to speak a foreign language is absolutely delicious, and Olivia’s attempts to “talk like an American” (to ham up her pronunciation so she sounds like foreigners do when we accidentally over-apply the rules of English intonation to Japanese) it is hilarious. Incidentally, my own kids learned English through several methods, including growing up with English-only DVDs, spending summers with family in the U.S., and studying for the STEP test (the English version of the JLPT test we take to learn Japanese), which is a good way to find motivation for studying.
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