Image source: アニメ「アホガール」公式 on Twitter

Is it possible to love a work of fiction where you can’t stand almost any of the characters? It seems that Aho Girl answers that question for me in the affirmative. Nearly everyone in the series is a terrible person, but that’s ultimately what makes the series so hilarious. If ever there was an anime with characters to “hate-watch,” it’s this one. The characters being so awful is what makes the anime great.

Image source: アニメ「アホガール」公式 on Twitter

[This article contains minor spoilers for first three episodes of Aho Girl.]

The concept of Aho Girl is precisely what you’d think it is, assuming you know Japanese slang. An aho girl in Japanese means a “stupid girl” or “idiot girl,” and this is precisely what main character Hanabatake Yoshiko is. Her neighbor, de facto “best friend” (although that label is questionable), and caretaker is Akutsu Akuru. It may appear that Akuru actually likes or cares for Yoshiko, but in fact, his behavior suggests he may just enjoy feeling smugly superior to her. Other characters seem to have significant flaws, with one exception, Sayaka, who takes on the role of “normalcy” and “decent behavior” as a foil to all the zaniness that surrounds her. Sayaka is the “straight man” trope, representing us, the viewers, and our knowledge of how Yoshiko isn’t the only bizarre one.

The concept of this particular anime (based on, what else, a four-panel comic) isn’t ableist in my view, as Yoshiko is well aware of her ignorance and stupidity, and great humor is derived from the fact she has absolutely no interest in changing this. Yoshiko may not actually have any learning disability or maladjustment at all. She appears, instead, to have intentionally and knowingly decided to spurn all maturity and responsibility. She even seems to bluntly announce this on more than one occasion when she chides her elementary school playmates for chiding her on her behavior as unbecoming of an adolescent on the cusp of working adulthood. Yoshiko dramatically bemoans that the adult world has already seemingly killed their sense of youth and leisure, and their childhood dreams.

Image source: アニメ「アホガール」公式 on Twitter

The two other prominent side characters are Yoshiko’s mother, Yoshie, and the unnamed head of the high school public morals committee. Both of these characters first appear normal in their behavior. Yoshie, at first, seems like she’s just a concerned mother; she frets over the trouble Yoshiko causes and expresses dismay about her daughter’s academic and romantic future. Very quickly, however, we start to learn that Yoshie is not-so-secretly trying to play matchmaker between Yoshiko and Akuru, that her own match with Yoshiko’s father was underhanded and borders on the morally disturbing. Moreover, her behavior towards Sayaka, who at first she considers a threat to her plans, is downright creepy.

Yoshiko, Akuru, and Sayaka’s schoolmate, the chairwoman of the public morals committee, also appears to be just uptight, as school leaders tend to be. However, after an altercation with Yoshiko, she falls madly in love with Akuru, as Akuru uses the opportunity to insult Yoshiko by negatively comparing her to the chairwoman. In intentional irony, the chairwoman starts stalking Akuru, and her interactions with him become very weird at best and plainly lewd at worst. Most of the other minor characters, each with very little screen time, aren’t much better.

Image source: アニメ「アホガール」公式 on Twitter

Another exception beyond Sayaka might be Ruri, Akuru’s little sister, who does appear to have serious learning troubles, potentially learning disabilities. This is particularly apparent in her difficulty in math. As someone who has a significant issue with math and number sense, I feel I can recognize my own difficulties in Ruri’s. However, we don’t yet have enough to go on to know for sure if Ruri is a normal elementary school kid or if she too has serious unlikeable qualities.

Aho Girl offers no one to root for, no one to identify with, and no one to really even like. At best, the series offers us Sayaka to pity, but Sayaka’s normalcy, honestly, is simply the base standard. And yet, we cannot turn away from the train wreck unfolding before us. Everyone in the series may be awful, but they’re engagingly awful. As much as Yoshiko makes me facepalm, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what stupidity she gets up to next week.

Aho Girl can be seen with subtitles on Crunchyroll.

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