Content warning: street harassment and sexual assault played for laughs; gag involving implied bestiality; fanservice; victim-blaming
What’s it about? Asahi’s fortune for the day says that he will have numerous exciting, fateful encounters. Sure enough, on the journey to school he ends up in compromising situations with five different strangers, all of whom then turn up in his classroom.
There’s an easy pun to be made here about how Love Flops is a flop. But it’s not enough. If Love Flops had just been a bad, stupid comedy we might all have been able to move on with our lives. As well as being a bad, stupid comedy, however, it’s a bad, stupid comedy with a disgusting concept at the heart of its “humor”.
As Asahi heads to school, he runs into a series of unfamiliar people. The first girl bumps into him on the street as they both hurry to school, and they end up tumbling over one another until her crotch ends up in his face. The second falls asleep on his shoulder on the train, tumbling into his lap and ending up with her breasts in his hands. The third trips down the stairs and ends up with her crotch in his face (didn’t they do that one already, you ask? Well, the positioning is slightly different and even more ridiculous. Don’t worry! The storyboards here are nothing if not creative!).
Another girl has had her bra stolen by a cleaning robot, and said bra ends up in Asahi’s hands. The final encounter—this one a boy—is getting humped by a rowdy stray dog, which then pursues Asahi and does the same to him (with the camera panning away as he cries out, implying… I’m not sure quite what. It’s even more baffling that this happens twice in the episode, the second time cutting back to Asahi with his trousers down. Which… we’ll come back to that).
Each run-in ends with the other party shouting accusations of perversion at Asahi. He flees each respective scene, but oh no! The train-boob lady is his teacher, and the other four people are his new classmates! What wacky shenanigans will play out from here??? This is a comedy! Are you laughing?
The central joke underpinning this episode—and presumably propelling the entire series—is that zany, slapstick hijinks lead to a young man being falsely accused of, essentially, sexual assault or sexual harassment. The narrative frames him as a hapless, relatable underdog who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, further victimized when these misunderstandings lead to him getting slapped and beaten up by the people he accidentally perved on. Across the episode, each girl (and one boy) realizes the error of their ways and takes back their wrath, often apologizing to Asahi. If the synopsis is to be believed, these five characters are going to end up as his love interests in a harem straight from the garbage bins at the back of Hell.
It goes without saying, I hope, that sexual assault is never funny. But it feels particularly insidious and distasteful of Love Flops to make zany, slapstick hijinks out of it—even making a direct reference to train car groping, a serious, horrifyingly common issue that’s still fighting to be taken seriously by those in power. The victims are played up as overly emotional and, above all, fundamentally incorrect in their feelings of horror and violation.
Most of these female characters are introduced, and filtered entirely, through a leery camera: we see shots of their bust and/or their thighs before we see their faces. The rampant sexual framing further dehumanizes them and marks them as little more than vessels for fan service and mouthpieces for victim-blaming rhetoric. Asahi, once again, is played up as the relatable goofy protagonist whose life is nearly ruined by false accusations.
I got a great little screencap of the cleaning robot saying “TRASH DETECTED” that I initially thought could be funny to include. But Love Flops is frankly not worth the gag. I don’t want to shrug something like this off as “oh, it’s just trash”. With its comedy, it’s reinforcing insidious ideas that already make it difficult for victims of street harassment—or any other kind of sexual violence—to be taken seriously. This show asks you to laugh at the idea of this kind of violation, whether it’s in the goofy scenes of Asahi accidentally getting his face sat on, or the bizarre cutaways that imply Asahi was violated by the dog. It’s a rancid experience from start to finish that serves the very worst social narratives up on a platter for audience amusement and titillation.