The Wandering Witch Warns Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Posted on Apr 08 2020

Welcome, all, again. We are transitioning from a particularly bountiful viewing season, and one of my favorites was yet another anime about anime, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Here we witness passion and drive yoked to the creative spirit, simultaneously explored in a variety of ways–including the resounding slap of Machiavellian diplomacy and manipulation. Our three protagonists–Asakusa, Kanamori, and Mizusaki–are determined to make anime, and don’t mind dirtying their hands or stepping on a few toes towards that end. Mind you, chief amongst the toes getting stepped on are those of the Anime Club (more devoted to watching and discussing anime than to actually making it) and the Student Council.

Shibahama High School freshman Midori Asakusa is a talented artist who has loved anime since childhood, but considers herself too self-conscious and antisocial to join the school’s Anime Club. She instead shares her ideas and dreams with her best friend Sayaka Kanamori, who has little enough interest in anime but doesn’t mind listening to her friend prattle on. (Somebody’s got to, right?) At Asakusa’s urging, the two attend an on-campus anime screening, during which they are approached by a fellow freshman being pursued by two adult males. Recognizing classmate Tsubame Mizusaki, Asakusa and Kanamori help her escape her pursuers, only to learn that–despite her already having a burgeoning career as an actress and model–Mizusaki’s true wish is to create anime (although her parents object). This revelation leads Mizusaki and Asakusa to study each other’s artwork; Kanamori, sensing opportunity, suggests that they form their own film club in order to [surreptitiously] produce anime. And with this decided, the girls plunge into the development of an anime short with which to win recognition and funding for their Eizouken Club. Along the way, they acquire a studio space (an abandoned storage shed), an advisor (at least on paper), and equipment left behind from a more production-focused past incarnation of the Anime Club. Just about everything they need to run out of excuses for not making anime!

I’m reminded of Shirobako, which I love and have re-watched several times. And with each new episode of Eizouken!, I just can’t help recalling how the 5 protagonists of Shirobako started out in their high school anime club and planned to make an anime together. That show was an exploration of how anime is made professionally, showing the division of labor both within the production studio itself and amongst the various entities to which parts of the production are farmed out. But the more I learned about anime production by watching Shirobako, the more I questioned the plausibility of just 5 people actually making a viewable anime of any length. It just didn’t seem possible. So to trim that number down to 3 high school students really set my mind reeling. But then (in one of those twists of fate seen often enough in anime), screenings of the film Ride Your Wave featured a post-credits interview with producer Eunyoung Choi, during which she discussed the founding and development of Science Saru, the production studio for both that movie and Eizouken!. (Wow, do I ever miss watching anime in theaters!) And during her interview, Choi talked about how work on their movie Lu Over the Wall began with about 4-5 people sitting around a kitchen table in a rented apartment. That’s right, “4-5 people.” And that in a professional–albeit fledgling–studio working on a feature film! Suddenly, a 3-member production team didn’t seem all that unbelievable. Intimidating, yeah, but not necessarily unbelievable. And true to IRL, as the projects get bigger, our girls begin farming stuff out. Only Kanamori retains complete control of her specializations: negotiations and finances.

I really like this show! It’s both inventive and inspirational, with phenomenal characterization (through both exposition and development) and an earnest dedication to its own artistic vision. Truly, it looks like nothing else out there right now–but neither did Usagi Drop when it came out. Both have an emphatically unfinished look to their artwork, and probably for the same reason: to express the importance of process in relation to product. In Usagi Drop, Daikichi and Rin are building their own little family from scratch, initially without any outside help, and the dynamic is subsequently fluid. They are living each moment in situ. Likewise, manifesting an artistic vision demands a willingness to explore and push boundaries, to constantly reinvent oneself and reinterpret one’s ideations. In such a sense, life and art mirror each other, with change bubbling just beneath their surfaces. And Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! bubbles like a boiling pot! I just can’t praise this show enough, what with its raucous fun, engaging characters, and expansive love of craft (even producers get a nod through Kanamori). A new season’s starting, but don’t let yourself miss this series!

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