Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
by Zac Bertschy,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! ?
Midori is undoubtedly a creative, even as a young child – she can't stop sketching elaborate designs in her notebook, and one rainy evening she's casually told by her mother to just watch some anime while she goes out for a moment. So she cuddles up on the couch – like a lot of us do – and turns on what is clearly an analogue for Hayao Miyazaki's late 70's TV series Future Boy Conan, “Conaso of the Lost Island”, an adventure story that dazzles her young mind with spectacular images and potent, dramatic themes. It reveals to her what animation is capable of – and serves as reinforcement for her blossoming creative drive. “Wait – humans made this beautiful thing that I want to live inside of. Couldn't I make that myself?”
Flash forward to high school - where Midori's illustration skills and creative eccentricity have clearly blossomed into undeniable talent. She has a pal – Kanamori, a sly, deadpan, unashamed capitalist who only agrees to attend the school's anime club screening along with Midori if there's something in it for her. Midori reveals that she wants to make her own anime, one set in the awkwardly-built riverside school they're in, which she's convinced would make the perfect setting for an animated series. But she certainly can't do that alone.
Kanamori agrees, after extorting Midori for an extra couple bottles of milk. Here, in the screening room, while Midori elaborately explains the beauty and power that animation is capable of articulating during a particularly elaborate episode of Conaso - they meet Tsubame, a famous fashion model and the daughter of the CEO of a megaconglomerate. She loves anime – deeply, from the bottom of her heart – but apparently she isn't “supposed” to, and she's on the run from agents in black suits who are specifically setting out to stop her from joining the anime club. Tusbame isn't taking no for an answer – she believes in the power of animation, and the way artists can breathe life into an entire world with only their bare hands, mirroring Midori's passion for the artform. Having found eachother, the two join forces, excitedly designing a world together in the derelict lounge area of a laundromat nobody else ever uses. With Kanamori along for the ride (because she smells money) – they metaphorically escape the men in black in a flight of fantasy that sees their combined creation come to life inside their heads.
Based on the manga – and brilliantly adapted by world-class auteur animator, designer and director Masaaki Yuasa along with his unstoppable team of artists at Science SARU, Eizouken speaks to the deepest point in the abyss of my heart as a lifelong anime fan, someone who has always thought the medium was where your imagination could truly sing, and maybe even connect with other people. It's absolutely no wonder that Yuasa chose to take on this story, given his own attitudes and reflexes when it comes to the power of the artform. It has a charming cast of characters that feel like real people – the dialogue here is completely on-point, the way real people talk to eachother, with so many relatable lines and moments, stuff that articulates the way creatives speak to one another in a way I'm not quite sure I've ever seen. I didn't find a single moment to be off-key. This is, so far, a show about the magic of unbridled creation – and the people who exploit that magic for money.
I haven't read the manga, but the allegories Yuasa is drawing in this first episode are quite clear – the men in black are actively trying to stop the blossoming creative side of Tsubame, who just wants to make things and loves the way animation allows her to express herself. The implication is, of course, that these three girls – well, two of them, anyway – are going to fight the power and make their art, consequences be damned – except they're just three high schoolers in a empty laundromat, for now.
This is the most promising premiere of this season, in my opinion. As a cohesive thesis statement about what this show is attempting to articulate, this first episode feels like it's telling me everything I need to know - I cannot wait to see where it goes.
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