Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
by Zac Bertschy,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! ?
Throughout this show, it's been made very clear that while Producer Kanamori doesn't necessarily want to sell Tsubame or exploit her career as a model, at the very top of this week's episode, we learn that she's kinda been holding back a little bit. Kanamori's shrewdness means she knows that Tsubame is still the Eizouken's #1 selling point, and starts to try to manage Tsubame's image, lecturing her on what jobs she should be taking and to watch her tan lines. Tsubame, however, has been delighting in the success of her chosen career, an obsessed and talented animator - which sure ain't doing Instagram for a living. So she's let her modeling career fall behind while she finds fulfillment drawing and creating with Midori.
Kanamori isn't wrong – they are relying on Tsubame's established fame to even make a dent in public interest, but it does chafe a little bit. She basically gives Tsubame a choice – either judge the competition for who gets to be a voice actor in the short they're producing, or be in it yourself – that's the only way they'll successfully sell this. Kanamori already knows that Tsubame doesn't want to be in it herself – she wants to draw. So she's going to judge.
The character writing in this show is so unbelievably strong. Kanamori seems like she's in a bad mood – or a little desperate – and doesn't necessarily want to handle things this way, but she sees her role as producer as tantamount to the only road to success, at any cost. It's understandable – the Eizouken is barely hanging on as it is. They won't exist anymore without another unimpeachable success, and they really do need to rely on the biggest resource they have – Tsubame's face. Even if Tsubame, personally, is clearly not interested in being a “face” anymore. The character dynamics here are fascinating. You have a famous face who just wants to draw, and yet can't escape it because the art isn't enough. She still has to sell herself in order to get anyone to look at her art. Ain't that the truth these days.
But then there's another problem – they still don't really have a story for this thing. Midori has a concept for a fun dance party to finish out their short, but Midori's strength isn't story and she doesn't really even know why there would be a dance party at the end. Kanamori immediately recognizes that so far, their latest project is mostly just a collection of ideas that might seem fun to draw rather than telling a compelling story. This is a recurring issue here – two passionate animators, one dedicated and loyal producer, but no story person. You do kinda need one of those.
Of course, then the Student Council Fuckin' Cops show up – now they're mad about the Eizouken team trying to make some side cash at Comet-A, the event where independent manga and anime creators can sell their work. Apparently there are strict rules about this sort of thing – but the jaw-up, swaggering confrontation between Kanamori and the Student Council made me laugh out loud. Yuasa's shot selection and storyboarding is always unimpeachable, but the way he frames Kanamori here – a badass who should not be fucked with – is hilarious and perfect. Midori can't help but laugh at the Student Council's nickname for Kanamori – Kanamoney, which, to be fair, is pretty funny and accurate.
But fuck them. Those stuffed-shirt student council cops need to be taken down!
It gets even better from there – as a result, they wind up having to explain themselves to, what is, basically a court. It's the student council AND faculty this time – adults, which means shit is getting real. That doesn't phase Kanamori though – and I absolutely love the way Yuasa frames her here, just head back, glasses up, call the police, I don't give a fuck. Kanamori could not possibly give a shit less about your rules. She has her own path to victory, and these simple-minded bureaucrats – who don't understand the value of the art her friends have made – are just going to ruin it. Thanks to a handful of arcane rules, they're being chastized for attempting to make enough money to keep creating art that everyone in the room was visibly impressed with and sees how impressive the Eizouken is. “What's the value of an educational institution that doesn't support its students?” She asks – a good question. And if students making money is wrong somehow within the educational system, how does that even help them prepare for real life?
Kanamori is basically unstoppable here – which she usually is – explaining why these arbitrary rules are dumb and antiquated. Problem is, she goes a little too hard. Passive-aggression generally needs to be met with passive-aggression, but Kanamori is a little too direct, even if she's right. So they do lose the fight, and aren't allowed to take any money from their proceeds. Which means, well, things have to change.
We get a montage of production once more – Tsubame diving headfirst back into her modeling career in order to keep her true passion alive, along with Midori drawing the backgrounds herself after the art club fucks it up again. This episode includes something I'd been suspecting all along.
Eizouken is, effectively, Ghibli. They've been hinting at it here and there, but they make it pretty explicit once Midori comes up with a story – and she's characterized here, after terrorizing her producer by struggling with said story – directly as Hayao Miyazaki. Which would make Tsubame Isao Takahata, and Kanamori would be Producer Suzuki. If you've ever seen The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness or the more recent The Never-Ending Man, all of these relationships and clashing goals will make so much sense to you. I recommend both of them quite strongly if you haven't seen them – and I think watching those will help you recontextualize this series even further. Frankly, if you're a longtime anime fan and haven't seen those two, you're in for a real treat – and it'll help you understand this show's appeal even more.
Of course, they have a problem – sound. Midori may have figured out the story, but now they need sound to fill it out, and Doumeki doesn't quite have what he needs. Midori decides to come along to help scout out the right sounds. Extremely aggro producer Kanamori is really pushing to get this shit done – so she's being pretty pushy, but Midori stands her ground. She wants to come along in order to not only assist with Audio Production, but to generate inspiration for her next big idea, her next big concept. Kanamori isn't quite on her side, but it was really nice to see Midori speak up for herself and why she does things the way she does, even if she doesn't do them quite enough for the (what seems to be now an official nickname) Kanamoney. You can only push your artists so hard, after all – there does need to be balance, which is what we see in this episode's gorgeous montage.
But we see the friction here. Midori does indeed find inspiration for a new story in the town's derelict clock tower – but Kanamori can't help but be frustrated with yet another new story idea, and pushes her toward finishing the project they desperately need to complete. So the producer really shoves the creative into making sure this is going to help what they actually need to finish up. We actually get a shot of Kanamori keeping Midori in a chokehold to stop her from continuing to dream up new ideas before she's done with the last one. As an articulation of the push-and-pull of what animation production is actually like, I thought this was brilliant.
What comes next is an altercation – that becomes a moment for mutual understanding – between the student council and Kanamori, while the Eizouken is by the riverside trying to capture the sound they need. The student council member gets a pretty full picture of a couple things here: one, how much work this is, and two, how exactly these three really operate. There's a moment where the student council representative witnesses exactly how Midori works – flights of fancy and brainstorming ideas based on what she sees and experiences, and asks Kanamori very directly, “What's she doing?”
Kanamori responds: “Her job.”
Speaking as someone who edits a podcast a few times a month, and has been doing so for the last 11 years, the illustration of Doumeki's audio editing – and the respect given to what she's doing – really felt good. This show is, ultimately, trying to show you how difficult it is to get this sort of work done, and how much effort it really takes. I cannot imagine a single creative professional not appreciating the way this show simultaneously makes it both an educational and enlightening expression of the difficulty of production, and what it takes to actually get it done.
We've only got 3 episodes left, people. Buckle up.
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