Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
by Zac Bertschy,
How would you rate episode 2 of
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! ?
Tsubame emerges from a manhole – evading her evil family – to join Midori and Kanamori in their quest to form an entirely new club at school. Their advisor is quite frank about what's required – there's already an anime club, so three girls saying “we'd like to make anime” isn't enough to establish a new club.
Thankfully, Kanamori is good at getting what she wants – and suckers the advisor she's speaking with into giving the three of them an official club, rooted in live-action film rather than anime. Kanamori's cleverness also nets them a new official advisor – Mr. Fujimoto, a bearded, emotionally distant and yet benevolent old guy who pats himself with a modified backscratcher. Fujimoto seems to instantly understand what it is they're trying to do. He snags them another derelict building to make their projects in.
Kanamori and Tsubame seem to know instinctively how much it'll cost them to renovate the aluminum-sided dump they've been assigned to, but Midori's enthusiasm – which at this point seems like the motivating factor for most of what these three are doing – leads to another flight of fantasy involving mechanical creations she hasn't quite realized yet. And so, we get another fantasy scene where Midori's internal dreams come to life via pure passion and vision – at least they do in her head.
In the last episode, the fantasy sequence about what they'll be making together ended well – here, it ends with Midori flat on her face after crashing to the floor of an abandoned warehouse. Kanamori's immediate idea (rather than helping her friend through what is clearly an injury) is to record that painful spectacle on her phone and sell the footage in order to restore the building they're doomed to inhabit. But Midori's OK – and so, following this, the women get together to start planning their magnum opus.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! has had very strong characterization since the first episode, but I really enjoyed the interplay during their planning session, which establishes that while Midori is all about setting, backgrounds, mechanics and worldbuilding, Tsubame is more interested in highly-detailed character animation that impressively expresses both the characters' personalities and the meaning of the story. Which, if you've been watching anime and paying attention to the people who make it, effectively make these two perfect creative partners. Kanamori, of course, is more concerned with commercial appeal – and, hey, every artist does need someone like that around. Anime is a commercial enterprise, after all.
Unfortunately, given that the women of Eizouken are effectively running a con here and are ostensibly supposed to be running a club based on production of a live-action film, it's a good thing they have Kanamori on their side. An attempt at getting some spare furniture for their derelict warehouse production space proves that while Midori's passion for anime might make her an impressive creative talent, she's no good at keeping a con going long enough to get it done – so Kanamori has to step in, articulating that a club that merely watches anime isn't anywhere near the same thing as a club trying to make something – which, in my estimation, is a pretty strong statement about the wide difference between nerds who merely consume rather than create. Kanamori takes no prisoners.
So, their advisor winds up giving them access to an old, unused former anime production club space where they come across some pretty spectacular stuff – not only a whimsical, Miyazaki-esque wind-powered generator, but a small pile of animation cels and – believe it or not – an old-school multiplane camera, a'la the ones used to produce complex animation sequences in movies like Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty. If you're going to make hand-drawn animation, this is basically the equivalent of finding a treasure chest at the bottom of the ocean, bursting with riches – the blueprints of what you need to make 2D animation, along with the equipment to make it. What could be better?
Tsubame discovers – among other things on the light table desk they were looking for – an unfinished layout animation of the windmill outside, which, after inspecting it carefully with Midori, the two of them decide to finish it – their very first legitimate animation product. But, as they quickly discover, making anime the old-fashioned way, without any computers to assist, is pretty rough work. And even though they manage to finish the animation, something's not right – it's too mechanical. Midori knows why – this windmill animation needs a depiction of wind in order to communicate what's happening. This is Visual Storytelling 101 stuff, but of course, the Eizouken women need to drop themselves into another total flight of fantasy wherein they, uh, blow up the building next door to get the wind blowing. It is, of course, a visual allegory for the act of coming up with the exact right way to articulate wind in animation, but here it's delivered as an act of hilarious demolition – right before a real-world rainstorm sends the windmill spinning once again.
It's hard to think of a show better suited to someone with a lifelong love of the art of animation than Masaaki Yuasa. From a storytelling standpoint, this show couldn't be more up his alley. Although it is a little strange to see him largely abandon his trademark noodly, wobbly, abstract style for more solid and traditionally consistent character designs and animation, I believe he's mostly just respecting the source material here and trying to articulate both his love for animation and the story this is based on. The dream sequences continue to impress – sketchy, colorful dream worlds that feel like diving right into the mind of someone who's obsessed with this beautiful artform. It's meticulous – not boring, just detailed – about showing you the exact process and describing very fine details about what it was like to make anime in the days before computers revolutionized the production process, and even if you already know all that stuff, this show is, so far, a wonderful celebration of the magic that happens when people make art with nothing but their bare hands, some paper, pencils, ink and a camera.
This one concludes with Kanamori's plot to sell Midori's video netting her a whopping $300 – who knows what these enterprising creatives will manage to do with that? I can't wait to find out.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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