Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
by Zac Bertschy,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! ?
Midori and Tsubame christen their new production space (a ramshackle assemblage of rusting corrugated metal) with an official Eizouken Studios logo, celebrating their victory. As usual, Kanamori is here to tell them to get to work – the club needs to actually fix up the space and produce something in order to not be immediately disbanded by the powers that be. Kanamori's pragmatism and insight into how people really behave when it comes to this sort of thing might just save them – if they can calm down a little and get some work done.
Midori manages to be serious for about a minute while Kanamori attempts to dictate what must be done – crucial repairs to the building they're in, followed by a little elbow grease to get their production materials in shape. Except then Midori sees a butterfly and both she and Tsubame won't stop chasing it around the room. It's a miracle Kanamori can get these two reckless dreamers to focus while praying over the $300 they made (and then spent on currently-unfinished building repair) – until, of course, they see a tanuki peeking in one of the holes in the wall and flip out again. Will this derelict dump ever get fixed up enough for them to actually begin production?
We get even more character development – which this show absolutely excels at, with clever, deft writing that helps you understand where these women are coming from. Midori volunteers to patch up the walls of their studio, which is the hardest part of their renovation efforts. Kanamori, in a private conversation with Tsubame, is distrustful that the energetic and easily-distracted Midori is actually capable of doing so – she just wanted to play with the drill she has to use to repair the walls, a personality type she's seen before, and yet also speaks to Kanamori's cynicism and general distrust of people. Kanamori isn't totally right, but she isn't totally wrong either – naturally, she finds Midori in the middle of another animation fantasy, imagining herself as an astronaut on the side of a vehicle in space, deeply considering the technical details of what's happening in this sequence while... doodling with spraypaint on the side of the building.
So the women of Eizouken begin to try and repair the roof – with Tsubame joining Midori on the wobbling, rusted metal up there. Of course, the two of them immediately drop into a fantasy world where once again they're repairing a spaceship, with Midori totally lost in the technical details of exactly how Space Battleship Eizouken would operate, and exactly how they'd go about fixing it up. Of course, it starts hailing – which knocks the ladder over, meaning Kanamori needs to burst out of the fractured walls to save the two girls, who have... well, let's call it a potty emergency at the worst possible time. Fortunately they manage to save themselves – but this establishes the lengths Kanamori is willing to go to to help her friends, in spite of her deadpan personality. She might be the only pragmatist among these two crazy, brilliant kids - but she cares a whole lot.
Their aloof, bearded advisor shows up to let them know that they have an opportunity to secure financing and Official Club Status at the next meeting of the school's budget committee – so of course, Midori and Tsubame get fired up, but before the meeting begins, Kanamori explains what the goal is here.
Midori and Tsubame both want to make something that's actually good – Kanamori tells them, during lunch – while preparing for this fated meeting - that the goal is to secure maximum funding, shoving something out of the studio door that's good enough to impress people but isn't exactly in line with their creative sensibilities. Which means they'd need to basically kill themselves working without sleep for more than a month to produce anything at all – perfection and creative freedom are not the prime directive here (which probably sounds extremely familiar to a lot of overworked, underpaid creatives who wind up working with people like Kanamori out of necessity). But they don't quite have a fully-formed idea yet. Midori invites them to her place to explore her stacks of notebooks full of story ideas and visual concepts so they can flesh out the concept and get it together. They take the train home, and it becomes clear that Tsubame is significantly more famous and beloved than was previously explored – the train is packed with ads featuring her face, with fans coming up to shake her hand. And yet – all she wants to do is draw. This is character development. Tsubame is still completely capable of going into PR mode – but she's a creative, not just a face.
The Eizouken women wander through Midori's sketchbook in a hilarious and beautiful sequence where the realities of animation production are made all too clear. What's easy to draw? Is your scenario too difficult to produce when you're in a rush to make funding? What can we actually produce in the time given to us? Midori, as expected, pitches a very short story about a cute little tank in a city of cubes that blows things up real good. Tsubame, however, wants to make something that shows the simple beauty of humanity – the Illusion of Life, so to speak – through lovingly-rendered, carefully-drawn and observed expressions of motion that evoke reality. Kanamori wants spectacle (she's trying to secure funding, after all) and isn't interested in Tsubame's principles. But a spectacular speech by Tsubame convinces Kanamori that she probably shouldn't wound her artists' motivation by smashing their dreams with the realities of securing a budget – so a compromise is made, where Tsubame gets what she wants, Midori gets what she wants, and Kanamori thinks the idea is commercial enough to sell. Together, they come up with a concept they're all happy with – a schoolgirl in a gas mask (because faces are difficult to draw when you're on limited time and limited budget) fighting a tank.
Now, if that isn't a perfect embodiment of the realities of animation production, I don't know what is.
This was another excellent episode – and a few things stood out to me. For something that is clearly exploring the conflict of art versus commerce via these women and their passions, I think this show is better at character development than anything I've seen in a long while. Not only do we learn about these women and their inner lives via very tight dialogue, well-written exposition that doesn't for a moment feel like exposition, this is also firming up to be a pretty flawless allegory for the process of creation. The dream sequences are a beautiful invention that illustrate the power of imagination, but Yuasa is also using them to show the holes in the argument that the only thing that should ever be respected is the artist's imagination – rather than a dream that at one point does need to face captialist reality in order to materialize. It's absolutely no surprise whatsoever that the manga this show is based on is apparently a favorite among people who actually do make anime for a living - I can't imagine anything more relatable than this.
Next week I'm sure our heroes will struggle to actually make what they've dreamed up, and continue fighting back against the forces that try to stop them - including their own irrepressible personalities. I can't wait.
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