Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
by Zac Bertschy,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! ?
Last week I said this: “ We'll probably get a Tsubame-focused episode pretty soon.”
And then that's what we immediately got.
The opening of this episode focuses entirely on character development for Tsubame – a famous model who joined the Eizouken out of a sincere passion for creation rather than deliberately only trying to sell her face online. She's someone whose wealthy family indulged her creative instincts – as illustrated by a scene where her grandmother encourages her desire to continuously toss their mostly-full teacups out onto the porch. Yet they still expected her to live within the confines of their expectations, of who she was supposed to become. We see young Tsubame in a modeling class, spending her time doing sketches of human motion, rewinding anime she admired over and over again, taking note of important shots.
She wasn't born to be a pretty face – she was born to be an animator, a creative. Someone with a pencil in her hand and a willingness to push herself to the limit.
We learn, through these sequences, how Tsubame's love of character animation grew – not only for the love of the artform itself, but via her passionate obsession with the way people move by illustrating reality through your own lens. She helps her grandmother with a little physical therapy – and this is brilliantly juxtaposed with her work on the Eizouken's Robot Club short. It's meant to show you how an animator's previous life experience informs their art, where they get their real inspiration from and why animation can be so flawlessly human. All art comes from this place – throughout history, humans have expressed it in multitudes, and Tsubame's passion for character animation is how it manifests in her. I thought it was touching and very true-to-life.
The Eizouken is quickly back to work, however – unloading their freshly-acquired sound library with Doumeki, who tells them that it's hard to know what sound effects to use when they don't really have any finished animation done, nor dialogue to balance the sound effects with. Audio engineering is an art all its own. It's a difficult one to master, since until you have the finished product – or at least something that resembles the finished product – you can't really nail it in the way you need to. Dialogue probably needs to come first.
Of course, then there's casting.
My heart sank and I laughed out loud when it turned out the Robot Club – which commissioned this animation from our Eizouken heroes – had cast themselves in the short, a vanity decision that absolutely spells trouble. They're not professional voice actors – they just want to be in the short, which is understandable, but it ain't gonna be easy to get these kids to match the very specific timing needed to make dialogue in animation work. My heart goes out to whoever winds up having to direct the Robot Club dorks into a performance that will actually work with the animation they've produced.
Next they've got to deal with the Art Club, who finally showed up with their backgrounds – which, naturally, they totally fucked up. Midori is pouring sweat – they asked for these, but the art club already showed signs of not really understanding how animation works, and while the backgrounds they turned up with were pretty, they're also, uh, completely not what was asked for. Whenever you're asking someone to work for you for free, if you have even a remote sense of conscience, asking for corrections or telling them “thanks, I hate it” is kind of terrifying. One member of the Art Club, the soft-spoken Kubo, is willing to make changes, but the other guy is getting angry about his work being criticized, so Midori – in maybe the most relatable moment in a show that is basically 100% relatable moments – just says “eh, fuck it, I'll do it myself.”
“Doing it myself is faster than explaining how to fix it” could sum up my entire management style, most of my career, and my outlook on life. I'm sure plenty of people reading this have felt the same way. It's a heavy sigh moment – it's not like they turned in pure trash, but they're trying to make art and it DOES need to be a certain way to work in this increasingly-complex production where a ton of moving parts need to fit together in order to pull it off. In the words of Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
Kanamori's pissed off, though – Midori has way too much on her plate already, and they're behind thanks to Tsubame's lagging animation production schedule. The sudden torrential rain doesn't help, either – school is canceled for the day, so the team decides to head to a bathhouse. There's an interesting little bit of character development in here – Midori needs to call her parents to ask permission to use the bathhouse, while Tsubame isn't used to her parents even caring where she is at any given moment.
The bathhouse scene gives us even more character development for Tsubame, who reveals that becoming an actress is actually the dream of her mother, and her father pushes her into it to basically live that dream out vicariously through his daughter. This is a pretty common thing for a lot of kids, and we're slowly learning why the almost flawlessly pleasant Tsubame (likely the result of her modeling career, thus needing to be “on” all the time) is the way she is.
The hot water – and crawfish dinner – sends Midori into another creative dream, envisioning a vehicle designed for navigating hot water (interestingly, it has the same color scheme as your average bathhouse tile), but she's literally dreaming here – passed out, needing to be carried home by Tsubame, who remains delighted with Midori even when her eccentricities create some inconveniences. Tsubame and Midori's friendship – much more than a creative partnership – I think is a real highlight of this show. Even when your friend kinda puts you out, you don't just abandon them. You literally carry them home. It's lovely.
Anyway, the clouds part, the rain ebbs, and our heroes are back to work. Tsubame is unhappy with her robot chainsaw animation, Midori asks for Kanamori's input – who (in an extremely rare moment) actually acquiesces to her request, marking perhaps the first time Kanamori has ever really relented. But of course, she doesn't really see the problem, so they decide to add sound and see if that fixes it. What follows is an extremely well-articulated argument for the beauty and power of animation (something this show has been hammering on for its entire runtime and yet never fails to set my heart on fire). Tsubame and Midori explain why people love animation so much – it's like dancing, or the way a goldfish's tail flips in the water. The intangible beauty of motion, expressed by the human hand. Animation might just be the perfect expression of the wonder of life. As Midori says, since every single image is something the artist – the person – deliberately chose to depict, that heightens the beauty of it all. It is literally taking joy in the smallest details you see in the world and attempting to recreate the way those little details make your heart soar. I've never heard it articulated this way, so succinct and so passionate.
Tsubame's speech about why every little detail matters to her fleshes her character out completely. She cares about the people who want to see every little movement, who take joy in those details. She wants to make people smile with her animation. I think this not only really gives the character a ton of depth, it also makes her unbreakable friendship with Midori make a lot of sense, from a character writing perspective. It's a shared passion – and even though the two of them express it differently (Midori comes at it from a technical perspective, Tsubame from a human one) there's a reason the two of them are inseperable.
Man, I love this show so much.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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