Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
by Zac Bertschy,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! ?
The Eizouken are nearly finished with their commissioned short for the Robot Club – at the absolute last minute, of course - but now comes another hard part of animation production: sound timing and voiceover. Our heroes are in the sound lab with Doumeki, running through the sound effects and music for every single cut. It's a fascinating look into this process – and as usual, Midori, the one with a real vision for how things should look and feel, saves the day and showcases her natural ability to produce animation with real impact. I love the way this show articulates Midori's creative genius – sure, she might be kind of a weirdo, but she always knows what she's talking about when it comes to the technical and creative side of creating animation that leaves the audience breathless. There's no doubt that one day, Midori will become a famous artist. You can just feel it in the way this series shows you exactly how she communicates with other artists, her producer, and the world.
Then we get some more backstory for Tsubame – we see the gorgeous palatial estate her parents own, followed by a pretty fascinating scene where her parents, who are both famous actors, laugh off a news item where the director and screenwriter literally tried to murder the producer of their upcoming big-screen reunion with a sword (something likely speaking to anime production as well). “We saw this coming!” they laugh, before revealing that they've never been to a single one of Tsubame's cultural festival appearances. Tsubame's parents have been clearly set up as absentee and careless this entire time, but it's really brought home here. Tsubame's mother discovers that she's left a pillow beneath her comforter to make it look as though she's home and sleeping – smash cut, of course, to Tsubame staying up all night and eating cup noodles around what's effectively a campfire outside the derelict Eizouken building in order to finish their project in time for the festival. You could not possibly juxtapose these emotional positions more directly than Yuasa has here.
She could be at the palace her parents own, being ignored, doing modeling work that makes her feel empty inside. Instead, her passion for creation has led her here, to this place, which feels more like home than home does. It's very strong character work, something I think is relatable to a lot of artists – which is nothing new for this show, of course.
The conversation that follows is, again, fascinating – Producer Kanamori feels that the most important thing is generating a big audience for their premiere, because they need to ensure a certain number of preorders for the DVD edition of their work. You know. The money.
“Again with the money” Midori says. Kanamori launches a plan – put the famous model Tsubame Mizusaki front and center, and they're likely to sell more. Tsubame, of course, objects – she's here for the art, not to sell her face. The frustration is deeply felt. But Kanamori's reasoning makes sense, and she's not trying to say that they'll only sell this thing on the strength of Tsubame's fame – her face will put butts in seats, and the strength of the animation is what will sell their short.
Kanamori's attitude is basically perfect. If you think about it from the perspective that most producers are purely exploitative assholes with no real respect for the artists they work with, “Look, I need to sell this, you're both very talented, but I'm going to be cynical about what people will pay attention to and what will sell in order to get eyeballs on your art, which I believe in very strongly” is like a dream come true. Naturally, thanks to creative people literally trying to murder eachother, Tsubame's parents will be attending her culture festival appearance for the first time – so in order to continue her coverup, Tsubame absolutely needs to be front and center. It's a real crisis at this point – they might discover what she's doing with her time, and remember, this character's story began by literally being chased out of the anime club by men in black sent specifically to stop her from getting interested in animation.
On the day of the big festival, however, Tsubame's mind has changed – she doesn't give a fuck anymore if her parents know she's been making animation instead of focusing on her modeling career, and the Eizouken needs a boost, having done virtually nothing to attract a much-needed crowd to their screening. Thankfully, Producer Kanamori and the Robot Club have a plan for promotion – firing water rockets that explode into both a banner and collectible medallions, featuring Tsubame's face, promoting the screening. As an articulation of what promotion is like, this sequence is hilarious – you really do have to stretch this hard to get anyone to notice what you're doing. The other clubs, which were doing just fine with crowd control before all this, immediately start to bitch about how Tsubame must have it easy since she's a celebrity, and the only reason anyone's paying attention to this screening is due to that.
Except they didn't see how much blood, sweat and tears she personally put into this animated short as an artist. This mirrors so much of real life for anyone who's ever been famous for one thing and then wanted to do something for themselves, something different. Something truly creative and personally fulfilling, in spite of what it feels like the entire world expects from you.
Kanamori bribes the people who control the AC in the auditorium they're showing the film in and then has to manage even more chaos when the malevolent student council comes crashing in, seeking out Tsubame herself for breaking the festival promotion rules. Thankfully, the Robot Club's cardboard robot outfits provide a handy disguise for evading the cops (technically, the Security Club, which of course serves the will of the student council) and what follows is a madcap chase sequence – something this show hasn't really done before, but what it's intended to illustrate is the power of artistic obsession with the things you both love and create, which is a running theme in this show.
The student council wants to just apprehend everyone in a robot costume – but passionate Ono, the angry guy from the Eizouken's first meeting with the Robot Club, first introduced as kind of an antagonist, proves his worth by pulling off an enormous stunt designed to help sell their screening, pure showmanship. He's got a costume change and even a zipline, fully committed to making sure people fill up that theater and see their hard work. He might be kind of an asshole, but his pure diehard energy will also – as I said before – put butts in seats.
This is what it takes, I think, to get eyeballs on your work, to get people to care. You really do have to care this much, do whatever it takes.
Tsubame's absentee parents make it into the (absolutely packed – mission accomplished!) screening, and it's revealed that her father was the one trying so hard to discourage her from being interested in creating animation, since he thought his wife wanted her to be an actress. Interestingly – her mother seems a little bewildered by this, and then, during the screening of the Eizouken's latest masterpiece, isn't skeptical or cold – she's delighted, smiling at the screen, which is, notably, exactly what Tsubame said she wanted her artistic ambitions to produce. The short itself is great (and there's a callback to Tsubame's tea-throwing with her grandmother, the person we saw had the biggest impact on her life and development) – and, thanks to their audio production issues, it's being dubbed live by the Robot Club, totally fascinating the audience, who are wrapped up in the story and visuals thanks to the talent of our heroes. Needless to say, they move a ton of preorders.
There's a moment in here where Tsubame's parents actually recognize her on screen in the cuts she drew herself – they can tell it was her, thanks to her pure talent for articulating movement. I think this is basically nirvana for animators – your disapproving parents watching your art and saying “That's my girl up there” even if it isn't your face. Her parents – specifically depicted with the glow of the screen, the one showing their daughter's art, reflected in their eyes – come to realize that by creating animation, their kid is already a talented performer making incredible things. What a wonderful message that is.
After all, animation is performance. It is an expression of movement, an articulation of life, that comes from your bare hands – this sequence that connects those dots so directly is a wonderful way to show that, to tell people how it doesn't just come from thin air. And as Tsubame learns from a tense encounter from her parents – when you're passionate about your art, people can tell, and they'll respect you for it even if not enough people see it that way. Through their conversation, They've validated her as an actress through her animation, which is a beautiful little expression. Finally, they're paying attention to her.
In the end – our heroes are enjoying some hard-won yakisoba away from the crowds, but they're found by Tsubame's parents – and they ask a simple question.
“Are you Tsubame's friends?”
Midori responds: “No, we're nakama.”
Now, anyone who's been watching anime for longer than a few days will understand what that means. I thought it was touching and sweet, and the way this show has handled Tsubame's character development is genuinely brilliant. I've stopped wondering about how they'll manage to keep this story going with this kind of breakneck pacing for another few episodes, but given that we're almost at the end now, all I can do is impatiently wait for the next episode. I still have a hard time believing a few things: one, how genuinely jam-packed this show is with plot and character development every single week while still feeling like a relaxing series, and two, how someone managed to make a show this emotionally intelligent. Science SARU has nowhere to go but up.
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