This Eizouken review contains spoilers, so beware!
At this point, saying that Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! knocked it out of the park isn’t surprising. The show’s kept up such an impressive and consistent level of quality that praising it for doing so almost seems rote by now. Yet, here we are. Eizouken‘s ninth episode is another tour-de-force for the series.
Our lead-in plot is once again pretty simple. The Eizouken’s short for the Robotics Club did well, but the nitty-gritty financial realities mean that after all is said and done, they’ve only made about 9,000 yen (just over $80 USD) in actual profit. This is of course unacceptable. To no one more so than Sayaka, the club’s most money-minded member as always. The result? Our heroines opt to enter something called Comic A, an amateur film and art festival in their town. The real heart of an Eizouken episode is never in the actual plot details, of course. Even in its opening minutes, the show gives us some visual treats here.
Where The River Ran
The episode’s first third sees the Eizouken exploring a semi-abandoned quarter of town. A skiing town in the off-season, by the sound of it. They, of course, envision telephone poles transforming into missiles and invisible giant monsters lurking on the horizon.
The scene is well-done, certainly, but it’s also an important element of relatability. Many young people idly fantasize about this kind of thing when exploring their hometown. Certainly, many creative types do.
They visit a ramen shop and meet their first true-blue fan. This becomes important later. However, it’s the scene immediately after the Eizouken leave that is this episode’s biggest impact. Sayaka has been the least-explored of the main trio so far, and this episode seeks to change that. We kick off her part of the episode with one of the great exchanges of the still-young year.
She is actually, as we soon learn, maintaining social media pages for the Eizouken. It’s actually quite impressive. We see that the page she’s made already has 500-odd followers, and it seems to be new. This turns into a rant about the importance of advertising and how merely having a good thing to sell won’t guarantee people actually buy it. Which, then, launches into a flashback in the most Sayaka fashion possible.
We learn that Sayaka’s family used to own a sake store. Over the years, as generations passed, the town around it changed, and it went from being a craft-focused store with a good reputation to a general-purpose shop. Later, just an actual general store in its final years. It’s here, under the ownership of Sayaka’s uncle, that this flashback takes place. Sayaka helps out around the store and is given an allowance for doing so. This is adorable, and also gives us the ridiculously cute Little Sayaka – or Minimori, as the show dubs her.
This all comes to a screeching halt one winter day when the store is snowed in. Sayaka valiantly shovels out the store front and, being the only place open, the store actually gets a fair amount of business. However, this is also the day that Sayaka learns the store is closing soon. All those years of good service gone to the wind because of a lack of visibility. The framing of this whole flashback is actually quite interesting. It’s not presented as sad, per se. It’s more of a life lesson – we don’t find out what, if anything, Sayaka’s uncle and his wife are up to nowadays. This isn’t really that kind of show, but there’s a palpable if not foregrounded sense of melancholy. All the craft in the world means nothing if no one knows you’re making anything.
Sayaka getting her own backstory here is genuinely nice. As has come up on this column before; it’d be very easy for a show like Eizouken to gloss over or downplay the role of a producer. Their job is not particularly glamorous, and producer/director feuds throughout the visual arts are well-publicized. What Eizouken does is make Sayaka sympathetic – if still somewhat comical – a character. She has her reasons for her passions too, as we all do.
The episode’s final third is more visual powerhouse work. We get our creatives brainstorming ideas for their new short. They eventually land on a flying saucer attack on a fortress-like, heavily-armed version of their hometown. It’s a pretty neat idea, but it’s all the cooler that we get to see it come to life. This has been how all of the shorts the Eizouken have done have been handled, but watching it never gets old.
Flying Saucer Attack!
There’s lots of great stuff in here. Two huge things: one is that this is the first brainstorming session they’ve done with the aid of Doumeki, their sound girl. She plays sound effects over their conceptualizing, and we actually see the wave-forms pop up over the scene.
The second is Midori having something of a revelation about her role as the Eizouken’s main director. It’s the same revelation in many ways that Tsubomi had an episode ago. Animation, like all art, is performance. The specific thing that Midori gets hung up on may seem somewhat silly, but it’s valid.
She and Sayaka have a disagreement over whether it’s okay for stationary laser turrets to not be shown firing a visible “beam.” Midori argues – correctly – that energy weapons fire faster than the human eye can track. As such, having a beam is unnecessary and unrealistic. Sayaka’s argument is that the audience, consisting mostly of laymen, will not know or care about this, and that not having a beam will make the turret’s shots hard to follow.
Midori, in a notable counterbalance to the episode’s earlier focus on Sayaka, wins the argument. She demonstrates how cut matching, perspective, visual effects on the barrel, etc. can make it clear where a shot came from and landed. Sayaka relents, giving Midori the win, and accepting her directorial vision. The visuals during this shouldn’t be undersold – against a plain white background, Midori’s animated with some of the most raw energy of the whole season. It’s poetic in motion, and in still caps, hilarious.
But that balance – all perspectives considered – is really the heart of what makes Eizouken tick. As it enters what’s likely to be its final arc, the show is as vast as ever. You don’t get many shows in a given year that are great fun, visually engaging in an innovative way, and have something to say about their place in the medium. Eizouken is not just a great anime, it’s a great example of what anime can be. Teaching by example, one might say.