Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is the latest from Masaaki Yuasa. The initiated won’t need more reason to watch it. Yuasa is something of an auteur, and ever since early magnum opus Kaiba he’s been a directorial force to be reckoned with. Others might need more convincing. On the surface, it doesn’t sound like there’s much to separate Eizouken from any run-of-the-mill school life comedy. The truth of the matter though is that while Eizouken might broadly fit somewhere near that genre, it’s got a lot more going on. The meta sensibility is obvious, but more important is the show’s big heart and very sincere love of animation.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What is Eizouken about?

Hangtime

The core plot of Eizouken is pretty simple. Our cast consists of three high school girls. Midori, the shortest, has a lifelong dream of making anime. She’s a talented background and technical designer and is easily spotted by way of her camo hat. There’s Tsubame, a skilled character animator who just so happens to also be a fashion/advertising model and the daughter of two actors who forbid her from having anything to do with her school’s anime club. Bringing up the rear is Sayaka, the tallest, who is money-minded and serves as the group’s fiscal anchor.

Midori and Tsubame meet in the first episode (running from one of the latter’s handlers) and hit it off. They want to make anime, but Tsubame’s predicament precludes joining the school’s anime club. The solution? The three make their own. That, of course, is the titular eizouken (the word roughly means “film association”). There are other twists here; like the eizouken setting up in an abandoned workshop. A probable nod to the early history of Daicon Films, the company that later became Studio GAINAX. The eizouken is also currently operating under the guise of a live action film club, a ruse that’s already been strained once in the show and one imagines won’t hold up for long.

Artland

The thing is, the plot is only part of the point of Eizouken. The show is also interested in demonstrating (and depending on how much you know, actively teaching) basic animation techniques. Which it does via a lovely device where we get to see into Midori’s mind to see her flights of fancy.

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In addition to often showing off the very techniques that the characters discuss earlier in the episode, these scenes are just a great visual treat on their own. They’re sometimes even used to comedic effect. In one case, we smash cut from what Midori is imagining to what’s actually happening, and the disconnect is hilarious.

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Gas Mask Girl

This all brings us to the end of this week’s episode, the third. The three are handed a pamphlet by their alleged club adviser (a rather mysterious teacher with a beard that we don’t know much about yet). It’s a notice about a presentation opportunity: all associations have the chance to impress the  schoolboard and gain more funding. Our girls, of course, opt to make a short anime. After figuring out the logistics – Sayaka soberly points out that in order to make a 5-minute short at the anime-standard 12fps, the pair would have to work non-stop for 50 straight days – the trio cuts it down to 3 minutes, and gets started.

It is here that I came up with a pet theory that Midori might be the most accurate depiction of an aspiring animator ever.

To fully credit the artists, fictional though they may be, Tsubame drew that bottom one.

We actually get to see some of the “gas mask girl” anime they’re working on, and true to the show’s ethos, it looks great. There’s a million little details that carry Eizouken, but its real heart is here; celebrating the joy (and hard work!) of making animation happen. Time will tell if Midori gets her little dream related to the eizouken’s logo to happen.

But either way, it’s a pleasure to be along for the ride.

 

 

Jane Auman
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