Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken‘s eighth episode continues–and concludes–Tsubame’s character arc from the prior episode. It does more than that, though. More than any other, large chunks of this episode are pure art showcase. The literal events that unfold are much less important than how they happen. This is admittedly a bit of a tricky thing to capture in still shots and writing. Yet, it’s important to understanding how Eizouken functions.
We open with the Eizouken themselves prepping to finish their super robot short for the cultural festival. This is a much bigger affair–despite its similar run-length–than their last project. It’s got sound, for one thing. The episode’s opening minutes are in fact dedicated to FX and music work. This is also a nice little showcase for Doumeki, the Eizouken’s sort-of fourth member and a solid supporting character all around.
We also get to see the Eizouken appreciating their own work. In spite of where this episode’s core thesis eventually lands, this is just great to see. Midori, in particular, seems downright floored by watching the product of their hard work come to life.
The real meat of the episode comes immediately after, though. It has two parts. One; Tsubame’s parents find out about her involvement in the Eizouken. We don’t get a lot of characterization of Tsubame’s parents, but it’s clear that despite their strained relationship they do care for their daughter. They end up attending the cultural festival, not to stop her, but to watch the short, which brings us to our second point. Two; the cultural festival itself.
Eizouken has never exactly been shy about showing off its detailed backgrounds. One expects that Midori’s entire characterization is written from experience, in fact. Here, though, it gets taken to a new level. The many wide shots of the cultural festival feel just shy of Where’s Waldo? books. They’re that crowded, in a lovely way of course.
It’d be one thing if this was just set-dressing, but it’s actually relevant to the events of the episode. Here, for the first time, the Eizouken (and the Robotics Club!) clash with the so-called Security Club. A downright Kill La Kill-ian force that seems to take the idea of school security to cartoonish extremes. It’s also worth taking a second to praise Eizouken’s character design chops here. Even a minor character like the SC’s leader has a distinct look, look at those chompers!
There are dozens of little moments across the episode that convey just how much the visual arts mean to Eizouken‘s creators not by explanation but by example. There’s a chase sequence, where Tsubame, dressed up in a cardboard robot outfit, has to evade the SC while aided by dozens of other cardboard robots.
There’s Sayaka’s “negotiations” with the Air Conditioning Club(!) which are cut in a dark, heavily-shadowed style that sharply contrasts with the show’s usual look.
Earlier on, there’s a sequence where the Robotics Club launches a battery of bottle rockets into the air to get attention for the screening. It’s both a great bit of animation and a pointed callback to Tsubame’s rocket smoke speech in the last episode. It’s also reminiscent of the “youth drama” genre, something TV anime increasingly seem to pull from. (Indeed, just a few years ago FLCL Alternative had a bottle rocket sequence in its opening episode. What is it about the things that creates such palpable summertime nostalgia? We may never know for sure!)
All of this of course, leads up to the episode’s final segment. Here, the Eizouken air their mecha short. Tsubame’s parents, in the audience, are intercut with footage of the short itself. They actually outright discuss what is essentially the core thesis of the episode and of Tsubame’s arc in general. The idea that animation is as valid an art as any other. Animators, they say, are actors, just of a different sort.
This, funnily enough, might actually be the weakest part of the episode. If only because it feels like Eizouken should have slightly more faith in its audience. It’s probably the closest the series has come to feeling outright preachy. On the other hand, with the consideration of the rest of the episode and indeed the series, it’s perhaps well-earned. And in an era of deliberately-uncharitable reading being a common hazard of art discourse, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry. Still though, you will find yourself wishing at least once that they’d just let the short play uninterrupted.
The final scene of the episode is Tsubame reconciling–at least to a point–with her parents. They also discuss how as any kind of artist, you’re never truly completely satisfied with your work. An idea Midori echoes not long after. This may sound cynical on paper, but in truth it’s more of a simple fact about how the human brain works. The sentiment is near-universal.
This all puts a nice bow on her character arc, one of the most surprisingly strong of the entire season. If there’s a hope I have with Eizouken going forward, it’s that its final third will explore the other two Eizouken members in as much detail.