Passion is really hard to depict in TV and movies – unless it’s a passion that the showrunner or writer or director is familiar with. Which is why we have so many movies about writers, journalists, and indie filmmakers. But even those tend to steer away from the minutiae of the craft, to be accessible to a broad audience.
And that’s where the anime series Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken stands out. If you to see professional passion or the love of a particular art form then this short anime about girls who want to make anime is an amazing example. Sure it had its origins in a manga by a very problematic creator – but in the hands of famed director, Masaaki Yuasa the series anime series blossomed. And honestly probably works better conceptually.
Who better to direct an anime about anime aside from Hayao Miyazaki himself? It delves into the finest details of the craft that the average viewer wouldn’t notice or think about and brings it to the forefront.
High schooler Asakusa has wanted to make anime for as long as she could remember – but just…hasn’t had the opportunity yet. When model and fellow anime enthusiast Mizusaki enrolls in their school, Asakusa’s money-loving friend Kanamori convinces the two to start a club to produce anime.
Since Mizusaki’s parents don’t want her making anime and an anime club already exists at their large, and oddly architecturally designed school – Kanamori claims that it’s a film club – using the excuse that animated film also counts (and she’s not wrong.)
Asakusa and Mizusaki work well together, each having their own strengths in animation – while Kanamori acts as the group’s manager and wrangler, keeping the two on track and on schedule.
While there are minor threats like the club’s status, Mizusaki’s parents, the student council, and the ever-present threat of deadlines Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken is very much a slice of life anime with relatively low stakes. It has fun and likable characters, an interesting animation style, and a great perspective on life’s passion.
In other words, I love it.
A Woman’s Place
The world of Eizouken is a woman’s one. All the main characters are girls, most of their featured classmates are girls – it’s a girls’ world.
This is pretty cool since anime is currently a pretty male-dominated industry. And in-universe, the fact that they’re girls making anime is never bought up. Gender isn’t a factor. This is pretty cool since anime is currently a pretty male-dominated industry. And in-universe, the fact that they’re girls making anime is never bought up. Gender isn’t a factor.
It’s nice to see a show about girls exploring their passion without the discussion of the glass ceiling being part of it. They’re just talented young ladies.
What’s really excellent about Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken are the diverse looks and personalities of our main trio. So often girls in cartoons, particularly in anime, are designed to look generically “cute” or attractive. Those designs get kind of boring after a while. But in this show, each character has a different look and one that accurately reflects their personality.
Asakusa, our main protagonist, only really cares about anime and has a very androgynous and childish look. She’s rarely seen without her camo bucket hat (I guess the school has a very lax dress code) and her gigantic matching backpack. You gotta appreciate she’s prepared for anything!
Mizusaki is drawn as a cute girl, but with fairly realistic proportions and not necessarily the cute generic way. She tends to wear fashionable, feminine clothes – because she’s a model. She’s pretty sheltered and doesn’t always understand the issues with money that the others have. She also can’t hold her chopsticks correctly, which is a funny personality trait.
It’s endearing and she’s never snobby or uppity. Just kind of naive.
Then there is Kanamori who seems to have a permanent grimace. She’s tall, lanky, and kind of awkward looking. She’s the most serious of the three with no interest in the craft. Only money. She reminds me of a lot of Fenneko from Aggretsuko.
But either way, these three girls are complex, well-crafted characters -whose interests and humanity are put first. They’re not given love interests, they don’t go up against sexism, they don’t fight against societal expectations.
They’re just three people working together for a common goal – and they all have a wonderful dynamic with each other. Each relationship is a little different and I really like that.
It shows that Yuasa put a lot of thought into the dynamics of the group, and he never lets one character have more screen time than the others. As a whole the series is well-balanced and there is a small set of episodes dedicated to each girl and their character.
Anime can often be sexist and frustrating, so when a show so openly allows female characters to be themselves without them being seen as their gender first it feels like a breath of fresh air. I love it and want to see more of it.
Anime About Anime
Movies about movies often come off as pretentious.
So even though I had heard wonderful things about this show – I was hesitant because I thought it would take that same attitude towards anime. Like it would come across as snobby and very particular about the kinds of anime that they consider “good.”
I’m relieved that isn’t the case.
Instead, it talks about the technical aspects in layman’s terms.
The only thing it doesn’t get into is the writing process – which to be fair, the characters struggle with a lot since they’re interested in movement and expression more than a linear coherent narrative and none of their stuff is feature-length. I guess that would be a different series. And one not nearly as exciting. Just a lot of notecards and frustration.
This is not nearly as interesting as it is watching three girls trying to find the right equipment and bandaging their fingers because of all the drawing they have to do.
Despite my blog, I still don’t know a lot about the process of making an animated show or movie. I just know it’s hard and involves a lot of people doing a lot of different things. So. I do try to appreciate what’s done well no matter what.
I think my favorite part about Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken is how they had to come up with a second animation style to represent the difference between the anime and the anime the girls made, while still making the latter look good but not the same. They chose a kind of blobby water-color style with no outlines that look really good.
It all had a very dreamlike Miyazaki feel to it. And their own anime is based on the strange, complex landscape and layout of their school and town, which means a lot of the episodes are spent exploring looking for ideas.
And that’s a cool way of showing how inspiration works and having an excuse to make these incredibly interesting backgrounds. And even better is how they show the anime “interacting” with the real world both to show the imagination of Asakusa and Mizusaki as well as to show how the audience gets immersed in what they’re watching.
Sometimes it’s a little confusing, but it’s a really good way of showing the quality of the anime in-universe since it looks so different than ours.
Finding joy in your work
I think I got a better understanding of creative and artistic passion from this series than I did from Soul. These girls are also dedicating their time and energy to their passion – and they also get inspiration from the world around them.
Their ability to notice and take pleasure in the little things helps make their art better. While I know that the two pieces of media have different messages, both are focused on passion. I don’t only get to know about the passion of the characters telling me about it, but I get to experience it. I can see what inspires these girls -I don’t need to be told they’re into anime. The proof is shown. Not told.
And even though it’s difficult and frustrating, and the finished product doesn’t always come out as planned – the girls aren’t discouraged. They want to get better. We never saw Joe wanting to improve -he was already talented.
So are these girls, but they still know and recognize they have a lot to learn. And we get to see that. They’re humble. It’s interesting to see what they struggle with and how they’re not perfect.
It’s great to see how they understand just how much work it is to make an anime, but they’re willing to put that passion into their art.
Maybe it’s because I’m a huge fan of animation, or maybe it’s because I’ve begun assisting on a show that’s in the very early stages. I wish I could share more details, but I’m under NDA – that I relate so heavily to these characters and their mission. Or maybe it’s just that well done, I would have felt the excitement and passion regardless.
It’s hard to know for sure.
But what I do know is that the show has helped me with my own creative pursuits
As I just mentioned, I’m actually working on a show! It’s in its very early stages – we don’t even have the pilot done yet. That’s partially because I’m STILL not satisfied, and I’m on like the twentieth version of it — but it’s been a very interesting experience.
They actually found me through this blog- which is pretty awesome. I’m still kind of stunned, to be honest since I have NO experience writing scripts or anything, so it’s been a lot of teaching myself. But I bring this up, not to brag, but because it was Eizouken that helped me through a major writer’s block last week.
I’m working on a new pilot draft – and I got stuck on how to open it. After watching one of the early episodes of the show and taking a walk to get a change of scenery – much like the characters do -I figured it out!
And I’m already liking the script a lot more.
I doubt I’ll ever be completely satisfied with my work – much like Asakusa and Mizusaki are never totally satisfied with their work and like how I’m never totally satisfied with my blog posts. There’s comfort in knowing it’s okay not to be satisfied.
Either way, no matter what you’re pursuing this show will help reignite your passion.
And that’s the scoop!
Score: A –
Year of release: 2020
Length: 12 episodes
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Producers: Shinya Tsuruoka, Jun Sakata, Eunyoung Choi, Junya Okamoto
Writers: Masaaki Yuasa, Yuuichirou Kido