Animation is the power to create whole worlds and beyond.
What’s the Story?
Ever since she was little, Midori Asakusa has wanted to go on adventures. One rainy night she happened to come across an old anime and realised that she could make those adventures she was craving herself. Together with the money-minded Sayaka Kanamori and teen model turned character animator Tsubane Mizusaki, the three girls decide to form their own club and make anime! Unfortunately animation is not an easy business, between working inhumanly long hours, dealing with clients and other outside forces, and finding the right balance between practicality and artistic integrity, the girls have a lot to learn and overcome. Yet when they put their boundless imaginations together they can create marvels, so it shouldn’t be too tough, right?
Back when I did my first impressions of this show, I said that if I could ever have an anime as the outward representation of my soul, then it would be this one. Nine episodes later and it is still true, this show is such a love letter to animation and the creative process that I can’t help but adore it. There’re so many moments that ring true, especially with my own experiences, both as a writer and as a student of animation. When Asakusa and Mizusaki are goofing off and Kanamori has to put her foot down, literally, I’ve been in that position (I’ll hold my hand up and admit that I was one of the people goofing off, there’s just certain people that if you put me in a room with them, you’re going to bring out my more chaotic side). Heck, the Mizusaki focussed episode, where she’s studying how people move, had me flashing back to college and me and my friends walking up and down a corridor to watch one another for a class. What I’m trying to get at is that the people that made this anime know what they’re talking about and I can just feel the years of personal experience and anecdotes that have been poured into this series.
There’s a clear passion for the subject at hand and you feel that oozing through every frame. Whether it’s the way Asakusa sits up as that first anime inspires her, or the look of wonder on Mizusaki’s face as she watches her grandmother perform the simple act of throwing away some tea (honestly, I’ll try to mention Kanamori more, because she is an important part of this equation, but I’m not business minded and I just relate more to the other two). The animation, for the most part, takes on a very loose style, foregoing a lot of the clean, boldly defined lines of a lot of modern anime in favour of something altogether more fluid. These characters stretch and scramble their way across the screen and that just makes them feel all the more real without going into sakuga levels of detail. Also can I just say how much I love the design of the main characters? This is a show about high school girls putting together their own club and for once their not made overly cutesy or, I guess twee would be the appropriate word here. The girls are allowed to be just that, girls, in whatever shape they come in. It adds again to that realism, without necessitating a metric tonne of detail to be added to the characters.
Also if we’re talking about the animation, then of cause I have to mention the little imagination pieces, where the girls get carried off into whatever wild daydream they’re drifting off to this time (and can I just say how much I love the fact that it’s the characters themselves doing all the sound effects for these sequences, at least until they get their sound library anyway). In fact my only real disappointment with this series is that these daydream sequences get less and less as the series progresses, but then it makes sense. The girls are busy actually creating anime by that point, they don’t have as much time for daydreaming when you’ve got a deadline looming and Kanamori ready to come down on top of you. The daydream sequences are some of my favourite moments in the series, they look like they’ve come straight out of Asakusa’s sketchbook, which I realise is entirely the point.
I said I’d talk about Kanamori though and I guess it’s time for that. Look, I love Kanamori just as much as I do Asakusa and Mizusaki, the team wouldn’t be complete without her, I just personally identify more with the other two. If anyone has any experience running a creative company, or trying to wrangle creative-types into getting something done (good luck to you, it’s like trying to herd feral cats at times and I’m speaking as one such feral cat), I’m sure they’ll have endless sympathy for what Kanamori has to put up with and how she goes about getting things done. Having said all that, Kanamori is apart of some of my favourite scenes, practically whenever she’s squaring off against the student council or that scene in the last episode where she pulls an Uncle Buck and bursts down the door.
I don’t want to talk too much about the story itself, other than the specific examples I’ve already given. This is a series that should really be experienced, and everyone should experience it. If you’re in anyway interested in the creative process, be that anime or anything else, or you’re a creative person yourself then you definitely need to check this series out. There is so much passion and earnestness packed into the twelve episodes of this series that it just needs to be shared.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a wonderful and heartfelt series. It’s packed with so much passion and experience that it’s a joy a watch and anyone who takes part in any kind of creative process, not just animation, will recognise something in this series. It’s characters feel so true and you can’t help but root for them as they take on the mammoth task of creating anime and the animation is a marvel of technique and style. If you only watch one anime this year, make it Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, you won’t regret it.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.