Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! – Anime Review
Synopsis: First year high schooler Midori Asakusa loves anime so much, she insists that “concept is everything” in animation. Though she draws a variety of ideas in her sketchbook, she hasn’t taken the first step to creating anime, insisting that she can’t do it alone. The producer-type Sayaka Kanamori is the first to notice Asakusa’s genius. Then, when it becomes clear that their classmate, charismatic fashion model Tsubame Mizusaki, really wants to be an animator, they create an animation club to realize the “ultimate world” that exists in their minds. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: The first word that pops into one’s mind when describing Eizouken! is ‘unique’! It’s visual style is like no other with two of its three high school protagonists looking nothing like what most people have come to expect on hearing the words ‘anime school girl’. Even the one relatively ‘normal’ looking lead is presented without any fan service despite being the ‘looker’ of the group. And not only do these girls look different, they even have rather unique voices and mannerisms, ones that leave a striking impression on the viewer and give you an even better idea of just how they are anything but your run of the mill protagonists.
Tom: Eizouken! takes its three, quirky, lively leads and allows them to run amok as they work to turn their dreams of making anime into reality. Not content to simply discuss the ins and outs of animation in a technical way, the series instead allows its leads to overindulge in their imaginations, crafting these educational, but vibrant sequences as Asakusa, Kanamori and Mizusaki imagine turning the world into their fantastical anime ideas, like the school becoming a secret fortress, or creating otherworldly vessels to pilot through the sky or right out into space. It gives the series child-like, creative whimsy that captivates on style and flare, feeling so divorced from the rest of the anime that aired over Winter.
Linny: The show’s ability to showcase the girls’ imagination and brainstorming sessions is further bolstered by the already unique world they live in. Even when the girls are doing more ‘bland’ tasks like scouting locations for inspiration or just walking home, the very town itself is filled with personality and quirks before the girls even start to let their imaginations go ham. The town the girls live in is a flooded town with unusual architecture and layouts. Not only that even the school the girls attend is rather peculiar with the student body holding more authority to the point of literal armed forces, taking action against the other clubs with a large amount of power and flair. SWAT like forces are employed to take down errant school clubs and students. All these little elements only keep adding to Eizouken’s one of a kind nature.
Tom: The series isn’t just all style though. Eizouken follows Asakusa, Kanamori and Mizusaki on their quest to craft anime, which begins in the struggle of forming a club, putting together a proof of concept piece, and eventually crafting projects all their own. All throughout the series tries to act as an informative piece, imparting insight into the whole process, often touching on ideas that other anime, which have explored the medium’s background, haven’t bothered to bring up. We alternate between exploring the work behind the process via the character’s own artistic efforts and exploring the characters themselves, never leaving the girls as mere vessels to prompt the story forward, but characters you come to root for, or facepalm when they make the same mistakes again and again that leave the girls scrambling to meet deadlines.
Linny: Indeed, Eizouken! does a good job of exploring the girls beyond their introductory selves. Kanamori is shown as a ruthless and calculating money hungry girl but by the end we come to see her in a softer light as a story from her past shows how an unfortunate event made her realize the importance of securing a viable and thriving livelihood. Similarly, Mizusaki begins as a seemingly carefree girl, blessed with a successful modelling career and innate artistic talents. Her biggest problem is the need to hide her anime obsession from her parents but that seemed easy enough an issue to tackle. She wasn’t vapid but she didn’t offer much depth either, feeling like a third wheel to Kanamori and Asakusa’s dynamic. However, she too becomes endearing as we eventually learn that her obsession for animation and movement is due to her love for a certain family member’s struggle with old age. These dips into the past both deal with potentially weighty, emotional topics, that would be easy to milk for drama, but Eizouken! avoids over dramatization, instead focusing on the character’s development, and allowing these to act more so as insight, crafting Kanamori and Mizusaki as well rounded and even more likeable by series’ end.
Tom: It’s easy to fall in love with the cast. Asakusa’s rampant passion for anime and imagination is endearing, even when it hinders the group due to her always getting so easily distracted. Kanamori’s intense focus on the task at hand, and securing the group’s financial success is something to be awed at, especially when she manages to talk her way out of difficult situations when pitted against the student council or even the school’s administration itself. Once Mizusaki gets a bit more fleshed out she too is immensely endearing with her extreme devotion to crafting fluid movement. Eizouken! is a perfect example of how a decent, if unremarkable concept, can become something absolutely gripping as long as the right characters are in play. Eizouken, the show itself, is these three girls. It’s their characters that make the show. It is because of their personas, alongside the visuals, that Eizouken isn’t just another cute girls doing cute things club anime. You end up loving the girls because they are so lovable, not simply because they’ve been designed to be cute.
Linny: This doesn’t mean the show is without its flaws though. Eizouken! has a tendency to dangle potential drama that never actually pays off. For example, in the first episode, Mizusaki makes a big deal of how her parents are so hellbent on having her focus on her modelling and acting career that they have hired bodyguards meant to keep her away form joining an anime club. In fact, we even have a chase scene in the first episode as she tries to throw off her bodyguards. As the show continues we see her often hiding her animation work from her parents at home. But when her parents do end up learning she has been animating behind their backs all this time, there is zero confrontation or anger for even a split second. They almost immediately talk themselves into not only accepting her passion for animation but pile praise on her even though apparently they were serious enough to hire actual guards to stop her earlier on. It all turns out to be one big misunderstanding and kind of feels like we were cheated out of something a bit more dramatic and confrontational. Oh and speaking of those bodyguards, they pretty much disappear after episode one. There’s a sequence where we learn Mizusaki has thrown them off using a tunnel network that Asakusa taught her about but their utter and total disappearance makes them feel like they were nothing more than a gimmick to introduce Mizusaki and facilitate a one of a kind first meeting between the girls. But this isn’t the only time the show under delivers on what could or should have been a big dramatic event.
Tom: Outside of Mizusaki’s parents being way more chill than the series had us believing early on, Eizouken! also ends on a kind of whimper. The penultimate episode dangles tension for the finale to solve, the girl’s big final project hits a major snag that could derail everything! But that sudden obstacle is overcome in less than five minutes, making it again feel like a tease that led no where. Instead the ending borders on self-congratulatory, which might feel earned if we’d allowed for that last minute snag to really screw things up. Overall though Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is still mostly a treat. The ending isn’t nearly as poignant as one would like, and the lack of punch to Mizusaki’s long teased family drama is a blow to the show no matter what, but the passion the girl’s share for anime, the whimsy in the visuals, the willingness to allow the character’s wild imaginations to take hold of the visuals and craft an altogether less grounded experience, keep the show as a success in my mind, and something absolutely worth going back for if you missed it these past three months.
Linny: Despite my criticisms, I still feel Eizouken! is a show worth recommending to anyone seeking something innovative and wanting a one of a kind story and visual experience in the anime medium. Eizouken! is so playful and fun with its art style and quirky leads that one can almost overlook and understand the reluctance to get too dramatic. It melds its imaginative settings, unconventional leads and wacky universe so well, creating a show that leaves a huge impression and also helps the show to really stand out. Even the mundane becomes extraordinary thanks to how the show chooses to visualize and depict them. If you want to try something experimental-like, or something that goes beyond the standard anime in terms of cast and storytelling, you should most definitely pick up Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.