Season aired: Winter 2020
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Slice of Life, Adventure
Thoughts: Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! hooks the audience with its charming and unique animation and art style, but you ultimately stay for the characters and their journey through high school and their passion for creating anime.
The anime focuses around three central protagonists: Asukusa, an anime enthusiast who has had a mind for creativity and a hand for designs since she was young; Kanamori, Asukusa’s wily business friend who blends passion and logic together through the idea of money; and Mizusaki, a famous teenage model whose real passion isn’t in anime but rather the idea and results of animation as a whole. Together, they form a club called Eizouken, Japanese for “film”, where they spend their days pouring their time and energy into overtime as they work to create animated pieces for the world to see.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! does start off slow. Anyone who’s started a club on their own in high school likely knows the administrative levels required to pass it. Finding a teacher to be in charge of it, reading all the guidelines, learning to follow them — there are a lot of steps beyond just marching to the office, asking to start your own club, and getting it approved within a day. This anime portrays the realism by showing the exact steps the three characters take to start this new club focused on creating anime, and, as a result, does end up slowing the pace of the story in the beginning. I know for a fact that many people had trouble sitting through the first few episodes because of that, but the reward is well worth the wait. For me personally, I can forgive slower beginnings if the series only continues to get better with each passing episode. As long as the beginning episodes aren’t absolute chaos and bad writing, which this wasn’t at all, I am patient enough to wait for the better episodes.
However, do not fear. The story begins to pick up once the team officially establishes the club and manages to clear all the registration woes — namely due to pushbacks from what looks like a very corrupt student council where the president has less power over the school’s people than her secretary does. Once the story picks up, the audience is privy to all of the series’ strengths.
The first are the characters. Wild, spontaneous, creative Asukusa leads the passion in the team with her story ideas and worldbuilding. She is someone deeply rooted in reality, despite the fact that many of her worlds are those of fantasy. Throughout the course of the series, we see her constantly observing, sketching, and memorizing small aspects of her town that stood out to her. Reality fuels the fantasy within her, and it’s a good reminder that some of the best fantastical worlds are not born from just pure imagination but also from the very surroundings around you.
Mizusaki could’ve fallen easily into the trope of the spoiled, rich girl who whines easily, but her depth shines through in an episode that focuses on why she loves animation in the first place: she fell in love with the graceful movement her grandmother used to toss tea into the grass. This observation of movements translates into a sign of love, as she later uses her observation to standing and walking to help her aging grandmother move better once the latter had lost a lot of mobility in her legs due to old age.
However, the breakout character is undeniably Kanamori. Tall, lanky, and tough, Kanamori portrays a personality that I have not seen in anime for the 20 years I’ve watched. She’s business-oriented, always thinking about money and has developed superb negotiating skills, but she never walks over the passion of the other two characters. When she argues, she argues because of genuine variables to consider such as budget and time constraints, not simply because she sees nothing in this endeavor aside from money, money, and money. While incredibly logical and put together, she is nowhere near the cold, unflinching business people we are used to seeing in any sort of media. She respects and supports the passion artists bring, while using her strengths to help keep the other two more spontaneous and scattered minds from forgetting the goal.
This could not have happened without the voice acting of Tamura Mitsumi, who brings one of the best female seiyuu performances for the entire year into scope. Whenever Kanamori drawls, whenever she yells, whenever she becomes intense, or whenever she sounds bored, Tamura breathes life into this 2D character, the same way that the Eizouken club members breathe life into their stories and world. Ito Sairi also gets extra praise for her portrayal of Asukusa, especially when Asukusa starts making her own sound effects to bring her creative worlds to life.
The second strength of the series, and one I personally think as the greatest strength out many, is the animation. The series chooses to shuffle through several styles throughout its episodes, but the animation team chose to employ two main types. There’s the regular animation that audiences are used to seeing in other series — this represents the real world in the story. The other is when Asukusa breathes life into the plot and world of her own anime, which changes into a raw look with lines that seem penciled in and colors reminiscent to coloring pencils, like actual sketches you draw on pages that somehow come to life. The series often switches between these two seamlessly, and in the end, there’s a gorgeous cinematic shot of a blend between the “real life” animation and the eizouken animation that shows just how interconnected anime is with real life.
The final strength of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is one that I think anime fans all around the world can relate to. This is a series about the passion behind anime, and, unlike Shirobako where you get to see adults and their work lives, we see how the love for animation is fostered in teenagers who seek to follow their dreams after becoming adults. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! does not shy away from the nitty, gritty technical matters that go into animating, and it also writes in valid criticisms to some flaws in the industry that tend to set anime studios back – whether it’s how the profit margins are set (e.g. a third party backs the project, so the third party gets to keep a majority of the money made) or the hours employees are forced to put in to finish a project. Yet, despite all the setbacks, the reward for these characters is simply seeing their project come to life, and I hope this story also reaches people everywhere — to see that taking advantage of passionate, artistic endeavors is simply unfair.
Learn to work with people’s love rather than to simply make money just like Kanamori, and you might find yourself with a masterpiece.
Voice acting: 7.5
FINAL SCORE: 80