[Series Review] Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

My favorite thing about Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is how it shows developing creativity. Although the anime focuses on a small animation studio of three students producing animated shorts, so primarily dealing with project collaborations within that specific environment, many of the themes can apply to project work in other disciplines or even to solo work. There are elements that aren’t as polished, either intentionally or unintentionally, so it’s not perfect, but, close.

Rating: ★★★★☆ [4/5]
Spoilers: yes

Parts of the anime intentionally look amateurish.

When the watercolor aesthetic replicates the imagination of the main characters, it’s used effectively. This almost mixed medium imagery is a fantastic way of quickly showing the imaginary versus “real” world, especially when that emersion is broken. Where I don’t think this works well is, as a final spoiler warning, the final episode. I’m not much of a fan of predicting the outcomes of shows, mainly because I’d rather let their magic work until they become too unbelievable, but this is an example where we know what’s going to happen.

The series is a build-up to releasing a major short in a public venue.

As we watch this short that concludes the series, which ostensibly is designed by these three high school students for a team project, there are too many shortcuts that began to unravel the believability of the series because it all felt cheap. There are ways to show an amateur sense of style without seeming cheap and it’s frustrating because there are times when the animation dances on both sides of that line. I am not an animator or much of an artist, but some of the art made me realize that the only difference between me and professionals would be the available tools and time.

Should Eizouken, then, serve as inspiration?

It started off in that direction, and that’s what inspired me so much when I watched it, but then as it went along to its predictable conclusion, it removed any element of challenge from the narrative outside of the predictable beats that every show has to create suspense. As an example, in the penultimate episode, the music submitted to the team was wrong for their short. Normally, this would require a substantial change in the animation scope, but for the crew, this effort was shown to be non-trivial. In realistic creative ventures, any change of any nature would require extensive rework.

Even writing this essay over two separate days inspired some minor edits.

As anime seasons get shorter, they have to cram more elements into each show to make it more substantial and to stand out from the rest, at the expense of attention-to-detail. I admit that I don’t spend as much time as I would like in my own creative outlets, particularly in essays but sometimes in reviews like this, because I’d rather spend my efforts in writing fiction – and that can show in the quality of the content. It’s an inherent flaw of the creative process, where the more effort you put into creative revisions, the better quality output you get.

I feel, then, that Eizouken’s narrative scope was too top-heavy.

It focused too much on the easy 80% of the work, rather than the 20% slogging that is required to complete any major creative project. I’m not sure that’s a fault, exactly, of the animation season as much as the lack of realism. Who would really want to watch a show about high schoolers failing repeatedly at their dream project? Besides creative people like myself who might say ‘yeah, I’ve been there!’ The wide-scale applicability of the show, then, is what ultimately lost me as it approached its conclusion. I keep bringing myself into this review, but I’ve been working on my writing for years in obscurity, and regardless of what I try to do I don’t seem to be achieving any success. They get almost immediate success, and sure, that is perhaps because they are working within the animation medium and have the backing of their school, but that doesn’t feel real for creatives like myself or animators.

What can we learn from Eizouken other than with adequate resources, you can succeed?

How about those of us without the advertising benefits of a school? I’m being negative here since these elements are worth exploring, were there to be a Season 2, since exploring the nuances of project work in more detail could provide a more accurate idea of what’s in store for future animators. Here, we’re shown all the ideals. I know whenever I go to career fairs, I see high school graduates interested in programs like animation and gamedev yet are only shown the easiest aspects of the field. They are shown only success cases. With unchecked positivity, you can end up in a rut as you’re wondering why you’re spinning your wheels on that final stretch of the project.

The glimpses of that final stretch we see in Eizouken are only glossed over.

Watching a show like that might not be popular for most people, but it would be visceral for someone like me, and I imagine other creatives or independent workers that are struggling to achieve some level of success. If I were to change anything about the narrative scope of the show, I would focus more on the potential failure of needing to change the entire in-universe short to reflect the change in music as more of a central theme of overcoming adversity. That could have even been a rewarding cliff-hanger for a hypothetical Season 2 because then we could see something more realistic, but that’s probably not really the intention. This show is a fantasy. It has the notion of overnight successes, instant celebrity, and minimal effort for maximal reward, which are addictive notions to consider, and ones I admittedly would like to consider more often. When I’m feeling pessimistic, it is nice to put on a feel-good show where everyone wins.

It just might have been nicer to see our cast overcoming more creative challenges.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My watching and project experiences.
Inspirations: I want to start writing more reviews after I’m done watching or doing things.
Related: Other Series Reviews. Media Meandry essays fit here, too.
Screenshots: From the show. The bottom one was going to lead but I figured it was more of a spoiler, so I went with a different one.
Written On: 2020 April 16 [10:02pm to “both sides of that line” at 10:26pm] then on April 22 [7:36pm to 8:04pm, listening to DESIRE]
Last Edited: 2020 April 22 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]

My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.