[Media Meandry] Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Episode 2 [2020]

Can we draw inspiration from disparate media? Can the pillow shots of Ozu Yasujiro inspire anime? Can the descriptive-epithets of Homer and the makura-kotoba [pillow-words] of waka poetry inspire anime? Can we depict that which is invisible, like wind, by that which is around it? Can impressive background art inspire writing? We’ll meander through these questions and more in this week’s review of last week’s episode of the currently airing Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!.

The media I like the most present interesting concepts.

I will never be able to live in this anime town. Seeing shots from angles like this low-angle shot maybe from a dingy on the artificial river or this walkway where we are first reintroduced to tall-girl Sayaka, medium-girl Tsubame, and short-girl Midori, however, help introduce us to this fantastical town and let it breathe as it would when we’d visit any new city. I’ve never been to, say, New York City, but if I were given 48 hours to explore, I might spend the first day going to one or two popular places, then spend the rest of the time just getting lost.

I would look for shots like these and photograph them physically or in my mind.

These shots function as pillow shots.

Pillow shots act as a palette cleanser from one scene to the next. Filmmaker Ozu might have transitioned from a family’s drama to a scene with a different mood with an intentionally static shot of a pillow. The two shots above are almost like that with our transition from our busy lives into this quieter, more creative world where these girls daydream of machinery they want to build in their anime and brainstorm the ways they could engineer those daydreams.

In that sense, we need the padding to detoxify our media sensations.

In this detoxification process, anime can draw influence from cinema.

It’s not often, and more likely, anime will just be functional and rudimentary, which is why I wanted to write about this show weekly. There’s something special going on here. This anime was made with care and attention – they have an eye for quality – which is apparent in almost every shot. The mixed-media approach, with the traditional cel-shading and non-traditional almost watercolor painterly sketches, gives different impressions. The sketches are brainstorming sketches. The cel-shading is within their real world.

Their real-world is just as trepidatious as ours.

Midori is just as shy as any of us over some seemingly insurmountable task.

That’s where working in a team can be invaluable. If Midori is too shy, then [Kanamori] Sayaka can step up to the plate. She may not have the artistic skills of both Midori as a background artist or Tsubame as a character artist, but she can still round out the team by facilitating and managing. When I’ve seen teams of disparate disciplines work best, it’s because they either have the confidence to self-manage and collaboratively direct, or, there’s a project manager that helps grease the wheels that need greasing.

Sayaka doesn’t see social limitations like Midori, or even Tsubame.

All three have their ambitions and shortcomings.

When I briefly did some videogame development, my lack of knowledge around programming was initially a hurdle just like how Sayaka’s lack of knowledge around anime was a hurdle. I had a big project that I could contribute to, except, my work was prioritized lower because it would need to be translated and integrated into the overall project. If, instead, I learned the basics of programming and learned to overcome my shortcomings and force my ambitions onto the project, there would be no choice to either accept or reject with caveat my suggestions.

Through that aside, I wonder, will Sayaka similarly learn anime skills?

I want to point out a particularly attentive detail toward foley.

Foley as the concept of recreating sounds for movies may not be the best word choice here. Since I have no better word, it shall do. In the scene where the club manager considers the competitiveness of the school’s clubs, he speaks one word through the paper, which is both animated and spoken through There are invisible touches like that throughout now both episodes that are inspiring just to soak in and consider. They breathe life into the anime, which otherwise might just be a rudimentary look at how anime itself is created.

That invisible willingness to forego plainness is exciting.

Let’s return to some thoughts about pillow shots.

When I write essays, I like the idea of writing with a verse-chorus-verse form, so the reader will have a breather between paragraphs. Over time, it’s allowed me to progress through many disparate ideas through loosely linking two thoughts together with a sentence. It’s like a pull quote, except generally, I’m not a fan of those because we either just read the sentence or we’ll re-read it again soon. If I’m reading because I hate the material but need to learn what it’s talking about, sure, it’s useful. If, however, I’m reading for pleasure or I want to learn the material, then it’s just distracting.

That one-sentence “chorus” subtracts what I dislike and adds what I like.

We can similarly see writing and anime mood changes through what’s around it.

Let’s consider the scene where Sayaka takes charge of setting up their new club. Midori was scared of embarrassing herself, says she won’t, but ends up embarrassing herself anyways. Sayaka has to step up to the plate to help with Midori’s shortcoming and does so in an endearing way. We see Midori try to get outside her comfort zone, and fail, but we don’t linger on that failure for too long. It’s the same as when we professionally make mistakes. If we make mistakes, even big ones, and they’re corrected promptly, then we’re good. If, however, we find ourselves in situations where we can’t correct our mistakes or they become “learning exercises” to “help us grow,” then the environment becomes toxic and rife with unnecessary pathos.

Here, Midori’s shortcomings let us see Sayaka’s strengths.

If Sayaka was untrustworthy before, she becomes trustworthy when she fights back.

These sorts of minimal tonal shifts are often punctuated in light-hearted dramas like this through jokes, so we label them as comedies, but the comedies are more situational. We can pull the quotes out from their scenes in screenshots to share online or keep for our self-improvement or motivation, but they don’t have the same resonance as actually watching or rewatching something. There is that invisible balance between seeing the quote and remembering the scene and rewatching the scene.

When we can’t spend the time to soak it in, it’s often wasted.

Returning to media disparity, what can we learn from other media?

Before I realized my passion for writing, I was enamored by intricate drawings and drew frequently in college. Josh Gainsbrugh, or l0cke, drew backgrounds that you could just soak in for minutes at a time. It’s the same as reading a book where you can lose yourself in the intricate details, whether that’s in a sentence that has a plain style except for some unique words or a paragraph that is constructed in a unique style.

I liked to say in college that I learned more about drawing by not drawing.

We learn by doing and by not doing.

When I write, I learn to focus and refine my voice. Computer editors and human editors can help much more, because if I’m not clear in something I thought I was clear about, then I’ve failed to communicate well. With Midori’s bug-jetpack, the sketchy artistic painting contrasts well. We understand this is her imagination through prior sketchy examples. If I, similarly, can use certain callback words to convey an imaginary sensation, then I’m closer to helping convey new feelings through existing feelings.

I’ve always been a fan of foreshadowing and callbacks.

Space Cases was the first time I realized the importance of narrative time travel.

There was a particular episode of the live-action 90s show where a character had just acquired some sort of cool object that… never appeared again. It was a disappointing moment for me. There was no narrative consistency! It’s like using the word invisible throughout the review/essay/meandry so far, then switching it over to transparent twice, then back to invisible. When we can anticipate these sorts of thematic words, these pillow words, these callbacks, these foreshadowings, or these sorts of predictable structures within literature or anime, we can imagine what we’ve seen and what we will see into satisfying wholes.

That said, I don’t like to speculate on plot predictions much.

I let the narrative go at its own pace.

When I feel that the writers, editors, and others in charge of producing bigger pieces like anime, are wasting time – well, that’s when I check out. That could be said for an essay like this that goes in random directions and isn’t edited, but that’s kind of the point. We’re just free-associating ideas to see where we go. In that approach, having superfluous words aren’t bad, so long as they’re not irrelevant words. If a “very” feels right, I’ll use it. Just like the sketchy painterly animation in the show, it’s not traditionally “right” from an animation perspective, but this anime is presenting us with new visual language. I try not to predict narratives for that reason. When I think too much about how X scene leads to Y,  or the narrative structure, I’ll miss out on the details that make the show pop.

This anime is all about presenting with new visual language.

Eizouken! is like a G-rated version of Golden Boy’s 6th episode.

In the final episode of the Golden Boy OVA, having followed a sleazy genius, Kintaro, as he bums around Japan looking for work and fun, he arrives in an animation studio. It’s a self-referential parody [see Golden Girl] and clever nod to itself.  Kintaro sees how animation is done, but never quite sees himself being animated like the in-universe filming of Spaceballs, and I wonder if, similarly, we’ll see future episodes where we’ll see scenes being animated?

Existentialist narrative speculation like that can be dangerous.

Let’s explore the existentialist, nihilist, and absurdist mindsets.

I like to think of the three as points on a triangle, where existentialism inquiries the positives of life, nihilism inquiries the negatives of life, and absurdism just does its own thing. To create something like an anime of this magnitude requires incredible effort. Even now in an age where computers can lift the heaviest burdens off our shoulders, we are still beholden to the creative processes of our crafts. To write something like this essay has, so far, required one and a half hours of time. To produce an anime like this certainly required much more time than that by many more people than me.

Is anime existentialist? NihilistAbsurdist?

That was too much meandering so here’s the outro gallery:

My thoughts on episode three will be published next Friday evening.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My viewing experiences.
Inspirations: I was inspired by my anime reviews of Golden Kamuy and MEGALOBOX, which were somewhat popular. I’m not a big fan of writing reviews, so these are more Media Meandry meandering thoughts related to what I thought during each episode of Eizouken and while writing about the episode.
Related: Other Series Reviews. [Episode 01 02]
Screenshots: 26 of my favorite screenshots from the first episode. Now, I imagine that there’s a sort of gray area in publishing all these screenshots. If the gallery of images must go, then it must, but until then, it all stays.
Written On: 2020 January 19 [Gdocs Rough Draft.] 2020 January 23 [2pm to “minutes at a time” at 3am. From 3:03am to 3:38am.] Written listening to The Kinspiral. WordPress.
Last Edited: 2020 January 23 [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.