Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Episode 1 Review: A Flying Start

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Episode 1

Episode 1 of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, the new anime from Science SARU and Masaaki Yuasa, is finally here. This episode takes things slow, introducing us to the core cast of Midori Asakusa, Sayaka Kanamori, and Tsubame Mizusaki, but there’s still plenty of gorgeous animation and interesting adaptational choices to be had along the way. Let’s dive into it.

Eizouken! Episode 1: The Science SARU Checklist

Before we embark on our journey, however, it is necessary to lay some groundwork. The original Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! manga is penned by Sumito Oowara and has been serialized in Shogakukan’s Monthly Big Comic Spirits since 2015. Inspired by Oowara’s own experience in his high school’s filmmaking club and teaching himself animation after graduating university, the series follows the adventures of three high school girls as they deal with the trials and tribulations of independent anime production.

Ever since the first PV for the anime adaptation was released all the way back in May of last year, my excitement for the project has been palpable. Not only is Masaaki Yuasa one of the most exciting directors in the industry right now, but putting him and his studio together with the source material seemed like a match made in heaven. The series’s sketchy art style, boundless creative energy, and passion for the medium of animation are all things that define Science SARU just as much as they do Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!.

Keep Your Hands off the Eizouken!

Having read the original source material, I went into Eizouken episode 1 with three big expectations. Firstly, that the studio had found appropriate voice actors to best express the unique personalities of the main trio. While that first PV demonstrated that Mutsumi Tamura and Misato Matsuoka were solid in their respective roles as Kanamori and Tsubame, what came as a surprise was how deep Sairi Itou’s voice seemed to be in her performance as Midori. This was surprising as Midori’s diminutive stature and hyperactive personality seemed to go against such a tenor, but how it worked in practice remained to be seen.

Secondly, it seemed almost a no-brainer to think that Science SARU would be filling this episode and series with fantastic animation and eye-catching sequences. Given their track record on such inventive projects as Night is Short, Walk on Girl and Ride Your Wave, which are all renowned for their distinct visual style and memorable set pieces, there was almost no reason to expect this. But my suspicions were all but confirmed by the series’ third PV, which showed off the series’ sketchy art style and fluid movement. Seeing if this was going to translate from simple promotion into reality was, therefore, my main question.

Also distinct in that third PV was chelmico’s upbeat, catchy opening song ‘Easy Breezy,’ which stood alongside Oorutaichi’s unique, hypnotic soundtrack in the first and second PVs for the series. Given that Science SARU dominated much of the internet in 2018 with Devilman no Uta from their debut anime series Devilman crybaby, expecting Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! to deliver some groovy music was my third and final expectation heading into episode 1.

Animation and Its Legacy

With these expectations in mind, let’s dive into Eizouken episode 1. As I said, this episode more or less takes its time establishing the main trio as well as the basic structure of the narrative – some kind of adventure followed by an imagined world – but there’s still plenty of interesting things to unpack.

One of the most immediate things that has dominated the conversation around the series ever since its release is how it pays testament to the medium of animation and its legacy with an extended homage to the 1978 TV anime Future Boy Conan.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Episode 1

The impact of Future Boy Conan cannot be understated. It was one of the legendary Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki’s first stints as director over at Toei Animation, after serving under Isao Takahata for a number of years. The film acted as a testament to the director’s unique attention to detail with its weighty, lifelike animation and remains a firm favorite among the animation community. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that, because Midori explains all of that to Kanamori during the episode.

Yet, it is worth mentioning that Eizouken episode 1’s focus on Future Boy Conan is something that has been more or less fabricated by Science SARU and Masaaki Yuasa during the adaptation focus. While it is true that Midori does watch the series as a kid in the original manga (even explicitly stating so), this is the only time that the series is referenced. It is also not the film that the Anime Club screen as part of the enrollment process – it’s just a nondescript scene of an explosion on a boat.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! chapter 1

Engineering Future Boy Conan as a narrative and creative throughline for the episode was, however, a good move. It provides a keener structure to the episode, as we are introduced to the madcap mind of Midori and her endless creative potential. Proving that this was the studio’s intention in the first place, Midori’s ‘backstory’ is also moved from chapter 6 to form the beginning of this episode, which makes more chronological sense.

By way of comparison, the first chapter of the original manga is much more sporadic and moves at a much faster pace, attempting to introduce all three of its characters in about 30 pages. The anime, on the other hand, adapts all of chapter 1 at a leisurely pace, plus this extra sequence with Midori as a kid taken from further on. Whether intentional or not, this change has also firmly enamored the series with the sakuga community, and for that matter anyone who might be passionate about the medium of animation as a whole.

A Troublesome Trio

Further adaptational changes and anime-original scenes further into the episode also do wonders for Eizouken episode 1’s clear aim of introducing us to our main characters. Two main anime-original scenes are worth focusing on here: the scene where Midori and Kanamori rescue Tsubame from her handlers, and the scene where the trio soar through the sky in their invented flying bug machine.

Both of these scenes are present in the original manga, but they are adapted in the anime with considerable differences. The setting for that first scene with Tsubame is much vaguer in the original manga, contrasting greatly with the anime’s clearly defined setting of some kind of set for a stage play, presumably for the Drama Club as part of the enrollment fair. How the trio manages to slip away from Tsubame’s handlers is, in turn, much better explained in a much lengthier sequence that sees them use the various moving parts of the set to thwart the unlucky agent.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! chapter 1
Note how Tsubame’s escape takes up very little space and time

In much the same way, the flying scene – which forms the episode’s climax – is much longer in the anime than it is in the original manga, and also employs more twists and turns as a whole. What we get to see in the original manga is the trio designing the aircraft, manage to fly between two high-rise buildings, and comment on how beautiful the scenery is. This contrasts greatly with the whole drama of the take-off sequence in Eizouken episode 1, as mysterious agents come to assault them in a race against the clock.

These might sound like drastic changes, but they’re clever ones. In the first place, Sumito Oowara’s presentation of ‘imagination’ sequences such as the flying bug machine are always accompanied by detailed technical drawings and concept designs, which gives us a glimpse into the mind of Midori.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! chapter 1

Stopping to read these designs and fully take in all of their details takes a good minute or so, and it is in this sense that the insertion of additional elements to these sequences don’t actually go against the ‘flow’ of the original manga – they match it.

It’s also important to recognize the inherent differences between anime and manga as two different mediums, and critically reflect on how to best utilize the source material for a specific aim. And if the aim of Eizouken episode 1 was to introduce to the main trio, then these sequences work wonders. Both the extended flying bug and stage sequences offer chances to each one of our characters to react in different ways, and thus show off their personalities – Kanamori shrewd, Midori eccentric, and Tsubame intelligent.

Of course, these sequences also offer up some excellent animation from the team over at Science SARU, which renders them all beautifully in a unique artstyle. The fact that the scenes taking place in the ‘imagined world’ are only partially colored and often employ sketched backgrounds is a nice touch, along with the fact that all of the sound effects during this sequence are seemingly voiced by humans – giving the impression that Midori and Tsubame themselves are making the sound effects, as if they’re playing with action figures.

But none of the studio’s ambitious animation flourishes would matter without something to stand on, and in this sense, the characters provide the foundation. Aside from the adaptational changes, helping the studio form this foundation are the performances of Mutsumi Tamura, Misato Matsuoka, and Sairi Itou. Just as I expected, while Itou’s deep tenor seemed strange at first, her interpretation of Midori works wonders to capture not just her passion, but also her awkwardness. Tamura’s Kanamori and Matsuoka’s Tsubame were also as perfect as I expected.

Eizouken! Episode 1: A Flying Start

If we return to my initial checklist of expectations, then we will find most of them fulfilled. All of the voice actors are appropriate, communicating well the personalities of the characters in tandem with all of the adaptational choices that Science SARU made to help them in this task. The animation was, of course, also excellent and has, as a result, already sunk the series’ teeth into sakuga community as a whole.

The only thing that hasn’t really been mentioned is the music in Eizouken episode 1, but this isn’t because this particular element has somehow betrayed my expectations. Rather, there simply wasn’t much in the way of musical themes and motifs that hadn’t been shown off beforehand in any of the series’ PVs that I noticed in this episode – let’s hope that Oorutaichi can show off a little more in the coming episodes. At least he’s got chelmico’s wonderful OP ‘Easy Breezy’ helping him along in this task.

All in all, Eizouken episode 1 is off to a flying start. Tuning in each week to write about this new anime is shaping up to be a wonderful exercise, and my excitement to see where things go from here is palpable. Believe it or not, there are still more things to talk about – such as the fact that Robot Club was introduced much earlier on, and that Tsubame’s introduction was rearranged – but you have to draw the line at a certain point.

Of course, it does remain to be seen if Science SARU can keep up this pace and level of quality across twelve episodes, but here’s to hoping. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! has certainly made a strong first impression.

You can watch Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! episode 1 via Crunchyroll.

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