It’s been almost six months since Masaaki Yuasa announced that he and Science Saru would be making a Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! TV anime. Since then, he’s announced many more exciting projects (so much so that we can’t help but worry that he’s taking on a little too much), but even among this stacked line-up, the prospect of a Masaaki Yuasa-helmed Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! (Eizouken ni wa Te wo dasu na!) anime is perhaps the most exciting – as original creator Sumito Oowara and the esteemed director seem like the perfect creative combo.
Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! – A Troublesome Trio
Before we start on the prospects of that TV anime, however, it would perhaps be useful to explain what on earth Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! even is.
Sumito Oowara launched the manga in Shogakukan’s Monthly Big Comics Spirits back in 2016, and there are four collected volumes currently released as of the time of writing. It won the Bros. Comic Award in 2017, before being nominated for the 11th Manga Taisho awards in 2018, only losing out to Paru Itagaki’s BEASTARS. Safe to say, then, that’s it’s pretty lauded.
Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! follows a trio of high-school students who band together to form the ‘Eizouken’ or ‘Motion Picture Research Club’ to make and produce animated works.
Forming the core of the group is the hyperactive, ever-curious Midori Asakusa who has a penchant for military surplus gear and drawing detailed artwork. She acts as the group’s ‘director.’
Next up we have the curt, overbearing Sayaka Kanamori who is Midori’s seemingly only friend, wears her glasses on her head, and loves money – or, as she puts it, ‘activities where gains can be made.’
Finally, we have Tsubame Mizusaki. She’s actually an up-and-coming model and the daughter of two famous actors, but has no interest in conforming to their ideas for her future. Instead, she’s a full-blown sakuga nerd and wants to be an animator.
On a narrative level, Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! functions mostly in two stages. Firstly, the club goes on some kind of adventure to find inspiration for their next work, which usually ends up in a gorgeous, surrealist landscape formed out of the main characters’ imaginations.
The idea for the club’s next work is then usually taken from this adventure, whereupon the series shifts into a production drama along the lines of Bakuman. or Shirobako. Here’s where the different talents of the group come into play, along with detailed explanations of how the animation process actually works.
The Yuasa Aesthetic
As you’ve no doubt noticed from the images featured in this article already, Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! isn’t exactly the most ordinary-looking of manga. Luckily, Eizouken!’s visual aesthetic is perfect for Yuasa – you could even say that it was made for him.
For the most part, Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken!’s jagged and cartoonish character designs alongside the densely detailed background art seems to come from original author Sumito Oowara’s own artistic background.
Oowara was born in Kanagawa prefecture in 1993, and was part of the filmmaking club during his high school years. He then attended the Toyo Institute of Art and Design, majoring in fine art before teaching himself animation once he graduated. He only then started drawing manga for real in 2015, when he submitted his first manga to the Comitia original independent comic exhibition. Then, just one year later, he was offered his first serialization in Monthly Big Comics Spirits with Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken!.
Clearly, Oowara is quite different from such figures as Naoki Urasawa or Akira Toriyama, who had both been drawing their whole lives before becoming a mangaka. As a result, it could be said that Oowara lacks the same kind of polish that other artists do – yet I’d say that for everything that Oowara lacks in polish, he makes up for in originality and expression.
Going back to Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken!’s jagged character designs, although they may look off-putting at first, reading just a little bit of the series will clue you in to how expressive they can be. A more realistic art style, perhaps something that more closely mirrors the background art, wouldn’t offer anywhere near the same amount of versatility of expression. In turn, it’s these backgrounds that show off Oowara’s clear technical prowess as an artist.
What’s more is that Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken!’s character designs are already perfect for that Masaaki Yuasa-helmed TV anime. The director is known for his choppy character designs that often go off-model in motion – he cut his chops on Crayon Shin-chan, after all – and so it’s therefore unlikely that he’ll have to do as many alterations for Sumito Oowara’s original manga as he had to do with Go Nagai’s original manga designs for Devilman crybaby.
Just like Oowara, Yuasa’s choppy character designs work because they make up for in expression and versatility what they lack in consistency and quality. No one comes to a Yuasa show expecting an A-1 Pictures level of consistency – that’s exactly what makes his work so compelling.
Likewise, you shouldn’t go into Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! expecting the same level of artistic consistency that you often see in the major shonen magazines. In this sense, Sumito Oowara and Masaaki Yuasa are a match made in heaven – and the good stuff doesn’t stop here.
The Dissonance of a Manga About Anime
It must be said that there is necessarily a certain amount of dissonance in a manga about animation such as Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken!.
Some of Eizouken!’s weakest points as a series come when Oowara simply isn’t able to put across the finer details of the animation process in manga form. Take, for instance, this moment in volume 2 where Tsubame explains to Midori and Kanamori the finer points of rocket animation.
As it says in the text, the smoke doesn’t simply come out all at once – instead, it billows and builds underneath the rocket itself before disappearing. Oowara is able to represent some of this in the panel art, but only as momentary snapshots. At the end of the day, a manga panel can only express one moment in one time, one place and not the full motion of an action itself, as animation can.
In this sense, Yuasa bringing the animation of Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! to life in a literal animated TV show should do wonders for Oowara’s clear-cut desire to show off the wonders of animation in all of its intricacies.
That’s not a slight, however, on Oowara’s original work. It’s only isolated moments such as these, in fact, that go over the viewer’s head. For the most part, dialogue and characterization both make up for this intrinsic shortcoming – we understand that there’s a fundamental, if slight, knack to animating smoke properly thanks to Tsubame’s passionate, detailed explanation. Midori also delivers a lot of this in other instances thanks to her hyperactive personality.
Kanemori also often acts as a stand-in for the reader due to her lack of knowledge about the medium. She’s only really in it for the money, but she still has to sit through Tsubame and Midori’s animation debates for the sake of production. And even if she, and, by consequence, the reader, doesn’t understand the polemic fully – perhaps due to the shortcomings of the manga medium – then it’s totally okay to simply write it all off as simple sakuga otaku nonesense.
Still, the prospect of a Masaaki Yuasa Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! TV anime could help fill in some of the blanks that necessarily come with using the medium of manga as a vehicle through which to talk about animation. The two PVs that have already been released for the project show off a little bit of this, alongside the fantastic soundtrack from composer Oorutaichi.
There are also several features of the original manga that seem to have been integrated in order to make an anime adaptation particularly easy, no matter who might tackle it.
For one, those character designs are not just perfectly suited for Masaaki Yuasa’s style, but also the whole process of anime animation itself. Character designs always have to be simplified for animation due to the myriad of different animators working on a project, as well as to keep them looking consistent in motion. It’s unlikely, therefore, that the Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! TV anime will have to do much heavy lifting.
Moving away from the character designs, we also have the fact that Oowara uses different typefaces for his dialogue depending on the situation. Mostly, this manifests in a slanting of the text when characters are in the distance or in a large, echoey space. This gives the impression of realistic sound design, even though such a thing doesn’t exist in the medium of manga. It’s pretty cool and would translate very easily into animation.
Finally, those surrealistic mindscape adventures that often provide the idea for the Eizouken’s next project are few and far between, but so elegantly mirror the actual production process of an episode of anime, where resources, time and staff are often saved for the flashiest sakuga sequences – Science Saru’s production schedule practically writes itself.
All of these things are no doubt informed by Oowara’s background in the industry, and are nice to pick up on when reading the manga. Even so, it’ll be during Masaaki Yuasa’s TV anime that these elements will become less of a clever wink to the audience than tangible effective elements of the story in animated form – I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.
Creativity and Passion – The Masaaki Yuasa Story
Getting a hold of Masaaki Yuasa’s distinct identity as a creator can, through the multitude of different genres, subject matter and themes that his works touch upon, be a difficult task.
Yet, I find that this is often the wrong approach. What’s needed in the case of Masaaki Yuasa is to step back and survey his career as a whole, not in isolated chunks. Doing so will reveal that Yuasa’s creative identity is less tied to a particular type of story then it is to the medium of animation itself – choosing stories and collaborators to help him explore what the medium has to offer not just in terms of storytelling, but also in terms of visual self-expression, in turn.
Yuasa therefore no doubt sees a little of himself in the troublesome trio of Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken!. All three girls are passionate about the medium and seek to take their work to even greater creative heights, even if Kanemori is more interested in how raising the quality might make her even more money than visual self-expression.
All three girls also have to face up to various difficult circumstances in their lives to make their dreams come true. Tsubame’s circumstances are definitely the most dramatic, as her parents actively forbid her from becoming an animator, but even Midori and Kanemori have their own hurdles to overcome. In Midori’s case, this is her own eccentric, introverted nature and for Kanemori, it’s her tendency to push people away in lieu of feasible gains to be made.
While the story of Masaaki Yuasa’s life doesn’t seem particularly dramatic, it’s safe to say that the creator worked through many hardships to get where he is today. He started out as an animator at Ajia-do Animation Works, before striking out on his own as a freelancer. It was during this period where he cut his teeth on a variety of projects, including Crayon Shin-chan and even Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbors the Yamadas. 2004 then saw his big break in the form of Mind Game, his first original feature-length project, and it’s only been up from there.
I can’t help but wonder if Masaaki Yuasa chose Sumiko Oowara’s original manga as Science Saru’s next project because of how much of himself he sees in the series’ troublesome trio. Indeed, their irreverence for the power of creativity – resulting in flights of fancy that take the reader beyond the realms of imagination – seem to match up quite nicely with the kind of landscapes that Yuasa regularly conjures up in his anime, even when adapting original works.
In any case, it’s safe to say that the philosophy of Masaaki Yuasa and Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! match up quite well. As if more material aspects to the manga weren’t enough, then this more immaterial aspect should be evident enough: Sumito Oowara and Masaaki Yuasa are truly a perfect combo.
The Eizouken! TV Anime in Context
In general, I hope that I’ve been able to add a little bit of credence to the hype for the upcoming Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! TV anime through this article.
In actual fact, I had been sitting on this idea for many, many months before deciding to put time aside to realizing it. As a huge Yuasa fan, I knew ever since those first two PVs released that Sumito Oowara’s original manga would be worth my time, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I decided to pick it up.
Nevertheless, two things prompted me to put this thing together. Firstly, the question of timing. The Eizouken! TV anime comes out this January, so I thought it’d be useful to share something on the original manga in the run-up to then, especially given that almost none of the manga has been translated into English as of the time of writing.
Secondly, the fact that there’s been another Eizouken! adaptation announcement in the past couple of days, apart from the TV anime – a live-action film starring the idol group Nogizaki46.
I’m all up for more Eizouken!, as it’ll boost the profile of the original manga even more, but this live-action film has obscured the potential of Masaaki Yuasa’s TV anime just a little bit. I’m sure that everyone involved will be doing their best, but, as I explained during this article, I believe that the act of transposing the story into the animated medium will reveal the potential of the manga much more keenly than into live-action.
Still, I’m going to check out the live-action film. There are several ways in which they could work around this dissonance, which has now been doubled in the jump to three dimensions – using actual animation alongside live-action footage, for one. But, in the meantime, it’s still worth getting excited for Masaaki Yuasa’s Keep Your Hands Off the Eizouken! TV anime – as I hope I’ve explained, he’s definitely the right man for the job.