Helen: Asakusa is a bit of a weird teen, easily falling into daydreams that are more vivid than reality, and she’s also a talented designer who draws inspiration from the kooky world around her at Shibahama High School. Her friend Kanamori, tall and unsmiling with a personality like a hardened salaryman manager in the body of a teenaged girl, keeps asking when Asakusa will make an actual anime of her designs but Asakusa says it’s not that easy.
But when the two of them meet a third weirdo to round out their trio, the teenaged model Mizusaki who has had a fascination with movement and animation since childhood, perhaps this club of “moving image studies” (“Eizouken”) can pull off making anime after all!
I, like many folks, first came across Keep Your Hands off Eizouken! from the Studio Science Saru anime adaption earlier this year and that adaptation, an anime about making anime, felt like such a perfect match for the material that I was curious how the original manga would come across in comparison. The anime is certainly a faithful adaptation — I didn’t notice any missed scenes here in the manga and the anime dove whole-heartedly into Asakusa’s crazy, design-inspired daydreams that she ropes Kanamori and Mizusaki into, which is easily the most charming part of the anime.
But one thing I’ve noticed about my own media consumption is that I tend to prefer the version of a story that I come across first, like in cases where I read a manga adaptation of a light novel I tend to be more interested in the manga than I would be if my reading order had been reversed. So that bias is certainly playing a part here, but I do think that the anime adaptation of Eizouken flows better than Sumito Oowara’s original story (Oowara’s recent entanglement with pixiv accounts displaying sexualized art of minors has also made me a bit more cautious in approaching his work and that was also on my mind going into reading this first volume).
The biggest reason for my preference is the pacing: in the Eizouken manga events happen bang-bang-bang without pause. When reading I was struck by the thought that I felt like panels were missing, not because the pages looked strange but because the story wasn’t giving itself enough time to breathe, or really any time! Having downtime in a story is important, and while it is true that this is a bit easier to achieve in an anime than a manga (where the audience has to watch a show at a certain speed, not reading through a book at their own, individual speed), Oowara doesn’t provide a lot of time to let the reader’s eye “rest” to give that much-needed pause.
It’s unfortunate since the setting is a fascinating visual mixture reminiscent of retrofuturism; the editor/translator notes at the end of volume 1 directly tie a lot of inspiration to Hayao Miyazaki’s earlier works and I could certainly see hints of Castle in the Sky and other films in the way both the manga in general and Asukasa specifically visually approach the world.
And of course, the animation! It’s hard to really appreciate what Asukasa and Mizusaki are creating without seeing it in motion or to appreciate a scene where Kanamori shows the other two how little they have animated so far when, well, all we the readers see is a few still images anyway! Animation is at the heart of this work and, perhaps ironically or perhaps intentionally, it’s the pages where the Eizouken’s first animation is displayed that the manga paneling becomes really hard to parse. I had to go through the panels several times to try and figure out the reading order, something that takes away from what is intended to be a really ambitious and interesting student work! It’s a shame since the visual language of manga and anime is really quite different when it comes to displaying action, timing, etc so there was certainly more sophisticated ways to show off the Eizouken’s student film, it wasn’t an impossible feat by any stretch. Although, I can’t entirely rule out the possibility that this was entirely on purpose to make it visually clear that this still is a student film and not a polished feature.
Eizouken appears to be Oowara’s first major work so perhaps some of these bumps will be smoothed out in future volumes, although I was also reminded of a detail I had read online where Oowara said he gave Asukasa some of his own, ADHD characteristics since it some ways it feels like Asukasa herself is writing Eizouken! The story is a bit rushed with a lot of ideas crammed into a short amount of time and at times the art is weirdly dark and heavy on the screen tones, as if I was looking at a black and white photocopy of a colored piece of art.
At this point the main draw for me is to get to material that wasn’t covered in the anime. I still enjoy seeing the Eizouken’s antics but it feels a little strange to think that in my mind, the Science Saru adaptation of the story will likely remain the “definite” version of Eizouken in my mind.
Helen’s rating: 3 out of 5
Justin: High school girls Midori Asakusa and Sayaka Kanamori each have big dreams. Well, somewhat. Midori wants to make an anime while Kanamori is always thinking about making ideal decisions — mostly involving money — at almost every opportunity. The problem for Midori is she’s not quite up to making an anime just yet, but a wild meeting with famous model Tsubame Mizusaki leads to the following:The two learning Tsubame wants be an animator.The three of them hitting it off.The eventual push for Midori to start making anime.
Once the three decide on this path, their unconventional stories begin as they aim to create their club: the Eizouken!
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! was 12 episodes of fun and creativity that Masaaki Yuasa and the Science Saru team pulled off with aplomb. With the success of the anime the manga was sure to follow — though Dark Horse picking it up as the anime finished might’ve been a surprise!
But it wasn’t in a vacuum though — in the translator/editor notes they said they discovered Sumito Oowara’s manga while it was serialized in Big Comic Spirits, and cited chapter 3 — it can’t just be any old windmill right? — as the one they read and got excited for. So a small look into how the potential licensing process goes, but also a look at how they saw this well before an anime was even planned. But in manga form, does it stack up to the anime?
There will be disagreements, but I don’t think so. Simply put, the visuals in the anime and how this manga has moments where it would be amazing to see it animated are hard to top. Maybe if another studio adapted this I’d feel differently, but it speaks to what Science Saru did honestly. Also, as you would expect, the anime didn’t delineate too much from the manga, but in certain spots you might catch a few differences. Heck, you might note it after the first chapter.
But this in no way means the manga is still not as energetic as the anime. We still see the numerous gremlin or hilarious expressions with these wonderful girls, the hyperactive imaginations when Midori or Tsubame find themselves in space or flying somehow, or Kanamori using all necessary logic on a teacher in order to make Eizouken better. It’s still super fun and hilarious in manga form. Timing in comedy can always be tough, but use enough visual cues and some snappy dialogue, and you will definitely laugh as Midori, with her family, reacts to seeing her fall off the clubroom’s railing on one of those variety shows.
Volume 1 has the three get together, form a club, deal with their apathetic teachers who want to keep the rules in place, and eventually face off against the dreaded student council. This manga does it in such a humorous way that’s hard to replicate, making it one of the more stellar efforts in the manga market. There are times where the art, specifically when they’re not making any expressions, feels off. But overall, Eizouken’s too unique and too fun, and is very much recommended.
Justin’s rating: 4.5 out of 5