The Passion of the Animator

Eizouken takes us on a journey of inspiration…and cash
by Punch Rockgroin

Back in 2014, Shiro Bako gave us a taste of what it takes to produce an anime in the modern day. These were the more technical aspects, such as the steps in animation, getting the voice work recorded and the humps encountered along the way. It showed a bit of the inspiration of what drove the animators into their profession, but these inspirations tended to come from series in their childhood more than anything else. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! shows a bit of that, but also shows the creativity that can be derived from the everyday, and what drives them to complete their vision.

The series follows a trio high schoolers (duh) looking to get into animating. Well, two of them are there to animate, while the third sees an opportunity to make some money. Midori Asakusa is seemingly the head, who directs the animation and comes up with the ideas. Her friend (referred to as “comrade”) Sayaka Kanamori isn’t much for watching anime, but can’t resist a great plan for making money, and is generally tasked with maintaining both cash flow and keeping the animators on schedule. Completing the trio is Tsubame Misuzaki, a famous amateur model who is fascinated with movement and would rather be an animator than an actor like her parents.

Tsubame is forbidden by her parents from joining the school’s anime club, so after running into Asakusa and Kanamori and finding their shared interests, they instead form the Eizouken (film club) to get around this quandary. From there, the only way is up, with the occasional meddling from the student council, and Kanamori making sure the animators are staying on task.

Throughout the show, we are treated to Asakusa’s thought process on creating a world and a story, while relying on the real world for ideas. There are times when I have to wonder if today’s animators are more inspired by the anime they watched growing up than the world around them, but this gives me some hope that there are those out there that utilize everyday life to create something other-worldly. Even Misuzaki, who is enthralled with motion, especially drives this point home: She watches people and their movements, and will take even mundane things like tea thrown from a cup to make more believable motion. Some of the backgrounds have a nice “lived-in” feel, looking appropriately dirty in their detail. On top of all this is Kanamori, butting heads with school faculty and other clubs just to get more money.

Eizouken is a fun watch from start to finish. The process of inspiration, to hard work, obstacles and finally fruition for all of their projects is a treat, to both the eyes and the heart. It is not a thought-provoking series, but could at least serve as a way to inspire and guide those who also seek to bring their ideas into reality. All it takes is dedication to your vision…and someone who will keep the money flowing.

FUCK YEAH, Look It Up!
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Based on the manga by Sumito Owara
Directed by Masaaki Yuasa
Animated by Science Saru
Licensed by Crunchyroll

COVID is killing Anime

Cons are cancelled, films and dubs are on hiatus
by Bob Johnson

Keep your oba-sans and oji-sans in mind.  These are troubling times.  There’s no Cells At Work! episode specifically for this, but there ought to be.  What we do know is that as long as you plan to Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken, you can keep them off your face, too!

Don’t worry, Red Blood Cell. The immune system team is on it.

The anime industry is always the first to say there’s more important things out there.  After the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, a lot of works were disrupted or postponed while people picked up their lives, broadcasters had critical news to deliver, and everyone in Japan banded together to save electricity.

The global pandemic, which had been quiet for a time in Japan, has recently surged even there, and the list of COVID cancellations in the Anime industry will come from both ends, as production and distribution slows down in Japan, and here in North America, where conventions are cancelled and simuldubs have already ground to a halt

Japan’s recent declaration of a state of emergency is likely to turn the lives upside down, as dedicated animators and otaku alike find themselves locked out of their usual environs.  Another downer was how KyoAni was all set for its triumphant return with its Violet Evergarden movie this month, but was forced to postpone, another setback for the brilliant, beautiful studio still devastated by arson.

At least Hideaki Anno has found a silver lining to this cloud – EVA 3.0+1.0 doesn’t have to be rushed out the door by June 27 anymore! And well, there’s the option for fans everywhere to watch anime all day!

Simulsubs continue for shows still being released each week, and there’s a bit of good news on the free legal streaming front.  HIDIVE is making an effort to embed more shows at anime aggregation sites like anime-planet and MyAnimeList.  So far the rollout on MAL seems to be for newer HIDIVE exclusives, like the infamous Domestic Girlfriend.  Instead of subscribing, you have to put up with ads, so YMMV.  This is in addition to what’s already out there from hulu and Crunchyroll.

If anything, this slowdown has given fans an opportunity to focus on their watchlists, maybe write a ‘Zine, I dunno.  Even with the slowdown, the anime community is still making more amazing fanart than ever.  We’ll pull though.  Soon enough, we’ll all be back to abnormal!

Making a Spectacle of Itself

Subverting Expectations Before It Was Cool
by Bolt Vanderhuge

Red Spectacles (1987), along with its sequel/prequel, is not well known even among anime fans, even those who are aware of the last of the “Kerboros Saga” films, Jin-Roh.  Its director, Mamoru Oshii, is generally better known for his animated works, especially the 1995 adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, the production of which is actually the reason he didn’t end up directing Jin-Roh.  More recently, however, people have been rediscovering what was Oshii’s first non-animated film, perhaps thanks to reviewers like yours truly retroactively throwing a spotlight on it.  The problem is, a lot of people go into this film expecting it to be like Jin-Roh, and all the marketing for this movie really doesn’t help much in that regard.

The infamous armor is barely even in it

Even the Wikipedia article would doesn’t reveal the fact that this film is as far from Jin-Roh as one can get while still being in the same alternate-history universe.  I will try my best to explain, but one cannot truly have this film explained to them; it must be experienced.

The first step to understanding this film, is realizing that it’s not straightforward, at all.  There are layers to it, and it’s difficult to realize it the first time you watch it, other than the obvious contrast of the segments that are in color with those that are in black and white.  And the majority of the film is in black and white.  The basic plot of film is that the “Special Unit,” created to combat a rising crime rate in an alternate-history Tokyo that had been occupied by Germans rather than by Americans, gained enemies among the Metropolitan Police and was overthrown when a new regime came to power.  The “Kerberos Riot” resulted when the Special Unit refused to stand down, but after a siege it surrendered.  However, senior detective Kōichi Todome, managed to escape Japan, and returns to Tokyo after three years in hiding, only to almost immediately draw attention from the government.  However, it doesn’t take long for things to get stranger and stranger, and it becomes impossible to take seriously, as absurdist humor takes over the film.

Within the first few minutes, actually

It is better to think of this film as more of an exploration of concepts than as a narrative that is meant to be followed and understood by the audience.  If anything, I’d say the entire point of the film is for the audience to figure it out for themselves.  It’s difficult to determine what even actually happened in the “real world” as portions of the film are undeniably only taking place in Kōichi’s mind.  It’s been suggested that the color portions of the film are the only “real” parts, but there are at least two different versions of Kōichi’s escape in color, so which is real?  And who is the mysterious woman who keeps appearing throughout the film?  Everything is pretty much left up to you to decide for yourself, along with whatever it was that Oshii was trying to tell you with this film.

All that can be said for certain is that this film is well worth watching and experiencing for yourself, and that no brothers or friends exist in a small restroom.

Fuck Yeah! Look it up!
The Red Spectacles (1987)
Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Distributed by Omnibus Promotion

A Full Course of Fun

Like someone made a Rosario + Vampire Hentai
by Bolt Vanderhuge

Itadaki! Seieki is probably one of the more vanilla hentais you might watch, as the only “strange” thing about it is that it involves a half-vampire/half-succubus who can change her body and personality based on the desires of her chosen meal. “Meal” is actually the entire premise of this short OVA, as Setogaya Mari lures high school student Kanzaki to the PE storage shed after school in a very stereotypical set-up that the OVA actually lampshades, only to kick him in the head so she can bite him and feed on his blood. He takes it pretty well. She introduces herself as a vampire, and has the bat wings to prove it, but as it turns out, she can’t actually handle blood. Apparently she had been living off of sweat and saliva – secretions which are a form of life energy. Kanzaki has a certain alternative he suggests to her instead. Alas, she doesn’t actually swallow much thick Bavarian cream through her mouth, if you’re into that kind of thing, as she seems to just absorb it.

It’s just so gosh darn cute!

As you might guess, this turns into a regular thing, and Setogaya isn’t exactly subtle when she comes to get her lunch either. It’s a pretty thin premise, which is probably why it’s less than a half-hour long when you watch both parts of this OVA together. So it’s pretty tame in spite of getting a bit rapey at one point, and might not appeal to you if you’re used to something more adventurous than high school students sneaking off to fuck and a woman who can make her boobs bigger or make herself just the way Aku likes ‘em at will.

If you just can’t be bothered to read subtitles, like I used to be before I became a MaximumWeeaboo, this has been localized as Vampire Vixen. Probably a bit catchier than “Gimmie That Semen.” The dub is… okay. It’s better at some points than others. At least they tried. The main appeal here is that the localizers got a hold of an uncensored version, to further enhance your hentai viewing pleasure.

So should you watch this OVA? Fuck, why not? It’s like a half-hour long, bro.

Fuck Yeah check it out!

Itadaki! Seieki / Vampire Vixen
Based on the manga by doumou
Produced by Pashmina, Licenced by Kitty Media

Smile down the Runway

I like where this thread is going

by Bob Johnson

Crawling through this season’s anime chart is no easier of a slog this time than any other. Just searching through the A titles yields two notable loads of bishi-bait – A3! (Dull!) and ARP Backstage Pass (drama buoyed by peppy J-Pop while also boat-anchored to CGI dance numbers, and dripping with BL subtext).

On the flip side – things that are actually good – in yet another triumph of meta-anime, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! has steadily become the talk of the town. I don’t disagree with that, it plainly belongs up there on Mount Weebmore with your Shiro Bakos and such. Just don’t miss the forest for the tallest tree, either. There’s at least one other show this season worth watching.

Smile down the Runway is a classic tale of two misfits who are propelled by a mutual love of fashion. One suffers from the weight of disappointment, never growing to the height needed to model clothes in the usual way. The other toils in obscurity, patching together viral clothing designs from odds and ends laying around, but is held back by economics and inexperience. With an odd wisdom before their years, both realize that with their handicaps, they might only have one shot to break into the big time. So they give it their all.

But can you fix being short on short notice?

The simple mechanic where our leads take on the specific challenge before them has produced a show that is both joyful and practical. This is what you need to do, what kind of job you need, what you need to do to get through the day. And when someone tells you that you can’t do something, you do it anyway! In this way, it’s entirely different in tone from other fashion anime – Princess Jellyfish (zany antics punctuated by desperation plays that in true comedic fashion, always lead to the protagonists failing upward) and Paradise Kiss (a melodramatic slide from innocence into a struggle in a grey and jaded world).

Now granted, most Americans caught their fill of this sort of thing sometime early in the previous decade. But if you haven’t already been over-Tyra Banks-ed, you might weave this show into into your tapestry.

Maybe check it out:
Smile down the Runway (Runway de Warette)
Based on the manga by Kotoba Inoya
Produced by Ezóla, Licenced by Funimation

Glorious Zipang

All the excitement of a documentary
by Bolt Vanderhuge

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this anime. On the one hand it’s an interesting take on the premise of the movie Final Countdown which features a modern Japanese Aegis destroyer named Mirai being transported to WWII rather than an American aircraft carrier, but on the other it tends to really slow its own plot and action down for the sake of philosophic discussion or just for the sake of military fanservice. This isn’t to bash on this series exactly, because I can totally go for slow, philosophical plots, or discussing the features and capabilities of both modern and WWII era ships and aircraft, but this can get kind of frustrating when it has the effect of slamming the brakes on everything else that’s trying to happen in the story.

Some of this comes from agonizing over whether it’s ethical to even defend themselves or to rescue anyone from this time period they see in distress as it might alter that timeline. This could be a cultural difference, as I doubt an American ship in their place would hesitate as much, and would probably be more concerned over how irreplaceable any resources might be. There’s also the awkwardness that comes from finding yourself in a shooting war with people you’ve grown up all your life thinking of as allies (their ship is even based on an American design). But most of the focus seemed to be on how any actions they take could alter time with the crew deciding they wanted to avoid this, that is when it isn’t taking time to nerd out over the various ships, submarines, aircraft, and weapons in the show.

There isn’t anything Freudian about this scene at all

Enter LCdr Kusaka, an Imperial Japanese Navy officer whom the Mirai‘s first officer, LCdr Kadomatsu, decides he just can’t watch drown as they come across his crashed airplane. They then double down on this by letting someone who was supposed to have died have access to the ship’s library, so he can read all about how the war and its aftermath are supposed to go down. This does result in interesting maneuvering by Kusaka, as he leads Kadomatsu on a cat and mouse chase as it’s not entirely clear what his endgame is beyond expressing a desire to end the war in a more favorable way for Japan, and in doing so creating a new Japan. This also leads to some interesting questions as to what has happened to the very aptly-named Mirai as events happen which make it clear what the crew knows as history has been altered, without causing any changes in them as per Back to the Future rules. Paradox? Alternate timeline? Who knows? After all, the anime never got a second season and it ended on a cliffhanger without ever answering any of the questions it brought up.

It is still a fairly interesting plot to follow, though, especially as the ship struggles to stay out of history’s way while ending up being repeatedly forced to act to defend itself, as well as making what allies it can to ensure the crew might actually have a chance of living through whatever is going on. Naturally both Japan and the US are interested in the ship and its technology and want to either get their hands on it, or destroy it so as to deny it to anyone else.

Ultimately, the most frustrating aspect of this show is its abrupt end and lack of any resolution. The anime came out in 2004, so it’s unlikely it will get any follow-up because you degenerates are way more interested in watching cute girls doing cute things than alternate history political thrillers. If you were hoping to get some resolution by reading the manga, you’re kind of out of luck unless you can read Japanese, Korean, or French, as only a quarter of its forty-three volume run has been translated into English, and only four were ever published in North America. But if you like drooling over military hardware and/or fantasizing about how a modern warship would fare in WWII, this anime might still be worth a watch.

Maybe Check it Out:
Zipang (2004) 26 episode anime
based on the manga by Kaiji Kawaguchi
Produced by Studio Deen, licenced by Geneon

Library War

Your Books or Your Life
by Bob Johnson

Maybe.

Fahrenheit 451 gets the anime treatment in the biggest brouhaha over print media since Read or Die. In an alternate year 2019, book learners and book burners have fought it out for over 30 years – while the general public is terrorized by the Media Betterment Committee, libraries retain academic freedom, guaranteed by the law and the Library Defence Force.

We see these struggles through the eyes of Kasahara Iku, a plucky 22-year-old trackstar who has become the first woman inducted into the Task Force, the elite security force of the LDF. Though gifted with physical ability, statuesque height, and stubborn determination, Kasahara struggles with the mundane business of sorting and finding books, which is still the main job the LDF does between battles.

Kasahara Iku, our hero! Plucky, light of foot, a bit more heart than brains.

In this, she’s assisted by her competent classmates Tezuka and Shibahara, while her instructor Dojo attempts to drill more discipline into the impulsive young cadet. Meanwhile, she wants to find the LDF officer who inspired her to join the force, and protect books just like him. From time to time she also deals with drop-ins from her tiger dad and worried mom, ever-fearful their daughter may be the next victim of a censorship raid.

Though it can be excessively moé at times (Kasahara is a Greek god in hand-to-hand combat, but a startled klutz with a book cart?), Library War is a solid show, well-drawn and animated. As a battle anime, the LDF are careful students of tactics and strategy, with a focus on preparation: planning, training, learning regulations. When you fail in battle, it’s because you didn’t do your homework. None of your Code Geass make-it-up as you go along here. Then again, the villains aren’t too fleshed out – the LDF is always the good guys, always quoting law and regulation, and never firing first. The MBC, on the other hand, are cartoon mooks whose main goal in life is to take books out of the hands of little kids, or just generally smash and grab dead trees.

Your tax dollars hard at work.

In romance, Iku is a true half-and-half tsundere, and faces two leading options. Tezuka is a pretty dry candidate, simply ticking the boxes needed for ‘responsible boyfriend’, while Dojo is pretty clearly best guy, but also is kind of her boss, and ‘too short’. And oddly enough, there’s not much in this show for bibliophiles, beyond the fact that they work with books: none of the leads is constantly nose-in on a tome or constantly quoting literature.

Library War is perhaps not significant enough to merit a solo watch, but its pacing of stretches of interpersonal drama, punctuated by pitched battles or hilarious reaction shots, keeps it engaging as a group or club title. It certainly won’t offend sub purists.

Maybe Look It Up:
Library War (2008) 12 episode anime
based on the light novels by Hiro Arikawa and Sukumo Adabana
Produced by Production I.G., Licenced by Discotek

Anime Endings are the shit

Not satisfied with the present state of DUB vs SUB as a controversy magnet, the editor of MaximumWeeaboo has commissioned these articles on INTRO and OUTRO credits. Bob Johnson claims that OUTRO is best waifu.

The best shows are the ones that you don’t want to stop watching! You know what I’m talking about. Them shows that like to lay down some thicc plot right before the end credits hit you like a big ol’ bale of bricks.

You sit in stunned silence as they play. Sure, you’re binging the show, but you know full well that next episode will play soon enough. Right now, you’re desperate for emotional recovery – you need to process, decompress, soak up the mood. And that’s what the end credits are for.

Thank Kanako the 1990s standard procedures for running the credits has passed into history. A minute at the start, a minute at the end, each of constant boring sameness so regular the skilled otaku doesn’t need chapters marked out to skip them with a simple click of the playbar.

Nowadays, the rule about credits are just like mullets. Business in the front, party in the back! Actually, good luck finding the start credits at all these days. They could be anywhere between the top and middle of the episode depending on how much teaser is needed. The end credits, on the other hand? Reliably near the end of the show, a steadfast anchor holding the last bucking decks of your favourite anime just offshore from a roiling sea of car insurance ads

And while front credits always seem to be the “next best thing” when it comes to the continued lack of good trailers for anime, it’s really the end credits that are were all the innovation is, anyway. Need extra time? Keep the show rolling whilst the end credits play. Need to set a new tone? Change the music from the usual number! Or maybe, in an crazed and isolated moment of awareness, you will craft entirely new end credits for each episode! And just think – without end credits, there could be no stinger! And if you miss those, you’ll miss some of the sickest drops in anime.

Finally, just after those end credits is that exciting moment for every anime fan, the episode preview. How can you get truly hyped for the next episode if you’re mashing NEXT like a lone guinea pig begging for morphine water to mask the unending pain of social isolation, and miss out on your eigo seiyuu cracking wise prior to that satisfying “next time, on” your show?

So watch your end credits, dearie. They’re good, and good for you!

FUCK YEAH, LOOK IT UP!
THE END CREDITS
available wherever anime is sold