Great Minds Think Differently: Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Whenever there’s a work of fiction about creative types, I think back to an old art professor of mine. He would lament that the artistic process was rarely, if ever represented accurately in media. But if he had the chance to watch the anime Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, I think he would be pleasantly surprised. 

Adapted from a manga by Oowara Sumito, directed by Yuasa Masaaki and animated by his current studio, Science Saru, Eizouken! is very clearly made by people who believe just as strongly in the art of animation as the characters themselves do.

Eizouken! follows three characters–director Asakusa Midori (the main protagonist), animator Mizusaki Tsubame, and producer Kanamori Sayaka–as they form their own school club in order to make anime. Asakusa has a life-long passion for external exploring as a way to fuel her imagination, and her sketchbooks are filled to the brim with ideas and flashes of inspiration–from small doodles to elaborate world-building designs. Mizusaki is a model, but her true passion is in animation, and nothing gets her more excited as a sakuga fan than the hard work that goes into the art of portraying movement. Kanamori isn’t really artistic, but she has a knack for looking at the pragmatic side of things: costs, advertising and exposure, and deadlines. The difference between Asakusa and Mizusaki as similar yet distinct creative types, as well as the contrast between their energy and Kanamori’s, fuel the conflict and the camaraderie at the heart of Eizouken!

The series looks fantastic, has memorable characters, and is such a genuine love letter to anime and animation–even putting in nods to beloved classics like Future Boy Conan and Akira. However, what impresses me most is that Eizouken! makes a lot of difficult and daring decisions. It would have been all too easy to make Mizusaki the heroine because of how people tend to focus on characters in anime in the first place, and her specialty aligns closest to that. But not only is Mizusaki someone whose love of animation goes beyond simply making characters look impressive, but it’s the more conceptually oriented Asakusa who’s the main character. There’s something a little more intangible about Asakusa’s mindset, and the willingness to have her be the primary focus is something I appreciate.

But if having someone like Asakusa as main is uncommon, then featuring a character like Kanamori at all is like finding a four-leaf clover. While a similar series like Shirobako might have characters on the production side, it’s exceedingly rare to have a character who so clearly shows the “producer” mindset. It reminds me of something I heard once when it came to Studio Ghibli: while directors Miyazaki Hayao and Takahata Isao were considered the geniuses for their successful animated feature films, some consider producer Suzuki Toshio the real secret to Ghibli’s success because of his skills in promotion and turning a profit. Kanamori embodies this spirit, and I think that it also provides a window into how those who aren’t on the artistic side can still be big contributors to creative endeavors in a world where schedules matter.

Something that encapsulates the joy and detail put into Eizouken! is the opening video, shown above. There’s a part in the OP where it shows multiple quadrilaterals spiraling towards the center of the screen, one set for each character. Asakusa’s are chaotic, Mizusaki’s stylishly overlap, and Kanamori’s are rectangular and precise. They’re perfect summations of the girls’ respective mindsets.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a series for anyone who’s interested in seeing an involved yet mildly fantastical portrayal of the creative process in action, as well as for anyone who enjoys seeing girls being passionate about what they do. There’s a lot of love that’s gone into Eizouken!, and I can’t help but expect a generation of creators to come out of watching this series eager to take the anime industry by storm. 

The Fujoshi Files 170: Andou Tsubaki

Name: Andou, Tsubaki (安藤つばき)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: SHIROBAKO

Information:
An employee at Musashino Animation, Andou Tsubaki’s first assignment is as a production assistant under Miyamori Aoi for the animated adaptation of the manga The Third Aerial Girls Squad. Unlike her fellow newbie recruit Satou Sara, Andou is a hardcore otaku who is already familiar with the work of the director and other industry professionals. When asked why she likes working in animation (despite being only there briefly), she states that fan works are a mix of understanding both characters and story, implying that she plans to use her experience in actual anime production for her own amateur endeavors.

Fujoshi Level:
Other than that she’s into BL, nothing else is known specifically about Andou Tsubaki as a fujoshi.

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Otakon 2016 Interview: P.A. Works

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This interview is part of Ogiue Maniax’s coverage of Otakon 2016. While the interview was with multiple staff members at P.A. Works, only the producer, Horikawa Kenji, gave responses. I’ve reflected this in the answers.

It’s a pleasure to have this interview with you. My first question has to do with True Tears. It was your first work as a studio, and from what I’ve heard the anime is quite different from the visual novel. What led to you choosing to adapt this series for your first project, and what led to it changing from the source material?

Horikawa: So the producer at that time, Mr. Nagatani, had said, “Let’s work on a few projects together!” And out of those choices was True Tears. We thought that it was perfect for what we could do at that time. We also thought it granted us lots of freedom, too, because as long as the theme was “tears,” we could do what we wanted.

Hanasaku Iroha is a series that shows the charm of the countryside and Japanese tradition. It seems that more and more anime are focused on the promotion of tourism to regions of Japan. You created the Bonbori Festival in Hanasaku Iroha, but was the promotion of a region of Japan a part of production from the very beginning?

Horikawa: When we made Hanasaku Iroha at first, we didn’t intend for it to empower tourism, quite the opposite, actually. Recently, there are many cases where anime fans go to the locations where their favorite anime take place. Some people call it going to “holy sites” or “investigating the show.” But while it can be a good thing, the act of fans going to these sites might not always be positive. When the fans gather, they might take pictures of, say, average houses and it might be very troublesome and disruptive. When I make select a location for a work, I think about how to have it so that even if fans visit it’ll be okay.

So when we were making Hanasaku Iroha, it was part of our thoughts that we would base it in a hot spring city that would be okay with having some volumes of fans coming. We also took care that the residents of that city would be notified when a large number of fans would come.

In regards to the Bonbori Festival, it originally wasn’t there, but it came up during the making of Hanasaku Iroha. We thought that, if it was a festival that the people could continue—not in the anime sense but that of a legitimate festival—that would have a much bigger, long-lasting, and positive impact. While an anime might be forgotten in a few years, a festival is part of Japanese culture and won’t be forgotten.

In Hanasaku Iroha, the grandmother is a very important character. In Shirobako, most of the characters are career women or out of high school. Tari Tari has one of my favorite characters, which is Takakura Naoko. Do you feel that there is a better market for series starring older characters, perhaps similar to the series you make now, but with people in their 20s and 30s?

Horikawa: As much as I would like to make something centered around older characters, there is such a thing as monetary value associated with characters. In Hanasaku Iroha, the characters were supposed to be out of school already and working, but due to those complications they became high school girls.

Since Shirobako, however, we took that step towards making the characters people who are actually out of school and working. That was a great adventure for us. Since we found out that Shirobako was indeed a success, we have shown that the girls don’t have to be in high school for fans to be interested. So, it was great to find out that fans like mature women as much as high school.

There are a number of characters in Shirobako based on real creators, for example Maruayma Masao and Anno Hideaki. Did you consult them in your portrayals, and did they have anything to say afterwards?

In terms of the people connected with those characters, we did ask them for their acknowledgement. The director knew Maruyama-san, so he probably asked Maruyama-san, while I asked people I know. But some seem to say that they never received the requests for acknowledgement.

Thank you.

Horikawa: Thank you very much.

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New Requests and (Writing) Desires Fulfilled: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for May 2015

This month I’m happy to say that the Ogiue Maniax Patreon is currently at almost $100, thanks to my generous patrons both new and old. Even getting close to the three-digit mark is kind of like a dream, and I hope to continue to provide interesting content for my readers.

This past month, I’ve gotten around to making a number of posts I’ve been planning for a while, most notably my review of the fujoshi friendship manga Fujoshissu!, my first look at DLC character Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U, and my review of the anime about anime, SHIROBAKO. In the case Fujoshissu! I’d been anticipating writing the review of years.

This month’s special Patreon sponsors are:

Ko Ransom

Alex

Johnny Trovato

anonymous (not Capital A “Anonymous”)

One of my contributors wanted to remain anonymous, but because they fulfilled the “Decide My Fate” tier, I wanted to mention them as I am writing a special post this month. As always, if you’d like to request a topic for me to write, you can pledge $30 or more to my Patreon.  If you don’t want to or can’t contribute that much every month, you can always change the amount to something lower, or force a maximum limit on how much you give.

For this month, I’d like to ask what people want to see out of my rewards and goals. I understand that my goals and sponsor rewards aren’t exactly world-shattering, and while I’m certainly not willing to sell myself out, I’m curious as to what people would like to see. Perhaps Skype conversations once a week on any topic? Post requests with unique twists? Drawing requests? I’m not sure if I’d be able to do everything, but I’d like to at least offer more.

In terms of milestones, I’m open to suggestions. How would people feel about a tongue-in-cheek negative review of Genshiken and/or the character review of Ogiue?

Stress and Inspiration and Animation: SHIROBAKO

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shirobako-director

With a lovable cast of characters, in-depth look into the world of anime production, and numerous references to famous creators and works,  SHIROBAKO has been a darling of the internet anime fandom, particularly among those who consider themselves to be, if not among the most informed anime fans, then at least those who desire to be more informed. While SHIROBAKO is not the first anime to delve closely into its own industry, I believe it is the first full-on 26-episode television series to do so, and this allows it to show multiple facets that are involved when making anime, while also giving them room to breathe and to garner appreciation.

SHIROBAKO centers around Miyamori Aoi, a young animation production assistant at Musashino Animation Productions (aka Musani), a once-renowned anime studio that is trying to rebound and recover its reputation. Back in high school, Aoi and her friends in the school’s anime club created their very own animated short, with the hope of someday working together professionally to create it for real, which has led them each into different areas of the anime industry: 3DCG, voice acting, writing, 2D animation, and of course production. As each of them deal with their own struggles in trying to get closer to their dreams, which include wondering if anime is right for them after all, Aoi and the others learn about what it takes to make an anime, and all of the joy, stress, and sleepless nights that go into it.

P.A. Works, the studio behind SHIROBAKO, has a reputation for producing very specific sorts of works. Whether it’s True Tears, Tari Tari, or Hanasaku Iroha (which I love), many of their shows involve cute high school girls and a lot of emotional drama. It’s a formula that works for some but is like poison to others, and with SHIROBAKO we have a work that successfully toes the line between the two. These aren’t high school girls but rather young professionals, and though many of the women in the anime are purposely designed to be attractive, there’s more than enough focus on anime production that the show hardly feels like a cute girl/melodrama delivery system. In a way, because of how taxing anime production is (as has been revealed in numerous articles and interviews over the years), a bit of melodrama doesn’t seem surprising between people fighting back their tears so that they make an absurd deadline.

A more cynical part of me thinks that the girls are there to an extent to be the gateway to introduce those anime fans obsessed with cute girls to what goes on behind the scenes, and that the series in general is very much designed to promote the anime industry and encourage people to join. It’s also a problem that they don’t really acknowledge the enormous component that is the anime industry’s outsourcing of in-between animation to other countries including Korea, the Philippines, and India. However, there’s no denying that the series is rife with genuine information to learn and appreciate, and that the characters, regardless of their base intent have convincing personalities and stories as to why they’re in the art and business of making anime in the first place.

shirobako-midori

shirobako-misa

For the record, my favorite characters are Imai “Diesel” Midori (one of Aoi’s old club mates who possesses a strong desire to write for anime, a thirst for research, and an ever-enthusiastic personality), Toudou Misa (another club mate who works in 3DCG and has to decide if she wants to play it safe with her career or take a chance), and Sugie Shigeru (the oldest veteran animator at Musani who, while enormously skilled, doesn’t quite fit into the current era because he “can’t draw moe”).

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, SHIROBAKO is rife with references to both real people and real anime. Aoi’s favorite series is Mountain Hedgehog Andes Chucky, based on Mountain Rat Rocky Chuck. One episode centers around the importance of the Idepon films, or Space Runaway Ideon. Numerous posters seen in the background throughout the series include parodies of Casshern, Lunlun the Flower Child, Ghost in the Shell, and much, much more.

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As for people, this is probably what gets people to scramble to anime production staff lists the most. The above-mentioned Sugie is based either on MADHouse founder and animator Akio Sugino, legendary animator Mori Yasuji, or some combination of the two. The real identity of Musani president Marukawa Masato is blindingly obvious to anyone who’s been to Otakon in Baltimore and attended a panel by MADHouse and MAPPA founder Maruyama Masao. Evangelion director Anno Hideaki and voice actor Itou Shizuka are among the many, many real industry veterans to appear in slightly altered forms in SHIROBAKO. Combined with the anime parodies it makes for a somewhat addicting game of “figure out the reference” that, unsurprisingly, appeals to a lot of fans who have devoted themselves to learning about anime.

The day after I finished SHIROBAKO I had a thought: often times when it comes to anime or other forms of media that fictionalize a given craft, technology, or profession, people who are deeply involved in those areas can easily nitpick these series in terms of accuracy. While I don’t have firsthand experience in the anime industry (though I’ve done a bit of work as an animation production assistant myself), I almost feel as if SHIROBAKO is defying the “well actually’s” of the world to say something. Who better to talk about creating anime than the people who create anime? Perhaps the answer is those whose voices haven’t been covered. Maybe we’ll next get a series from the perspective of the in-betweeners.

SHIROBAKO is available on Hulu and Crunchyroll.

PS: I recently found out that the Japanese terms for in-betweens and moving images in general are the same: douga, just like what you see in Nico Nico Douga. Nooo, this isn’t confusing at all.

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