We’re back with more Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken coverage to detail how well this material has synergized with Science Saru’s spirit, giving exciting opportunities to diverse up-and-coming creators to learn the ins-and-outs of anime production alongside the cast, but also protecting them with smart safety nets.
At this point, the compatibility between Masaaki Yuasa’s team and Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken should come as no surprise. The thematic and stylistic affinity between the two was obvious right off the bat… or rather, people noticed it before this project was even conceived, which led to them writing their wishes of a seemingly impossible Yuasa-led adaptation of the manga on social media – pleas that did reach his ears, eventually turning into the anime’s amusing origin story that many fans have heard about already. It’s almost inarguable that they’re a match made in heaven.
And yet, it still surprises. Not content with the relatively easy victory they could have earned, the staff – particularly the core crew at Science Saru – have put a lot of effort into making Eizouken a story truly of their own. The result of this is an anime that finds new ways to parallel the situation at the actual studio, blurring the lines between the fictional narrative and the personal experiences of those conveying it.
Fans all over the world have been picking up those details that mirror Science Saru’s reality, while studio reps like Eunyoung Choi have been very happy to acknowledge them as they’ve started to make the rounds. Among those examples she personally brought to attention, the ones that have received the most attention relate to the multiracial setting; something that was already an understated part of the source material, but that the anime has emphasized to a much higher extent, seemingly for the simple reason that it conforms to the multicultural origins of the studio’s employees.
Ever since the start of our coverage, we’ve been highlighting a similarly deliberate decision that ties together this team of creatives and the title they’re producing: the focus on fresh talent. Much like the film research association, Science Saru is currently filled with up-and-coming artists being promoted to higher responsibility roles. And that’s not just a cute piece of trivia: Eizouken’s adaptation is greatly benefitting from the unique youthful energy that also drives the narrative, that lack of preconceived notions that can make a debuting director more likely to take seemingly extreme decisions like halving the usual number of shots and get away with it in spectacular fashion. Multiple staff members have opened up about feeling like they’re learning the ropes alongside the characters, and perhaps more importantly, broadening their perspective as they do too – something very important when you’re climbing the anime stairs and have to begin worrying about all the people who surround you in the creative space. The process of learning to compromise according to limitations of the project and clashing visions that’s depicted in this stretch of the series has a very personal ring to it, and for good reason.
— Crunchyroll (@Crunchyroll) February 12, 2020
In previous articles, we already highlighted many instances where this group of kids figuring out how to create animation was brought to life by real youngsters figuring out their new positions. In some cases, this synergistic approach included outright directorial promotions, like Mari Motohashi in the very first episode, or my personal favorite, Yuuki Igarashi and his artistic statement in the form of episode #03. Has that approach changed since that brilliant start, then? As you can imagine, this project wasn’t going to ditch this philosophy if it truly was a core idea. So, if anything, it’s only gotten more extreme over the last few weeks; look no further than the sixth episode co-directed by Madoka Ogawa, who debuted in that position without all that much experience as an in-betweener, let alone as key animator and higher-ranking roles. The truth is that I sort of expected to happen in the future, hence why I introduced her as one of the animation trainees with the most potential a couple years ago, but it’s brave projects like Eizouken that allow possibilities like this to be realized faster than anyone could have hoped for. And in a fitting environment at that!
In that regard, though, I’d point to episode #04 as perhaps the most interesting one yet. Like the premiere, it was the fully-fledged directorial debut for one of Science Saru’s in-house young prospects. Much like the aforementioned Motohashi, Fuga Yamashiro technically debuted in these positions in an episode of the short series SUPER SHIRO that aired just a few days prior, but it was this that he saw as his true test of skill. And again, much like Motohashi, he’s not just working on single episodes: Yamashiro is also an assistant series director working directly under Yuasa for the entire production, as he already did in last year’s Ride Your Wave. By his own description, he’s somewhere between a pupil and a secretary.
What makes things a bit more interesting in this situation is the deliberate intent behind this particular duo of young assistants. It’s been explicitly said that the studio gave them this big opportunity because they come from different backgrounds and thus are likely to offer contrasting viewpoints. Their paths aren’t outside of the ordinary in and of themselves – animation and production assistance are by far the two most common routes to becoming an anime director after all – but in a studio that’s all about mixing and mashing diverse creative voices, every decision like this helps strengthen that feeling. In an interview prior to the broadcast, Choi singled out that diversity and Science Saru’s welcoming attitude towards difference as a defining trait; at other places, she said, introducing some purple into a predominantly blue space would likely be met with comments saying that something’s off, but that their studio is a rainbow to begin with. And that’s something that they’ve carefully built towards by going out of their way to recruit artists from all over the world, as well as subtler decisions like Eizouken’s contrasting assistants.
This approach has proved to be a great choice not just in a conceptual, studio philosophy way, but also on a more pragmatic creative level. And the reason is once again that it’s mirroring Eizouken’s content pretty directly. Within the show, the creative leader is surrounded by an animator obsessed with true to life acting and a much more pragmatic manager – and what does that setup remind you of? Although he’s noted that there is no character in his exact position, Yamashiro has admitted that he came to understand the views of people in other departments in his actual workplace as the characters did in the story, and it’s easy to see the resemblance between his role and Kanamori’s. His episode dealing with necessary compromises for the sake of finishing the work couldn’t be more appropriate, because that’s precisely what his job was all about when he joined the studio about 3 years ago.
Though of course, you shouldn’t take this to mean that people like Yamashiro just want to get the job done and have no concern about the artistic merits of their work – far from the truth! Stepping up to the director’s seat isn’t easy, and everyone struggles with the new tasks they suddenly have to handle; for an ex-animator like Motohashi, that would be all the organizational duties that directors are burdened with, while Yamashiro has admitted he struggled with tasks like scene composition in the creative stage. But be it because of their own skill, that recurring synergy with Eizouken’s content, or a bit of both, all the new directors have been knocking it out of the park. In Yamashiro’s case, the scene that caught my eye the most is obviously the climactic screening of the short animation they’d been working on for the entire first arc. Rough around the edges as it was, the manga already made it clear that it was the kind of passion-fueled work that would capture the rowdy audience, but this adaptation stepped it up in a genius way by intertwining its action with the events in the real world, showing how immersive it ended up being. Knowing that Yamashiro is a massive film buff, I can’t shake the thought that he based this scene on the myth surrounding L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat – one of the first movie by the Lumière brothers, which supposedly shocked its viewers so much that they thought an arriving train was really about to run them over. Be it a brilliant reference or a happy coincidence, it made for a very fulfilling early climax.
As a bit of a side note: the conflict surrounding automated inbetweening in his episode also appears to draw directly from Science Saru’s reality, since as you likely know, they’re heavily invested in a similar (but not equally implemented) efficiency-boosting approach by building entire pipelines surrounding Flash. That said, I feel like it’s important to say that this time around, that’s playing a much smaller role – a choice that seems smart from a stylistic point of view, since Eizouken benefits from the humane roughness that vectorization of the character art tends to get rid of. If the studio has gotten to the point where they can afford to keep up the healthy work-life balance they’re proud of and can regulate the usage of Flash so that it’s only implemented in situations where it can have a neutral to positive artistic benefit, we might have the best of both worlds.
Another up-and-coming artist leaving a strong impression, in his case on the animation front, has been Shuuto Enomoto. His beautiful hands animation captures the nuance of Mizusaki’s movement as intended, and his tendency towards limbs and finger that expand outwards even feels at home in a Yuasa production, since he’s a master of extroverted art like that.
The last major point that these episodes have raised relates to animation production as a team effort. For their second project, the film research association isn’t just trying to learn from their mistakes, but also seeking specialists in certain fields to massively boost the quality of their work – although they know that the communication problems they’re bound the encounter are a big pain. That’s simply how things pan out in real life as well, even in the most personal, nearly one-man-army projects.
And it’s in productions that give more opportunities to youngsters like this one where having a solid supporting cast proves the most important. Not just in the form of mentors like Yuasa or specialists like the mecha animators gaining more of a spotlight this arc, but also veteran all-rounders whom they can offload work to. For every episode in the hands of a debuting director, we’ve got one like #07 in the hands of Oyunam, a pen-name wielding veteran with plenty of experience at studios like Madhouse. This also includes instances like #05, an episode that included a couple of the show’s main animators but was otherwise fully outsourced to the CloverWorks team that is still in the midst of The Promised Neverland’s production, with Mamoru Kanbe himself providing the storyboard.
You’d think that protecting your young prospects with a safety net would be common, but there’s a good reason why Science Saru has been succeeding at properly training new generations of artists while the industry as a whole struggles a lot with it. Many studios are simply not prepared for it, while individual management personnel sometimes fail to emulate the spectacular success that other projects have achieved when giving an opportunity to up-and-coming creators, simply because they failed to consider the environment that allowed those young stars to shine. That’s a lesson that some friendly jesters and skeletons – I’ve said no names, don’t arrest me – would do well to learn, despite their already good intentions. If Eizouken’s rowdy kids have learned it, I’m sure everyone can!
Storyboard, Episode Direction: Fuga Yamashiro
Series Direction Assistance: Mari Motohashi, Fuga Yamashiro
Chief Animation Director: Naoyuki Asano
Animation Direction: Tsutomu Ohno, Takuma Katou, Eri Kinoshita, Baku Hamaguchi
Key Animation: Izumi Murakami, Shuuto Enomoto, Kenji Maeba, Teiichi Katou, Yuuka Inada, Nick Mckergow, Yuusaku Nagahama, Yumeno Hoshi, Shouko Takahata, Ran Kamezawa, Joao, Washio, Haruno Yoshioka, Kotomi Ota, Baku Hamaguchi, Hikaru Sakai, Takuma Katou, Ayako Nitta
Ukyou Fuse, Atori Ozawa, Yoshiaki Mogi, Naoto Kaneda, Junko Kai
Kim Kwanwoo, Im Yeong-Sik, Joo Ok-hyun, Kim Hye-soo, Yoon Seung-hyun
Digital Animation: Karin Noguchi, Shinnosuke Saito, Kotomi Ota, Dorian-Niels Leclair, Mizuki Kiyama, Asami Murakoshi, Changjik Yang
Key Animation: Izumi Murakami, Kenji Maeba, Kenji Terao, Kunihiko Kimura, Manami Itou, Takahiro Kamogawa, Yuko Fuji, Tomoyuki Oshita, Nana Yamaguchi, Michihiko Ozawa, Takahiro Tomoyasu, Mitsuyuki Sasagawa, Shoichi Funaki, Mamiko Nakanishi, Eishi Kamiyama, Yuusuke Kurinishi, Koichi Shimoda, Yuuichi Nakazawa, Satoshi Ifuku, Takuya Kawai
Production Assistance: CloverWorks
Storyboard: Tooru Hasutani
Episode Direction: Sumito Sasaki, Madoka Ogawa
Series Direction Assistance: Mari Motohashi, Fuga Yamashiro
Chief Animation Director: Naoyuki Asano
Animation Direction: Choi Gang-seok, Kim Jung-woo, Lee Seong-jin, Miiru Saitou
Key Animation: Shuuto Enomoto, Kenji Maeba, Kenji Terao, Yuuka Inada, Kazuki Takemoto, Park Jong-joon, Song Seong-mun, Kim Jung-woo, Lee Seong-jin, Zunqing Zhang, Kim Jin-young,
Kim Kwan-woo, Kwon Hwi-jae, Kim Hye-soo, Joo Ok-hyun, Yoon Seung-hyun
Digital Animation: Shouko Takahata, Rodrigo Makoto Matsumura, Nick McKergow, Shinnosuke Saito, Kotomi Ota, Yumeno Hoshi, Haruno Yoshioka