What’s it about? Asakusa Midori has wanted to make anime since she was small, but her talents lay mostly in drawing backgrounds and concept art. Add in Tsubame Mizusaki, a rich girl whose parents want her to go into anything but anime, and savvy money-grubbing Kanamori Sayaka, and their dreams might just be able to get off the ground.
Content Warning: Flashing lights in the opening theme may affect those with photo-sensitivity.
I normally spend premiere season locked in our home office, mentally sorting shows into “things I’ll never watch again,” “things I’ll watch on my own,” and “things I’ll tell my wife about later.” Halfway through turning on the premiere for this series I paused the stream, ran down the stairs, and demanded that the rest of my family watch it with me right that second.
That’s the kind of show Eizouken is.
It follows a few familiar beats from the “anime about loving anime” subgenre, with a young Asakusa finding herself transfixed by an episode of Future Boy Conan as a child, only to turn that passion into new art once she makes friends with a fellow animation nerd and artist.
The episode is also loaded with references to Hayao Miyazaki both overt and subtle, from the obvious footage recreations and their effect on Asakusa’s art design, to the Spirited Away homages in the opening shots, to a certain Jigen-ness in Kanamori’s deadpan but stalwart presence at Asakusa’s side.
Crucially, these moments of homage never feel like a means of patching over a lack of original thought. Eizouken bursts with life all on its own, from its weirdly intricate buildings to the paradoxical fluid awkwardness with which its cast is animated.
This is Yuasa much more in the vein of The Night is Short, Walk on Girl than DEVILMAN crybaby, imbuing the episode’s many action scenes with the same cartoon leaps of logic that Asakusa monologues rapturously about. A shout-out is also owed to Eunyoung Choi’s work on the opening theme (EDIT: Choi credits three animators–Abel Góngora, Eri Kinoshita, and Nick McKergow–on the opening, plus Yuasa on storyboards), which goes a long way to setting the show’s joyous tone.
That’s not to say that this is all style-over-substance, or that only sakuga buffs will get the full experience (I’m certainly not one). The frequent shifts in animation, from full color to child’s drawing to more developed concept line work, are all in service of getting inside the character’s heads and selling the audience on the grand emotional adventure they’re having just sitting hunched over some pieces of paper. Eizouken knows how to capture the transformative power not just of anime, but of making art in general, and the electric connection of finding a collaborator you click with.
And it doesn’t hurt one bit that this is all centered around three teenage girls who are allowed to be weird, awkward, and gawky without being fetishized or leered at. Managing Editor Dee coined the phrase “bold girls doing bold things” to talk about A Place Further Than the Universe and the emerging subgenre that’s more stakes- and narrative-driven than iyashikei-leaning hobby series but still features an all-female cast, and this feels like a perfect new addition to the club.
The rest of this season is going to have to work hard to keep up.