One of the best-received anime this season so far, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a love letter to animation that has captivated many with its somewhat offbeat and charming story following a quirky trio of girls starting an anime production club at their high school.
What probably stands out the most immediately is Eizouken’s art style, which frequently dips into the sketchy (literally) world of imagination, and its iconic character designs which are noticeably distinct from your typical moe cute girls doing cute things styles and follows a more gender-neutral approach. Today we’ll be exploring this aspect of Eizouken!, why it works for this anime and, more generally, how gender-neutral character designs can allow for more diverse artistic expression. Let’s start!
Why Gender-Neutral Character Designs Work in Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
The core dynamic of Eizouken! is built around the contrasting personalities of the characters which comes through in their speech, actions, design, and animation. The latter points especially are accentuated more so than many other anime in Eizouken! which, largely because they went outside the usual hyper-feminine cutesy ideal, can be exaggerated while still feeling cohesive and, perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, more realistic and relatable.
Interestingly enough, Gigazine recently published an interview with the storyboard artist and director of Eizouken!’s first episode, Mari Motohashi who describes how the team specifically stayed away from more typical “girlish” animation to focus more on expressing each characters’ individual personality in a distinct way, and using many extra frames of animation to do so, to make them feel more believable. This largely comes across in the detail packed into even mundane things that sells the show to its core audience of people who are really into animation/sakuga instead of pandering to the moe crowd (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing mind you!).
Gender Neutral Character Designs and Artistic Expression
Speaking more generally, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a great example to highlight some of the strengths of gender-neutral designs and expression. Approaches like this can help facilitate more creativity from animators, encouraging them to think outside the box and explore new approaches. Like with Eizouken!, it can be used to add to believability since in reality there is a lot more diversity in people than we often see in anime. It also places emphasis on what makes the character an individual beyond their gender which can help make them more appealing to a wider audience who might be less interested if Eizouken!’s main cast was more stereotypically feminine.
As a quick aside, androgynous character designs and animation styles are certainly not unique to Eizouken! as they’ve been a part of many series’ famous characters like “Radical Edward” in Cowboy Bebop, Crona from Soul Eater, and Fullmetal Alchemist’s Envy.
Altogether, the gender-neutral character designs and animation decisions in Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! are part of what has made it such a uniquely delightful and memorable series. Who doesn’t love Asakusa’s boyish gremlin energy and Kanamori’s yakuza-like avariciousness and lanky swagger? Even Mizusaki, who is definitely the most traditionally feminine out of the bunch, expresses herself and is drawn in a way to accentuate her personality and ambition more so than her sex appeal, even as a popular model. Heck, we even had a non-skeevy bathing scene where they took shelter from the rain in the bathhouse near their hangout spot which we’re sure was also refreshing for many watchers.
Anyway, what do you think of this approach in Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to stick around Honey’s for more of all things awesome, anime and otherwise! Stay easy breezy out there~