We’re finally back with another episode of anime pocket reviews!
This episode was supposed to include season four of My Hero Academia. However, the show has suddenly become a much harder watch than it was before. Thankfully, an unassuming series has filled the gap, and then some!
In this episode, we take a look at the return of one of the best (and only) western animated action series of recent years. Before that, however, we introduce an early contender for Anime of the Year!
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
(2020, S1, 12x25mins) Slice-of-life, Fantasy
The series stars Midori Asakusa (left), an introverted high-school student who spends most of her time dreaming up worlds from what she sees in her town. As a fan of animation, she would love to turn her ideas into reality but doesn’t have all the skills or courage required. However, one day she crosses paths with Mizusaki (centre), an up-and-coming model who is also their school’s most popular student. Despite her celebrity status, Mizusaki dreams of becoming an animator. When the two of them discover their shared interests, creative sparks begin to fly. Guided by Asakusa’s streetwise friend Kanamori (right), the three of them create a film club, giving them the resources to turn their outlandish ideas into animation.
Basically Plot: Three high school girls who dream of making anime (and money) come together to start their own film club.
We’ve been following the anime scene here at The Culture Cove for many years now, but we don’t remember any series that managed to invigorate an audience quite like this one. More than that, I don’t remember any show being as recognisable outside of anime’s tight-knitted circles as Eizouken. This broad reach in the online community speaks volumes of its incredible success.
Eizouken is one of the best, but also most original series that we’ve seen in a long while. Part of that is down to the simplicity of both its storyline and its characters. The three stars of Eizouken, when the magic of the show is taken away, are quite one-dimensional people. The storyline also, while creating a foundation, feels insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
However, it’s what that insignificant storyline and simple characters are given room to create that makes this show so exciting. Through twelve episodes, you’re taken on a whirlwind tour where small ideas and big dreams are not only sold but given life on a remarkable scale. The ingenuity of Eizouken’s ‘creation’ scenes is worth the watch itself, with so much care going into scenes that on the surface appear quite basic. However, beyond that, the wider world of Eizouken does an incredible job of blending fantasy and reality to the point that their small city begins to feel like a paradise in and of itself, and the show as a whole feels like a wonderful dream.
“You could be forgiven for missing the fact that the main character is female at all…”
This eclectic world is what helps turn the aforementioned cast of Eizouken into instant fan favourites. Yes, they are one-dimensional. However, they are not in the usual sense. Instead of being blown out of proportion with outlandish traits or behaviours, they are instead quite simple, everyday characters. There are no fancy hairstyles, and you could be forgiven for missing the fact that the main character is female at all, which is very rare for Japanese anime. However, each character has that one thing that gets them energised. These moments, where they burst from being fun, creative students into visionary heroines, help elevate this show even further into the stratosphere of cult classic anime series.
It’s also worth mentioning that the transformative world of Eizouken is accompanied by one of the most unique and engaging scores for a series we’ve ever heard. Very rarely is an anime series memorable for its score, but the uniqueness of the music in Eizouken is a joy, and further helps to blur the line between the real world and their dreams.
It’s worth mentioning that we are huge fans of ‘creationist’ anime series in general – shows whose story follows people that are creating art or culture. Some of our favourite shows of all time fall into this genre, covering everything from music and art to manga and anime. In the face of some of the great shows that fill these categories, Eizouken somehow adds something new.
Eizouken’s relative simplicity stops it from being an all-time great series, but at the same time gives it a unique position amongst its rivals. An artistic experience that doesn’t get stuck on specifics, Eizouken is a whirlwind of hopes and aspirations, with a heart so big that it’s hard not to fall in love with.
ANIME RANKING: #24 – A fantastic score for such a simple and honest series, placing it alongside anime classics including Bakuman and Food Wars!
If you liked this you’ll love: Shirobako (#10) – There are other options if you liked certain parts of this series, but if you want more Eizouken, there’s only really one place to go! Shirobako, a story following young girls carving their path in Japan’s anime industry, doesn’t have the childish fun of Eizouken but does deliver the enormous joy of celebrating anime itself!
(2020, S3, 10x28mins) Fantasy, Action
Following the events at the end of season two, Trevor Belmont (pictured) and Sypha are travelling through the countryside on various demon-slaying adventures together. Their satisfying escapades lead them to a small village, where a satanical plot involving the local priory is brewing. Alucard, meanwhile, is adjusting to life alone in his father’s castle when he is befriended by travellers. The scheming vampire Carmilla returns to her castle and sisters, while Isaac, in North Africa, begins his long journey to take revenge against fellow forgemaster Hector, who is now Carmilla’s prisoner.
Basically Plot: Following the climactic battle of last season, the main characters are split across the world, left to regroup, plan their next moves and take revenge for what happened.
Castlevania, as we’ve mentioned before, feels like a rare treat in the medium of animation. There are few long-running fantasy animations out there that are western-produced and English-spoken, especially those aimed at a more mature audience. The last season – technically season two but, in reality, season one – was a whirlwind of dark action and fantasy drama. Perhaps unsurprisingly, now the whirlwind has subsided, this latest season felt a little bit lost for direction.
There are quite a few similarities that I can see between this season and those of fellow western fantasy animation RWBY. Like RWBY Volume 4, Castlevania Season Three starts with many of the last season’s major players scattered to all ends of the world, leaving them with deep journeys to return. Castlevania has great characters which shine in their moments, but the stories felt so disconnected from one another that it was much harder to become involved than in the previous season. Ultimately, the stitching of these stories – presumably done for future seasons – felt a little wishy-washy, something that could seldom be said for the last season.
“Is a vampire saying a casual, almost British curse word enough to save a wooden scene?”
I am tempted to exclude Isaac’s storyline from this criticism, as this felt direct, focused and gave depth to one of the show’s most interesting characters. The main story of season three did also show glimpses of what this animation can do so well. Belmont and Sypha’s character development was good, and the fight scenes were well animated. Sypha’s movements, in particular, were so fluid and well-thought that it has to be some of the best fighting animation I’ve seen in a long time!
However, is some fluid fighting enough to save a 10-episode ‘journeying’ series? Likewise, is a vampire saying a casual, almost British curse word enough to save a wooden scene? Perhaps earlier in this show’s lifespan, but it didn’t feel like enough to truly grip us this time. Much like recent RWBY volumes, it’s a season that probably does just enough to please its avid supporters, but offers very little else besides.
ANIME RANKING: #49 – A slight drop in position for this show, but it still sits comfortably alongside shows such as Fate/Zero and Noragami.
If you liked this you’ll love: Berserk (#48) – As we mentioned in our last Castlevania review, you are very much spoilt for choice when it comes to fantasy anime. If you’re looking for something more magical, then Re:Zero is one of the best fantasy anime around, with a surprisingly-dark twist. However, if you’re more into demons and death, then Berserk delivers this in bigger, darker heaps than Castlevania itself!
Subscribe to The Culture Cove for regular anime reviews and recommendations! Keep an eye out for episode 68, including the famous action-horror Devilman Crybaby!