Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! – 01 (First Impressions) – The Greatest World

From the hypercosmic brain of Yuasa Masaaki (The Tatami Galaxy) comes a new brilliant, awe-inspiring adventure in a down-to-earth, lived-in world where the mundane is extraordinary. As soon as she moved to Shibahama as a little girl, Asakusa Midori was obsessed with adventuring and world-building.

Now she sits above her island high school’s social fray, taking in not the people but the absolute batshit crazy architecture. The pint-sized, husky-voiced Midori’s only friend is the tall, toothy Kanamori Sayaka, for whom everything is a transaction.

When Midori forces Sayaka to attend the screening of a Miyazaki-style anime, they encounter Mizusaki Tsubame, fashion model, socialite daughter of a megacorp tycoon…and unapologetic anime fangirl. She’s also on the run from her two bodyguards, who have been ordered not to let her join the anime club.

Tsubame may be a stranger in unfamiliar territory, but Midori and Sayaka join forces to rescue her. Midori, because Tsubame shares her love of anime, and Sayaka because there could be money in it. In the process, Tsubame spills strawberry milk all over her blouse, but Midori knows of a discrete laundromat in the neighborhood.

As Tsubame’s clothes wash, she and Midori become fast friends, swapping their notebooks and finding they complement each other perfectly. Midori has always loved creating worlds and gizmos with elaborate concept art, while Tsubame has a strong grasp of the human figure (she is a model, after all) and as such is better at characters.

As the two overly characters over environments, Sayaka hatches a plan: she’ll get these two talented girls to make a beautiful—and profitable—anime together. Both Midori and Tsubame lack confidence, but Sayaka assures them she’ll be there both to push them and support them…in any ways not involving artistry.

Earlier in the episode the younger Midori creates a whole black-on-white pencil line drawing world complete with sound effects. That’s taken to the next level when Midori spots a small, unassuming contraption in Tsubame’s notebook, draws a hanger bay around it, and the three are suddenly immersed in the drawing and interacting with it (complete with those same sound effects, likely made by the seiyus).

The two eventually complete the development of the dragonfly-like flying machine and with Sayaka’s help manage to take off before the bodyguards (in this world the villains) can catch Tsubame. A dogfight ensues, but their dragonfly squeaks between two skyscrapers and emerges on the other end, an otherworldly, fully-rendered realm Midori calls “the greatest world,” something she’s always seeking to create with her art.

Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! is a DELIGHT from start to finish. While it can get a little trippy at moments, it is always grounded by its trio of quirky, rootable characters, only one of whom employs a classic “anime” voice. The creators’ own love and passion for art and animation is plain to see in every frame, be it a crude line drawing or a gorgeous painterly city vista.

More than anything, Eizouken is a powerful imagination simulant. It does what any anime should: swell the heart and expand the mind’s eye to consider new worlds and machines and explore them beyond the surface. Speaking as an artist, it was a very rewarding experience to see such a wealth of creativity on display.

It was also gratifying to watch two kindred spirits from totally different social backgrounds coming together through their shared love of putting the fruits of their imaginations to paper. Eizouken stands out from the crowd of cookie-cutter anime in the best way. You’d be wise to give it a close look this Winter!

Devilman: Crybaby – 01 (First Impressions)

So begins my foray into the venerable Devilman franchise, which dates to 1974, its latest iteration available on Netflix at the same time in America as Japan. It’s actually been available for a while now, but I didn’t get around to cracking it open until now.

The first episode of Crybaby is brisk, starting with some heady philosophizing, giving us a quick glimpse of friends Asuka Ryou (a cold realist even in his youth) and Fudou Akira (the titular crybaby, who has enough empathy for both of them).

It isn’t long before the mundaneness of P.E. (and the somewhat head-scratchiness of a random attack by beatboxing rappers) is left behind in a cloud of Ryou’s Mitsuoka Orochi exhaust and the innocent, sensitive Akira finds himself in a debaucherous orgy of hedonism in which drugs and sex reign supreme, the escape of the young, rich, and bored.

Ryou brought Akira here to pop his cherry…in a sense. Ryou’s experience abroad has led him to believe a human can merge with a devil/demon and gain its power while maintaining their humanity, and Akira is the perfect vessel to test that theory.

However, the orgy isn’t, well, bloody or gory enough to draw out any devils, so Ryou rectifies that by wrecking up the place. He and Akira are very nearly beaten to death in the fracas, and before long devils start sprouting from the orifices of women and what were once areas of pleasure become weapons of evisceration.

It’s a huge mess, but Ryou gets what he came for: the demon Amon possesses Akira and merges with him, resulting in the titular Devilman. Perhaps because of how good and pure Amon’s human vessel is, Devilman is particularly powerful, and dispatches the other nasties without too much trouble, and with quite a bit of satisfaction.

And there you have it! Oh wait, why is Ryou doing this? For SCIENCE, I suppose; humans aren’t evolving fast enough for him; perhaps he believes it’s time to shake things up by nurturing such mergings as Akira with Amon. Or maybe that one merge was all he cared about, in hopes his friend, always a crybaby, would benefit in some way.

Yuasa Masaaki’s unique style is unmistakable here, and though this is certainly more violent than the only other work of his I’ve seen. As I said, it’s a brisk and relatively straightforward episode with a decent hook: what the hell will become of Akira now that Ryou has condemned him to share his existence with a demon?