Anime is a huge passion of ours at STARBURST so we were thrilled when Eunyoung Choi; the lead Producer and Co-Founder of one of the most popular Anime studios in Japan, ScienceSARU, agreed to sit down with us to talk about the studios latest mega-hit show, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, her history in the industry and what's next for the legendary studio.
STARBURST: Congratulations on the success and popularity of Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! - it's our favourite anime of the season.
EUNYOUNG CHOI: Thank you so much for the kind words. The team is doing great work, and we honestly didn’t expect all this feedback from the audience. We decided to work on the project because it was a very interesting story and we all related to it - it’s not a typical anime or conventional anime, so we didn’t expect this kind of amazing feedback from the fans. We are very happy about that.
In your own words can you briefly describe to our readers what Eizouken! is about?
It is a story about three high school girls that establish a school club to make animation, but to receive the budget they need to make the club, they have to go through a lot of trials and hard work. It’s a story about them trying to achieve their dream through animation and art, which is what they’re most passionate about. Each of the three girls have different roles - an animator, a producer and a director. It’s kind of exciting and very fulfilling as a production team to bring these characters to life.
What was it about the manga that appealed to you and Masaaki Yuasa that made you and your team want to turn it into an anime?
When we finish a project, we take a lot of time to think about what we want to do next. Our pipeline is very limited - our time is very limited, and our staff is still somewhat small compared with the very big studios, so we carefully go through all of the possibilities, including TV series or feature films. One of the discussions we had before we did Eizouken! was that, when we found the manga and read it, we found it really suited us. There are other TV shows about animation, like Shirobako, which are very popular with fans since they like to see characters making anime. Eizouken is a little bit different as it’s more about what they are making and imagining, and follows the struggles of making it as amateurs rather than professionals. It’s about them evolving from the beginning and becoming a team. Also, the manga gives a very positive message via the story and characters about moving forward, solving problems, and how to bring your ideas to life. And we think it’s good to show the audience how much we enjoy the process through the struggles - it contains all these aspects and elements.
The story is about three girls making an anime at school. Is School where your love for animation began?
Actually not. It was a long journey to get into the animation industry. Before this, I studied fine arts and sculpture, and I was also very into art and literature, philosophy and music, and all sorts of other things. Animation didn’t start off as my interest until I went to school in London. I went to animation school in my late 20s. I hadn’t watched Ghibli films, or even Disney, at that time. So I decided to educate myself in animation and I watched a lot of movies and shows. It took a while to get to the place where I wanted to be. But I got there eventually after I turned 30. It’s not that I wasn’t interested; I just didn’t have the knowledge at the time.
The three main characters: Asakusa, Mizusaki and Kanamori are three wonderful characters that are unique, funny and loveable. Who is your favourite and why?
I like all of them [laughs]. To be honest, I’m a producer at the moment, but before that, I was a director, and before that an animator, so I kind of know all the aspects of each role and character. Asakusa is the lead in the story - I really love her because of her imagination. She’s trying to put that vision forward to share with the audience, and she’s very charming as well. I share a lot of feeling with Kanamori too, because at the moment I’m doing the Kanamori role in real life. These two definitely are closest to me. Of course, Mizusaki is amazing too - the way she loves animation is amazing. Episode 8 covers her backstory and that was very emotional and moving.
The story is a love letter to making anime and creating to achieve your dream - how do you personally connect on an emotional level to the themes in the narrative?
This is a good introduction for the audience to our work at Science SARU and all the individuals who work here, including myself and Yuasa-san. We all connect to the characters, and I hope that the audience connects to them too, as well as to the animation industry. If we can contribute in any way to making people interested in animation, then we will be very happy.
The opening song "Easy Breezy" by chelmico is a brilliant song and is incredibly catchy. How fun was it to have them do the theme?
So actually we had a list of potential openings but we desperately wanted chelmico to work on our opening for Eizouken! as their style was the best fit for the show - they are two girls doing what they love and we have three girls in our show doing what they love. They are both very open-minded and charming, and also talked about how they started doing rap and decided to give it a go, simply because they wanted to. The animation of the opening was done by our animator Abel Gongora and he did an amazing job - we certainly didn’t expect all of this fantastic feedback from our fans! He definitely brought his sense of humour that blended well with the opening - it is the key to Eizouken!.
The animation style of ScienceSARU projects has always been some of the most unique and stylistic in all of anime. Is that another reason why adapting Eizouken! was something you wanted to do?
Yes, that was one of the reasons why we wanted to adapt this manga into anime. Science SARU wants to express animation with more movement and unique expression through detailed characters. We like personality and action to shine through - characters who are simple, where we can express their characteristics and emotion, suit our style. And the story of Eizouken! is so strong that it helps us achieve that.
Are there plans for a Season 2?
[laughs] We don’t know if there is going to be a Season 2 but we hope so! [laughs]
ScienceSARU is continuing to go from strength to strength with Eizouken! still airing and your new film Ride Your Wave making its debut in the UK recently. What can audiences expect from that film?
It is a love story about two characters but it’s very emotionally charged - you go from very happy to very sad constantly, but you see the characters develop and move forward through the hard times. Through all the events, the main characters are always evolving. For people who enjoy animation or romance, this is a perfect story for them. We wanted a dynamic female character to lead the story, so we went with having her be a passionate surfer. We are also happy that there are many scenes in the film that are more suited to anime over live-action.
Obviously, there is a live-action film coming out for Eizouken! that you’re not involved with, but as a fan of the source material, are you excited to see what they do?
Yes, I’m very curious to see how it turns out and I’m very excited to see how they approach it.
Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
We have a feature film coming out next year directed by Yuasa-san. We also have a show called Japan Sinks 2020 coming soon on Netflix this year. Lots more surprises are coming soon which we can’t talk about yet, but it’s a very exciting time for all of us.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! airs exclusively on Crunchyroll every Sunday at 6.30pm GMT