Written by TheBigN
I don’t really know what to label shows like ef ~ a tale of memories~ as, but I do know that I don’t usually watch series like it: “Guy meets girl” works based on visual novels set in high school (usually) or some realistic where romance seems to be the name of the game. I’m very inexperienced with this type of thing. From my limited, simple/close-minded thoughts, those types of series consist of a series of random luck, coincidences, the supernatural (sometimes), variations on the same character archtypes and situations that quickly cause a destined couple to have a love that is better than all while spurning other character’s feelings in the process. It tends to be “wish fulfillment” where a guy who’s often a blank avatar we can use as an extension of ours in terms of getting the girls that we want, so I can’t connect with any of the characters there. And the relationship itself seems so forced and out there by the creators that it’s too unrealistic and superficial for me to understand and like. Or so I say without any good reason to do so. With this rationale, you can see why I feel like I need to try and see things in a different light. I figure ef is a good place to start with that.
It’s always great to see main characters that have visible motivations and weaknesses that make sense, and ef has plenty of them to go around as one of its strengths. While some of the circumstances that the characters have to go through make me think that they’re being forced to the watchers (like Chihiro’s specific anterograde amnesia, or what started Kei’s current actions toward’s Hiro), most of what they talk about and do works, and more importantly, can strike a chord with me. As people have noted before, a great example of this is the confrontational dialogue between Hiro and Kyousuke (Date :P) in the beginning of episode six. While we learned what both characters seem to be searching for beforehand, we found out a lot about their philosophies and their true wants. And on a more general scale, it’s a rehash of either choosing to stay inside the box or working outside of it in order to achieve the same result. I myself feel like I’m between the two myself (and that it’s okay to attempt to remain that way: re Rokuro Okajima), but I never really thought about that beforehand until seeing the conversation unfold. It made me like both characters better (especially Kyousuke when coupled with the funny conversation beforehand) and it had me pay attention to ef a little bit more.
Of course, what kept my attention in the first place was SHAFT’s hand at it. Given my track record with their shows, especially with Akiyuki Shinbo at the helm (hint: d(“d) ), I had to take a look at what they were doing here. The fact that Shinbo is acting as a supervisor for this project instead of directing it I think takes away a lot of the randomness (camera shots, non sequiturs and the like), humor, and ability to create something more than it’s starting bits that is typical in his works, though there still are some moments like that here and there in the show (like random NICE BOATage). But it’s still a SHAFT production at its core, which I think it was a good idea here. Their eccentric use of symbolism, montage, and cinematography compared to other production companies are applied to great use here, as they focus our attention onto where things are important. From seeing Miya Miya’s ability in action from her perspective while she’s talking to others (and it’s flipped around to how the people see her with nice effect too), to Chichiro’s struggles and how Renji might help things, the imagery used to display them makes the effect that more poignant. And with the story still seeming to have only begun while being confusing at times (SHAFT’s influence notwithstanding), the “Ooooh, Shiny!” aspect keeps me interested in what’s going on, though that might push others away. Something being gaudy for its own sake is worth something, and ef fits the bill in that category.
As the story isn’t something I’m used to, I have some worries about how things might turn out in the end. I like the developing relationships and romances that are being set up in the show, though I worry about how well they’ll interconnect with each other as the show progresses. While there’s already been background information on many of the characters divulged to the viewers, it still appears like there’s a lot that can still go from them. Hopefully I can learn things like the true strength of Chihiro and Kei’s bond as twins (Hiro and Kyousuke’s as friends at another angle), more about Hiro’s search for that one color, what motivates Renji to have his idealistic notions, and so on. There’s also the triangle aspect between Hiro, Chihiro and Kei, and seeing Renji, Miyako and Kyousuke on the outside looking in. The introduction of the latter two, who were already associated with Hiro in some capacity, into Kei’s point of view and her responses highlight the importance of those two arbitrary areas, and it will be interesting to see if that inner shape allows itself to grow. And I haven’t even mentioned that strange lady yet, the strange guy at the church and Renji’s strange neighbor (who’s admirable in a strange way). At least I hope that as things come together, this puzzling net of a story manages to untie itself to a point where it works well.
Things are being taken at a different angle than what I’d usually assume a show like ef would go, and I like it. I hope that it’s able to remain that way as I continue to go through it.