Written by TheBigN
I don’t know why, but after watching ef – a tale of memories, I’m a bit confused about how I feel about it. I’m satisfied with SHAFT being SHAFT (which was what got me into watching this if you remember), with symbolism actually making sense (depending on how far we take it), with a nice spin placed on a commonly told story, with the characters getting what they are looking for in certain ways, especially with Renji making love out of nothing at all, and so on. It’s definitely one of the better shows of last year (how shortly removed we are from it), and it seems like other animebloggers are right in praising it. However, even though it’s “critically” acclaimed, it’s not held in the same regard by me, and watching it has helped me understand a little bit more about what I look for when I watch anime as a result. Or at least it has shown how much of a whiner I am. :P
Emotionally, the right buttons were hit for me: almost shedding a tear or two at the “end” of Renji and Chihiro’s arc and feeling disturbed yet sympathetic for Miyako’s past are some examples. My mind was stimulated by that brief discussion between Hiro and Kyousuke in episode 6, as well as Renji and Chihiro’s thoughts about memory and personality. The music was great (well, a couple of Tenmon’s tracks were great, but the rest were so-so, like what I usually hear from the artist. I’m not in a love-love relationship with that music maker, though I’ll still “get” the OST when it comes out :D), the art was great, SHAFT was great, most of the humor was great, etc., so I can say that overall the show was great. Subjectively speaking of course.
But, as in the case a lot of times, it’s what objective that counts, and one thing that didn’t work for me in ef was most of the characters themselves. Throughout the show, Kyousuke and Miyako were who I was interested in; everyone else seemed too generic and fake (probably because I couldn’t “believe” in some of their situations), even though you could also say Kyousuke and Miyako were generic in their own ways as well. Even though it seemed to become obvious that Renji and Chihiro were what the main story seemed to revolve around, because of that I disregarded them a lot before I was “forced” (there goes that word again) to pay attention to them if I wanted to get what was going on, at least what was going on in my mind.
I also disliked the way the audience learns about the specific dreams that most of the characters believed they had. For as important a concept that they seemed to be, the explanations of the rationales behind them seemed to be too glossed over, save for Chihiro’s case, since the novel she’s writing, reading and talking about is her rationale, or so I’d like to think. :3 Yes, a lot of the reasons don’t really need to be explained, like why Kei and Miyako felt how they did for Hiro. And in a way, the lack of reasons for these initial dreams shows how little importance they really were (as evidenced by Miyako’s quick analysis of Kei’s true feelings), so kudos to SHAFT for presenting things in that way. However, those false “true dreams” did make up the people that we watched as they developed through the series (the development is also something that I can applaud). As each seemed to be stuck in limbo trying to find out what they really wanted, without that basis that’s important in knowing the characters, I couldn’t really connect with the main six save for some rare moments, and I couldn’t see a lot of the unleashed power that ef had.
I never felt really involved in the show because of those reasons, despite all the things ef served up and dished out well otherwise. This feeling of dissatisfaction at something I feel like I should be satisfied with annoys me, but that’s more about me not wanting to sound shallow or silly about it (even though I probably failed in that regard), as well as me probably trying too hard to appreciate ef, and of course peer pressure. Always peer pressure. At the same time, this relationship with the show makes it such that I’m still not too sure about how I feel about ef overall in terms of how it fits with me. Maybe it’s because I haven’t experienced romance in my life (but I could still feel Byousoku no 5cm and Honey and Clover, despite them focusing on romantic relationships as well, albeit in different ways), or some other bs reason like that. At the moment, the best I can do is convince myself that it’s okay to keep feeling uncertain about where ef lies in my perspective (writing this post out has helped me with that), and believe that others have felt the same way about other anime series. As anyone felt that same way about an anime series before?