Impressions on ef – a tale of memories: equivocal feelings

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. 😛

All those letters make up the words that I want to say but still don’t know how to say.

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.

Anyone get any shades of Beyond the Clouds or Hoshi no Koe here?

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?


8 Responses to “Impressions on ef – a tale of memories: equivocal feelings”

  1. 1 hashihime January 9, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Great post. Thanks. Your subtle reactions and honesty help me think about my extravagantly positive feelings about the show. I found myself emotionally involved with all the characters almost from the start. But I do find I can feel some characters without much background, so it’s hard for me to judge how much weight to give to an “objective” lack of build-up. Maybe the way the art knocks you off balance and then conveys symbolic meaning can substitute for more thorough background characterization. I did feel that the music was deeply melodramatic, both in itself and in how it was used, and also helped make up for the lack of time available to develop the characters. I don’t know how deep ef “really” was. I just know it worked emotionally for me.

  2. 2 omo January 9, 2008 at 7:02 am

    Not getting caught up in the show, you mean?

  3. 3 TheBigN January 9, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Hashihime: “But I do find I can feel some characters without much background, so it’s hard for me to judge how much weight to give to an “objective” lack of build-up.”

    Indeed. In that case, it’s just a matter of who rubs you the wrong way, and in this case, a lot of the characters did. And it also depends on how much importance you place on that sort of thing. I think that’s definitely more on me than the character designers though. And again, symbolism and music are taken in different ways, so development that you can see might not be something that I can find quite as easily.

    omo: Yes. Even though my goal when watching anime is to be usually involved with the shows that I watch as much as possible. These things happen sometimes. 😛

  4. 4 concretebadger January 9, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Ah, ef. One of my favourite titles of the year, which is odd when I look back and realise why I watched it…the main reason was the fact that Tenmon was doing the music! It took a while to warm to the unusual animation approach, especially getting my head around the fact that all the quirky visual stuff actually served a purpose beyond looking really pretty and really strange.

    Character-wise I felt more or less forced into the Renji/Chihiro arc as well, mainly because the setup felt artificial. The Miyako/Hirono arc may not have been as important in terms of the symbolism and underlying themes, but it had a more believable and everyday atmosphere – I could relate to them because they felt more ‘real’ as people, as did their situation.

    To answer your final question, I have never felt the same way about an anime series before. That alone makes this one special! 🙂

  5. 5 TheBigN January 13, 2008 at 11:20 am

    The ef OST is awesome, so I’ll be waiting for it till it comes out. The OP and EDs are all good in their own way as well. As for the animation, it’s SHAFT, so if you haven’t seen a lot of their stuff before, it’s not surprising that you find the animation weird. 😛

    I think Renji and Chihiro’s arc is used as one type of continuing relationship. Where with Kei and Kyousuke, we still have a developing one, and with Miyako and Hiro, one is formed, but there are still doubts. I wouldn’t say Renji and Chihiro’s relationship is a “happy ending one”, but I think the artificial aspects give is a nice contrast to the other two.

  6. 6 coeli January 31, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    I had mixed feelings about ef too. I hated it but liked it at the same time.

  7. 7 Mic Mic March 9, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    I personally loved ef a tale of memories and the new show ef a tale of melodies. I haven’t seen any other anime that’s as artistically planned out and focuses more on the relationships of characters than action or a long drawn out relationship that spans the entire length of a series. In ef the characters actually found a resolution instead of it being various situations lasting from episode to episode.

    I wasn’t really a fan of Miyako and Hiro’s relationships by any means. I found it a bit unrealistic and her attitude rather clingy and needy. I didn’t understand why Hiro finally liked her in the end…was it because she hung around him all the time what was it about her really besides the fact that she was an entirely free spirit that made him want to establish a relationship.

    In the Chihiro and Renji story those two had similar interests. Mainly them both wanting to write a novel and all. That was more realistic and also Renji’s amiable nature wanting to always be a prince to save the princess was something that Chihiro in a way needed as no one else could really risk it to save her and break through her hardened shell not even her sister.

    Overall, I found this anime to be the best I have watched all year only surpassed by it’s second season. Ef Tale of Melodies. Does anyone know of any other animes that are created in a similar style of ef? I’m really excited about watching Clannad too but it doesn’t excite and neither did Air as much as Ef a tale of memories. I think I really like the abstract designs and use of color more than anything.

    Mic Mic

  8. 8 MBkrape January 15, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I know how you feel, so often I want to like an anime or a character but for whatever reason I’m just perturbed by it! Personally though I really couldnt give this one a high rating. I must have saw this a long time ago and forgot about it, because I remembered bits and pieces as I went through it again. However, not only did I forget about it the first time, I dropped it the second time after I figured out where it was headed. Renji/Chihiro were too sweet to be interesting, and I feel with anime the plot line is only as good as the characters and their believability. Miyako/Hirono (and I can’t pinpoint why exactly) really upset me? I think it has something to do with the nonchalant male character (who of course, has no idea the girls following at his heels love him) suddenly picking one out of the blue. Even though Rei was rude I couldn’t help but feel awful that she was heartbroken in such a careless way. And why does everyone up and sleep with each other at the end?

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