ef: A Tale of Memories – Some Thoughts

For a long time I wanted to watch ef; I had put it off for quite a while for honestly no good reason. I remember watching the first episode a few years ago and just not continuing it. There was no real reason. I honestly DID want to watch the show and knew it would most likely appeal to me. But until a few days ago I just hadn’t gotten around to it. And when I DID get around to it, boy did I ever. I watched all of it in just a few short days which usually doesn’t happen for me; it’s usually that I make myself watch one episode a night. Sometimes it’s harder to watched already aired shows, you know?

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I say it would most likely appeal to me because these kinds of stories get me hook, line, and sinker. A romantic drama with some mysterious storytelling elements entrances me and makes me want to know more about the world and about the characters. Kanon 2006 did it to me and ef did it to me. I was looking forward to watching a few episodes after I got off work, during the night (because somehow it only felt right to watch this show while it was dark outside).

I wrote down notes for this show as well. It was my first time doing it without having seen the show previously, so there were not nearly as many, but I still got a good chunk. I still wouldn’t go as far to say the show was as rich in character as something like Toradora though.

I suppose I’ll just go over each character and my opinion of their strengths and weaknesses? I do want to mention that I did like the inclusion of Yuuko as a kind of “conscious” to some of the characters. She said some things that really resonated with me, my favorite possibly being “Even if you trap yourself in the ruins of the past, nothing good will come of it.”

Chihiro Shindou: Of course, being a fan of Rikka, it almost seems like Chihiro would be the most precious best girl ever to me. This was close to not being the case, and even now I’m struggling to choose between her and Miyako for my favorite. The biggest grievance I had with Chihiro was, unfortunately, her voice. No matter what mood she was in she always seemed to be on the brink of crying, even though she was supposed to not be that sad anymore.

But the rest of the stuff I REALLY liked about her character. How she had cut herself off from other people because it was too painful for her to get close to anybody. How she had considered suicide because ending everything might’ve been easier than trying to live out an existence where she couldn’t move past thirteen hours. The sheep analogy was a good one, if a bit shoehorned in with the whole math question thing.

Her problems were twofold in that she never wanted to forget somebody important to her, but she was even more scared of being forgotten by someone else. Her novel was something I’m still trying to work out in my head, but seemed to assume that the version of her in the painting was the one interacting with Renji until she decides to burn it all.

The whole idea of “running away” presents itself to me once again in this show as well; Chihiro tries the extreme example of throwing her pages away, but it ultimately doesn’t work out for her. I really did enjoy the explanation given for her remembering Renji. Previously in the series it had been explained that she was able to “refresh” memories, to the point that it was a fact the viewers accepted. So when she mentioned that she couldn’t stop thinking about him, it made perfect sense since she was in love with him.

I feel like Chihiro was one of the strongest characters in the show and was definitely one of my favorites. Watching her achieve the dream she once thought impossible with the help of Renji was nice. He kept saying he didn’t do anything, but it was entirely possible that she might not have ever achieved it if he wasn’t pushing for her the entire time.

Renji Asou: Worth talking about Renji right after, to give the order some kind of coherence. While Renji did have his own strengths I feel like there wasn’t quite enough there to work with given how much development Chihiro got. With Renji we got the picture of a boy who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life and was seeking direction.

That by itself is fine but I felt there needed to be something more beyond his love for Chihiro and his lack of direction in life; becoming a novelist had always seemed like it was Chihiro’s thing and Renji seemed to exist for the relationship with her, not necessarily of his own accord.

The one thing I did enjoy heavily was the scene of him gathering the papers. Now the first one was a bit of a “c’mon, really?” moment but it wasn’t the catalyst to making Chihiro remember, which satisfied me. It was just a literal representation of the effort that Renji would go through to be with Chihiro, even if he couldn’t always make things 100% right.

One of the weaker characters, to me.

Miyako Miyamura: A close tie in favorites with Chihiro. The facade she put on during the beginning of the show had me fooled until the cracks began to show. I think the catalyst of Kei threatening to erase Miyako from Hirono’s heart was well done, and it gave way to exploring some of Miyako’s fears.

Here we have the girl who was treated as if she didn’t exist at home; barely spoken to, never praised, never even scolded. A broken household where even when there were other people present, she was alone. It caused attachment issues. It also caused her to build up a guise that everything was okay, to herself and others. She believed running from her problems was fine because that’s how she had always lived.

One of the most effective scenes in my opinion was the voice mail messages she left. It started to fill up the screen and after a few appeared I thought it was over. But no. Every time I heard the phone beep I felt that pang for her in my heart. Her worst fears were coming true and her guise was breaking down. She was descending to a darkness.

I was worried she was going to go into the generic “crazy girl” territory with the “look only at me” line but that notion was quickly dispelled thanks to the resolution in episode 10 – the phone scene being one of the best uses of still frame shots I’ve ever seen (transposed with the clock countdown as well). And she got a nice warm and fuzzy ending with Hirono in which she was able to let herself into someone’s heart even though there was the smallest possibility that she could disappear from it.

And with that, she was also able to start going to school regularly. It wasn’t enough for her any more to be a listless wanderer. She had direction and a goal in her life now. Very strong character.

Hiro Hirono: A good compliment to Miyako and a strong character in his own right. It’s not often that I seek out the good qualities in male characters when there’s cute girls involved but that’s probably because it’s somewhat rare.

Hirono has a strong basis for his job and school life and it flows well into the “half assing” everything issue he runs into eventually. His works lose their luster, he is in danger of failing at school, and he wants to try and live in the past and keep Kei AND Miyako happy.

If I’m being completely honest I didn’t really like how he was confronted by Kyousuke; I felt the “consequences” of his half assed actions happened a little bit out of order, or out of place? Or something like that. No matter though. It ended up making sense within the overall narrative.

The parallel I really ended up enjoying was that Kei was always telling him to go to school, and in the end he chose to draw manga and chose Miyako. By rejecting school, he rejected Kei. But he made the choice to go all the way with some of his choices and not some of the way with all his choices.

Seeing him arrive at the phone booth and telling Miyako he loved her and watching the color flood back into her scene was heart warming. There was a really good use of black and white juxtaposed with color scenes, on specific characters, especially in Hirono’s case. I feel like their relationship was probably a little bit better done than Renji and Chihiro’s, if only due to the fact that both Hirono and Miyako were strong.

Kei Shindou: Unsurprisingly, I did not like this girl one bit. I’m sure that the story was leading me towards this conclusion naturally (due to the, you know, whole deleting all of Miyako’s messages thing) but the tsundere childhood friend isn’t something that really catches my interest. It might be my bias but I don’t think she was particularly strong either; stronger than Renji, perhaps, but not so much as Miyako.

She did have a few things going for her. Basketball was her drive and paralleled her fighting a battle for herself; the scene where she fell down and injured herself after saying she would confess if she won the game was good. It represented her lack of resolve. You shouldn’t confess situationally.

Her reason for not confessing was good at holding tension for a while. Feeling guilt over causing Chihiro’s injuries was a nice reason, but one that I don’t think held as well as it could have due to Chihiro’s lack of interaction with Hirono throughout the story (besides flashbacks).

Also felt interesting that I got a “I DESERVE Hirono” vibe from her. Just a random thought.

Lastly, the scene where she confessed finally was realistically brutal. What else can Hirono say in that situation, where the love is one sided, except for “yeah”? He’s letting down the first real friend he had. And she’s effectively losing him to Miyako. But she accepts it and moves on. She realizes that she can’t wait on someone to save her. She has to help herself.

Honorable Mention – Kyousuke Tsutsumi: The… “half main” character? I don’t know. It kind of felt like they were pushing him and Kei together towards the ending. He was an interesting character that had potential to be fleshed out more if they had chosen to make him the focus. But he was only focused on achieving the dream he had already set for himself, which got him involved with the whole situation anyway. And he forced Hirono’s hand with the choices. So that was good.

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